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Best of New Orleans: NTEN 2018 Edition

We don’t talk much about food and drink on Rootid’s blog, but when you’re getting ready for a 3 day trip to New Orleans for the NTEN conference, you have to plan accordingly.

If you’ve been to New Orleans, you know that the Crescent City has some of the best music, cuisine and bars in the world. If you haven’t been there before, and you’re planning a trip, then you’re in for a treat!

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit on several occasions for conferences, and have put together this list of amazing local eats, cafes and bars.

If you’re going for a conference, then you’re likely going to be located near the conference center. This list is curated to ensure that you can easily access these spots within a 20-30 minute walk depending on where you are staying.

A Map of Our Favorites

Cochon Butcher

You can’t leave New Orleans without heading over to Cochon Butcher. Butcher, as it’s commonly referred to, is connected to the world renowned Cochon restaurant, run by James Beard award-winning chefs Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski.

The menu is a take on an old world butcher with a cajun flair. Items range from a the muffaletta (my favorite) to the hot boudin. All the meats are smoked or cured in-house. They also have a great selection of beer and wine. I also love their homemade pickles!

Butcher is a perfect place for a quick conference escape since it’s is within a short walk of the convention center.

If there’s no other place you make it to, go here.

Willie Mae’s Scotch House

Nothing says soul food like fried chicken. Wilie Mae’s Scotch House holds the Food Network and Travel channels title belt for the best fried chicken, so don’t miss out on this one.

This New Orleans gem is run by 3rd generation Seaton family members, and they still use the original recipes. If you don’t want fried chicken, there are a wide variety of other soul food classics to choose from.

Just make sure you get here early. A line starts to form before the restaurant opens, so if you don’t plan accordingly, you might miss your next conference session (it would be worth it if you did).

Johnny’s Po-Boys

Johnny’s Po-Boys doesn’t look like much from the outside, but what they’re cooking inside might change your life.

Johnny’s is the oldest family-owned restaurant in New Orleans. You can smell the love when you walk in the door. It features classic southern cooking in a red plaid plastic tablecloth setting.

The menu is large, so you can come back over and over if you want to try different features like alligator sausage po-boy, crawfish po-boy, or an oyster po-boy… oh yeah they do have other incredible dishes that aren’t po-boys too.  

Cafe Beignet

Nothing says New Orleans quite like a freshly fried beignet with a pile of powdered sugar on top. Hey, I never said eating in New Orleans was healthy!

Although most people are familiar with the world-famous Cafe du Monde, I prefer the more reserved Cafe Beignet located in the French Quarter. It feels more like a neighborhood cafe with a quieter atmosphere, and fewer tourists hawking over you while they wait to steal your table as soon as you take your last bite.

This isn’t that close to the conference center, but it’s worth the trip. Plan an early morning planned to make sure you get your fill of this classic.  Order your beignet with a cappuccino for the full experience.

The Courtyard Brewery

If you like beer, then don’t miss out on this funky little spot close to the conference center. When you arrive, you might think you’re lost. The brewery looks like a little shipping container plopped down on a vacant lot. It actually might be….

Despite its appearance, The Courtyard Brewery is quickly becoming one of the places for beer geeks to frequent with its wide variety of brews. In addition to serving beers they brew on location, Courtyard has a great list of other breweries from across the country.

Stop by and have a few in their outdoor “courtyard” with friends or soon-to-be-friends.

The Rusty Nail

An urban oasis that was carved out of a rough looking building, the Rusty Nail sports a beautiful outdoor patio that is perfect for those warm New Orleans evenings. It’s located close to the convention center, so you can take the edge off after a day of sitting in seminars.

Their drink list features a number of classic cocktails with a twist, or enjoy one of their several beers on tap. They always have a good line up and can provide something for everyone no matter your preference.

The Spotted Cat

Of course, you can’t have a Best of New Orleans list without mentioning music. There are literally hundreds of places to choose from when it comes to live music in New Orleans.  I’ve been to many of them, but for some reason, I always like the Spotted Cat – the quintessential New Orleans Jazz club.

For some reason I have a soft spot in my heart for The Cat. Perhaps it is because it’s one of the first places I visited my first time in New Orleans.

Are there better venues? Yes. However, The Spotted Cat always has a great atmosphere, and a small enough space where you’re basically standing right next to the band all night. It just feels good.

Check it out. They have free live music there 7 nights a week.