Welcome to the Big Easy, City That Care Forgot, Bayou Country, Cajun Hurricane Alley.
The citizens of this evolving plot of land are secretly happy you are here because you aren't an Atlanta fan. If Atlanta was coming to town, no amount of media patronizing could save Herr Roger from meeting Ronnie and Vinnie's pet alligator in a swamp just off Bourbon Street with a bunch of hams strapped to his pasty, dictatorial thighs. All of which would occur, while the natives spoke in a horrible Cajun/Southern drawl as a hurricane approached the coast in January. "Awww mon cher, pass the sweet tea!"
Helpful tip for our out of town media friends, if any sentence you write between now and Monday morning contains any words above, throw it out and start over. New Orleans is an intricately spun quilt of peoples, cultures, religions, and weirdness. I've spent nearly my whole life here and still know absolutely nothing about Mardi Gras Indians or crabbing. So don't worry if you can't quite grasp the nuances of a town which is still defining itself, much less reinventing itself. Write about the game. Which features, surprisingly, two teams which did not have their head coach, GM, interim coach, and players suspended by an overlord following a hastily thrown together witch hunt that gave the residents of Salem pause. New Orleans can write its own story.
But here are some places to eat and drink. You'll notice I've only included spots in the general "downtown" area. This is for two reasons. First, you probably don't have a car or you shouldn't have a car. Everything you need to get to is walkable. Second, if you stay downtown, that means I have a half-decent shot at grabbing a table or finding a spot at the bar at other places around town.
One other tip, you will undoubtedly face long waits, reservations, and crowded spots. To avoid this adjust your eating schedule to a Spanish frame of mind. Breakfast around 10:30 or 11, lunch after 1:30, a snack around 4:00, and diner after 10:00. To accomplish this, start with this itinerary. If you need a pair of tickets, I direct you here.
You probably have meetings and hangovers. Coffee will get you out of bed. Merchant in the CBD will do and they also have a few light items on offer. Of course there is always Cafe du Monde, but feel free to go there for any meal. Look, skip breakfast or steal a few pastries from the conference room. There are better meals to devote your caloric budget towards. If you absolutely, positively need breakfast Stanley or Camellia Grill would be excellent choices in that your eggs can come with a side of Bloody Mary.
Here is where you should be eating your largest meal of the day. Looks like the weather will be nice, so I'd suggest grabbing a seat on the patio of Herbsaint after 2:00 pm. For one thing, you will have a front row seat to watch the street cars rumble on down the way. A few bottles of burgundy, rose, grower champagne, or maybe a half-dozen Hemingway daiquiris will set you straight. For food, an order of french fries, the gumbo, maybe a salad if you are feeling healthy, and the spaghetti with fried poached egg and guanciale. Don't miss desserts.
This would also be a good idea if you have a few hours to kill to sneak into Galatoire's. I'm sure you have heard about it and how hard of a table it is to snag. But if you go around say 2:30, I'd wager your party could get seated rather quickly. By then the first wave of lunch dinners will have moved on, leaving you with ample real estate. Cocktails, pommes souffle, turtle soup, maybe a piece of fish and you are set. Ask for Bryant Sylvester.
Head to Domenica where from 3-6 p.m. all pizzas, wines, well cocktails, and beers are half off. Pro tip: add a fried egg to the tutto carne pizza. You could also check out Killer Po Boys in the back of Erin Rose on Conti about a half block off Bourbon. Here, in a tiny space in the back of the bar, new takes on the po boy are crafted. Grab one and a Guinness. You would also do yourself a favor by grabbing a dozen oysters for an afternoon snack. Felix's, Acme, and Bourbon House have them, so does Luke. Luke might be easier to get into, then the others but like comedy, with oysters, timing is everything. MiLa, in the Renaissance Pere Marquette, has an exceptional bar menu, but ask them very nicely to bring you out an order of sweetbreads with truffled grits. Trust me on this.
Three Muses on Frenchmen Street. This is an exceptionally good locale to eat food, drink, and listen to live music. The Korean tinged items are some of my favorites, but any of the pastas should be ordered if the opportunity presents itself. La Boca serves late as well. If you are famished, a pisco sour, provoleta, and hanger steak medium rare would be the perfect anecdote. There is also the bar at Emeril's, which if you are looking to celebrity stalk should be a good place to do so. Check out Root also.
Lord knows we have places to drink, but I'll try to make this quick. The Chart Room in the French Quarter is a fantastic hole in the wall filled with sketchy characters and dubious morals. I love the place. Patrick's Bar Vin is a refined place to have a drink if say you needed to interview someone or be interviewed by someone a half-block off Bourbon. Molly's at the Market, Pereistroika at Pravda, and Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop are wonderful places to drink in anonymity. The Polo Lounge at the Windsor Court and Carousel Bar are fantastic places to drink in style.
Finally, I'm going to let you in on a secret. At some point, you will be overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the corporate foolishness, by endless buffets and branded drinks, by Clean Zones, and minding you Ps and Qs. When this happens, find Chuck's Damn Near 24 Hour Bar. Go in, grab a drink of dubious quality, plug some dollars into the city's best jukebox, play some pool, and recover. If you see a few haggard service industry workers bitching about you over beers, buy them a few shots. They deserve it.
Enjoy your time here, we are all glad you are here. Except you, Goodell, you can go to hell in an alligator skin handbasket.