New Orleans Travel Tips From Native Bryan Batt
By Andrew Belonsky
If you read his hilarious memoir, She Ain't Heavy, She's My Mother, you already know Bryan Batt was born and raised in the Big Easy. Batt—who most remember from his role as the closeted Salvatore Romano on Mad Men, but let's not forget our favorite Cats chorus boy from Jeffrey—knows this town like the back of his hand. Though currently busy expanding Hazelnut, his NOLA homewares shop, while also filming a handful of movies—including Parkland, which co-stars Zac Efron, Jackie Weaver, and Paul Giametti, and the Errol Flynn biopic, The Last of Robin Hood—the actor made time to share some of his favorite restaurants, bars, art spots, and other attractions in N'awlins.
1. City Park: Adjacent to the New Orleans Museum of Art, amongst City Park's collection of majestic, spanish moss-covered oaks, sits the Bestoff Sculpture Garden. This recent addition to the cultural landscape boasts a vast collection of outdoor works of art, both classic and contemporary — from Rodin to Bottero — all in a beautifully manicured botanical setting. Another great green space is Audubon Park, which has a jogging and biking track, golf course, and world class zoo! It’s just a St. Charles Ave. streetcar ride away.
2. Napoleon House: This wonderfully historic bar and light eatery looks as if it could crumble before your very eyes. Originally built to house Napoleon in exile, it is one of the best places to have an afternoon Pimm’s Cup, gumbo, jambalaya, and hear non-stop opera! For the perfect Muffelata sandwich, visit nearby Central Grocery.
3. Jacques-Imo's and The Maple Leaf Bar: World-renowned Jacques-Imo's, a funky and delicious restaurant, and neighboring The Maple Leaf Bar, an always-hopping Uptown jazz club, should always be pared together. Jack makes the best fried chicken ever, as well as the most incredible creole creations, that has everyone lining up on Oak Street. And just next door you can hear some of the best jazz in town, giving your sultry Southern night an unparalleled taste of the Big Easy's musical flavor.
4. Bourbon House: I love oysters, and though they're served at great places all over town — Pascal Manale’s, Casamento’s and Acme, too — I prefer the variety of great Louisiana seafood and plateau of Fruit de Mer at this spot owned by restaurateur Dickie Brennan, and don’t dare leave without trying a Bourbon Punch milk shake for desert!
5. Commander's Palace: This James Beard-award winning restaurant is Grand Dame of New Orleans’s fine dining. Nestled in the heart of the Garden District, amongst gorgeous historic mansions, Commander's Palace never misses. Whether it's dinner at 8 or Sunday Jazz brunch, a divine and elegant culinary experience awaits.