At the Hotel Monteleone's (214 Royal St., 504-523-3341; www.hotelmonteleone.com) revolving carousel bar, the walls sparkle with each turn of the carousel as light catches beads and crystals embroidered on framed photographs. The hotel commissioned Latvian artist Binka Rigava to embellish photographs of jazz era icons by Alfred Cheney Johnston. Now, the updated black-and-white portraits are a vibrant mix of old and new — much like the Monteleone. Though the hotel is well known for its unusual bar, it also offers live jazz music, the innovative Criollo restaurant and a rich history dating back to 1886.
The bar serves classic cocktails, including Sazeracs, bourbon milk punch and Pimm's cups. A bar food menu features gumbo, blue crab and crawfish beignets and mini po-boys. People seeking more substantial fare can dine at Criollo, which opened in 2012. Chef Joseph Maynard and his team present Creole cooking for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Kent Wasmuth, director of sales and marketing, recommends osso buco or any of the fresh fish dishes.
Live jazz groups play Wednesday through Sunday nights. Patrons can listen from one of the revolving bar's 25 seats, lounge seating or from the new, secondary crescent-shaped bar. The only one of its kind in New Orleans, the revolving bar was the brainchild of Bill Monteleone, a descendent of founder Antonio Monteleone.
"Billy Monteleone ... came up with the concept," Wasmuth says. "[He] bought the original carousel from a vendor in Chicago and then brought it back down to the Hotel Monteleone and had it built."
Antonio Monteleone, a shoe factory operator from Sicily, purchased a 64-room French Quarter hotel on Royal and Iberville in 1886. After five generations of Monteleones, five major additions and 129 years in business, the hotel now has 570 guest rooms.
Many well-known literary figures have stopped by the hotel over the years, including William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams and Ernest Hemingway. The hotel's literary suites are named and designed after these and other authors.
"We have a literary landmark designation by the American Library Association," Wasmuth said. "So many of the suites ... [are named] for authors that ... actually stayed here and wrote something about the Monteleone in a lot of their short stories and novels."