I Ate & Drank My Way Through A Decadent Weekend In New Orleans

I am now 98% beignet.

Highlights in New Orleans include strolling on Bourbon Street and sampling beignets at Cafe du Monde...

As someone who weighs food and drink options very heavily — sometimes too heavily — when considering vacation destinations, I’m embarrassed to say that it took until my mid-thirties to make my inaugural trip to New Orleans. I recently rectified things, however, over a long weekend just before Mardi Gras season kicked into its annual booze-soaked, beaded bacchanalia.

I was invited to check out the Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans, which opened in 2021 in a landmarked modernist building on the Mississippi River. The rooms themselves — five types, plus a selection of suites — feature a bright and modern design with shiplap walls (an homage to Mississippi’s riverboats, according to the hotel’s website) and marble bathrooms with roomy soaking tubs for the bath lovers. Other highlights: two restaurants, a sleek lobby bar, one of the most luxe spas I’ve ever experienced, a crescent-shaped infinity pool, and a gym outfitted with Peloton bikes.

The hotel’s Chandelier Bar features a custom light fixture made from 15,000 crystals.Courtesy Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans

Despite these perks, I did also manage to spend time outside the hotel. Ahead, everything I ate and drank, and a healthy dash of the city’s rich culture and history for good measure. (And a quick note: You’ll need to book reservations ahead of time if you want to get into the most popular places. I recommend making them as early as possible — I made most of mine about a week before my trip, and although I was able to get into most of the spots I wanted, I often had to choose times a bit later in the evening.)

Friday: Lunch & A Leisurely Stroll Through The Garden District

My husband and I knew we were in for a big weekend of eating and drinking, so we wanted to get in as many steps as possible. (#Balance.) Shortly after we checked into the hotel, we headed out for a stroll along Magazine Street, which is dotted with locally-owned boutiques, art galleries, and more — a shopper’s paradise blissfully absent of cookie-cutter chain stores. Our destination was Ruby Slipper, a casual breakfast and lunch spot with a bunch of locations around the city. I got the Southern BLT — applewood smoked bacon, plus fried and fresh red tomatoes served on brioche toast — but they’re well-known for their many egg, pancake, and French toast dishes. And definitely don’t skip the colorful mimosa flight (I didn’t). The meal was ideal fuel for a stroll around the nearby Garden District, home to grand mansions dating back to the nineteenth century as well as Commander’s Palace, one of the city’s most famous restaurants. (Alas, I wasn’t able to snag a res there in time, but that’s just a good reason to make a return trip, right?)

The city is full of spooky history, and one of the best ways to learn about it is through a ghost tour, which we did when we got back from the Garden District. There are probably dozens of walking tours to choose from, but we opted for one hosted by Ghost City Tours as recommended by a friend. My husband and I, admittedly, went into it thinking it’d be a hokey rehash of urban legends, but all the stories — some as old as the infamous tale of Delphine LaLaurie, others as recent as the gruesome tragedy of Zack Bowen and Addie Hall — were all genuine, and genuinely harrowing.

The delightful — and delightfully colorful — mimosa flight from Ruby Slipper.Christina Amoroso

Then it was time for a quick walk back to the hotel for dinner at Chemin A La Mer, located on the fifth floor of the Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans with floor-to-ceiling views of the Mississippi. We started with a half-dozen oysters and crab boulettes — essentially mini crabcakes (shrimp boulettes are on the current menu) — and I ordered the fall-apart tender duck confit served over white bean pistou. (No fewer than three people recommended it as a fan favorite — who was I to question them?) Not wanting the night to end, we capped off our first day with a glass of rosé at Chandelier Bar in the lobby, where we sat under the bar’s custom chandelier made from 15,000(!) crystals. By that point, we weren’t feeling peckish, but the bar does offer nibbles and caviar service (tres on trend) if you’re looking for a midnight snack.

Saturday: Meals & Music In The French Quarter

You can’t escape good food and drink in this town, even in the most unlikely of places. As soon as I checked into the spa at the hotel, I was swiftly offered a glass of prosecco or a mimosa. Non-alcoholic rosé is available, too, for non-drinkers — or if, unlike me, you’re simply waiting until after 10 a.m. to get the party started. (Restraint in NOLA? I don’t know her.) You’ll also find infused water and mountain berry iced tea in the sitting area while you wait for your masseuse or aesthetician, and the whole place is bathed in soothing neutral wood tones, white oak, and brass and marble accents. I opted for a 60-minute Swedish massage that left me thoroughly relaxed, even more so after a quick respite in the spa’s relaxation room, where I was greeted with a piece of pecan sea salt dark chocolate and (yes, another) glass of prosecco.

It was the reset I needed before gearing up for a meal at one of NOLA’s most iconic spots: Galatoire’s, a boisterous white tablecloth restaurant that’s been around since 1905 and is still considered one of the city’s most coveted tables. Indeed, at noon on a Saturday, the dining room was packed with groups of people, including a family celebrating a birthday at a nearby table with many (by my count, at least six) bottles of Champagne. I ordered a ham and egg omelet; my husband enjoyed the oysters Rockefeller, one of Galatoire’s signature dishes (no joke: the restaurant reportedly goes through about 2,000 of the mollusks per day). Then, after a quick stroll down Bourbon Street — yes, it’s touristy, but worth peeping just to check out the vibe — it was time for a jazz show. There are, of course, tons of clubs all over New Orleans, but few are as famous as Preservation Hall, an intimate, no-frills venue that’s been around since the 1950s.

Relaxing spa vibes at the Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans.Courtesy Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans

The walk back to the hotel was the perfect opportunity to make a pit stop at Cafe du Monde for coffee and beignets, those delightful rectangular-shaped pieces of fried dough that are then doused in powdered sugar and served warm. Yes, they’re worth the hype, and no, you can’t do a proper food tour of New Orleans without coming here. Three come in an order, and because my husband isn’t a big sweets person (no, I don’t get it either) I had them all to myself — and the dusting of powdered sugar all over my outfit to prove it. Don’t be scared off by the long line, either: It moves quickly and is well worth the short wait.

After a short rest/sugar coma back at the hotel, we headed back to the French Quarter — it’s about a 10-minute walk from the Four Seasons — for dinner at Bourbon House, where I had shrimp and grits, although people also rave about the charbroiled oysters. The hands-down highlight of the evening, however, was a nightcap at Double Dealer, a dimly-lit cocktail bar tucked underneath the Orpheum Theater. The cocktail list is mind-boggling and includes original creations named after short stories and poems from the short-lived, same-named New Orleans literary journal, along with plenty of classics. Slip into a booth with velvet curtains, or pull up a chair closer to the stage where you’ll hear live music. P.S.: Soak up your French 75 with a bag of free popcorn, and thank me later.

Sunday: Brunch & A Walk To The Bywater

I knew brunch at the Four Seasons’ restaurant, Miss River, would be good when we sat down and were promptly served pillowy, warm sweet potato brioche buns alongside sweet butter. I washed them down with coffee and a mimosa before tucking into an order of shrimp and grits with chives (if you’re not ordering shrimp and grits at least once in New Orleans, wyd?), which had just the right amount of heat. I was tempted by the buttermilk fried chicken and biscuit I eyed at the next table, though — the scrambled egg toast, covered in shaved black truffles, and clay pot dirty rice are other popular menu options.

NOLA lies at or below sea level, so the dead are typically buried in above-ground tombs, making the city’s cemeteries important both architecturally and historically. You can tour many of them, so we headed to the oldest, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, to learn about the final resting place of residents including Homer Plessy (the plaintiff from the landmark Supreme Court case) and Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau. It’s so well-known that even Nicolas Cage bought a pyramid-shaped tomb here a few years back.

The Art Deco-inspired design at Miss River, one of the Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans’ signature restaurants.Courtesy Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans

We then walked for about an hour along the riverfront and through Crescent Park over to Bacchanal Wine in the Bywater neighborhood. It’s a festive, funky little wine bar with a large outdoor area and live music. We sat at the bar upstairs, nibbled on olives and bacon-wrapped dates, and chatted up the super friendly staff who plied us with restaurant recommendations and gave us the lowdown on what’s worth it and what’s overrated. We then cabbed back to the hotel and got ready for dinner at GW Fins, an upscale spot that we wanted to save for our final night in New Orleans. We shared lobster dumplings, and I had the restaurant’s signature dish, “scalibut,” a halibut filet with a layer of sliced scallops baked on top and served alongside red shrimp risotto and snow peas. The next day, I headed to the airport (side note — even the airport dining options are impressive) full of food, culture, and with my jeans fitting noticeably tighter.