Luxury with Big Easy flavor at refreshed JW Marriott: Travel Weekly

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Cuisine is such a vital part of New Orleans culture that for decades recipes were enclosed with gas and electric bills from the utility company.

Nearly every New Orleans native talks food: where's the best place to eat and what constitutes a true jambalaya and why it's not the same thing as gumbo or etouffee. New Orleans cuisine is as distinctive as its music, an indigenous melange spiced by French and Spanish heritage alongside Acadian, West African, Native American and Sicilian, with the difference between Creole and Cajun another barometer of your background.

Situated on Canal Street, the JW Marriott New Orleans straddles the boundary between the French Quarter and the American Sector (known today as the Central Business District), and therefore, it enables easy access to some of the city's best eats. 

Right alongside gastronomy is the music of New Orleans, and the JW Marriott honors the city's musical heritage with murals of musicians in the atrium lobby. Irvin Mayfield's former I Club is now the JW Executive Lounge, one part of the hotel's recent redesign that focuses on luxury and business travelers. 

Cocktails and hors d'oeuvres in the lounge whet the appetite for a night in the Quarter, and where better to start than at Justine, the younger Parisian sister to Justin Devillier's award-winning Balise Tavern and La Petite Grocery.

Helmed by the James Beard Award-winning chef, the red-hot brasserie offers a taste of Paris in a listed historical building with a cafe that opens onto Chartres Street, a belle epoque dining room with smoked mirrors and antique brass and burlesque performers from the house of Trixie Minx. 

For another take on French cuisine, Couvant serves seasonal brasserie classics in an elegant dining room and courtyard housed within the factory that once manufactured the city's famous Peychaud's Bitters. In other words, cocktails are mandatory -- and particularly those with absinthe.

Back at the JW Executive Lounge, an evening dessert buffet provides a pleasant complement to a game of billiards on the mezzanine. Upper-level guestrooms at the JW Marriott offer views of the Mississippi, although a morning swim in the hotel's rooftop saltwater pool is more readily accessible and equally invigorating. 

Completed in late 2018, the JW Marriott's renovation has transformed the hotel's guestrooms into spacious contemporary spaces accented with white marble, gray textiles and polished metal. Bathrooms feature walk-in showers and sliding hardwood doors. 

In the hotel's expansive Lobby Lounge, scheduled performances by buskers bring the party in off the street, as does a meal at Meril, Emeril Lagasse's latest New Orleans restaurant, located a short walk from the hotel. The Arts District restaurant showcases some of Lagasse's favorite dishes from around the world, which serves as another reminder that in New Orleans everyone is welcome, especially in the kitchen.

Room rates at the JW Marriott New Orleans start at $219.