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.
6. Galatoire's: Over 100-years old, this classic creole bistro-style restaurant at the head of Bourbon St. remains a vivacious New Orleans tradition. Locals never use menus, and always trust the recommendations of their amiable server, but you can never go wrong with soft shell crab, shrimp remoulade, or oysters en brochette! The Uptown equivalent is Clancy's. The oysters and brie there are to die for!
7. W.I.N.O.: The Wine Institute of New Orleans is a fantastic and welcoming wine bar where guests can taste over 100 varietals of wines from all over the world. The WINO debit card lets you taste 1,2 or 4 ounce servings, and proprietor and wine expert Bryan Burkey also offers the best classes on Vino in the South. Nearby are the delectable restaurants Emeril's, Couchon and Couchon Butcher sandwich shop.
8. High Food, Low Food: You don't have to work very hard, or spend a lot of money, to have a great meal in New Orleans. Some people eat to live, but here we live to eat. High end spots like Restaurant August and Bayona are as beloved and adored as my favorite po'boy spot, Parkway Bakery and Tavern. It's simply the best. I suggest ordering the "surf and turf," roast beef with fried shrimp, while the fries with debris gravy and cheddar cheese are nothing short of divine.
9. Antiquing: The Big Easy is an antique freak's Mecca! There is such a plethora of fantastic shops that I must give a list. In the French Quarter, you'll find Lucullus Moss, M.S. Rau and Royal Antiques rule. Uptown: Karla Katz & Co., Jon Vaccari Design, Wirthmore, Balzac, Mac Maison and Uptowner are all must sees for unique curios.
10. Magazine Street: My partner Tom Cianfichi's and I own Hazelnut (pictured above) a home furnishings and fine gift shop on Magazine Street. Since we opened our doors in 2003, Hazelnut has become a destination boutique for locals and visitors alike. A big hit is our exclusive New Orleans Toile fabric, which we designed. But there's also a fantastic variety of speciality shops elsewhere on this world famous, trendy strip.
The shop Mimi, not to be confused with the bar Mimi's, offers a perfectly edited wardrobe for the elegant dresser, while Scriptura is the place for all things paper.
Perch can't be beat for great contemporary and vintage designs and furniture, and the Cole Pratt Gallery represents some of the most talented artists in own, including Claudia DeMonte and Brad Wreyford. Note: On the 1st Saturday of the month, art galleries all over town extend their hours to unveil new exhibits and share their wine.
11. The Music: If you absolutely must have a hurricane on Bourbon Street, do it fast, but also be sure to make time to stop by Preservation Hall for classic NOLA jazz, then B-line to Frenchman Street, where the locals go to celebrate the music scene. On any given night at DBA, you'll likely to find any number of New Orleans's many musical legends, such as Trombone Shorty, who has been featured on HBO's Treme. The Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro and bar Mimi's in the Marigny are also red hot!
12. Cemeteries: New Orleans is famous for her cemeteries -- or, as fellow native Anne Rice calls them, "Cities of the dead." Although many tourists flock to the St. Louis Cathedral, the most exquisite and unique examples of Victorian and Edwardian monuments and sculpture are found in Metairie Cemetery (pictured above), which includes tombs dating to far before the Civil War. My ancestors rest there, and that's where I'll be one day, so tread carefully!
13. The Art Scene: Julia Street and the Warehouse District are home to some of the best art galleries and museums in the Big Easy. Arthur Roger Gallery, Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, the Contemporary Arts Center, The World War II Museum and the Odgen Museum of Southern Art are just a few of my favorites.
14. The Jazz Festival: Party-loving NOLA boasts a multitude of colorful festivals throughout the year, but don't miss the world famous Jazz and Heritage Festival. which annually presents a cavalcade of musical legends, plus the French Quarter, Tennessee Williams, Satchmo, The Oak Street Po'Boy and Voodoo Festivals are all fantastically unique. Check their websites for dates.
15. The Strolls: An old-fashioned stroll is a great way to start the day, but recommend you make a few stops along the way, like at Cafe du Monde on Jackson Square, where you can munch scrumptious powdered sugar covered Beignets and sip cafe au lait before moseying over to iconic St. Louis Cathedral and the neighboring The Cabildo and Prespetyre museums.