Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators.
Authentic Creole food and time-traveling to the 1890s
This historic landmark, carved from the city’s earliest Whitney Bank branch, is one of four Wyndham properties in New Orleans. The hotel’s single restaurant, Lil’ Dizzy’s, occupies part of the old bank, which has kept its grand marble pillars, gold-barred teller’s windows, and an original mural (depicting, of all things, a bank robbery) painted along the back wall. Hand-numbered prints with money and banking themes frame the hotel hallways.
Beyond its history, the hotel’s big draw is its spectacular location, a block from the St. Charles streetcar and within walking distance of the French Quarter.
The 93-room Whitney Wyndham is small and unique enough to be considered a boutique property, and features are limited -- just a modest fitness room, and no business center or swimming pool.
Prices can occasionally be a little steep for what you get during peak months. About a quarter of the Whitney Wyndham’s 93 rooms are suites, so always ask about an upgrade at the front desk.
Easy access to restaurants and attractions upriver, as well as the French Quarter
Located in the Central Business District (CBD), the Whitney Wyndham is a block from the St. Charles streetcar line and a block from Lafayette Square, a park presenting free live music on Wednesdays during the spring. The hotel is also within easy walking distance of the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, the Insectarium, Jackson Square, Preservation Hall, and dozens of world-class restaurants, as well as exceptional shopping on Magazine Street.
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 chic 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.
Rooms are comfortable but no-frills
Most rooms are done in muted browns or dark florals, with tired carpeting throughout, but thoughtful touches include pillowtop mattresses and ergonomic desk chairs. The Whitney Wyndham is redecorating its rooms in 2012, replacing sofa beds and other guest room furniture.
Not much besides a small fitness center
Authentic Creole, served in a 19th century bank vault
Lil’ Dizzy’s has a "main branch" near the Treme neighborhood, but guests at the Whitney Wyndham can enjoy this beloved restaurant’s outpost just off the hotel lobby. Though the prices are rumored to be higher here, the Creole food is just as authentic. Try the fried chicken or the pan-fried trout sprinkled with crabmeat; the Hubig’s Pie bread pudding is also a locally-inspired treat.
Lil’ Dizzy’s sets up a breakfast buffet in front of the gold-barred teller’s window; down the hall, anyone can reserve the old bank’s vault for a private dinner. The 1890s-era vault still has its imposing steel door, and up to 10 diners can be seated inside. The dining room’s walls are framed with fascinating photos of the contents of the vault’s original safe deposit boxes.
Two blocks away, John Besh’s brasserie, Lüke, is a locals’ choice. You’ll see many of the city's beautiful people at happy hour, drinking house brews and noshing on local raw oysters.
This perfectly adequate mid-range hotel in the Central Business District, a block from the Charles streetcar line, has more history and character than your typical chain. Wyndham has made graceful use of the city’s first Whitney Bank branch, built around 1890, by preserving much of the old bank’s lobby and even restoring its vintage vault as a private dining room. But features are few, and rooms have old tube TVs and no Wi-Fi.