Christmas in New Orleans: everything closed?
November 30, 2012 8:10 AM   Subscribe

We're considering a short trip to New Orleans over Christmas. Will we find a town that's closed up for the holiday?

Mrs. Intermod and I are thinking about driving down to New Orleans on Sat Dec 22nd, being there for three days, then driving back Wed Dec 26th. We're a little concerned that a lot of the sights we might want to check out might be closed during those three days, especially considering the days of the week that they all fall on. Can you characterize what Christmas (Dec 23-25) in N.O. might be like?

By the way, I will definitely be looking at the other AskMefi questions here tagged with "neworleans". But none of them directly address this particular question.
posted by intermod to Travel & Transportation around New Orleans, LA (22 answers total)
Not at all.

I grew up in the area and go home for the holidays each year. I am almost always in or around New Orleans on those dates, and on the days that are not specifically holidays (the 25th, perhaps the 24th) I've never noticed anything closed or overly quiet in a bad sort of way. Life continues on as normal on all days surrounding actual Christmas.

That said, the 23rd is a Sunday, so anything typically closed on Sundays will be, of course. (NOLA is not a big Blue Law town, and most of the tourist sites are open Sundays because duh, but things like checking out St. Louis Cathedral might be difficult.)

Similarly, Christmas Eve falls on a Monday this year, so anything touristy that might have been open in spite of Christmas Eve will be closed if it's a Closed Mondays sort of place.

So that gives you three of your four days in town with definite closures (things will be closed on Christmas) or potential closures. You might want to plan ahead in terms of specific things to see and do. Though I don't know that I'd tell you to stay away. New Orleans is a great place to visit this time of year!
posted by Sara C. at 8:19 AM on November 30, 2012

Christmas in New Orleans was awesome for me -- they have different stories and characters, papa Noel was walking around the square with others -- so cool to see that side of the city's culture too! It is much quieter but there was at least one person walking down bourbon street with a yardstick full of beer on Christmas morning so bourbon street was not totally devoid of its bourbon-street-ness!
posted by NikitaNikita at 8:38 AM on November 30, 2012

For me as a local the city is about eating and drinking, and almost every establishment I would care to visit is open damn near every day of the year. A great part of our income is from tourism and we embrace it fully. Pick 10 restaurants (or if you can't pick just MeMail me and I'll pick for you) and probably 9 will be open. The beautifully-decorated lobby of the Roosevelt will be open. The best parts (again, my opinion) of New Orleans are wandering around and stuffing yourself with any- and everything you could possibly want to drink or eat, and that will certainly be easy to do even on those dates.

You mention "a lot of the sights we might want to check out" and if it's possible for you to share what they are we could give you better answers.
posted by komara at 8:45 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sara C.: That said, the 23rd is a Sunday, so anything typically closed on Sundays will be, of course.

Forgot that I wanted to address this directly: there are some companies - the one for which I work, for example - that have extended holiday hours including days that we're not normally open. It's entirely possible that Your Favorite X That's Closed on Sunday may be open just this one particular Sunday. I know we are.
posted by komara at 8:52 AM on November 30, 2012

Thanks for the great answers so far!

I specifically did not say what kind of sights we'd be checking out, because I don't know yet. We're literally a blank slate until we get through the new guidebook this weekend, and I didn't want to constrain things here. But we would definitely tend away from the Bourbon Street debauchery and towards the more interesting and kooky, and surely foodie.
posted by intermod at 8:56 AM on November 30, 2012

I should also add that many restaurants will be open Christmas day. Though many have special menus, and a lot of people choose to do Christmas dinner in a restaurant rather than cooking at home. If only because so many New Orleanians worship the gods of cuisine alongside the baby Jesus. If you decide to do a Christmas dinner somewhere, you might want to do the research and make reservations NOW. Especially if you want to go somewhere locally known for that sort of thing.
posted by Sara C. at 9:08 AM on November 30, 2012

True that - there're a ton of places that offer Reveillon dinner menus. Please note that I do not specifically endorse any of the restaurants listed there, I'm just linking to an explanation.

You can find a list of French Quarter restaurants participating in Reveillon dinners here:

The site is one of those pains in the ass that discourage linking to any particular section, so just look for "Reveillon Dinners" in the gray nav bar along the bottom.
posted by komara at 9:13 AM on November 30, 2012

If you choose to go the Reveillon dinner route I can say that I have thorougly enjoyed meals from the following participating restaurants: Mat and Naddie's, Cafe Degas, Upperline, Brennans, Borgne, Martinique Bistro, Bayona, Brigtsen's, and of course as always Commander's Palace.

I hear that August (pricey!) and SoBou are great but I have not yet had the pleasure.

I would actively discourage dining at Galatoire's, Court of Two Sisters, or Pat O'Brien's. I also was not thrilled with my one visit to Luke.

Again, these recommendations are based on non-Reveillon meals that I've had in the past. Obviously if some particular menu catches your eye then do it!
posted by komara at 9:18 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Christmas in New Orleans is a thing. In addition to the Reveillon, lots of the small and lovely hotels and B&B's will offer "Papa Noel" discounts, so be sure to ask about them.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:30 AM on November 30, 2012

God, I hope not. Make sure you check out the decorations at the Roosevelt. Dreamy!
posted by pyjammy at 9:31 AM on November 30, 2012

To weigh in on the komara's restaurant ideas (for the places I've been/know about, of course):

Cafe Degas is wonderful, and eating there will give you a taste of a part of town few tourists visit if it's not a Jazz Fest weekend.

Upperline I have not been to, but it's at the top of my NOLA restaurant bucket list. Highly recommend if you can get a table there for Reveillon.

I have a sibling who works at Borgne and doesn't have wonderful things to say, but I've never been personally and a lot of his griping might just be general work bitching. It's near the Superdome, big, brightly lit, and doesn't seem like a Christmassy sort of place to me, but maybe being an out of towner will lessen that feeling for y'all. The chef is supposed to be top notch and my "insider connection" has nothing but good things to say about him.

August: A #1, Would Eat Again. I've been a couple times and every meal I've had there has been amazing. I'm convinced people who don't like it are haters.

Any Brennan family restaurant is probably a good choice. I especially like Cafe Adelaide, though I don't know if they do a Reveillon menu. They seem like the type of place that would. Also maybe try Palace Cafe? I know they do a big Easter Brunch, so Reveillon seems likely.

I thought Galatoires was fine on the one occasion I've eaten there (years ago), and my mom and stepdad swear by it, have their own waiter they like, all that stuff. That said, the menu is very stodgy and the whole scene might not be your thing. Or it will totally be your thing because it's one of those iconic New Orleans tourist experiences.

You could not pay me to eat a meal at Pat O'Brien's. I'd stop in for a hurricane because it's what you do, but that's where it ends.

I know people who like Court of Two Sisters, but I've never been personally. I'd be surprised if it was an out of this world culinary experience.

My first "fine dining experience" was Reveillon at the Bistro of the Hotel Maison de Ville when I was sixteen. I remember it being ungodly out of this world amazing, but A) that was 15 years ago, and B) this might be sort of like how virgins think their first partner is SO GOOD at the sex. That said, there was a dude sitting next to us who looked exactly like Santa Claus and came in a top hat with a sprig of holly in the brim. One of my favorite Christmas memories, even though I was long past believing in/giving a shit about Santa.
posted by Sara C. at 11:40 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have a sibling who works at Borgne and doesn't have wonderful things to say

I ate there for the first time two nights ago and everything I had was just great. I agree wholeheartedly that it does not have a Christmas-y atmosphere in the slightest.

Also maybe try Palace Cafe? I know they do a big Easter Brunch, so Reveillon seems likely.

I had a Reveillon Dinner at Palace Cafe in ... 2004? I can't remember a single thing either of us ate, so obviously it's not a standout in my mind, but it mustn't have been a huge disappointment either.
posted by komara at 11:47 AM on November 30, 2012

[I'm sorry, intermod, but if you have a long enough conversation in New Orleans it will eventually lead to a discussion of where you've eaten recently or where you plan to eat in the near future (though oddly enough rarely about what you're eating at that exact moment). It's almost absurd how much we talk about food.]
posted by komara at 11:51 AM on November 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

No, no, please, carry on. I'll be taking notes :)
posted by intermod at 12:04 PM on November 30, 2012

By the way, if you do decide to do a big restaurant Christmas thing and start calling restaurants to ask about Reveillon menus and make reservations, it's pronounced REV-ay-onh. Or maybe REV-ee-onh.
posted by Sara C. at 12:40 PM on November 30, 2012

I never got a chance to go when I lived in New Orleans (always too busy early December, then out of town later, boo), but Celebration in the Oaks in City Park is supposed to be really nice.
posted by radioamy at 7:35 PM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh dang I can't believe I forgot about Celebration in the Oaks! Good call, radioamy.
posted by komara at 8:02 PM on November 30, 2012

Thanks all for the reassurance! Mrs. Intermod has been convinced and we booked our little hotel room in the French Quarter this morning. Next up: deciding what we're doing, and on which days ... I'll review the restaurant recommendations above as well. Thanks again!
posted by intermod at 3:37 PM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Since this is far enough down the AskMe list that I feel anything I contribute past this point might not constitute derailing the ongoing conversation or any incoming answers, I'll go on about food for a bit.

Here's the reason I don't recommend Galatoire's: during August many restaurants participate in a "locals eat out" kind of program where they have a prix fixe menu at lowered prices so that they can entice locals to spend cash when all the tourists are staying away from sweltering heat. I feel I have to qualify this - my girlfriend and I are no slouches when it comes to fine food and drink. She used to be a room captain at one of the most prestigious restaurants in town; I work in the spirits industry. Somehow though neither of us had ever been to Galatoire's. We made arrangements for the August special.

and were promptly treated like the most disposable tourist trash (which is not a condemnation of tourists, I love tourists but some establishments don't bother to treat them well when they know they'll never see them again) and our waiter at some point literally tossed bread on the table because he couldn't be bothered to reach. The food was bland and unappealing. It felt like management and marketing made a decision to participate in this special and everyone actually in the restaurant hated that choice and wished we the patrons would just dissolve and float out of there. I've never felt more unwelcome in fine dining. My girlfriend was in full agreement.

To balance that negative story, here are some recommendations. I can not guarantee that any or all of these will be open during your visit.

- Parkway Bakery & Tavern: best all-around po-boy shop. There's something for everyone there.
- Domilise's: best fried shrimp po-boys, hands down. I'm sure some other local would fight me for saying that, but getting in arguments over best [fried shrimp / roast beef] po-boy is part of the game.
- Toups' Meatery: well-removed from the Quarter, just as good as Cochon and less pricey. If they have the bone marrow special you must get it. Skip the entrees, just keep ordering small plates until you pop.
- Company Burger: I am not a burger guy. I've never sought out the best burger ever; it's just not my thing. The day after I first ate at Company Burger I was dreaming about going back again that very night. A little greasy, sure, but perfectly-blended meat selection in the patty, house-made brioche buns and pickles, red onion, cheese. It's a thing of beauty.
- Dat Dog: if it's meat in a sausage casing, Dat Dog will likely have it ready to go on a bun. Alligator sausage, kielbasa, beef franks, boudin, andouille, whatever.
- Pho Tao Bay: head over to the west bank (bring a dollar bill for the toll booth on the way back) and eat the best pho this city has to offer. Their broth is a godsend, a balm for whatever sickness ails you. If you don't know Vietnamese food just order the pho tai - and regular size, because the large would drown an army.
- Pizza Delicious: if you're into NYC pizza, hunt these guys down.
- Herbsaint: the default for fine dining. Never ever had a bad experience or dish there. Can't go wrong with Herbsaint. Make reservations now.

oh, drinks:

- Cure: killer cocktails, unpretentious service. Okay, New Orleanians will complain it's pretentious but it's 10x nicer than the equivalent cocktail bar in Brooklyn.
- Bellocq: same owners, laid-back style. Lounge and sip great drinks.
- Bar Tonique, Perestroika at Pravda: great cocktails inside the French Quarter.
- Avenue Pub: best beer selection in town, great whiskies upstairs.

... I think there's something else to do in town other than eat and drink but I can't remember what it is off the top of my head.
posted by komara at 6:45 PM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here's an interesting blog article on Galatoire's that is somewhat germane to komara's post.

Their bottom line? It is very much more about the service and the atmosphere and the Being At Galatoire's than it is about the food. Which means that if you go and the mellow gets harshed in any way, it's going to feel really bad. So it's your call, I guess. I like the blog entry's advice to make it about your own enjoyment and not about some expectation of impeccable snooty Frenchness.
posted by Sara C. at 10:01 AM on December 4, 2012

Thought about linking up that Blackened Out article, figured it would be too much of my voice in one thread, so I'm glad you did it. I agree with a lot of what they said (as I usually do).

Updated info for no reason other than food talk:

I ate at Root two nights ago. Though it's being hailed as one of the hottest restaurants in New Orleans right now I was left flat, as were my dinner companions. Nothing at all was wrong with the meal, the wine, or the space - but nothing really sang either.

Last night was Maurepas Foods, my second visit. Absolutely delightful, everyone in attendance agreed it was near-perfect. Their goat tacos are fabulous and I had grilled broccoli that was the best broccoli any of us at the table had ever tasted.

Tonight we venture once again to Jacques-Imo's. Go hungry. They've never failed us yet.
posted by komara at 10:07 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

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