Most people love New Orleans for its true grit. The old is celebrated and revered here. But there is something to be said about the new New Orleans.
There are some areas that needed the renovating and revamping, and the South Market District is one neighborhood that has done it right.
Over the course of a year or so, this little corridor in the CBD has exploded. Once just a busy corporate lunch spot, now it's a hot spot for eating, playing and living from dusk til dawn!
I can’t last til dawn these days, so we settled for 9am-midnight. Last month, Andrés (my feyoncé) and I spent a whole day checking out all the new digs. We coined it a Mid-Summer Day in SOMA. (p.s. I know "SOMA" is not a thing but the shortcut is very handy in the hashtagging world.)
Our day was filled with delicious food, unique shops and even a spin class to start the day (and to reconcile the large amounts of food consumed.)
This is how New Orleans (or really any city) is best experienced: one neighborhood at a time.
What I loved most about this class was the dark room. When the lights are out and the music is loud, you can focus solely on your workout and get in the zone. I also loved the email that came a couple hours later that told me how many calories I burned…literally as I was inhaling my bowl of pasta at Josephine Estella’s.
Speaking of Josephine Estella. Before I even get to the food, I need to mention that this restaurant is MAJOR eye candy! Starting from the ceiling, your eyes are drawn to the intricate crown molding at the top of the stately white columns accented by the lines of oversized marquis bulbs. Then for a touch of modern, a beautiful palm leaf wall paper lines the top of the walls. If you love mid-century decor, you will drool over the booths and railings. To sum it up, they perfectly married modern with mid-century!
Now onto the food. Andrés had been craving the burger ever since the front desk recommended Josephine's burger when we checked in, so his order was simple. It did not disappoint; the burger was so juicy and prepared perfectly. Another highlight was the Tuna Ceviche, which is a dish we usually order when it's offered at restaurants.
When it comes to ordering, I can go one of several different routes. The first is when I have a specific craving and only that dish will do. Second is when I ask the waiter what their signature dish is. And thirdly, sometimes the dish picks me. On this occasion, the third scenario happened.
As I was scanning the menu, these words jumped out at me and there was no turning back. When the menu says, "maw maw's gravy," you order "maw maw's gravy." I highly recommend this pasta dish, officially named "Mafalde." Maw Maw did me good.
After this heavenly meal, we hopped around the neighborhood to check out all the new shops. My personal fave, Hattie Sparks, never disappoints! Whether its a cute new Latin-print dress or the perfect gift for a friend, I can always find something. Not to mention she has complimentary Le Croix at all times. I'll take a coconut one, please and thank you!
I’ve come to realize that guys sometimes have more of a challenge when it comes to fashion. There are too few local shops where one can find their style, fit and budget. After visiting Friend, we have found Andres’ jackpot! We loved their selection and pricepoints, and he walked away with a bitchin pair of salmon-colored slacks. He's officially honeymoon-ready.
When I am channeling my inner bohemian, I go straight to Stonefree Boutique. I am such a sucker for a floral maxi or high wasted skirt and Stonefree’s selection is soooo good. I also love the fact that they carry Rails, a deliciously comfy button down shirt brand that I fell in love with last year. I think I wore one of the two shirts I bought there 50% of the time last fall/winter.
I hate to admit this, but I had never been inside a Defend New Orleans shop until this weekend. It was such a delightful experience mostly in part to the friendly shopgirl, but also because I love free stickers. And they also have sno-ball pins, sooooo I dare you to top that. We each ended up with a classic Defend Nola tee, and I feel like I’m officially a New Orleanian now.
By the time we had finished our shopping, we had built up an appetite again. New Orleans has introduced me to the whole new (to me) world of Vietnamese food, and for that I am eternally grateful. My cravings for phò and pork buns are unrelenting. We all have our favorites, but before you decide what your go-to spot is, be sure and try Magasin Cafe. Their newest location is right in the heart of SOMA.
We had the most incredible meal at Magasin! We are huge Crab Rangoon fans, so that was an obvi order. We also got the pot stickers (another staple for us) and fresh spring rolls. For our entrées, because it had been a few years since I had last eaten here, I wanted to start fresh with a big bowl of their phò (add veggies please.) For the second entrée, we let Michelle our waitress decide. Oh Michelle, you did good. Real good. The Stir Fry Filet Mignon Udon was one of the most delicious dishes I’ve had in New Orleans, and that’s saying a lot!
We waddled back to Ace Hotel, but unfortunately we missed drinks on the rooftop because they close at 8:30pm. Next time, we’ll be sure to get up there sooner. We opted for the lobby, but little did we know how cool the lobby was going to be! I love being able to sit on a comfy couch with a few close friends (and maybe sharing a cushion with a stranger) while a dance party is happening in the next room. The whole vibe of the Ace Hotel lobby felt very casual, yet very hip. Which actually sums up everything about Ace Hotel!
Our room was perfection. It had a great view, plenty of space and the most fun amenities you’ll ever find in a hotel! It almost feels like you’re in a fancy AirB&B apartment. Andrés loved our stay so much that he canceled the hotel he had booked for his bachelor party and booked it at Ace instead.
One restaurant I know I missed was The Company Burger, which we are huge fans of. On this particular day, there just wasn't enough time to fit in this fave. But there's still time for you! Head over to my Instagram account (@showmeyournola) today to enter to win a $50 gift card to Company Burger Downtown.
What other restaurants, shops or businesses did I miss in the South Market District? Let me know your favorite SOMA spots in the comments below!