Driving into Covington, you can’t help but sigh and think this is the kind of small town you want to move to — inviting shops, art galleries, walkable streets shaded by sprawling oaks, and every block covered in a smile-inducing charm. Located along the northern shore of Lake Pontchartrain, it’s just a 45 minute drive from New Orleans, making it the perfect relaxing escape from the city. Also, you won’t have to sacrifice all the delicious dining options of New Orleans as the whole Northshore has it’s own culinary scene. This is, after all, where the chefs in New Orleans get most of their fresh produce from. Here you’ll discover a mix of international cuisines with Southern influence, mom-and-pop diners, and the legendary John Besh restaurant, La Provence.
I only spent a day there, staying overnight in Covington and exploring nearby Mandeville and Abita Springs as well. It didn’t feel like that was nearly enough time to truly soak it all in and I think the area is definitely deserving of a longer weekend getaway. If you stay in Covington for a few nights, you’ll have time to take advantage of the bike trails, exploring their legendary farmer’s market, visiting the local breweries (including the famous Abita Brewery), and just getting a taste of the variety of restaurants they offer. It’s the perfect place for active foodies to relax and unwind. Here’s a sample itinerary to give you a place to start planning.
Itinerary – 48 Hours In Covington
AFTERNOON: Town & Tea Time
Covington is known for their quaint bed and breakfast options, but the newly renovated Southern Hotel in the heart of the historic district is was the perfect boutique luxury stay. The red doors and hallways lined with artwork and historic pictures made it feel more like home than a hotel. Also, it was walking distance to all the downtown art galleries, restaurants, and shops. After checking in, I headed over to the local English Tea Room to for an afternoon pick-me-up.
The tea room’s owner, Jan Lantrip, has quite a fascinating story. She combined her background in chemistry and her enthusiasm for tea to create quite a few fragrant tea blends, like a lovely Baroness Grey tea accented with lemon, rose, and cornflower. I loved it so much I picked up a bag of that and their Peaches and Pralines tea to take home. Tea and a walk around town was the perfect way to spend the afternoon and get aquainted with Covington.
EVENING: Dinner At Oxlot 9
I didn’t have to go far to find a delicious dinner, as The Southern Hotel’s signature restaurant is lead by acclaimed Chef Jeffrey Hansell, once nominated as Food & Wine’s Best New Chef in 2014 and more recently named Chef To Watch by Louisiana Cookin’ magazine and the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The menu is Gulf-inspired, locally sourced, and full of Southern treats with a modern twist. I had seared scallops with green pea puree, crispy house-made pancetta, pistachio, cucumber, white asparagus, and machta tea. For dessert, I couldn’t resist their “Camp Fire,” a fancy take on traditional s’mores with decadent chocolate ganache and smoked vanilla ice cream encapsulated in a marshmallow meringue.
The restaurant is named for the town’s ox lots, areas of downtown Covington where early citizens used to tie up their horses and oxen. And, as you might have guessed, the restaurant sits on the area that was once ox lot 9.
428 E. Boston (in the Southern Hotel)
Covington, LA 70433
MORNING: Brunch & A Bike Ride
The Tammany Trace Bike Path, the first Louisiana Trail to be part of the National Rail-Trail Network, runs through Covington and covers 31 miles of the Northshore. You can rent bikes at Brooks Bike Shop and go for a leisurely stroll or a faster-paced ride. For breakfast or snacks, grab a quick bite at the health conscious Café Vive, where you’ll find fresh made salads, gluten-free treats, and even refreshing basil infused water. It’s located right along the bike trail in Mandeville, making it the perfect place to stop for lunch. And if you’re staying in the area for a couple of nights, definitely make reservations at their sister restaurant on the second floor, Opal Basil. Owner and Chef Robert Vasquez combines locally sourced goods with a fine dining menu in such a way that you’d never believe these delicious meals were gluten-free and Paleo friendly. His Bajitos Menu (similar to tapas, but means “small bites of love”) is perfect for sharing over a glass of wine.
690 Lafitte St.
AFTERNOON: Brewery Tour And Beer Tasting
The Northshore area has quite a few breweries (including Chafunkta Brewing and Covington Brewhouse), but it’s probably best known for that famous purple label of Abita Brewery. Abita Brew Pub opened in 1986 as a tiny microbrewery (before craft beer was huge trend like today), using the unaltered spring water from Abita Springs to make their beer. They still use the same spring water today for popular beers like Purple Haze and Strawberry Harvest Lager and they’re still dedicated to using local ingredients like Louisiana-grown strawberries and cane sugar.
They offer daily tours and the tap room was a fun place to chill for the afternoon to taste some of their more specialty brews, like a Hard Root Beer and their seasonal King Cake Soda, which delightfully, tastes just like cake!
166 Barbee Road
Abita Springs, LA
DINNER: Del Porto
Right across the street from the Southern Hotel was another culinary treat, Del Porto. This popular Tuscany-meets-California-meets Louisiana Italian restaurant is operated by married chef team David and Torre Solazzo, three-time James Beard Award nominees. With their house-made pastas, house-made mozzarella, and divine sounding pizzas — it was hard to decide what to order, so we just ordered a bit of everything. More than one person highly recommended their crudo, and I have to say, it was probably the best crudo of my life.
upscale food in a relaxed setting. What I love about the dining scene of the Northshore is that you can dress up or be casual, the emphasis is really on hospitality and flavor, not the fuss.
Del Porto Ristorante
501 E. Boston St.
OVERNIGHT AT SOUTHERN HOTEL
MORNING: Where Y’at Bennies For Breakfast
For breakfast, you can’t visit the Northshore without having brunch at Liz’s Where Y’at Diner. This upbeat diner with 80s music and beach vibes will keep that vacation glow going whether you’re a local or just in town visiting. It’s the kind of place where you can’t help but feel happy. And Where Y’at’s Bennies (Eggs Benedict) are legendary among the locals. I actually recommend visiting on a weekday if you can because it draws quite a crowd (and a wait) on the weekends.
Now, about those Bennies. I had a hard time deciding between the N’awlins Benedict with fried green tomatoes, sauted crab meat, green onions, grilled asparagus, poached eggs and Hollandaise … and the Big Easy Bennie, also with fried green tomatoes, but with crab cakes and cajun hollandaise. They also had a Debris Benedict with poached eggs atop a grilled biscuit with roast beef debris, carmelized onions. Decisions, decisions. Let you in on a little secret — they’ll combo the benedicts if you can’t decide on one. I ended up choosing the N’awlins Bennie and the Big Easy Bennie with a bottomless cup of diner coffee. I couldn’t finish it all though, as I had to save room for “brunch dessert,” a Bananas Foster Waffle toped with sauteed bananas in a butter rum sauce. Perhaps the bike ride should have been after breakfast at Where Y’at?
Liz’s Where Y’at Diner
2500 Florida St.
Mandeville, LA 70448
Interested in seeing more? Here’s a few more pics from my trip to Covington and the Northshore:
[tweet_box design=”default”]Taste Louisiana – 48 Hours In Covington[/tweet_box]
Disclosure: I was sponsored by Louisiana Tourism for this trip as part of their Taste Louisiana Culinary Trails campaign. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for food and travel are entirely my own.