Stop 4: New Orleans
After another long and super rainy drive, with only a brief pit stop in Montgomery, Alabama to wolf down some sandwiches and coffee at a cute cafe called Prevail Union Coffee Roasters, we finally made it over the bridges and into New Orleans!
Famished, of course, we headed straight to Shaya, where we had scored a late dinner reservation. And, boy, did this James Beard award-winning restaurant blow us away. Their fresh pita is made in house in their wood-fired oven, and is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. I’m pretty sure I could take a kick-ass nap on their super soft pita pillow, but it also was fantastic dipped into their short rib hummus (my favorite!), baba ganoush, tabouleh, and ikra. A close friend insisted we order the lamb shank as our main course, and it’s safe to say we were not let down by her recommendation. The meat was falling-off-the-bone tender, and exploding with vibrant flavor. It was an absolutely incredible dinner – maybe our favorite from the entire road trip.
Naturally, we saved room for dessert… jk, we were totally stuffed but we just couldn’t wait to try Café du Monde’s famous beignets! It didn’t hurt that the cafe was two blocks from our hotel. Did these powdered sugar-covered doughnuts live up to the hype? Well, we went three times in the day and a half we were in NOLA, so you do the math. Unbelievable!! Everything you’ve heard about these doughy bites of heaven is true – Café du Monde is worth an entire road trip in itself.
After getting our sugar fix, we headed back to the historic Bourbon Orleans Hotel, our home base for the weekend in New Orleans. We loved its location on the end of Bourbon Street in the French Quarter – steps away from all the action, but not noisy at all! The staff gave us great food recommendations and we lucked out with the most adorable room with a private balcony overlooking the gorgeous pool and courtyard. Score! On night one, we enjoyed mint juleps while listening to the live jazz band in the hotel bar, before taking our drinks in to-go cups (can’t believe this is legal in NOLA!) and exploring Bourbon Street. The fact that it wasn’t Mardi Gras weekend didn’t stop people from throwing beads off balconies – what a fun city!
The next morning, we decided to burn off some calories and go for a run. Okay, well, we ran to a donut shop, but it’s the thought that counts! District Donuts supplied us with cold brew coffees, a crème bruleed cinnamon roll (our favorite), and a key lime donut. And thus began a total marathon eating day in NOLA… Next up: The Cupcake Collection's pop-up shop and their award-winning sweet potato cupcake (!!). OMG, it tastes like Thanksgiving in a cupcake! Then, we cooled off with a strawberry coconut snoball from Plum St. Snoballs that was unlike any shaved ice concoction I’ve ever had and lavender honey ice cream from Creole Creamery that was pretty much to die for.
PO’ BOY TIME! We hit up Parkway for po’ boys and ordered a surf ‘n’ turf with roast beef and fried shrimp with all the fixins. SO delish – don’t leave NOLA without trying one of these! While I’m not typically a huge oyster fan, I loved the chargrilled variety with garlic sauce we tried at Royal House. Truly, I’ve never liked oysters so much, and it was totally fun to eat on a balcony overlooking the French Quarter, with jazz music drifting up through the streets. Our food marathon (and evening) ended at the classic restaurant, Brennan’s, where bananas foster was invented! It was so amazing (as the original always is) and such a show to watch them make it tableside.
Before bidding New Orleans adieu the next day, we ran to modern hotspot Willa Jean for coffee and pastries – the ginger blueberry muffin and the pretzel pastry filled with eggs, potatoes, and bacon were the perfect fuel for our drive to Texas. Of course, we also picked up one more bag of Café du Monde beignets for the road…