Work travel occasionally sends Jordan to interesting places and in 2022 I got to meet him for a Weekend in New Orleans for a quick trip. It was our first time in the City of New Orleans and after doing tons of research ahead of our trip and experiencing the big easy for ourselves I wanted to share what we did and the tips and tricks we used to make it a fun stress free weekend!
Weekend in New Orleans: Day 1
Royal Sonesta New Orleans
I was joining Jordan at the end of a work trip so we decided to extend his room at the Royal Sonesta New Orleans and I am so glad we did! Our room was cozy and off of a quiet courtyard. We had a beautiful view of the fountain and lemon trees growing below. You could sit on the balcony and enjoy the light breezes or listen to the Jazz lounge below. We didn’t hear anything going on in Bourbon Street at night which was a huge plus!
The building was originally owned by the American Brewing Company and renovated into a hotel by the Sonnabends in 1967. They massively upgraded the rooms in 2015 tastefully blending the property’s original iconic aesthetics with modern comforts.
The first stop after the hotel was Cuñada a little family owned Mexican Grill and Agave Bar nearby that Jordan had discovered with his co workers. They serve traditional Mexican food like Tinga, Asada, and Barbacoa on the softest fresh corn tortillas. Everything on the menu was excellent, and Jordan ate there at least 4 in the week he was there. The food is light and fresh, perfect for when you are walking around in the heat and humidity of New Orleans and a welcome break from fried everything. Their drinks are crafted by an in-house Tequilier and it shows. I especially recommend their frozen margaritas made with fresh fruit to combat the heat of New Orleans!
Jordan tried and loved this whole list of options;
- Chicken Tinga: pulled chicken breast with a chipotle salsa
- Al Pastor: marinated grilled pork loin with pineapple
- Carnitas: slow-cooked pulled pork, onion, and cilantro
- Barbacoa: shredded beef, chiles, onion, and cilantro
- Chicken Quesadilla: with Chihuahua and Oaxaca cheese, cilantro, and side garnishes
- Guacamole Tropical: avocado, mango, jicama, Chile serrano, tomato, cilantro, with a side of chips
- Frozen Pineapples Margaritas: Made with real fruit pulp, rimmed with sugar, and topped with condensed milk if you so desire.
You can go wrong staring your weekend in New Orleans at Cunada.
The Shops on Royal St.
Next we walked the Antique shops and galleries on Royal. Its a mix of vintage high end furniture and pieces unique to the area like the statue of a woman with a parasol walking her alligator. There are also a ton of NOLA t-shirt shops, hot sauce shops, and places proclaiming to have the best pralines in New Orleans.
Café du Monde: New Orleans Institution
No trip or weekend in New Orleans is complete without beignets. We stopped at the Café du Monde in the French Market off of Jackson Square. This is the original location that opened in 1862. We’d heard going in the later afternoon or early evening would result in the smallest lines. There was still a crowd but the line it moved fast. We didn’t realized it was cash only but I saved the day when I dug a random 8 dollars out of my purse.
Beignets are basically a cross between a donut and a fritter. Deep fried and then shaken in powdered sugar, what’s not to love?! They are really just a really great funnel cake.
Louisiana Music Factory
We have a deep love for old school Jazz vinyl so record shops were high on our list of stops in New Orleans. While we were on Frenchmen street we had to stop in at The Louisiana Music Factory and it did not disappoint! We found so many good Jazz and Blues records. Bonus they are one of the few places with good air conditioning and a public restroom making it a great place to get out of the heat and browse their extensive collection of music. They also have a website you can order from which I will definitely be browsing for Jordan’s birthday!
Jackson Square is in front of the St. Louis Cathedral, on Decatur Street, between the Jax Brewery Shopping Mall and the French Market. Named for the bronze statue of Andrew Jackson located in the center of the square it is full of beautiful old trees and local artists display their work on the gates. We are mid renovation and always keeping an eye out for art to hang once we finish so on the way back to the hotel we wandered through the park and checked out some of the art for sale. We ended up getting two pieces from A.J.S. Finney and I cannot wait to hang them up!
For dinner that first night Jordan had snagged a reservation at Curio and I am just going to come out and say it. This was THE BEST cajun food we had the entire trip. The balance was perfect on every single dish. Nothing was too salty or spicy but it all had so much flavor. Their Grit tots with Roasted Red Pepper Coulis are delicious!
I had the shrimp and grits which featured Blackened Gulf Shrimp and Cherry Tomatoes in a Creamy Citrus Sauce with White Cheddar Jalapeño Grits. They were the most flavorful grits I have ever had.
Jordan had the Pan Roasted Salmon and Gulf Shrimp with Herbed Garlic Butter, Cajun Jambalaya and Sautéed Vegetables. He loved it, especially when I shared some of my grits for him to have with his shrimp!
You will hear whatever live music is going on out on the street through out dinner which is good or bad depending who is playing that night.
The Jazz Playhouse
After dinner we walked back to the hotel and sat in the courtyard outside the Jazz Playhouse at the Royal Sonesta. There are a lot of jazz clubs off of Bourbon Street but if you want good Jazz music in a smoke free place you can sit comfortably and have appetizers and a good drink I highly recommend the lounge in the Royal Sonesta. Purchase tickets in advance because of limited seating.
Weekend in New Orleans: Day 2
French Truck Coffee: A New Orleans Chain
We started our morning at French Truck Coffee’s French Quarter location at 217 Chartres street. They are a Louisiana chain that roasts their own coffee in small batches. They also had an assortment of pastries and juices available. There was a long line when we got there but it moved fast and was much better then the coffee in the hotel!
St. Charles Historic Line
New Orleans streetcars are iconic and the historic St Charles line is a must! The stop on St Charles and Common was walking distance from the Hotel so once we had caffeinated we headed that way. We downloaded the RTA app and purchased day passes to make it easier to use the street cars as needed throughout the day.
We got off and walked through the garden district. Are people not aloud to trim trees there? does anyone know? After talking about it that morning we saw a large tree branch spontaneously fall onto a car on the same street.
I will be honest, the donuts weren’t my favorite but their breakfast sandwiches were AMAZING! We both had bacon, egg, and cheese biscuits and they were the perfect breakfast ahead of a day exploring in the Garden District.
I also had their Vietnamese ice coffee which I enjoyed on our walk to the Museum.
From District Donuts we walked down magazine street. Not much was open but we enjoyed the window displays and old houses on the way to the WWII museum. It was about a 20 minute walk and you can take the street car straight to the Museum if you prefer but we wanted to enjoy the cooler weather and calmness of morning in New Orleans.
WWII Museum a dream of co founders Dr. Nick Mueller and Dr. Ambrose who understood the importance of not just preserving the history of WWII but also discussing why it was fought. The WWII museum exceeded my expectations. The museum experience is geared toward adults and doesn’t gloss over the complex history of WWII.
If you enjoyed Band of Brothers you will really like the immersive experience in the newer building. The interactive landscapes recreate the actual settings of each campaign mixed with soundscapes and period news reels it is truly a captivating experience.
After wandering magazine street and the museum we were ready for a break and a snack so we headed to the museum Soda Shoppe and attached book store. They serve classic soda shoppe fare like chili dogs, ice cream sundaes, and root beer floats. We found some vintage toys for the kids and a book to read to them from the Tails of War series; Barney: The Saga of a Paratrooper Dog in WWII
Our last stop was the museum’s vintage inspired clothing store where I had so much fun looking at all the vintage inspired clothing and accessories. They are all brands you can easily shop online but the shop was set up really nicely so it was fun to look through and the staff was friendly and so helpful!
We took the St Charles line from the stop next to The New Orleans Museum of Art back to Bourbon street and went straight back to Cunada to cool off with frozen pineapple margaritas and a tropical guacamole.
Crescent City Books
After resting for a bit we got ready for dinner and stopped in at Crescent City books. I finished my book on the flight down for my weekend in New Orleans and wanted something for the flight home. Crescent City books is a used book store with a small section of new local books. Naturally we left with more than one book including The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans by Lawrence N. Powell which I cannot wait to read after seeing the city for myself.
Gris Gris: The last stop for our Weekend in New Orleans
We ended our trip in the lower garden district with dinner at the chef’s table of Gris-Gris. It is a very relaxed atmosphere and watching them work was such a fun experience! Chef Eric Cook jokes around with the guests and serves up your food like you are at his kitchen island.
I had a Creole cast iron seared swordfish with sautéed summer squash and seared lemon. Jordan had a grilled pork chop with Creole spices, sautéed southern greens, new potatoes, and Blueberry Jus.
We ended our meal at Gris Gris with the most delicious Lemon Icebox Pie from Pie Mama and warm Bread Pudding with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream.
As we were leaving Gris Gris a wedding parade was walking up Magazine street and I am so glad we got to experience it!
Does Gris Gris have a dress code?
Gris-Gris does not have a dress code. It is a relaxed environment very typical of a New Orleans neighborhood restaurant.
Do you need a reservation for Gris-Gris?
Yes, a reservation is a good idea. Gris-Gris was very busy on a Saturday night and they are fully booked most weekends.
How do you pronounce Gris-Gris?
Gris-Gris is pronounced [gree-greez]
Tips for a weekend in New Orleans:
- Pack good shoes. The roads are very uneven with lots of holes and have a lot of debris at night.
- Speaking of cleaning the streets. If you can I would avoid going out before 8am. They spray down the streets each morning and until then the streets are littered in trash and occasionally, human waste.
- Get a Jazzy Pass and make use of the street cars! They are a fun experience and make it easier to getting a Lyft and waiting in traffic on narrow streets full of pedestrians and street performers. You can download the app and get day passes to make it easier.
- Be prepared, Cafe du Monde and many other places are cash only businesses. There were a lot of ATMs but they were not in the nicest locations so I would plan ahead.
- New Orleans goes at it’s own pace and you just have to roll with it. Stores open late and close early or spontaneously. Street cars don’t follow a set schedule and you never know when everything will be held up by a spontaneous parade. It is part of the unique experience that is New Orleans.
- If you like vinyl, art, and books like us plan ahead to be able to bring stuff home! Leave room in your bag or pack an extra. I flew in with a half empty suitcase so we had room for records and books on the way home. Thankfully we managed to fit it all!
A great weekend in New Orleans
There are a ton of fun things to do on a weekend in New Orleans. Before I arrived, Jordan and his co-workers went on a food tour, ghost tour, and air boat swamp tour. His favorite thing was definitely the air boat ride.
Our biggest take away was to have the best time in New Orleans take your time, stop frequently to enjoy the uniqueness that is New Orleans, and wear good shoes. Seriously, good, washable shoes.