New Orleans is one of my favorite cities. Like Miami, it's one of the places that feel like you've stepped into an area outside of the United States (at least for me) due to the culture, the history, and let's not forget that NOLA accent that has some of us swooning. New Orleans is a tourist hot spot, so it can be challenging to find authentic gems if you're only using travel sites as your guide.


With my eight years of experience attending ESSENCE Festival, I've found tried and true places I love from hotels to breakfast spots I have to try every time I'm in town. Check them out below.

Where To Stay

The Pontchartrain Hotel

I stumbled upon the Pontchartrain Hotel thanks to HotelTonight because my hotel plans fell through just before the ESSENCE weekend started, but I am so glad they did. From the service, the decor, the beautifully decorated rooms, and their rooftop bar — the Garden District property is worth every penny.

The Inn On Ursulines 

Finding a hotel in the middle of the action in the French Quarter during peak times isn't easy, but the fifteen-room inn gives you access to the hustle and bustle at a reasonable price point.

What To Eat

Willa Jean

Willa Jean's owner and chef is known for her baked goods, but the Central Business District restaurant has made it clear that Chef Kelly Fields can do it all — especially breakfast. The Hangover Bowl was one of my favorite items on the menu, along with the milk and cookies.

Majoria's Commerce Restaurant

Located just a few blocks from Canal Street, this local favorite is the only place I have breakfast, well at least until the weekend as the eatery is closed. If you get a chance to swing by during the week, don't miss out on the "CBB" Commerce Breakfast Biscuit. Oh, and tell Ms. Cassandra I said hi!

Loretta's Authentic Pralines

Loretta's Pralines has been around 35 years and was the first praline company in New Orleans to be successfully owned and operated by a black woman. You can pick up sweet treats like cookies, pralines, and brownies from their North Rampart or French Market locations. But, don't miss out on Ms. Loretta's Crab or Praline Beignets. We hear they're the best in beignets in the city!

Willie Mae's Scotch House

Willie Mae's has been serving up crispy, golden fried chicken since 1947. The James Beard Foundation awarded the late Willie Mae Seaton, who passed away in 2015 at 99, even calling her fried chicken the best in the world.

Cafe Dauphine

Offering creole fare for brunch (Sundays only) and dinner, this Lower Ninth Ward black-owned restaurant is one not the miss by review standards on Yelp and TripAdvisor. The Lizardi egg rolls, seafood, and the bread pudding with rum sauce should be at the top of mind when you place your order.

Dooky Chase's Restaurant

Like Willie Mae's Scotch House, Dooky Chase has long served the New Orleans community, opening its doors as a sandwich shop. It later grew into a family restaurant thanks to the vision of Leah Lange Chase, who is known to many as the "Queen of Creole Cuisine." Mrs. Chase may have left us at the age of 96, but her legacy and contribution to NOLA's food history will live on.

Po-Boys

Even after eight years of trying out po boys in the Big Easy, I wouldn't dare give one recommendation on where to go to get one. But, I will say that black-owned establishments like Gene's have a special place in my heart. While Killer Poboys is also one of go-to's because the menu offers sandwiches, you'd expect like the seared gulf shrimp po boy, they also provide options for vegetarians like their roasted sweet potato that comes loaded with black-eyed peas, pecan spread, and braised greens.

The Food Halls

There are two food halls in New Orleans. First up is, Pythian Market Food Hall where 14 Parishes offers authentic Jamaican cuisine like Jerk Chicken, Curry Goat, and Callaloo. Next up is St. Roch Market which provides a little more variety with twelve vendors. If you need to do a little morning juice cleanse before your next indulgent meal, have a smoothie at The Daily Beet or if you're ready for a bit of flavor, try Frita where chef Charly Pierre serves Haitian street food. The seared fish, crab mac and cheese, and fried plantains with creole sauce sounds like a movie. One more thing, don't pass up a chance to try a cocktail from The Mayhaw.

Things To Do

Bacchanal Wine

Bacchanal Wine is another NOLA spot that comes highly rated. Open seven days a week, the outdoor "wine laboratory" has live jazz, craft cocktails, cheese plates, and hundreds of wines from around the world.

Café Du Monde

This cafe isn't just a place to grab a powdery beignet —it's an experience. After all these years, I still love stopping by Café Du Monde, especially to have their Frozen Café Au Lait and take a moment to take the city in. If you're planning to stop by, be sure to carry cash as plastic still isn't accepted.

Hot Tin

If you want to see a beautiful view of New Orleans with a well-crafted cocktail (my personal favorite is the "Some Like It Hot"), Hot Tin is your spot. Since this rooftop bar can get a bit crowded, go just before sunset to get a good spot and take in the scenic view.

Frenchmen Street

After my first trip to New Orleans, I gave up Bourbon Street for Frenchmen. Last year, I stopped by the Spotted Cat to hear a little jazz and later made my way to Artists Alley, where I bought photographs and artwork created by local artists.

Featured image by Getty Images

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

Our Guide To Everything To Eat, See & Do In Portland

Black-Owned Businesses To Support The Next Time You're In Memphis

A Trip To Austin May Be The Foodie-Inspired Vacay You Didn't Know You Needed

What To Do In Santa Barbara For A Day

Sign up today and be the first to get notified on new updates, exclusive events, retreats and giveaways!

More Posts

Blackness isn't a trend or a wave to ride until the mainstream gets bored with melanin, and the proof is in the trophies. For the past few years, Black film and television have been dominating the award shows, proving that all of the Hollywood critics who said people of color are not marketable were dead ass wrong.

Keep reading... Show less

Women of color receive less support in the workplace. According to the Harvard Business Review, it's one of the reasons why there's only 4% of women of color in the C-suite. The lack of support at work is the reason why mentorship is such a vital ingredient to our career success.

Keep reading... Show less

My relationship with relaxers has been a bit of a cryptic one. While I did get my hair permed quite a bit during my adolescence, once I cut my hair short—really short—in college, I transitioned over to a mild texturizer; something that, by the way, is also a relaxer (it's just not as strong). Up until a few years ago, I would go in and out between a texturized TWA (Teeny Weeny Afro) and a completely natural (including no hair dye) Afro.

Keep reading... Show less

'Tis the season for girls' trips, retreats, and summer vacations. However, some of us have learned an unfortunate and hard truth (and vice versa) -- you can't travel with everybody. Just because they're a good friend doesn't mean they'll be a good travel companion.

Keep reading... Show less

What if I told you that the universe is conspiring to help you achieve all of your heart's desires? What if that vision that you had was more than just a dream? What if everything that has happened in your life up until this point has been so that you can make that dream a reality? The truth is, that's exactly what I'm telling you, sis. Issa fact.

Keep reading... Show less
Exclusive Interviews
Latest Posts