We had a lovely trip to New Orleans right after Mardi Gras. This was my second trip, my wife's first.
Very briefly, we stayed at a Marquis Room in French Market Inn. We wandered one day in the French Quarter, and spent another day in Garden district, Magazine Street and Frenchmen.
We ate at Nola Grill, August, Commander, Red Gravy, Johnny's Po Boy, enjoyed happy hour at the Roosevelt, Palm Court Jazz Cafe, Cafe du Monde and maybe a couple of other places.
We enjoyed everything, and would not hold back recommending anything. But here are the highlights, both positives and mild negatives.
French Market Inn - Excellent, but be aware that windows do not open, so the room may feel stuffy. This may be true of other hotels too. The way out may be to book a balcony room. Top notch location.
Food - August and Commander - Fine dining places; as good as the very good places in NYC (a small notch below the absolute best) and much cheaper. So, if you want to experience fine dining, wholeheartedly recommend. For us, August, while exquisite, seemed like something we could easily do in NYC for a little more money. Commander had a New Orleans touch to its cuisine (and was very good). We went for brunch, and the next time I would probably do the (cheaper) lunch instead; the jazz was underwhelming. A few comments from the staff stood out:
August - "People don't care about the pre-fixe menu; they care about the pre-fixe price" - One member of the waitstaff to another, within my earshot.
Commander - "Sir, we reserve that table for regular customers only" - one staff member to me, in response to my request to get a table at the corner of the garden room by the window.
The service was meticulous, but not very warm...While these comments are probably true, I think they are unnecessary and probably reflect a lack of training, not to mention empathy.
Johnny Po-Boy - I found it expensive for what it offered, even coming from NYC.
Nola Grill - We had breakfast - the service is as good and distinctive as it gets; we loved it, but some people may prefer a more distant, formal approach.
Red Gravy was that style - be there by 9:15 to get a table. waffles were perfect, and the fried chicken was very good too. They charged for sharing a plate.
Cafe du Monde - worth the hype. We were close enough to try it at 7:30 am, so avoided crowds.
Happy Hour at the Roosevelt - We enjoyed this. Very good food and service. and nice drinks too. In fact most of our drinks were ordered off the Happy Hour menu. The 3-for-one drinks the previous evening didn't do much for us, so we decided to get pricey drinks. Worth it, both here and at Commander.
Palm Court Jazz Cafe - Easily our pick. Food was very good although the portions were small for the price. There was a $5 cover charge per person for attending, so you don't need to order any food if you don't want to. The jazz was among the best we heard (some street performances were excellent, as was a quartret playing at a wedding at the Roosevelt). The service was excellent, and casual. The owner was extremely warm; some people may find her too warm for comfort, but we really enjoyed her hospitality.
Music - Palm Court, Krazy Korner (afternoon show) and Frenchmen bars. I found street performances very good, but most bars were ok, not great.
One problem that we faced in New Orleans is that the evening scene got a little gritty for our taste on Bourbon even around 7:30 pm. So, it is important to have one's evenings planned, if they want to avoid wandering aimlessly. So one evening, Palm court was fine. The other evening, we went to Frenchmen. But, we didn't find a nice place where we could rest on a balcony and have a relaxed meal/ listen to music, because we hadn't planned the evening carefully.
In a sense, things start "early" in New Orleans, so the street performers on Royal / JQ start around 10:30am and the buzz starts around 2pm. If visitors want to enjoy the sights and sounds of the area, they need to get done with their touristy targets (walk the garden district) early to head back.
We walked into random museums and galleries in FQ while wandering, and felt welcome; museum staff at the free museums were very nice.
Buses are irregular. The St Charles Streetcar seemed fairly frequent.
The highlights of New Orleans in my opinion are the performing arts and the food. I'd stay away from the big establishments and try to go "local". Do let me know if you have questions.
Thank you for your help in planning the trip.