All year round-from winter to summer and back again-there's always something to celebrate in New Orleans. Whether you're barhopping on Bourbon Street or relaxing in City Park, a festival, parade, or second line is never too far away. Indeed, you're sure to find smiling faces and a jovial spirit anywhere you go in the Big Easy; however, outside of Mardi Gras, the holiday season may be the most festive time of year. And what would New Orleans festivities be without food? Some variation of classic New Orleans cuisine-such as oysters, po-boys, beignets, crawfish, or king cake-is always at the center of-or heavily emphasized within-any celebration. It's no wonder the restaurants of New Orleans are gearing up to offer their customers the very best holiday experience. All across the city, restaurants are putting up decorations, planning happy-hours, and adjusting their menus to match the holiday theme.
During the month of December, when holiday celebrations are in full effect, restaurants throughout the city participate in the long-standing New Orleans tradition of réveillon. During this time, food-lovers can order a multi-course meal of rich New Orleans cuisine for one fixed price. Originally, according to Allison Alsup of Eater New Orleans in her article "The Story Behind Réveillon, the Classic French Creole Christmas Meal," Réveillon was a "decadent buffet meal" for French Creole Catholic families returning from midnight mass. These joyous dinners would have included daube glacé, chicken and oyster gumbo, pies filled with game, eggs, turtle soup, souffles, grillades, grits, candied fruits, wine, brandy, cherry bounce, eggnog, fortified wines, and coffee.
Despite being such an important holiday tradition in early New Orleans, réveillon would become nonexistent for most of the 20th century, but in the 1990s, Réveillon returned to the Big Easy. This time, however, instead of being confined to families and households, NOLA restaurants began offering entire réveillon menus to the public for the entire month of December. Since then, réveillon has been a New Orleans staple for anyone who enjoys a large French Creole meal. This December's event allows residents to temporarily escape the stress of a busy holiday and just enjoy a decadent meal with their family.
With a wide variety of restaurants offering these multi-course menus, réveillon is an exciting time of year-especially within the French Quarter. For only $36, the Gumbo Shop gives customers a more traditional Réveillon experience. Their four-course menu includes options such as chicken andouille gumbo, turtle soup, and bread pudding. While for $55, Muriel's on Jackson Square prepares an interpretation of réveillon that is much more innovative and modern. Here, they offer a choice of fried oyster chowder, pan seared flounder, and even wood grilled venison. Nearly anywhere you go, restaurants-such as Antoine's Restaurant, Café Amelie, Commander's Palace, and Tableau to name a few-are offering réveillon menus to celebrate the holiday season.
While everyone anticipates the arrival of the holiday season, the following restaurants-which are located throughout the French Quarter and Uptown area-are especially excited for the holidays and have big plans for the upcoming months.
Located in the heart of the French Quarter (813 Bienville), this classic New Orleans restaurant understands the importance of the holiday tradition and is giving its customers a truly unique experience. "We take the holidays seriously at Arnaud's," says Co-owner Katy Casbarian. "We serve our guests like family, and we treat them as we would our own."
Enjoy live jazz from the Gumbo Trio as you dine on flank steak and chocolate Grand Marnier crème brulee-set against the background of golden magnolia wreaths and garland. Their 17 private dining rooms-hosting groups of up to 220 people-are perfect for any holiday parties. If you're looking to ditch the stress of cooking an entire Thanksgiving dinner, Arnaud's offers a full four course meal-featuring roasted turkey, seared black drum, and braised pork short ribs as entrees-on Thanksgiving Day for 55 dollars.
Matching their quality food are their high-class drinks. Sip down their signature French 75 cocktail or, on Sundays, get two glasses of Moet for the price of one (this is part of their 12 Days of Moet promotion leading up to Christmas Day). Whatever holiday restaurant experience you're looking for, Arnaud's has got it. "The holidays in New Orleans signify community, tradition, and celebration," says Casbarian. "There's really no better time for family and friends to come together and enjoy each other's company and conversation over a great meal."
A local favorite, Dat Dog has been providing their extraordinary hot dogs to the surrounding community for years. With multiple locations scattered all around New Orleans, Dat Dog is known for bringing quality food in a relaxed, comfortable environment. They will feature a decorative Christmas tree and colorful string lights to give the restaurant a really festive holiday atmosphere.
But the holiday traditions don't just end with decorations, as they will be offering their widely anticipated turducken sausage, served with a cornbread dressing and cranberry sauce. Complimenting the turducken sausage will be crispy sweet potato waffle fries that are covered in a maple bacon glaze and powdered sugar.
"In New Orleans," says Chief Executive Officer Paul Tuennerman, "Christmas is a time for everyone to take stock, catch-up with one another, and enjoy the holiday." Overall, Dat Dog is a great spot for those looking to grab a holiday-themed cocktail, eat expertly crafted hot dogs, and de-stress this holiday season.
The French Quarter is sure to be bristling with excitement in the upcoming months, with each restaurant embracing the holiday tradition in their own way. Tableau is no different, though this French-Creole restaurant stands out from the rest. Before even entering the restaurant, customers are greeted by a massive sprig of mistletoe hanging down from their second-floor balcony, and, if you're there for lunch during the month of December, Tableau will be handing out festive bells on custom ribbon.
Indeed, Tableau goes all out to make sure the customer really feels the holiday spirit, but these extensive decorations would mean nothing if Tableau didn't have the cuisine to back it up. Fortunately, their food offerings match the quality of decoration. According to Tableau's Wesley Janssen, their réveillon menu gives customers a $49 four course meal, with options that range from a Gulf shrimp and sherry bisque for an appetizer to veal osso buco as a main dish and a white chocolate eggnog mousse as dessert.
Being so close to the St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square means customers can enjoy concerts at the Cathedral or caroling on the square immediately following their meal. Also, Le Petite Theatre is located right next door, so be sure to catch a performance of The Christmas Carol following an amazing meal at Tableau.
"The holidays are such a fun time in the city," says Janssen. "People are celebrating, and we have the best job-helping them have the most amazing celebrations. We take that job seriously and deliver on hospitality
and cuisine with a dose of festive cheer thrown in."
B.B. King's Blues Club
If there's one restaurant that knows how to mix local jazz and blues artists and classic American bar food with a hint of New Orleans flare, it's B.B. King's. Positioned on Decatur Street, B.B. King's is always packed with restaurant-goers looking to enjoy some live music while dining on a savory meal. This is sure to continue well into the holiday season.
Local performers, including Kevin Gullage, Willie Lockett, and Chucky C, will fill the room with the notes of New Orleans jazz and blues while the bar serves-up first-rate cocktails. During the holiday season, says B.B. King's Ivy Robinson, the musicians are sure to play some classic festive songs, and the restaurant will be offering a special holiday happy hour.
In addition to entertainment, B.B. King's offers a family friendly spot for Saints watch parties. Come to B.B. King's if you want to celebrate the holidays and support the Saints in a truly unique and exciting way.
There's something for everyone this holiday season. Whether you're looking for an elegant meal in a fancy restaurant or just looking to relax with a cocktail, every part of New Orleans offers a variety of restaurants that are sure to fit any experience you desire. Don't be afraid to get out there and try something new; you may be pleasantly surprised by how appetizing the holidays are in New Orleans.
Arnaud's photo courtesy of Infrogmation under the Creative Commons 2.0