A welcome return to outdoors
After spending a sweltering summer snuggled up next to the air conditioner, as a gardening enthusiast I’m beyond eager to spend as much time taking in the beauty that befalls New Orleans with the first hint of autumn.
I was recently drawn to the comfortable outdoor space at Copper Vine, where a lush hanging garden and climbing wisteria vines separate the intimate space from the bustle of Poydras Street. Gorgeous both inside and out, Copper Vine was opened last year by hospitality veteran Kyle Brechtel to serve as a neighborhood gathering spot for downtown residents, like himself. Brechtel chose a graceful building on the National Register of Historic Places that once housed the legendary Maylie’s, then restored the original bar inside to serve as a destination offering 30 aromatic and flavorful wines on tap. Chef Mike Brewer’s menu pairs and shares easily: Deviled eggs showered with jumbo lump crabmeat, flatbreads topped with selections of Serano ham, duck confit, fig and goat cheese or grilled vegetables and Crispy Chicken Fricasse with crawfish boil peanuts and boudin rice.
The sleek interior of Station 6 opens onto a front outdoor patio adorned in colorful foliage with a horizontal slatted wooden fence that manages to turn the pumping station just behind it into shadowy public art. Happy Hour is just the time to occupy the inviting communal sectional sofa in the corner. Offered Tuesdays-Thursdays, 3-6 p.m., for a thrifty $15 guests enjoy a tasting of ice cold Cajun Caviar, a glass of Champagne Lallier Grand Reserve Brut and a half dozen Gulf oysters. Beyond that, it’s impossible to go wrong with chef Allison Vega Knoll’s menu that features updated takes on the kind of humble seafood dishes once found at Bucktown’s many small family-oriented joints: Mamere’s crabmeat casserole served with rounds of toasted French bread; wild fried catfish and chips with malt vinegar tartar sauce; tuna tartar with jicama, avocado and spicy Cajun Caviar; seared pompano with curried brown butter, toasted cashews and roasted asparagus; and the dish that always makes me swoon, garlic shrimp sizzling in a ceramic vessel with butter, capers, lemon, Parmesan and bread rounds to mop up the sauce.
With its deep, gracious upstairs balcony from which a colorful planter garden spills over a chic, artsy block Royal Street, if people watching with a side of fine dining is your jam, Curio is your spot. Bottomless mimosas ($12) and Bloody Marys ($15) are offered every day during daily brunch, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Pair that with buttermilk biscuits ladled over with bacon-sausage gravy and a side of sunny eggs for $9 for a relative bargain of a French Quarter meal in a stunning environment that could only happen in New Orleans.
One block away on Chartres Street, The Governor is a straight up casual, easy breezy spot to enjoy Cajun and Creole classics on a balcony just up the street from Jackson Square. Bottomless mimosas are offered every day for $12 beginning at breakfast until 4 p.m.
Sipping cocktails on the veranda at The Columns Hotel while observing the rumbling streetcar making its way down the tracks under a canopy of oaks has the power to fulfill everyone’s moonlight and magnolias vision of our town. The tranquil, languorous beauty of the space will compel you to linger and reconnect with the more graceful aspects of our city. A daily 5-7 p.m. happy hour and free live local music nightly at 8 p.m. make this a pretty sweet destination.
For me, autumn arrives with a craving for mushrooms. I was thrilled upon a recent visit to Costera to dive into a dish of mixed roasted mushrooms over which a warm egg yolk was left to melt down into the umami-rich goodness. This bit of heaven is served with sourdough croutons, the perfect vehicle for heaping on the utter deliciousness. Also deliciously heaped is the Pan Con Tomate served with roasted garlic aioli.
The Columns Hotel, 3811 St. Charles Ave., 899-9308, TheColumns.com
Copper Vine, 1001 Poydras St., 208-9535, CopperVineWine.com
Costera, 4938 Prytania St., 302-2332, CosteraRestaurant.com
Curio, 301 Royal St., 507-9778, CurioNOLA.com
The Governor, 301 Chartres St., 291-1860, GovernorRestaurant.com
Station 6, 105 Metairie Hammond Highway, Bucktown, 345-2936, Station6NOLA.com