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The Getaway: The Southern Hotel

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The Getaway: The Southern Hotel
Written by Emily Storrow | Photo by Constance Higley

Nesting on the Northshore

Take a cue from generations of New Orleanians and escape to Covington, Louisiana

The Lobby; Photo by Constance Higley

THE NEIGHBORHOOD: Leaving New Orleans, it’s about an hour drive across Lake Pontchartrain and into Covington, Louisiana, a world away with its quiet streets and smalltown ambiance.

THE VIBE: Elements original to the Mission Revival building, like exposed brick and wide windows in guestrooms, meet bright and breezy modern decor.

THE DIGS: New Orleanians have long taken to the northern shore of Lake Pontchartrain as a respite from city living. Built in 1907, the Southern Hotel hosted guests for more than fifty years until it closed in the 1960s. After a two year renovation, it reopened in 2014 as a modern interpretation of the original. The forty-two-room hotel again anchors downtown Covington. Its bright, white lobby with arched columns and exposed wood beams is a breath of fresh air incarnate, dotted with pops of color from local art, preppy printed fabrics, and potted palms. Come evening time, you’ll find guests and locals alike lingering amid murals of vintage Covington postcards at the Cypress Bar.

Insider’s Tip: Drink at the Cypress Bar on Walker Percy Wednesdays, when a portion of proceeds benefit public art.
Crispy Mangrove Snapper; Photo by Stephen Devries

Oxlot 9

Its name a nod to Covington’s original layout that included areas for farmers to tie up their livestock, Oxlot 9 is chef Jeffrey Hansell’s locavore playground, where regional dishes and ingredients are enlivened with touches of whimsy. Take his Bayou State translation of chicken wings in the form of fried frog legs (slathered in buttery hot sauce and served with buttermilk dressing and pickled celery), or elevated yakamein, which introduces additions of kimchi and sweet chile vinaigrette to New Orleans’ favorite late-night noodles. Entrées are the marriage of Southern bounty and French technique, a testament to Hansell’s background—the Mississippi Gulf Coast native worked high-profile kitchen jobs in Birmingham, Denver, and New Orleans before setting up shop in Covington. While the menu changes seasonally, anything with fresh fish is sure to be a standout, as is Oxlot’s pan-fried rabbit, a menu staple that’s stuffed with tasso and mozzarella.

For a restaurant so grounded in place, it follows that nearly floor-to-ceiling windows afford diners a generous view of downtown. The dining room is elegant in its simplicity, just as Hansell’s wife, Amy, imagined it—she designed the space to be refined with rustic elements.