Then and now: The best of New Orleans’ Creole culture

New Orleans

Rich broths and sauces at New Orleans’ favorite restaurants; ornate wrought iron balconies; edgy cocktails, lively music and the joy of Mardi Gras… the legacy of early Creole culture lives on in these beloved New Orleans hallmarks. Made up of French and Spanish immigrants and free people of color, the city’s Creole population carved a sophisticated city setting from the rugged New World swampland of Louisiana. Treat yourself to treasured Creole traditions in the French Quarter and nearby Tremé neighborhood.

Best of New Orleans Creole Culture_Overview

Sazerac: NOLA’s Signature Drink
It’s considered America’s first cocktail, and the coolest place to take a sip of it might be its namesake bar, Sazerac, located in the historic Roosevelt Hotel. You’ll also find the drink’s Creole roots at the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum on Chartres Street, where little bottles of Peychaud’s bitters are tucked into displays of the city’s apothecary legends. The question of whether the concoction was meant for healing or a touch of voodoo won’t matter when you savor this heady blend of bitters, rye whiskey and a splash of absinthe.

Creole Cooking—French Quarter Style
The “holy trinity”—onions, celery and bell peppers—reigns supreme at The Court of Two Sisters, an icon of authentic Creole dishes in the French District. Choose the turtle soup for your starter, just like a city resident who’s in the know. Do dinner or hold out for the Sunday Jazz Brunch with shrimp and Creole remoulade, jambalaya and divine bread pudding for dessert. Ask for a courtyard table when you make reservations, but the food will be just as scrumptious if you’re seated in one of the elegantly decorated dining rooms.

Legends and Lunch in the Tremé
There’s a reason celebrities, politicians and foodies alike pay homage at Dooky Chase’s. This Tremé neighborhood restaurant holds legendary status in the city’s civil rights movement history. Come for the lunch buffet, a festive array of home-style Creole dishes presided over by the “Queen of Creole Cuisine,” Leah Chase. Red beans and rice—or limas on Fridays—are your perfect accompaniment to gumbo, shrimp Clemenceau and a fruity dessert.

Behind the Bricks and Balconies
You’ll sense the strong Old World influence on early New Orleans architecture just by wandering the streets of the French Quarter, but you can get a peek behind the facades at The Collection on Royal and Toulouse Streets. Find secret courtyards, townhouses and a Creole cottage on these docent-guided tours. If you download the self-guided tour on your mobile device, it comes complete with codes to key in at each of the historic building’s entrances.

Voodoo Secrets and Souvenirs
Voodoo—a mysterious blend of French and Spanish religious heritage with African American traditions—came to Creole New Orleans in the city’s earliest years at the end of the 18th century. Get a glimpse of the secret spells, rituals and talismans at Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo on Bourbon Street. Come in the afternoon for a psychic reading with cards or your own palm, whether it’s for fun or enlightenment.