Have you ever been to a place and fell instantly in love? In love with the colors, the charm, the smell of it? That’s the feeling that came to me during my very first visit to New Orleans, Louisiana. Nearly 10 trips later, a place to call home there, and friendships built that restored my faith in the word, it’s still a city that I fall in love with more and more with every visit.
My slice of New Orleans here in Los Angeles.
Working at a family-owned New Orleans restaurant in Los Angeles has been amazing.
I’ve been able to get a taste of a culture that feeds the belly and the soul. It’s always a pleasure to have guests stop in (especially from New Orleans), nod their head and rub their belly with great satisfaction.
New Orleans’ heritage and pride reaches far, and for me to have the pleasure to live in Los Angeles and simultaneously be surrounded by New Orleans culture pretty much on a daily basis is confirmation of destiny and universal alignment. So it was only a matter of time before I had to get myself over to the Bayou and get a taste of the real thing.
My first visit to the Big Easy.
I decided there was no better time than Halloween 2018 to make the trip down to New Orleans, and what started as just a suggestion to a few colleagues turned into an epic group trip for myself and a few coworkers. Our expectations were high and they were fulfilled. We ate. We partied. We explored. We ate some more and we all left with a soft spot in our heart for this city full of charm and color.
But I knew there was something more for me in New Orleans and less than three weeks later I was back, ready to take on NOLA on my own and explore all the little nooks and crannies that make this city so special.
My second time down in the Bayou.
During my second stay, I decided to book a city and cemetery tour. I highly recommend it. There’s just so much heritage to this city. And while one tour can’t possibly cover hundreds of years of history, I enjoyed it very much. I also walked, walked, and walked. This is one of my favorite things to do in New Orleans.
From exploring the quaint shops on Magazine Street, and strolling the beautiful residential Garden District during the day, to bar hopping and stumbling through Bourbon and Frenchmen Street at night, this is where I feel the city comes alive. Casually walking the streets and discovering (with my DJ in hand), kept a smile on my face my entire trip. And because I was solo during this trip, I was open and receiving of all the beautiful people I came across on my journey.
This is a city that welcomes everyone with open arms, and it’s a fact that the Universe will move things here to align for you. I’ve found this to be true with every visit, with every smile, with every hug I’ve received.Jameca Lyttle
Meet my friend, Queue Andi Daniel.
Meeting Andi was nothing short of the Universe aligning for our two paths to cross. I’ll spare you the (blurry) details but we instantly connected and became sisters from another mister from our very first hello. There are some friends that come from out of nowhere (when you think you have enough friends) and they bring something to your life that just brightens your whole spirit.
That’s what Andi does to me and so many others in her life. Along with this amazing gift, I could sense her love for the city and instantly knew that all she’s ever wanted to do is share that love with me. And we’ve done just that. From college football Saturdays, High tea and Rosé all day, to epic New Year celebrations, fun times are always on the horizon with the two of us.
My love for New Orleans just keeps growing.
Fast forward nearly a year and you have a girl who’s more in love with this city than ever before. I’ve met so many people in New Orleans, both young and mature. I’ve eaten so much good (and fat) food, so much so, that some of the restaurant employees know me by name.
I’ve unofficially become a member of a band (that’s another story for another time) and listened and danced to live soulful music into the weeee hours of the morning. I’ve also learned some amazing techniques and tips from some of the best mixologists in the world.
Fun fact and sidebar:
For years, many considered the city of New Orleans the birthplace of the cocktail. It’s a fun story, but it’s not the real origin of the cocktail. (The indefatigable historian David Wondrich has traced the word a few decades further back, probably to upstate New York, or possibly England, depending on how you define a cocktail.)
No matter if New Orleans wasn’t the birthplace of the cocktail, it is certainly its spiritual center – where it is most passionately celebrated and where some of its most wondrous and varied iterations were invented, including the Sazerac, a very popular drink at my restaurant in Los Angeles.
Ok, I digress. Back to my love affair with NOLA.
Ultimately, New Orleans is a city filled with magic. This is a city with a story. And a great story doesn’t come without hurt and loss. But coupled with pride, hope, and charm, you have the makings for something that never dies.
When I walk through New Orleans I feel like I’m home. Maybe it’s all of the capricious characteristics we share: unpredictable, whimsical, fanciful, and a little volatile at times.
This is a city that welcomes everyone with open arms, and it’s a fact that the Universe will move things here to align for you. I’ve found this to be true with every visit, with every smile, with every hug I’ve received.
Time to start planning your visit to New Orleans.
If you haven’t visited, I encourage you to do so and I highly recommend you take the trip solo. I know for sure I would not have been open to receiving all that’s been given to me had I not taken the trip back time and time again on my own.
Below I’ve listed a few (of many) great places to dine, drink and dance during your next visit. Enjoy this beautiful city and all it has to offer. I have a feeling you’ll leave just a little different than when you came.
Go here if you’re looking for a quaint, chic, and cozy place for brunch or an early dinner. Then take a stroll down Magazine Street after to walk off that full belly.
This is the place if you’re hungry and looking for some tasty home cooking. It’s a perfect neighborhood hangout with so many delicious options to soothe a hangover.
Be prepared for a little wait, but come here hungry. You won’t be disappointed. I always grab a seat at the bar (solo of course). Service is fast and friendly and the charbroiled oysters are smack-your-mama good!
Usually my first breakfast stop when arriving in the city, Ruby Slipper welcomes you with so many filling breakfast options. I’ve tried a number of dishes so trust me when I say you can’t go wrong with anything here.
Located in the lobby of the International House Hotel right outside of the French Quarter, Loa is my favorite hotel bar. The decor, the selection of craft cocktails, the amazing mixologists, my list goes on. Please stop by and have a drink, you’ll thank me later. And tell Nick I sent you.
Grand, beautiful, and rooted in New Orleans history, go here if you want to get wasted (lol). I met Andi and a few friends here after lunch one day not knowing how much fun it would be and we stayed for HOURS! It’s such a great place to take in the parades and festivities on St. Charles during Mardi Gras, too.
I’m a fan of the Ace Hotel, from the one here in Los Angeles to the cool location in Shoreditch, London. But the Ace Hotel in New Orleans serves up soul and spirits with live bands and DJs. It’s the perfect place to meet a friend and grab a drink to kick off the night.
(ask for Loren)
Fun times and lots of drinks to be had here. If you find yourself on Bourbon Street (which eventually everyone does) stop in and stay for a while. The Drinkery serves up enough booze and bands throughout the night to keep your heart content.
There are some places in some cities where magic happens and that’s the Blue Nile for me. From the amazing bands and crowds on the lower level to the balcony where you can chill, chop it up, or dance the night away. The Blue Nile is always on my list when I’m in NOLA.
Fun times are to be had at the Dragon’s Den. This is another one of my favorites on Frenchmen Street. It’s dark, it’s cloudy, and the music is always on point with two to three DJ’s mixing every time I’ve visited. There are a few rooms throughout the lounge so there’s ample space to walk around.
This is a great spot to stop in and have a drink while catching some live music on Frenchmen. I’ve heard some really awesome bands at Vaso.
Go here if you’re looking for some great jazz on Frenchmen. It’s a small venue with mostly standing room but always a great experience and amazing music!