Jack Rose Restaurant at The Pontchartrain Hotel.

Here’s how to live, learn, and eat your way through New Orleans

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  • Published on February 16, 2024
  • In Uncategorized

New Orleans is more than just booze, Bourbon Street, and beads. Here are some spots that will have you rubbing elbows with the locals of the Big Easy.

Whether it’s Mardi Gras season or a typical August weekend, there’s never a dull moment on the streets of New Orleans, Louisiana.

NOLA draws tourists from all over to experience everything the city beholds. From the Krewe of Zulu parade that charges down St. Charles Avenue during Mardi Gras to listening to the origins of jazz to gorging themselves on authentic Creole and Cajun cuisine, New Orleans is a city full of culture and experiences that keep it at the top of travelers’ destinations lists. 

But the Big Easy is more than just booze, Bourbon and beads. If you want to live, learn and eat like a local, check out these places below. Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Where to stay 

The Pontchartrain Hotel is a unique, full-service New Orleans hotel in the Garden District. Built in 1927, this historic gem flawlessly merges the flair of old-school glamour with modern, luxurious amenities.

The 14-story hotel boasts 106 rooms, including standard doubles and king-size suites with separate living space. Rooms are outfitted in cozy vintage furniture that emphasizes The Pontchartain’s nostalgic appeal. The posh tiled bathrooms and plush bedding offer the perfect retreat after a visit to Bourbon Street. Some rooms even feature breathtaking views of the beautiful Crescent City.

The hotel also features several food and beverage options that will be your night’s perfect start or end. The first-floor eateries include the cute grab-and-go Silver Whistle Cafe, which offers fresh baked foods, sandwiches, and coffee. Across the hall is the Bayou Bar, a full-service bar that serves traditional tavern food and features live music throughout the week. The acclaimed Jack Rose Restaurant found its home in the hotel in 2018 and has quickly become a staple with its eclectic menu and vibrant cocktail list. Your nightcap will come with the perfect backdrop at the hotel’s rooftop bar, Hot Tin. The popular night spot provides a 270-degree view of the city.

Whether it be through its decor, food options, or location, The Pontchartrain Hotel does an impeccable job of embodying New Orleans’ style, ensuring that the city’s rich culture is on full display.

Exterior view of The Pontchartrain
Exterior view of The Pontchartrain. (Photo Credit: The Pontchartrain)

Where to eat

Chapter IV

Chapter IV opened its doors in 2023 under the helm of Chef Edgar “Dook” Chase and his wife, Gretchen. Chef Dook is the grandson of the legendary chef Leah Chase, known as the “Queen of Creole Cuisine.”

Chapter IV’s menu reflects Chef Dook’s classic culinary training at Le Cordon Bleu Paris and years of studying under his grandmother at her landmark restaurant, Dooky Chase. “We took some of the favorites from Dooky Chase and added a new twist,” Grethcen Chase told DETOUR. “People have been very receptive.”

When you go, make sure to try the crab fried rice, Oysters Rockefeller, the sweet chili wings and ribs.

Entrance of Chapter IV.
Entrance of Chapter IV. (Photo Credit: Martie Bowser)

Nonno’s Cajun Cuisine and Pastries

Chef Shermond Esteen Jr. isn’t your typical chef. Sure, he’s cranking out batches of fresh bread pudding and some of New Orleans’ best gumbo, but the owner of Nonno’s Cajun Cuisine and Pastries has overcome a lot to own one of the most beloved restaurants in the city. 

After serving 20 years of a 33-year sentence for possession of five ounces of marijuana, Esteen came home more determined than ever. His participation in a culinary arts program while incarcerated and his love of cooking with his mother as a child led him to the restaurant industry. 

Nonno’s is located on Bayou Road, a mecca for Black businesses in New Orleans, which means more to Esteen than just an address. “Mrs. McKenna [Beverly McKenna, proprietor of Bayou Road] took a chance on me, and I want to repay that,” Esteen told DETOUR.

Chef Esteen actively mentors young adults and hires previously incarcerated individuals as a way to give back to the community that has done the same for him.

Exterior of Nonno’s Cajun Cuisine and Pastries.
Exterior of Nonno’s Cajun Cuisine and Pastries. (Photo Credit : Martie Bowser)

Lil’ Dizzy’s Cafe

Lil’ Dizzy’s Cafe is located in the historic Tremé neighborhood. The restaurant, which sits at the corner of Esplanade Avenue and North Robertson Street, is just one in the long culinary legacy of the Baquet family, which has been feeding New Orleans for over 70 years. Lil Dizzy’s has been open since 2005 but, like many restaurants, closed during the pandemic. To ensure the restaurant remained family-owned, Wanye Baquet, Jr. and wife, Arkesha, purchased it from Lil’ Dizzy’s founder, Wayne Baquet, Sr. Arkesha, who had previously worked at other Baquet restaurants, didn’t want to see this location leave the family. 

“We couldn’t imagine driving by and seeing this belonging to someone else. This restaurant represents our family. Our legacy is here,” she said. 

Since changing hands, the buffet-style eatery has undergone some changes, which Arkesha said “took some getting used to” for some. The lines spilling out the door clamoring for Lil Dizzy’s fried chicken, however, indicate the demand still exists.

Exterior of Lil Dizzy's Cafe.
Exterior of Lil Dizzy’s Cafe. (Photo Credit : Arkesha Baquet)

What to do

After enjoying the famous fried chicken and stuffed bell peppers at Lil’ Dizzy’s, take a quick walk down Robertson and visit the Backstreet Cultural Museum. Curated by native historian Sylvester Francis, the Backstreet Cultural Museum celebrates New Orleans’ rich social culture, including the New Orleans’ African American Carnival, Mardi Gras, second-line parades, jazz funerals, and more. The exhibits range from the intricately beaded costumes of famous Mardi Gras Indians, chiefs, dance clubs and more.

Mardi Gras Indian Costumes at Backstreet Cultural Museum.
Mardi Gras Indian costumes at Backstreet Cultural Museum. (Photo credit: Martie Bowser)

New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz, and Preservation Hall is one of the homes that nurtured it. For almost 50 years, Preservation Hall has held acoustic New Orleans Jazz concerts and jam sessions in the French Quarter. Guests can enjoy the talents of 50+ local master practitioners almost every night of the year to connect to the musical history of New Orleans. 

After you listen to the best jazz in the city, the All Bout Dat Black Heritage & Jazz Tours is the perfect way to learn more about the genre’s pioneers. The knowledgeable tour guide, Mikhala Iversen Afropean, ushers guests through the historical Louis Armstrong Park as she recalls the city’s true and often dismissed history. Afropean offers an uncensored deep dive into the cultural, spiritual and racial makeup of New Orleans. 

Follow up on Mikhala’s history lessons with a visit to the Freed People of Color Museum (Le Musée de f.p.c.). Owned by Dr. Dwight and Beverly McKenna, the Freed People of Color Museum is dedicated to displaying the history and progression of free people of African descent in New Orleans and throughout the country. The museum features the couple’s privately owned collection of documents, paintings, and decorative arts that personify the resiliency and strength of people of color throughout centuries.

Bayou Road proprietor Beverly McKenna speaking to visitors at The Freed People of Color Museum.
Bayou Road proprietor Beverly McKenna speaking to visitors at The Freed People of Color Museum. (Photo Credit: The Freed People of Color Museum)

If you still crave more history, head to the Louisiana Civil Rights Museum in the Ernest. N. Morial Convention Center. The carefully curated museum details the state’s role in the Civil Rights movement. Stand-out segments in the exhibit include the lunch counter sit-ins at the segregated diners on Canal Street and the nation’s first bus boycott in Baton Rouge. 

If traditional museums aren’t your thing, Vue Orleans is a charming alternative. The interactive cultural experience allows you to immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of New Orleans, all while enjoying a 360-degree view of the city from 34 stories up. The fun exhibits include playing digital dress-up and creating your own masquerade ball costume or learning how to make staple New Orleans dishes, including gumbo, jambalaya, king cake and more.

Martie Bowser is a journalist and public relations professional in Charlotte, NC. She enjoys amplifying the voices of POC and women that fill a void within their community. Her favorite things to cover include “person of interest” pieces, small business highlights, pop culture commentary, entertainment features, and everything about Beyoncé. Her bylines can be found in Blavity, Essence, Black Excellence, Signature Bride, Black Wall Street Times, and HipHop Weekly. Martie can be reached via email at martiebowser@detourxp.com.

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