A Perfect Day In New Orleans: Richard Sexton's Itinerary

The photographer guides visitors on an offbeat tour of the town

As a fine-art photographer, Richard Sexton views New Orleans with a different eye than most, finding beauty in what others might consider blight and interest in the offbeat. Here he exposes a side of the city visitors rarely encounter.

9 am: Orange is the new black

“I like the Orange Couch for coffee, but my favorite breakfast places are Horn’s in the Marigny and the Camellia Grill, if you’re way Uptown. Or, if it happens to be a weekend and you’re way down in the Bywater, Suis Generis is a great spot for a really interesting brunch.” 

10 am: Free and easy

“I love free stuff, especially if you’re traveling. That way, if you’ve got all day or just five minutes, it doesn’t matter. Once you plop down a lot of money, though, things get too structured because you feel like you’re getting ripped off if you don’t allow the proper amount of time. So I’d say visit one of the cemeteries or the Historic New Orleans Collection. The Collection has free exhibits at both its Royal and Chartres Street locations and a great little gift shop, plus you get to go inside these extraordinary historic buildings that are some of the oldest in city. The sculpture garden at the New Orleans Museum of Art is also free and fantastic, with a beautiful Louisiana landscape and a world-class collection of sculpture. I also suggest visiting Chalmette Battlefield. Ordinarily I hate battlefields, but this one is different; you get to see a plantation house, the river and a cemetery in kind of a swamp all in one trip.”

Chalmette Battlefield
Chalmette Battlefield, where the final conflict in the War of 1812 played out. (©Shawn Fink)

12:30 pm: A side of surreal, please

“I would suggest Rocky & Carlo’s for lunch. It has a great view of a big oil refinery across the street. There’s WOP salad on the menu, and you can order the mac and cheese with brown gravy. I don’t know of any other restaurant where you go in, place your order, and the person who takes your order goes and cooks your food then brings it to the table. It’s a really surreal experience. If you’re in a seriously perverse mood, take the Chalmette ferry across the river afterward.”

3 pm: The road less traveled

“Rather than riding the St. Charles streetcar—which I highly recommend and you should do—take a car trip along Prytania, starting at Cleo. Drive through the Lower Garden District to Louisiana Avenue, then go up Louisiana to Dryades and drive back toward Canal. On the way uptown, you’ll feel like you are in the richest, most opulent, wealthiest city in America. Going back downtown, you’ll feel like you are in the poorest, most impoverished city in America. You will see just how diverse New Orleans really is, experience the entire gamut and at no point be no more than five blocks from where you were on the other drive.” 

5 pm: Happy talk

“For happy hour try Markey’s, a great working-class Irish bar in the Bywater neighborhood, or Lost Love Lounge, a typical only-in-New-Orleans kind of experience with a seedy bar in the front and where they attempt to do Vietnamese food in the back. Or try Bacchanal, which looks like it could be a ruin from the street but actually has a beautiful wine-cellar feeling on the ground floor, a new remodeled bistro upstairs and a huge courtyard in the back with live music.”

Though it may look long-abandoned, Bacchanal offers one of the city's most popular happy hours. (©Bacchanal)

8 pm: Street Scene

“For the meat of the evening I recommend Frenchmen Street. At Three Muses you get great food and music all at once; the same goes for Snug Harbor, which has great burgers. For more music, try d.b.a. and the Spotted Cat.”

11 pm: Party on

“For late night I like the R Bar and Mimi’s in the Marigny—there’s more food there, too. One of the great Creole secrets to staying out all night is that you never stop eating or drinking; you do a bit of each. For a nightcap go to Pal’s Lounge in Mid-City. It’s a lively neighborhood bar in an otherwise quiet residential New Orleans setting. It’s a classic corner bar.”