The Crescent City's food and drink scene has never been hotter. Make the most of it with this chef-guided getaway.
Homegrown chef Michael Gulotta plates a perfect itinerary, from morning coffee to late-night bourbon.
1. Morning Coffee
2. Brunch Power Moves
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3. Best Po' Boy
It may be the most debated honor in New Orleans, but this native son is loyal to his favorite po' boy spot growing up: Liuzza's, a Mid-City landmark for more than 70 years. On the nouveau side, Justin LeBlanc's Bevi Seafood Co. offers a spicy concoction called The Cure—hot sausage patties, sunny-side-up egg, and pepper jelly mayo.
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4. Hidden Gem
New Orleans Botanical Garden, in New Orleans City Park, is a civic treasure that many tourists miss. The grounds feature more than 2,000 plants lovingly cultivated over 12 acres.
5. Cocktails of the Moment
Gulotta has two favorites: Cure, the James Beard award–winning bar that took over a firehouse and established itself as a leading light of the craft cocktail movement, and Bar Tonique, an unpretentious spot on the edge of the French Quarter with top-shelf bartending and nightly $5 specials.
6. Old-School Dinner
Head to the Garden District's Upperline for modern Creole fare, Gulotta says, "and just to meet the amazing owner, JoAnn Clevenger, and watch how she presides over her dining room." For time-honored New Orleans Italian with a French influence, stop at Irene's, a French Quarter cult favorite.
7. New-School Dinner
Gulotta helms two of the hottest restaurants in the city (Southeast Asia–inspired Maypop and Mopho), but he loves to tout fellow NOLA chefs. Snag a reservation for Mosquito Supper Club, where Melissa Martin cooks authentic Bayou Cajun cuisine for 24 diners in a home setting three nights a week. "You feel like you're at a dinner party," Gulotta says. He also digs the food at Coquette, the seafood-forward collaboration between chefs Kristen Essig and Michael Stoltzfus.
8. Live Music
"I tell people to head to [Bourbon Street to] Fritzel's European Jazz Pub," Gulotta says. "You get seated at a table—no standing—your drink order is taken, and then you get to focus fully on some really amazing live music." Never miss a chance to hit the venerable Preservation Hall, he adds, because the music is always great and the organization "gives so much support to the local music community."
9. Late-Night Destination
There is no better source for where to end up after a long night than the city's chefs. Gulotta favors Barrel Proof in the Lower Garden District for the good bourbon, friendly staff, and creative small kitchen.
10. Touristy But Worth It
Jump on the steamboat Natchez or the paddlewheeler Creole Queen and take a ride up and down the Mississippi River, Gulotta says. "It's beautiful and relaxing, and you get a different view of the city."
With its art-meets-industry vibe and James Beard award–winning chef Nina Compton's Compère Lapin restaurant, Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery brings a playful swagger to its historic building in the Warehouse Arts District. Rates start at $77. Nearby but miles away in style, the bohemian Catahoula Hotel inhabits a Creole town house on a side street and evokes the feel of the hideaway it is. Rates start at $89.