@JJTownsendeats: New Orleans
Sucré is a one-of-a-kind dessert boutique located in the lower Garden District on Magazine Street. I don't know whether it's the homemade delicacies or the ceiling to floor glass frontage and pastel-themed interior — this quaint Sucré location has a peculiar fresh aura. It also has a big chain bakery feel, although that doesn't seem to stop locals from making it a weekly stop—one regular even rolled in with his bike. The head pastry chef and his artisans will tell you that they're known for the macaroons. I concede, this might just be the closest you can get to a French patisserie's macaroon in the United States. The bread pudding is good, though a bit heavy. Don't leave without trying the gelato. It's worth a stop if you're walking from one of the nearby shopping boutiques or stumbling from Rendezvous right next door.
Arnoud's French 75 Bar
Skip right over this is one if you have doubts on your sophistication level because the timeless atmosphere seems to attract an older crowd (45+). This swanky little cocktail bar is one of the few places with expert mixologists on board. If you're not familiar with cocktails, I suggest doing a little research beforehand so you can try something more enthralling than what you're accustomed to. Obviously, the best drinks aren't on the menu and come from the bartender's imagination, but the "Creole" is a good first order. It's basically a local twist on a Manhattan. Feeling cliche? Get the sazerac. Better yet, get the namesake French 75. The bar station, rightfully so, takes up a big chunk of the room so good luck fitting a larger group. Some may be quick to describe the bar as 'stuffy or smug', but that's likely a result of their own chintzy company or banal conversation—both of which is out of the bar's control. The tables are round and small—the chairs are wood-trimmed with garishly vintage upholstery. One must admire the eccentric monkey lamps, the classic tile floors, and the middle-aged man in tuxedo with an accent delivering rounds of cocktails and chopping the cigar caps. It's an ideal place for intimate conversing while smoking one of the deep selection of cigars. I recommend going to French 75 before dinner, unless you dig the decadent ashtray smell. Albeit, you won't mind the cigar filled room while inside--that's what precisely makes it a special place.
We stumbled upon Rendezvous fortuitously. It's a tavern with an impressive top shelf liquor 20+ beers on tap. Despite having no unique elements that would separate it from a bar anywhere else on the planet, the bar is dark, covered in menthol-coated wood panel, slightly tacky, filled with a 50s masquerade-style memorabilia, and even three vintage poker machines in the corner; this gives it the feel of western tavern or saloon. It's one of those bars where on any given day, at any given hour, you can find at least one guy sitting at the bar probably drinking too much listening to an oldie on the jukebox.
As put by one, "Rendezvous is just a passerby on Magazine st. Hit it up for cheap drinks, play a round of billiards, but move along to better times. It's pretty much a local only stopping ground, especially for the hardcore service industry folk who reside in the surrounding neighborhoods. Good place to grab a drink/pregame while you plan out your night on the town, or just catch up on sports news."
If you are looking for an easy-going divey watering hole in the area, that doesn't have strippers, this is your jam.
Charcoal's Gourmet Burger Bar
The hamburger is a symbol of everything that makes America great. Straightforward, egalitarian, substantial, and good-natured. Attending college in Oxford has deprived me of good veggie burgers. Well, living in the South has deprived me of good veggie burgers. However, Charcoal's Burger Bar may be worth traveling 350 miles to New Orleans once a month to devour their red bean burger dressed with roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomato aioli, sprouts, special hickory sauce, sauteed mushrooms, mozzarella, and an over-hard egg. Like I said, I have been deprived of really good veggie burgers so saying this was the best vegetarian burger I've ever had doesn't warrant enough merit. At its best, a good vegetarian burger eliminates the need for conversation or the urge to glance up at the TV over the bar. I found myself eating silently, eyes closed, ignoring everything around me, even the charming server who repeatedly checked to see if I wanted to try another one of the many NOLA craft beers on tap. I recommend a NOLA blonde if you want to play it safe (reduced hoppy).
And yes, like all true gourmet burger joints, it has a separate 'build your own' menu with deep options of seasonings, toppings, bun, and cooked-in meat accessories. Don't leave without trying one of the house made sides—"Slap Ya Mama" fries, onion rings, or the sweet potato tater tots are all good options for under $4. For best taste, ask to omit the salt on the fries unless you're the type that enjoys a basket of fries loaded with a 3-blend mix of salt.