DIY Food Tour of the Bywater, New Orleans
In planning this trip, I was so overwhelmed by how many amazing food choices there were. Typically when we are exploring a new area we like to try a little bit of a lot of different things as oppose to doing three meals a day. When I noticed how many places in the Bywater area kept showing up on the must-eat spots, I thought I could string together a little DIY food tour as our dinner for this evening.
Our first stop was the popular BBQ joint called… The Joint! We ordered the brisket burnt ends plate with a side of baked beans and potato salad to share. The brisket was fantastic – huge pieces with burnt, crispy ends smothered in a bbq sauce. The beans had a kick to them and the boys could not get enough. This place is popular and it is clear why – so so so good.
I was surprised walking to our next destination how this entire area was a residential neighborhood. When I was doing my research and noticing how many food stops there were in the Bywater, I did not expect this area to be residential. After our short walk a few blocks, we made it to Bacchanal Fine Wine and Spirits – a place that not only I found highly recommended, but came up by locals several times during our short trip.
I was wondering if I would need to make reservations in the middle of the day on a Friday but I did anyway for 2:30P to ensure that we had a spot and I was so glad I did – the place was completely booked up. The hostess took us back to our table and it reminded me of a secret garden of sorts – “Nola’s backyard party”. The space was completed outdoors with a tent cover that connected the trees, string lights, and the best part – a stage for musicians. We were lucky enough to watch Raphael Bas – a guitar strumming, harmonica playing Frenchman – what a treat!
This spot was so fun! The menu was interesting – for what we could tell, there was no way to order by the glass so you have to commit to a bottle. Not a problem for us and there were definitely affordable bottles but I was also not aware when I looked into the place so something to note. The food menu is mostly small plates for sharing which is exactly what we were looking for. We ordered a bottle of wine (2017 Poppy Chardonnay Santa Lucia Highlands, California) and their cheese plate while listening to the French music – ahhh take us back to Paris! It was obvious to us why this spot is enforcing a time limit on the tables as we could have stayed here for hours.
Continuing our DIY food tour of the Bywater, we walked a few blocks to Parleaux Beer Lab microbrewery. Another awesome outdoor seating area – I love how New Orleans has seemed to already be equipped with outdoor spaces. The boys got a beer and they both really enjoyed the selection of this brewery. As we were sitting there, someone was setting up an intense food set up – it was difficult to figure out what he was going to be offering – I was so interested but unfortunately, it was time to move on to the next stop.
This was a bit longer of a walk but we chose the scenic route through Crescent Park along the water. The park is very well maintained with a wide walking path utilized by runners, bikers, roller skaters, walkers, and more – there was even a dog park.
After walking the entire Crescent Park, it was time to cut back up into the neighborhood to reach The Elysian Bar. This is the sister restaurant of the Bacchanal Fine Wine so while it felt extremely silly to hit both of these, the ratings made it impossible to pick one, so I made reservations at both. We arrived to our 5P reservation to the church as described on their website.
Our reservations were for outdoor seating but when we went to the hostess stand at the entrance of the church to check in, the three of us were immediately drawn in. The space was incredible – a full catholic church with tables spread out, perhaps even as distanced as twelve feet apart. We asked if we could sit indoors instead and it was an easy request to accommodate as we overheard many people requesting for outdoor space. In looking at this space, I am curious what the outdoor space looked like since it was so incredible in this church so I am sure it was equally awesome. But for us and our devout catholic upbringing, being inside the church was really fun. Some of the paintings and stained glass were still intact and even though the walls appeared worn, it was beautiful at the same time.
This space used to be a fully functioning church, convent, and school that was built in 1860. After closing in 2001, it was empty until 2018 after a four year restoration project brought the property back to life completely reimagined. They converted the entire complex into a boutique hotel, restaurant, and event space. The school is now Hotel Peter and Paul – in looking at the photos, these rooms were so incredible with each room unique and beautiful. The rectory is the Elysian Bar. The church is now an event space that is being utilized for indoor dining at the Elysian Bar which is too small for indoor dining with COVID but has an outdoor space. So it was pretty unique that we were able to dine in the church since it is exclusive for events.
Sitting in a converted pew, we ordered drinks – they have a great beverage list! We continued to gawk at this epic event space that we had the pleasure of dining in. Everything on the menu looked amazing but we were certainly hitting a stomach capacity issue so we had to make some tough cuts.
We settled on two dishes – the Whipped Ricotta with preserved mushrooms, herbs, pickled shallots with sourdough flatbread and the Fried Brussel Sprouts with bagna cauda, smoked almonds, pickled golden raisins.
It is going to sound silly but for the ricotta dish, the shining star was the sourdough flatbread – I do not even know how to properly describe it! It was pan fried bread and it was so delicious. Of course, the whipped ricotta was a perfect pairing for the bread along with the toppings – delightful dish and a great portion size. The boys loved the brussel sprouts – unfortunately they were too spicy for me. They were charred giving it a deep, smokey flavor and liberally seasoned in a good way – you barely knew you were eating brussel sprouts if this was a blind tasting. These disappeared very fast! What a fun and unexpected experience with Elysian Bar.
The final stop on our DIY food tour! We discovered the final offering of this catholic transformation – Sundae Best. This ice cream spot is located in the convent space of the church property. Can you believe it? “Sunday Best” church outfit to “Sundae Best” ice cream. We could not get over this name and how perfect it fit an ice cream shop! I did not even put it together when I marked this spot as one of the best rated ice cream shops in the city that is was even associated with the church. The selection here is small but still offers classics and fun options. We each got ice cream and we were quite happy.
Though we could not eat any more food, we stopped in St Roch Market since it was nearby. This spot is a food court inside a beautiful building and can see why this is a well rated location to grab a bite to eat. Maybe next time, Bywater!
I would say my DIY food tour of the Bywater was a great success! Sometimes it pays to forgo an entire meal and instead try a little something at a few places, especially when it is so hard to narrow down the selection of awesome locations to just one. This is definitely a tactic I like to use, especially when visiting a rich city like New Orleans.