Swill a Cocktail, Rest Your Head at This Boutique Bayou Beauty
New Orleans, Lousiana
Cozy Creole, $$
Like so many things in this town, the name may be French, but the spirit is pure New Orleans — welcoming, charming, historic, and dramatic.
Pontchartrain Hotel was named for a 17th-century French count who had many titles and posts under Sun King Louis XIV, including Chief of the King's Household, Perpetual Head and President of the East India Company, and Secretary of State of the Navy. You'd think these were big shoes to fill, but the Garden District hotel has managed as many varied and successful incarnations as its namesake since its 1927 opening. Originally designed by a local real estate developer with a $1 million price tag (remember, that's 1920s money) to be a residential hotel for locals, it settled into a long run as a favorite for guests as varied as Frank Sinatra and Jim Morrison, Rita Hayworth and Henry Kissinger. Tennessee Williams famously wrote A Streetcar Named Desire while living here, perhaps inspired by the streetcar that still runs along St. Charles Avenue in front of the hotel.
Now let's talk about the present, starting with the extensive 2016 refurbishment at the hands of new ownership, a team that includes local football scion Cooper Manning (Fox Sports host and big brother to quarterbacks Eli and Peyton). The awards soon rolled in for the design, the cuisine, and the overall service — Excellence in Historic Preservation, Best New Hotels in the World, Best Hotel Restaurant, #1 Hotel in New Orleans. (We called it, too.)
The public spaces and restaurants are opulent and harmonious — a theatrical palette of deep reds, greens, and golds, with geometric and floral patterns on walls and floors — while the guest rooms offer a more serene haven, in large, light-filled rooms decorated with a lighter, more pastel touch. A central location ensures easy access to the shops and restaurants along Magazine Street, the museums in the Warehouse District, and everything in the French Quarter. And that streetcar right across the street ensures getting around is part of the fun.
At a Glance
The Vibe: Cozy, Creole, and designed for settling in for a stretch.
Standout Detail: The design mix, with special praise for the gallery walls at Jack Rose restaurant.
This Place Is Perfect For: An easy New Orleans stay.
Rooms: Because the hotel was originally designed to be a luxury residential apartment building, the 106 guest rooms on 14 floors are larger than average, even at the entry level, Clio King. Other rooms can be configured with two double or queen-size beds, some with sitting areas. The four suites are configured as one or two bedrooms, with seating areas, and reading nooks. The largest, the Melpomene Two Bedroom Suite, has a dining room and kitchen. The decor in all guest rooms is residential and comfy, a nice contrast to the theatrical vibe throughout the restaurants and bars.
On Site: In addition to the four restaurants, the hotel is home to The Parlor, a 2790 square-foot event vaulted ceiling space with brick walls, French toile wallpaper, and chandeliers. Perfect for weddings and other large events and celebrations.
Food + Drink: There are four options to choose from. Bayou Bar, which claimed Frank Sinatra and Truman Capote as patrons, is the place to work your way through the many whiskey and beer options, washed down with tavern fare like crispy chicken oysters, crispy rib tips, duck and andouille gumbo, and wild mushroom grilled cheese. Live music is on offer Wednesday through Sunday, and the Steinway piano is always the center of attention. Jack Rose, named for Tennessee Williams' play The Rose Tattoo, is the jewel in the culinary crown, having been named Best Hotel Restaurant by USA Today in 2019. The restaurant, open for dinner and weekend brunch, serves a menu that's European with a Creole touch: gulf fish with walnut agrodolce, poisson en papillote with crab boil butter, pork belly with carrot puree and Creole mustard glaze. The Silver Whistle Café, an old favorite of old-time politicians (the spirit of Count de Pontchartrain looms...), is a cute way to start the day with coffee and pastry or a go-get-'em breakfast like pulled pork scramble, fried chicken leg quarter, or broken yolk sandwich, all served with grits, of course. Finally, the former penthouse space is now Hot Tin, the rooftop bar with great city views and an even better cocktail menu.
What to Do Nearby
Hop the streetcar up to the Warehouse Art District and see what's on (always something good) at Ogden Museum of Southern Art, Contemporary Arts Center, the excellent National World War II Museum, and the contemporary art galleries lining the streets. You're in NOLA: How can you miss the Voodoo Museum? And while it's easy to drink and eat like a king in this town (or at minimum a noble French count), some favorites include Cochon, Bacchanal, Arnaud's French 57, and Casamento's.