The idea here was to recreate the feel of the Old Absinthe House, which was the first venture of Owen Edwards Brennan, the man that founded this well-known family of restauranteurs. (SoBou is owned by the same group that owns Brennan’s in Houston, but not Brennan’s in New Orleans – a complicated family and corporate history that is explained with many twists and turns here.)
SoBou delivers sophisticated small plates bearing some of the best drinking and comfort food you’ll find anywhere. A good and refreshing start are the yellowfin tuna cones, which include a pineapple & coconut tuna tartare with basil & avocado ice cream. This is a nice palate set-up for the unexpected savory decadence of foie gras duck beignets. Other dishes worth trying include the shrimp and tasso pinchos, served on a skewer spearing a grilled pineapple. (Just bear in mind that you’ll need to get your fingers dirty as you tear into those.)
Cocktails are a centerpiece at SoBou, and as befitting its French Quarter location, these drinks are not messing around – they're made strong and serious, so you must make your choices wisely. Well worth knocking back: the Sunset in the Courtyard, made with Reposado tequila, Creole Shrubb orange liqueur, lime juice, orange and lemon peels and a dash of pomegranate grenadine. The drink is served with sunglasses. (Sunset, get it?) Also worth trying: the Georgia Gold Rush, a bourbon smash made with honey, mint and peach, a margarita made with house-made lavender syrup, or just go for a classic Sazerac, made with absinthe.
The restaurant is in the W French Quarter, and opened when the 97-room hotel completed its $9 million renovation in the Fall of 2012. As part of the refreshed design, there are two New Orleans-inspired design motifs for guest rooms in the hotel, “jazz” and “tarot”. (Jazz rooms have a fish eye mirror that might do strange things to you after you’ve had a few cocktails in SoBou.) There’s also a new gym on property called “Sweat”. It’s on the second floor, and you’ll want to a request a room at distance from it, as you can hear annoyingly healthy people exercising while you’re nursing your carefully acquired hangover.
Speaking of hangovers, the hotel offers several cocktail- and drinking-themed packages, which have two-night minimums but come with special in-room amenities and treats. The Girl’s Getaway includes a tray with W shot glasses, a rhinestone-studded tumbler, a $10 Café du Monde Gift certificate and a pitcher of Bloody Mary for the morning after. The Guys Getaway swaps beer glasses, local Abita beer, and Zapp’s potato chips for the shot glasses, tumbler and gift certificate, but retains the Bloody Marys. A non-gender specific package ties into the voodoo woo-woo in New Orleans, and includes a corpse reviver cocktail at SoBou, a cemetery walking tour and, naturally you’ll stay in a tarot-themed room. Package details are here.