Sometimes you just need to get away from it all, and New Orleans is one of the best cities in the country to escape to. With the prevalent sounds of jazz and smells of Cajun cuisine filling the air, New Orleans feels like a whole new culture. Even better, it’s driving distance or just a quick flight from Austin. So ditch the boys, call in sick and try out some of these suggestions for great eating, drinking and merriment on a girls' weekend in The Big Easy.
New Orleans is full of incredible food and surly, inattentive servers. For breakfast, try one of the amazing egg options at Slim Goodies Diner (3322 Magazine Street), or head to Surrey’s Uptown (4807 Magazine Street; http://Surreyscafeandjuicebar.com/) and be prepared for a bit of a wait.
If you’re craving home, the migas are incredible (I know it’s wrong to eat migas in Louisiana, but it just feels so right). Coulis (3625 Prytania) also has a good breakfast and an interesting but delicious take on hash browns — they’re more like fried potato slices.
For a snack, hit up the The Creole Creamery (4924 Prytania Street) for some unusual and fantastic flavors, such as Creole Cream Cheese, Cucumber Dill or White Chocolate Butterscotch Swirl (flavors rotate). Grab an obligatory beignet from Café du Monde (800 Decatur Street), but save your coffee craving for Hey! Café (4332 Magazine Street), which has some of the best coffee in the city.
For dinner, check out the tapas-like menu at Bouligny Tavern (3641 Magazine Street), where the fried zucchini is like none you’ve ever had. The restaurant also has a fantastic cocktail menu, including the Nocino Sour, a mix of Aviation Gin, green walnut liqueur and lemon juice. Also try the Crepe Provencale from La Crepe Nanou (1410 Robert Street), where you’ll be greeted at the outdoor reception desk by a neighborhood orange tabby known as Little Man. Slice Pizzeria (1513 St. Charles Avenue) has some great pizzas and calzones.
The French Quarter is also home to many of the more famous (and pricy) New Orleans restaurants, such as Mr. B’s Bistro (201 Royal Street), Muriel’s (801 Chartres Street) and NOLA Restaurant (one of Emeril’s restaurants; 534 Saint Louis Street).
What’s not to love about drinking in New Orleans? (Aside from the hangovers.) This city has an incredible variety of creative cocktails and bars in which to drink them. For a pre-dinner drink, head to The Delachaise (3442 St. Charles). Split a bottle of wine and a cheese plate — there are an overwhelming but delicious 21 choices of cheese!
The famous Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone (214 Royal Street) is a popular and whimsical choice. Sit at the slowly rotating wooden carousel in the center of the bar — if you can get a seat — and enjoy the ride. Columns Hotel (3811 St. Charles Avenue) is located in a beautiful old house with ridiculously high ceilings. The house, which was built in 1883, is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places.
There are also a ton of great neighborhood bars, and pretty much everywhere you go will serve beer, wine and strong drinks — in a to-go cup, if you like! There’s no need for recommendations on these bars. You’ll find ’em.
Creative pickup lines abound.
If you’ve ever thought to yourself, "You know, I wish 6th Street were just five times sleazier," then Bourbon Street is for you. Grab a Hurricane (mostly sugar and food coloring and will give you a headache two sips in), make friends with the drunk homeless dude grabbing your ass, and see what the night has to offer.
For the rest of us, a quick walkthrough for anthropological curiosity should suffice, then get the hell out and visit Frenchmen Street. Hit up Maison or The Spotted Cat for some live jazz. Also try Rock ‘n’ Bowl (3000 South Carrollton Avenue) to hear a concert while showing off your bowling skillz (if you get there early enough).
During the day, walk around and explore the French Quarter and do some people-watching. Take a stroll down Esplanade or St. Charles Avenue to see some beautiful old houses, and visit one of the city’s historic cemeteries (or take a cemetery tour). Ghost tours and swamp tours are also popular.
And be sure to visit the New Orleans Museum of Art (1 Collins C. Diboll Circle; noma.org), an incredible museum whose permanent collection includes almost 40,000 objects, especially in the areas of French and American art, and works from Africa and Japan.
After all that, you'll be so exhausted you can't think straight. But you'll return to Austin content and ready to reconnect with your boys -- especially the ones who can help you re-create some of the more creative cocktails you tasted in New Orleans. Yum.