Caesars Casino’s New Lounge, Paw Paw’s Donuts in Metairie | Where to Eat in NOLA

The transformation of the former Harrah’s casino into a Caesars property is a massive construction project, featuring a new hotel tower above and new restaurants from top chefs inside. But in the midst of it all, Caesars has also quietly prepared a big surprise.

Octavia is the name of a new lounge inside the casino, designed on a grand scale and with a sleek art deco-inspired design. It’s a massive new addition to the casino that’s taking shape just behind temporary walls, although the games are going on 24/7, with the roll of a dice away.

Octavia is the upcoming cocktail lounge at Caesars in downtown New Orleans and a centerpiece of the casino. (Image provided)

Octavia is expected to debut in mid-August.

When it opens, visitors will be able to walk through one of eight entrances to discover a dizzying space with games all around, groups of lounge seating and a large bar in the center. Above that bar will be a glass installation descending from the ceiling two stories up, a piece that alone is estimated to cost around $750,000.

Octavia will span 13,000 square feet and accommodate 600 people. Crews from local builder Ryan Gootee General Contractors are currently putting the final phases of the project in place.

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The main entrance to the new Caesars casino in downtown New Orleans opens into the Octavia Lounge. (Image provided)

It replaces the former “ultra lounge” at Harrah’s Masquerade, but is intended to offer a more upscale feel and a different role than its dark, clubby predecessor. It will be the centerpiece of the new casino and one of the first things visitors will see from the property’s main entrance, located near the valet area and the future hotel.

The hotel, a new 15-story tower with 340 rooms, is part of the casino’s overall transformation. So is the new Japanese restaurant Nobu, from sushi master Nobu Matsuhisa. Also set to open this summer (and taking reservations for dates after August 15), Nobu is located next door to, but separate from, the Octavia.

The name Octavia was chosen for its mix of meanings. A feminine form of the Latin word for eighth, it was the name of Julius Caesar’s great-niece. The number eight is a lucky number in Chinese culture, a sign of prosperity. The casino’s address is 8 Canal St. And New Orleans has an Octavia Street that runs from Uptown to the riverfront.

Paw Paw’s Donuts opens store

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A batch of brioche doughnuts from Paw Paw’s Donuts, a pop-up store in New Orleans. (Photo courtesy of Bryon Laurent Jr.)

Stroll through the street food bazaar that is the Sunday edition of the Crescent City Farmers Market in City Park and you might smell the aroma of fresh doughnuts next to the sausage, eggs and cheese sizzling on the grill for breakfast sandwiches. That’s Paw Paw’s Donuts, and the same combination will now greet visitors to its new walking breakfast service in Old Metairie.

Paw Paw’s Donuts, a pop-up and market vendor, is setting up shop for counter service four days a week in its commissary kitchen space in Old Metairie, starting Thursday (July 11).

It’s at 619 Pink St., the headquarters of Hufft Marchand Hospitality (the company behind Junior’s on Harrison, Gail’s Fine Ice Cream and other restaurants). The same space is also home to Il Supremo, Hufft Marchand Hospitality’s pop-up restaurant serving pizza, pasta and parmesan (Sunday through Tuesday from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.).

At Paw Paw’s Donuts, you’ll find breakfast sandwiches, kolaches, cinnamon rolls and doughnuts, with toppings like lemon curd, vanilla, chocolate cream and strawberry jam. There will be a coffee and espresso bar menu featuring beans from Cat & Cloud Coffee, a California-based roaster.

It’s a big step for founder Alex Marse, who said he plans to run the service through the end of the year and then conduct an evaluation.

He launched Paw Paw’s Donuts in 2021 with a doughnut donation outside Hey! Café on the Lafitte Greenway after Hurricane Ida. He’s since made a name for himself at events and pop-ups and for his Carnival king cakes.

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