“In New Orleans, gluttony is a way of life.” – Morton J. Horwitz
I’m getting those Basin Street Blues again. I’ve done articles on the Uptown, Carollton and Garden District, more Uptown & Bywater, on French Quarter food and drink, and the Fauborg Marigny and Treme neighborhoods. Now I cover the more commercial, high-rise-littered CBD, where some of Nola’s best food and drink is found.
CBD (Central Business District)
CBD is Nola’s downtown with high-rises and a slew of hotels. As corporate as some of the buildings look, there’s inspiring architecture interspersed. I find it to be one of the most vibrant Nola ‘hoods for drinks and restaurants. Best of all, this where you can get an unforgettable drink from Chris McMillian and visit the Museum of the American Cocktail, of which he is a founding member.
BAR UNCOMMON at Renaissance Pere Marquette – You’ve heard me mention Chris McMillian many a time and with good reason. He’s the bartender I credit with changing the way I drink. Certainly over the past decade in San Francisco, I have changed, matured, evolved with my own study and many of our country’s best bartenders here in SF illuming the way.
A few years ago I had drinks at Chris’ bar multiple times in one week, the highlight of my first visit to New Orleans. His level of craft and care with the classics, not to mention his in ode to the julep, showed me more fully than anyone ever had before the history, art form, romance and possibility inherent in a cocktail. He has also best exemplified the customer care and lack of pretension a great bartender exudes. I came home inspired, working carefully on my Old-Fashioneds and Mint Juleps. He makes the I’ve ever had of either. Any other drink (including his Aviation) will likewise leave it’s mark. If you claim to love drink at all, order from McMillian.
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SWIZZLE STICK BAR in Loews Hotel next to Cafe Adelaide – Though I have mixed feelings about some of the light, sweet drinks I sampled here, including a signature Adelaide Swizzle ($7.50) – Amber rum, lime, bitters, soda – I dig the lush, playful lounge setting in velvets and pastels. I respect the reputation this bar has amongst bartenders I talked to in Nola and appreciate the personality behind Cafe Adelaide’s name.
POLO CLUB LOUNGE in Windsor Court Hotel – It’s old school, 1980’s elegance, to be sure. More fitting for older gentleman in suits with loads of cash. But with live piano jazz and extensive scotches and champagnes, I find it a worthy Nola respite for whiskey and romance.
AUGUST – Yes, John Besh is Nola’s great chef and his signature restaurant is easily my top recommend for fine dining in this city. Certainly it’s one of my top restaurants in all of Nola. Service is impeccable, the wine list strong, atmosphere is elegant, quiet but not stuffy. Pricey tasting menus please gourmands with refined execution and heartwarming Southern touches in dishes like Sugar & Spice Duckling with stone ground grits, roasted foie gras, candied quince. The lunch prix fixe is a steal and budget way to try this landmark Nola restaurant.
COCHON – Cochon gets much acclaim. I enjoyed first visiting it back in 2008. While I wouldn’t call it the best in Nola, it does place Southern food firmly in updated territory, re-interpreted for city folk. Traditional dishes that make me crazy happy, like Crawfish Pie ($8), Grilled Shrimp Chow-Chow ($9) and Fried Boudin ($9), appear here in fresh iterations. Their famed Louisiana Cochon ($22) isn’t any less fatty because there’s turnips and cabbage in it. Cracklins confirm this is one rich dish in a pig-centric restaurant. They do everything with finesse and though not every plate tastes as wonderful as it sounds, this is one of those spots where merely perusing the menu makes me salivate. Head next door to Cochon Butcher for sandwiches or meats to go.
CUVEE – If you’re going to Cuvee, you might as well visit the superior August instead, but that doesn’t make Cuvee an unworthy CBD stop, especially for the $24 lunch prix fixe, which, similar to August, is a more affordable way to sample their fare. They serve a superior version of Gulf Shrimp Napoleon ($11): crisp mirliton, rémoulade, cayenne beurre blanc, frisée, or creations like Carne Cruda ($13): filet mignon, rioja reduction, mahon, peppadew peppers.