With the onslaught of the holiday season comes countless get-togethers, office parties and shopping outings piled on top of everything else you normally do. It’s important to take some time out, be pampered and let someone else do some of the heavy lifting … and that includes dinner!
Lunch at: Cruise out to the lakefront for an uber-casual and scenic lunch at Station 6, opened less than a year ago by Alison Vega (founder of Vega Tapas Cafe) and her husband Chef Drew Knoll. Making a nostalgic nod to the past, Station 6’s menu features twists on New Orleans classics like Louisiana crawfish grillades with white cheddar grits, Mamere’s crab meat casserole and charbroiled oyster pasta with French bread and Parmesan cheese. They also go on a few tangents with dishes like grilled salmon tacos with black bean and corn salsa or a grilled lamb burger with cucumber feta salad and rosemary-jalapeño aioli. 105 Metairie Hammond Hwy., Bucktown, (504) 345-2936, station6nola.com
Take a stroll: Let the world slip away with a walk along the edge of Lake Pontchartrain on Lakeshore Drive. Be soothed by the sounds of water lapping against the shore and the vision of sailboats silhouetted by the setting sun. Technically an estuary because it’s open to the Gulf of Mexico, Lake Pontchartrain is more than 40 miles wide and the second largest inland saltwater body in the country. It also has an abundance of wildlife, including shrimp, crab, clams, dolphins, sharks and even manatees. Along your walk, you can also stop by the Mardi Gras Fountain constructed by Blaine Kern in 1962. With more than 70 ceramic tile plaques displaying the crests of the city’s Carnival krewes; geysers shooting water 30 feet into the air; and accent lights in purple, green and gold, it’s a sight worth seeing and will make you long for the season.
Sip at: Brother and sister team Heather and Joe Riccobono (the next generation) opened Sala earlier this year in Lakeview on Lake Marina Avenue. Offering a younger, more modern vibe, Sala features great cocktails like the Pre-Prohibition Sazerac with Remy Martin 1738 and a Strawberry Blossom with Naked Turtle Rum and house made basil syrup. If you want a bite, their menu offers Creole-Italian-inspired fare and tasty seafood options like Oysters Panne with horseradish cream sauce, sweet chili fried calamari, Pasta Fra Divolo and broiled Gulf fish with beurre blanc. 124 Lake Marina Ave., (504) 513-2670, salanola.com
Revive at: Touted as a European-style coffee shop, Merchant opened more than five years ago and is still going strong serving Illy coffees and delectable breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes. Gleaming white and ultra-modern, the cafe was designed by architect Ammar Eloueini, a Lebanese designer based in Paris. Though you may not think white is the best background for anything coffee-related, it certainly hasn’t held them back in the slightest. Sample an expertly prepared cappuccino (foam art included) or their cool Bubbilly with espresso and Perrier, while noshing a smoked ham and egg sandwich on Bellegarde ciabatta, or dive into a breakfast bowl of horchata pudding with chia pudding, cinnamon, raisins, almond milk and bananas. 800 Common St., (504)571-9580, merchantneworleans.com
Spoil yourself at: Stop thinking about everyone else for a few hours and spend some real you time at Spa Atlantis. Located on Gravier Street, this locally owned and operated spa’s tagline is “Escape Reality, Visit Atlantis” and it will be hard not to believe you truly are on some hidden oasis with warm stone massages, soothing scalp treatments and a selection of aromatherapy essential oils. Spa Atlantis offers an extensive list of services from massage and body treatments to manicures, facials, waxing, hair styling and makeup — so, when you walk out, you won’t only feel like a million bucks, you’ll also look like it! 740 Gravier St., (504) 566-8088, spaatlantis.com
Dine at: Open for a year now on the bustling Freret Street corridor, Bar Frances touts itself as a new American restaurant with a European-inspired wine list. Currently heading up the kitchen is talented chef Mimi Assad, who has worked under local greats like Sue Zemanick and is also known for the stellar pies she crafted for Noodle & Pie. Start simple with a glass of wine and a tuna tartare salad, then turn it up with a dish of saffron Gulf shrimp and fish stew or a buttermilk fried chicken sandwich with bacon slaw on a brioche bun. 4525 Freret St., (504) 371-5043, barfrances.com
Brunch at: Served everyday until 3 p.m., brunch at the Bakery Bar is a whole new experience. Located in the space on Annunciation Street that formerly housed the old-school Italian restaurant Eleven 79, Bakery Bar is the creation of Charlotte McGehee and Charles Mary IV, the brains behind Debbie Does Doberge. Try their Breakfast Board with prosciutto and bacon, a grilled pimento cheese sandwich or the jalapeño cornbread waffle with honey butter and chili cane syrup. We realize it’s breakfast, but you just can’t slip away without a slice of cake like their Turtle Doberge with caramel pudding and pecans or a deep-fried chocolate chip cookie a la mode. Plus, since it is a bar and it is brunch, you might want to add a Frozen Irish Coffee to the mix or something a little stronger like a Dorothy Parker with bourbon, iced tea and Genepy des Alpes. 1179 Annunciation St., (504) 256-8884, bakery.bar
Get your creative juices flowing at: Gather both friends and family for an afternoon of fun at Painting with a Twist. Local ladies Cathy Deano and Renee Maloney dreamed up a brilliant business in 2007 where people could get together in a relaxed atmosphere, drink wine and learn to paint. Their idea has exploded into a nationwide franchise with almost 350 locations in 39 states! See what all the fuss is about and reserve seats for a public class or organize a group event and have your own painting party. Sunday schedules at the Riverbend location include events like fall-theme painted wood cut outs, sunny jazz halls and zen trees. 700 Dublin St., (504) 541-9062, paintingwithatwist.com
Relax at: Make Sunday evening a supper of seafood at Peche Restaurant in the Warehouse District. Owned and operated by the Link Restaurant Group, Peche and its executive chef Ryan Prewitt both won James Beard Foundation awards in 2014 and “the proof is in the pudding” as they say. Located on the corner of Julia and Magazine streets, Peche offers dishes like crab claws with pickled chiles, shrimp toast, fish sticks with beer batter and a Louisiana shrimp roll on a buttery roll. We don’t care how full you might be, don’t skip dessert or you’ll be kicking yourself if you miss out on pastry chef Maggie Scales’ incredible confectionery concoctions like salted caramel cake with caramel butter cream or a peach galette with horchata sherbet and sweet tea caramel. 800 Magazine St., (504) 522-1744, pecherestaurant.com