For me, holiday magic resides largely on Magazine Street, which unfolds over six miles from its foot at Canal Street up to Audubon Park, revealing multiple personalities through boutiques, haberdasheries, galleries, restaurants and cocktail spots along the way. The air is positively electric as people hauling shopping bags stuffed with unique goods – often locally made – crowd the sidewalks.
This is the anti-mall. Travel between spaces is entirely outdoors and 95 percent of the businesses here are locally owned and operated. This year, more than ever, this is where we should spend our holiday dollars.
Either start or end your day in the Warehouse District at the Higgins Hotel at the lower (eastern) end of the street. Morning coffee and house-made pastries are available for take-away at Provisions just off of the lobby. In the evening, Rosie’s on the Roof affords outdoor seating and panoramic views of the city skyline.
Hopscotch (or Uber/Lyft/bus) your way up the street to the western end, making stops to sip, shop and snack along the way until you reach Saba, Chef Alon Shaya’s culinary tribute to his grandfather. The Israeli menu offers numerous Salatim (small plates) served with fluffy pita bread pulled straight from the wood-burning oven. The hummus here is mind-blowingly creamy with several seasonal versions available each day. The one topped with jumbo lump crab, butter, corn and mint is particularly unforgettable, as are the grilled lamb kebabs.
Cindy and Sam Farnet recently celebrated 31 years of business at Joey K’s. Almost three years ago they hired Commander’s Palace alum Chef Jay Butler, who brought in an “everything from scratch” approach to the popular comfort food restaurant. Known for deftly prepared versions of traditional New Orleans classics – think daily plate lunch specials, red or white beans and rice, crisp cooked-to-order fried chicken and trout topped with lump crabmeat. Butler added ethereal crab and corn beignets and macaroni and cheese studded with crawfish to the menu, as well as the recent addition of Sunday Brunch.
A “Come as You Are” attitude and walls covered in colorful works by neighborhood artist Simon Hardeveld set the backdrop for a leisurely, reasonably priced meal. Brunch starters include crabmeat au gratin and fried green tomatoes served with grilled shrimp and remoulade. Entrées include the Basic Breakfast Plate (two eggs your way, cheese grits, bacon, hash browns and biscuit or toast), build-your-own omelets, waffles, pancakes and a knocked-out version of shrimp and cheese grits made with a creamy macque choux sauce with andouille. Both inside and out are decked for the season, and plenty of sidewalk seating affords an in-the-moment experience within the lively neighborhood.
As sleek, chic and spare as Joey K’s is not, Union Ramen is. Nhat “Chef Nate” Nguyen’s first entrepreneurial venture came together after an inspirational trip to Japan to study the various styles of ramen, and after hosting numerous pop-ups, he carved out his own style. His bright new spot offers four different dishes based around his silky fresh noodles: Original Tori with a poultry-based broth, Miso with a plant-based broth, Slap-Ya-Kimchi Mazeman (brothless with blackened chicken, kimchi and poached egg) and Dirty Mazemen (brothless with ground beef, tasso, roasted sweet pepper and poached egg). Starters include Sweet & Spicy Wings bearing a crunchy rice flour batter and a pepper jelly glaze with a goodly dose of coarse black pepper; crawfish and shrimp lumpia with sweet pepper dipping glaze; and Beggar’s Purse Dumplings, a surely munchie-driven concoction involving pimento cheese, a red wine vinegar reduction, charred green onion aioli, mushroom chips, blueberries and cilantro. Somehow these disparate ingredients work harmoniously together.
➺ Try This:
Chef Eric Cook recently reopened Gris Gris, his celebrated restaurant in the triangular building at the corner of Magazine and Felicity streets. The restaurant is now open seven days a week for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. The wrap-around upstairs balcony is the perfect place for a cocktails and people-watching.