New Orleans: W French Quarter
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Address316 Chartres Street 70130 New Orleans , Louisiana 504/581-1200 WFrenchQuarter.com
The wine and beer garden next to SoBou's main bar, with self-serve enomatic wine machines (Silver Oak by the ounce!) and help-yourself beer taps built into the tables.
Vintage glasses, shakers, apothecary jars, and other artifacts from the Museum of the American Cocktail, on display in backlit vitrines in one of SoBou's sleek dining rooms.
- 97 jazz- and tarot-themed guest rooms
- SoBou restaurant and bar
- Complimentary transportation in luxury SUV within 5 mile radius
- Wireless high-speed internet
- In-room 40-inch flat screen TVs
- WET Outdoor Courtyard Pool
- SWEAT Fitness Center
Perhaps nowhere is the affinity between the Big Apple and the Big Easy more alive than at this French Quarter outpost of the W, a hotel brand known for merging the pulsing energy of Manhattan with the culture of each locale. Here the design is inspired by the rhythm of New Orleans' jazz musicians and the shadowy mysticism of her voodoo queens and tarot readers. Elongated lights, an allusion to voodoo pins, illuminate the vestibules. Marie Laveau's mysterious eyes stare out from room number signs in midnight-black corridors. Guest rooms feature tarot card or jazz motifs.
I take in the playful touches in my jazz-themed room—the black satin bowtie cushion and pleated tuxedo sash dressing up the plush, inviting bed; the stylized horn bell emblazoned on a backlit corner canopy—before setting off to explore the real-life music scene of the city from my ideally situated home base. On my return, the hotel's candlelit Courtyard, with its fire-ringed water fountain and lush greenery, is an oasis, and I lounge poolside with one of Abigail Gullo's inventive cocktails. The Creole Commando, made with Buffalo Trace bourbon, Creole Shrubb, lemon juice, and a hint of Herbsaint, might as well be called a Sidecar Named Desire. "This place has good cocktail voodoo," she tells me. "It used to be an ice house."
The good cocktail voodoo carries over into the hotel's brand-new bar and restaurant SoBou (New Yorkese for "South of Bourbon Street"). The "modern Creole saloon" is the brainchild of Ti Martin, spirited co-owner of the legendary Commander's Palace, and her award-winning team of Commander's alums. While the menu mainly features snacks and small plates like pork cracklin' with pimento cheese dip and crispy oyster tacos with Cajun ghost pepper caviar, on my visit, Puerto Rican-born Chef Juan Carlos Gonzalez offers up a special four-course dinner showcasing the restaurant's dressed-up take on New Orleans street food. A chicory coffee-braised duck debris napoleon with plantains, Creole cream cheese, duck bacon, and bourbon-plumped currants veers into gilded lily territory with its topping of seared foie gras, but the deep flavors are hard to resist. Friends swoon over the Steen's molasses-lacquered sticky pork belly with Abita beer boudin, and we marvel that we have any room left for the brandied cherries jubilee bread pudding that caps the meal. At breakfast the next morning, SoBou's decadent bananas foster pain perdu, with candied pecans and brandy milk punch whipped cream, is somehow the perfect way to start the day.
I have a confession: When I first checked in to the W, I felt skeptical: Too New Yorky, I thought, too sleek and trendy; not my NOLA. But the voodoo spirit soon cast its spell, and I was transported to a "New/New" world at once utterly cosmopolitan and completely, wonderfully Crescent City. I can't wait to go back. —Meryl Rosofsky
In the Area
- Conduct Your Own Classic Cocktail Crawl: Take a spin around the revolving Carousel Bar at the historic Hotel Monteleone and order up a Vieux Carré, invented here in the 1930s and featuring a delectable mix of rye, cognac, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, and a couple dashes each of Peychaud's and Angostura bitters. Brave the Bourbon Street madness for a restorative Sazerac at that bastion of gentility, Galatoire's. Next sidle over to Arnaud's classy lounge, French 75, for their eponymous cognac-and-Champagne cocktail. Still standing? Slip out of the Quarter to the Sazerac Bar at the magnificently restored Roosevelt Hotel and channel your inner Huey Long with the best Ramos Gin Fizz you'll likely ever have.
Carousel Bar, 214 Royal Street; tel. 504/523-3341; hotelmonteleone.com;
Galatoire's, 209 Bourbon Street; tel. 504/525-2021; galatoires.com;
French 75 , 813 Bienville Street; tel. 504/523-5433; arnaudsrestaurant.com;
Sazerac Bar, 123 Baronne Street; therooseveltneworleans.com
- Dive into a Bowl of Gumbo at Coop's Place: Claim a seat at the worn wooden bar and enjoy some of the tastiest—and most affordable—Cajun and Creole cuisine in the Quarter. Specialties include rabbit and sausage jambalaya and roux-thickened seafood gumbo, rich with plump oysters and crab claws and seasoned with the local "holy trinity" of diced celery, onions, and bell peppers. 1109 Decatur Street; tel. 504/525-9053; coopsplace.net
- Stock up on Creole and Cajun Cookbooks at Kitchen Witch: This treasure-filled bookshop, which opened here in the wake of Katrina, features thousands of new, rare, and out-of-print culinary books, many of them devoted to the cuisine of Louisiana. Bring home a tome by Lafcadio Hearn or Leah Chase and help owners Debbie Lindsey and Philipe LaMancusa "rebuild New Orleans one book at a time." 631 Toulouse Street; 505/528-8382; kwcookbooks.com
- Hunt for Vintage Absinthe Spoons at Lucullus: A trove of culinary antiques conjures the graciousness and ingenuity of the past in Patrick Dunne's elegant shop, devoted entirely to the delights of the kitchen and table. Score a bronze cauldron, circa 1640; a French cast iron tournebroche à ressort (mechanical rotisserie) from the late 1800s, or a set of Art Moderne oyster plates from the 1930s. 610 Chartres Street; 504/528-9620; lucullusantiques.com
- Savor Local Produce at the Crescent City Farmers Market: Swing by one of Market Umbrella's thrice-weekly markets for fresh local satsumas, Creole tomatoes, mirlitons, Gulf shrimp, crawfish, stoneground grits, Creole cream cheese, seasonal fruit popsicles, pecan-studded pralines and more, and get to mingle with—and support—the dedicated fishers, farmers, and chefs who make New Orleans the amazing food city that it is. Tuesday: Uptown, 200 Broadway Street at the River; Thursday: Mid-City, 3700 Orleans Avenue at the Bayou; Saturday: Downtown, 700 Magazine Street at Girod Street; crescentcityfarmersmarket.org