Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
A restored rice mill that should play up its trendy, loft-like qualities
Of all the Wyndham’s historic New Orleans properties, this may be the one where its provenance is most subtle. Guests get glimpses into the hotel’s past life as a rice mill from the front facade; inside, exposed brick walls and long windows lend the restaurant and suites an airy, loft-like feel.
Massive renovations in 2006 brightened up the rooms, which are bigger and more modern than in other mid-range hotels, and nearly all have sofa beds. The hotel also wisely put its tidy fitness center in a windowed room, which is a nice departure from the typical basement gym.
The hotel isn’t exactly riverfront -- and guest rooms facing the Mississippi get a view instead of its iconic bridge -- but the Wyndham’s proximity to the cruise line terminals makes it a popular stay for cruisers.
Convention-goers, though, are likely to be disappointed in the closet-sized business center’s lone computer, and in the daily fee charged for wired Internet in the rooms.
Convenient to both cruises and conventions
The Wyndham Riverfront is located in the Central Business District (CBD) and directly across the street from the Riverwalk complex, which houses the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, the Museum of the American Cocktail, and dozens of shops.
While not directly on the Mississippi River, the Wyndham Riverfront is a block behind it, and is a quick walk to the Erato and Julia street cruise line terminals. If you’re shore-bound, the Wyndham is just as close to the massive Morial Convention Center.
The Wyndham Riverfront is also with easy walking distance of Harrah’s Casino, streetcars, the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, the Insectarium, Jackson Square, Preservation Hall, and dozens of exceptional restaurants.
Across the street from the freewheeling French Quarter, the CBD adds towering office buildings to the New Orleans skyline. Corporations, foreign consulates and the city’s convention center are located here, as is the Superdome.
The CBD began its development in the early 1800s, when the Louisiana Purchase attracted newly minted Americans to a city once dominated by the Spanish and French. As port traffic increased along the Mississippi River, warehouses and manufacturing plants were built on the CBD shore. When cargo ships became containerized, these buildings were abandoned.
The World’s Fair in 1984 sparked new interest in the CBD, and developers restored the 19th century warehouses and plants into trendy condos, hotels and restaurants. The building boom has also included art galleries, the National World War II Museum, and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.
Today, the CBD is a mellower counterpart to the French Quarter, and just as alluring. There’s plenty of foot traffic, especially closer to the river and around the St. Charles streetcar line. At night, visitors should be safe on main thoroughfares like Poydras Street, and anywhere there’s a major restaurant or hotel. A wealth of parking garages makes the CBD fairly easy to drive into, except during the week of Mardi Gras.
Canal Street is a retail center and the downriver boundary of the CBD. Canal is one of the widest streets in the country and a major thoroughfare in the New Orleans, though it’s packed with national retail and souvenir shops that aren’t worth exploring for a visitor with limited time.
Suites have a loft-like appeal, but even the standard rooms have upscale extras
The Wyndham Riverfront went through a complete renovation in 2006, beautifully restoring the old rice mill's exposed brick walls, high ceilings, and plantation shutters -- though only to a fraction of its guest rooms.
Still, all the beds are dressed with pillow-top mattresses and plush goose down duvets, and the new furniture is streamlined (with clean, elegant touches like sconce lighting and gilt-edged mirrors).
The Wyndham had the right idea by using black-and-white architectural photos in its guest rooms, which play on the building’s history. Rooms overlook the courtyard (which doubles as a driveway) with glimpses of the Crescent City Connector bridge, or have city views facing away from the river.
No pool, a small business center, and a decent fitness center
A fine option in a city of world-class dining
The Wyndham’s restaurant, 7 on Fulton, is helmed by executive chef Matthew Fultz and takes its name from the street it faces, and on which you can dine al fresco. Flavored foams, meats cooked sous vide, and house-made sauces steer the restaurant in a decidedly modern direction.
(The dining room’s dated, oddly Asian decor should swing that way as well -- what a great opportunity to play up the original mill’s whitewashed walls and long windows with sleek, industrial furniture.)
Favorites of ours include the mini burgers, glazed with a house-made riff on Texas barbecue sauce (this one based on local Abita beer) and served with fried gherkins; a mixed salad with mellow pickled onions and pecan-crusted goat cheese, drizzled with Creole mustard vinaigrette; gnocchi with roasted Brussels sprouts; and a rustic version of the Croque Madame sandwich, which swaps out the traditional béchamel for a wine-based tomato sauce.
The Wyndham Riverfront is housed in a former rice mill in the Central Business District, an area where retrofitted warehouse condos are springing up -- but the hotel doesn't take full advantage of its great historic bones. Rooms are chain-like, but large, and most have sofa beds; the on-site restaurant is solid; and the location is convenient to cruise terminals and a massive convention center.