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In town for work? For play? Primarily for one, but hoping to make time for the other? Here are seven ways to find that perfect balance, New Orleans-style.
Best business hotel: J.W. Marriott. Free high-speed internet and cozy, private nooks make the J. W. Marriott’s lobby lounge a perfect spot to meet clients or get some work done.
The library theme sets a tone for industry; a bar menu featuring fire-roasted oysters in Tabasco butter, boudin cakes with house-made pepper jelly and tempting cocktails keeps you from taking things too seriously.
Best working breakfast: Brennan’s. If it’s a true working breakfast (that is, followed by a working rest-of-the-day), you may have to skip the traditional brandy milk punch cocktail with breakfast at Brennan’s, a New Orleans institution since 1946. Comfort yourself with flaming bananas Foster for dessert after a traditional Creole dish like eggs Hussarde or one of James Beard Award-nominated chef Slade Rushing’s innovations, like ricotta and Creole cream cheese crepes with Satsuma glaze or soft-scrambles duck eggs with duck ham and grilled bread.
Best business dinner: Restaurant R’Evolution. Does the word ‘revolution’ really need an apostrophe? Maybe not, but if you want to impress over dinner in New Orleans, you probably need R’Evolution’s elegant caviar staircase, house-made salumi and modern, inventive treatments of fresh, local Louisiana ingredients like fat Gulf oysters topped with cucumber-lemon granita or foie gras served Vietnamese banh mi-style. The carefully curated 10,000-bottle wine cellar makes it easy to find the perfect pairing.
Best after-work happy hour: Lüke and Fulton Alley. Quick check: Does the month have an “r” in it? Then it’s oyster season, and you should make haste to Lüke – John Besh’s bustling C.B.D. restaurant that offers French-German brasserie food with a New Orleans twist.
From 3 – 6 p.m. daily, plump, briny Gulf oysters from the raw bar are 75 cents apiece, with half-price draft beer, wines by the glass and some house cocktails to wash them down. If it’s not oyster time, head to Fulton Alley, a luxe gastropub/craft cocktail bar/ bowling alley just a few blocks away.
At happy hour (5 – 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and a work ethic-sapping 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Fridays) shoe rental and your first half hour of bowling are free.
To sweeten the deal, elevated Southern bar snacks like deviled eggs with chicken-skin cracklings are half-price, and half a dozen specialty cocktails are $6.
Best place to work off stress: New Orleans Athletic Club. Established in 1872, the NOAC is one of America’s oldest operating health clubs. It’s redolent of vintage elegance, with walls covered in sepia-toned photos of athletes (former members, not kitschy decor) and a gorgeous indoor saltwater pool lit by skylight and ringed by Grecian columns. The equipment and classes – yoga, Pilates, spinning, boot camp and strength training – are modern, however. And because this is New Orleans, there’s also an in-house bar.
Best place to spend an extra day in New Orleans: Bywater. Just downriver of the French Quarter lies New Orleans’ newest hip neighborhood.
Bywater is home to an edgy strip of art galleries, music venues, bars and restaurants. Stroll or bike down the side of the levee in Crescent Park and stop in to Euclid Records, where you can shop for vintage vinyl and new releases from local artists. Then grab a drink surrounded by wrought iron and climbing vines in the courtyard at Oxalis before you explore the area’s expanding food scene.
Check out Red’s Chinese for eclectic Asian food, Kebab for doner, falafel, and inventive house-made sodas, or the old-school fried seafood plates at Jack Dempsey’s for a taste of what Bywater was like back in the day. Bacchanal, a tiny wine shop with a huge, airy courtyard, serves small plates and hosts live jazz under Tiki torches and Christmas lights.
Best place for inspiration: City Park. Take a break from the bustle of work and the glorious decadence of New Orleans’ culture and jog or walk under the ancient live oaks of New Orleans’ largest park.
City Park is also home to the New Orleans Museum of Art, botanical and sculpture gardens and wide lagoons full of swans. Tour an exhibit, rent a bike or a paddleboat, or just lie back in the grass and remember to breathe.