Getting together this holiday season can mean getting a little creative.
Our traditional hospitality spaces are stretched, confronted with the now familiar efforts of staff reassignment and the challenges of a fractured supply chain. New Years Eve dinners are back and open reservations are here. But for peak days and times and for larger group outings, the options are limited and dwindling.
Reveillon, a staple of New Orleans gastronomy, is back this year for a season that promises to be far from normal for restaurants.
But more casual, even spontaneous, meetings can be rewarding additions to your calendar and great ways to connect. So below I offer some food (and drink) for thought in a few broad categories.
Remember that no hotel business is immune to the problems that have limited traditional restaurant service. So obey the house rules, tip generously and have a happy little vacation outing.
Shop and sip
A number of local wine shops have their own on-site wine bars, which is a fun way to do holiday shopping as well as socialize.
These range from neighborhood hot spots like Faubourg wines (2805 avenue Saint-Claude) and Swirl Market and Wine Bar (3143 Ponce de Leon St.) to off-radar discoveries, such as NOLA independent cellar (1226 S White St.), an elegant wine cellar hidden behind a car dealership, and Next to Nothing Wines (3928 Europhine St.) tucked away in the ArtEgg Studio complex.
New this year is Second Vine Wine (4212 Magazine Street), now moved to Uptown from its original home in Marigny, with a small bar and a variety of different private rooms and secluded nooks for small gatherings and tastings. . And Martin Wine Cellar (3827 Baroness St. and 714 Elmeer Ave.) has made this kind of association for many years between its deli / wine bar and its retail shelves.
Larder Gourmet Market + Resto (3005 Veterans Blvd.) offers a similar experience with wine, cheese boards, and a full menu at a delicatessen stocked with specialty foods and freebies.
Another new hybrid is Stained glass wine bar (201 Huey P. Long Ave.) in downtown Gretna, which uses self-service vending machines for people to sample wines (as well as beer and spirits) in tasting portions, and also sells retail wine.
For beer lovers, a similar model of shopping and sip defines 504 Reserve of craft beers (3939 Tulane Ave.) the specialty beer store with its own bar for pints and growlers.
The time of the tapas room
The rise of local microbreweries and their taprooms has created a different and fairly versatile reception area.
Beer is naturally the focal point, although some also make seltzer water and many offer food. Most are open to all ages, and their beer gardens are usually dog friendly as well, and games and activities abound.
They run the spectrum of little neighborhood finds, like Parleaux beer laboratory (634, rue Lesseps) and Second line brewing (433 N. Bernadotte St.) to beer gardens that look like small festival grounds, like Zony Mash beer project (3940, rue Thalia) and Faubourg beer (3501, chemin Jourdan).
Check out our comprehensive and up-to-date guide to local breweries and taprooms at nola.com/wherenolaeats.
The city’s small but growing brewing industry has provided something in addition to the more local brands. These breweries also operate taprooms which pro …
There are also now two local cider cellars, with Kingfish (355 Iris St.) at Old Jefferson joining Broad Street Cider (2723 S. Broad St.), which currently only opens its bar on Fridays (Broad Street Cider is open to those 21 and over).
Local distilleries are adding their own tasting rooms for a similar alternative. To verify Seven Three Distilling Co. (301, avenue N. Claiborne) and Happy Raptor Distillation (1512, rue Carondelet) for two examples.
Dessert first (or only)
A dessert outing will always be special, whether it’s after dinner or on a whim. When you meet friends, it’s even more fun. This has the makings of a vacation reunion, and it can happen any time of the day, useful for busy schedules towards the end of the year.
Angelo Brocato Ice Cream and Confectionery (214 N. Carrollton Ave.) is the classic, and still gets an after-dinner rush of Mid-City restaurants, while the modern Sugar (3025 Magazine St.) is back with a new owner and now has a second location in the French Quarter (217 Royal St.).
Small bakeries that double as cafes expand daytime options for low-key places to catch up and share time around something delicious. A good example is Gracious bakery and cafe (1000 Norman C. Francis Pkwy., 4930 Magazine St., 2854 St. Charles Ave.), with a case full of single-serve (and even bite-size) delicacies.
Bakery Bar (1179, rue de l’Annéquence), meanwhile, puts it all together with a sliced Doberge cake, plate desserts, a full savory menu and a full bar including holiday-themed cocktails.
Bring it home
If your favorite restaurant is full, you may always be able to take home a taste of it. Thanks to the pandemic, many restaurants have become adept at take-out, dining, and family-style take-out meals, and many have kept it as an integral part of their offerings.
With some advance notice and (again, the keyword) flexibility, you might be surprised at what you can muster this year when you deliver the venue.
The same is true of domestic shipping options that some restaurants developed or built during the pandemic, which may share a taste of the city with others. Goldbelly is a supplier to a number of local restaurants continue to use, shipment of muffulettas, okra, full dinners and po-boy kits.
Deck the halls (and the bar)
Sadly, we were fortunate enough to experience what New Orleans would be like without its neighborhood bars during pandemic phases when they were forced to shut down temporarily. It gave us the opportunity to reflect on what we’re getting from them, and it’s not just a good drink.
The corner bar, the upscale lounge, the classic pub, the beer garden-style terraces that have sprung up, conviviality is the common thread and everyone gives their own view of the community of people who meet there.
Local diving will not replace a big banquet this year. But with the right spirit and underlying gratitude that these places have at least done so far, they can anchor a vacation outing in this unexplored season. Buy a round and you’ve had a party time.
Looking for more vacation ideas? Check out our guide to seasonal events and events here.
It’s the season for holiday get-togethers and party outings, and this year that means so much more. We aspire to connect and come back …