No city in the states has the same fascinating sense of time and place as New Orleans—and no city can lay claim to introducing the world to Creole cooking, jazz, and of course, Mardi Gras. In the aftermath of Katrina New Orleans is once again flourishing—we went South to put down as many beignets as possible. (Want more recs? Michael Stipe did a great guide for us a few years ago.)
Lilette3637 Magazine St. | 504.895.1636
Lilette has been dominating Best-Of lists from the day chef and owner John Harris opened its doors on Magazine Street back in 2001 (no small feat in a town flush with French eateries). What sets this fun-by-day, romantic-by-night spot apart is its expertly curated menu: While some dishes (bouillabaisse, duck confit) have held pride of place for years, new items are regularly introduced to accommodate seasonal ingredients and keep regulars on their toes. What’s more, the dimly-lit, wine-colored dining room is considered by many to be Uptown’s prettiest.
Le Petite Grocery4238 Magazine St. | 504.891.3377
Calling a beautiful, historic building home since 2004 (it housed a fine grocery store for decades), this restaurant/bar hybrid is all about putting an unexpected spin on traditional New Orleans fare. This means that rather than rely on the familiarity of French cuisine, executive chef—and since 2010, also owner—Justin Devillier is willing to take some risks (blue crab beignets and turtle bolognese are solid examples). The dining area is actually quite sprawling, but thanks to strategically placed curtains it feels cozy and intimate.
Balise640 Carondelet St. | 504.459.4449
Named after the first French settlement on the Mississippi river and situated in a 19th century Creole townhouse (exposed brick walls, cast iron chandeliers, and wood flooring are relics from its past life), heritage is an essential part of what makes Balise—Justin Devillier’s second project after La Petite Grocery—so special. The focus here is on exploring New Orleans’ port city past, so expect lots of fish dishes, like fried flounder, roasted grouper, and shrimp and sweet potato soup.
Commander’s Palace1403 Washington Ave. | 504.899.8221
Sprawled out on a residential block in the Garden District—across from one of the city’s coolest old cemeteries—Commander’s Palace is first and foremost a vision of Victorian architecture. Inside, the foyer is finished with embroidered toile panels by artist Richard Saja, and the main dining room is decked out to the nines is hand-painted wallpaper and starched linens; business attire is encouraged. The “Haute Creole” menu, which in the past has been curated by Emeril Lagasse and Jamie Shannon, abides by current chef Tory McPhail’s strict “dirt to plate within 100 miles” policy. On weekends, the Jazz brunch is the stuff of legend. Get the Cochon de Lait eggs Benedict.
Drago’s at the Hilton Hotel2 Poydras St. | 504.584.3911
Ok, so it lives in the lobby of a big hotel chain, but Drago’s also happens to serve the best charbroiled oysters in town, the recipe for which was developed by a member of the family that’s been running Drago’s since 1969. A lot of attention is paid to the freshness of seafood—everything from oysters to lobster to shrimp is caught and served same day. The gumbo is also pretty excellent.
Mosca’s4137 U.S. Highway 90 W., Westwego | 504.436.8950
This family-run institution was Bruce Paltrow’s favorite. Years later, it’s still the best Italian-meets-Creole meal one can ask for—well worth the 30 minute drive from the city. Much like its white clapboard exterior, the two-room dining area is totally no-frills and a bit bric-a-brac (the servingware doesn’t necessarily match), but the menu, though fairly concise, is full of elaborate dishes like the famous Chicken a la Grande, Spaghetti Bordelaise, and homemade pineapple fluff—all of which are served family style.
Butcher930 Tchoupitoulas St.| 504.588.7675
Modeled after old school butcher shops (there’s a very impressive cold-cuts case and a well-stocked bar, too), Cochon’s casual deli offshoot cures their meats in-house. The sandwiches, which range from classics like smoked turkey and roast beef to more exotic options like Cajun pork dog and Le Pig Mac are out of this world, and totally justify the out-the-door lunch line.
Herbsaint701 Saint Charles Ave. | 504.524.4114
This is a finer, more romantic dining experience from the same people behind Butcher, Cochon, and Peche. The vibe is mellow, with a French/Cajun-inflected menu that’s pretty heavy on sharable small plates (don’t miss the gnocchi). The St. Charles Avenue location is conveniently central; try to grab a table by one of the massive windows or outside for some solid people watching. At festival time, management has been known to set up a designated outdoor area.
Petite Amelie900 Royal St. | 504.412.8065
After a day or so of nothing but extremely heavy (albeit, delicious) Southern food, a crisp salad starts to sound really good. Come to Cafe Amelie’s casual, but equally tasty offshoot for a light breakfast, or a bowl of seasonal soup and a heaping plate of the aforementioned salad (the Ponchatoula Strawberry is particularly refreshing).
Cochon930 Tchoupitoulas St. | 504.588.2123
Cochon was one of the first new restaurants to open after hurricane Katrina and therefore holds a very special place in locals’ hearts. But the food totally holds up, too. The menu—which goes well with the rustic, classic bistro-like set-up—can be described as pork-centric Southern, with dishes like fried boudin with pickled peppers and Louisiana cochon with turnips taking top billings.
Pêche800 Magazine St. | 504.522.1744
Over the course of two years, Donald Link’s newest endeavor—a traditional New Orleans seafood spot in the Warehouse District—has managed to earn two James Beard awards and instant respect from locals and visitors alike. What’s really cool is that a good chunk of the dishes (grilled tuna, smothered catfish, chicken diablo) are prepped on a hearth, which, thanks to chef Ryan Prewitt’s open kitchen, is clearly visible to diners. Then there’s the impressive raw bar—home of the Pêche seafood platter—and fun snacks, like fish sticks and hushpuppies.
R’evolution777 Bienville St. | 504.553.2277
This unapologetically fancy restaurant (crushed velvet booths, crystal chandeliers, a 10,000-bottle-deep wine cellar) can elevate any evening, though it’s an undertaking of all kinds, so save it for a special occasion. It’s the brainchild of two outstanding chefs, John Folse and Rick Tramonto, so fittingly, the menu is a combination of two culinary schools: traditional Cajun and Creole, and experimental. Death by Gumbo, for instance, is served with a whole, stuffed quail, the contents of which—oysters, andouille sausage, and rice—spill out into the broth when sliced. Also of note are the beer-battered crab fritters and epic caviar “staircase.” The fried oyster salad with blue cheese and bacon is insane.
Cowbell8801 Oak St. | 504.298.8689
The heart of this husband-and-wife operation is undoubtedly delicious, no-frills comfort food: Chili-cheese fries, Gulf shrimp quesadillas, and something called It’s All Schnitz & Giggles (pork tenderloin, grits, and shrimp gravy). It’s all served in a fun, low-key setting—it used to be a filling station back in the day—with the option to take your meal al fresco. The grass-fed burger (get it topped with bacon, eggs, cheese, homemade ketchup) is best washed down with a cold beer from the bar or a house-special “adult” soda.
Domenica123 Baronne St. | 504.648.6020
The name Domenica stands for “Sunday” in Italian, which is fitting since the vibe here is as chill as it is festive. Come here for the best pizza this side of the Mississippi (the roasted carrot pie is unreal) and really great veggie dishes, like the whole head of cauliflower and fried Tuscan kale. Even more reason to love this place? It’s situated in the ultra luxe Roosevelt hotel which is worth a visit, and hosts a daily happy hour with half-price pizza and wine.
Stanley547 Saint Ann St. | 504.587.0093
This brother restaurant to the sadly shuttered Stella! is one of the few spots in town that serves a full breakfast—beyond the beignets and coffee you can get anywhere—all day long. Egg dishes are the main draw—the Benedicts (Eggs Benedict Poor Boy and Breaux Bridge Benedict with homemade boudin) being the obvious standouts. That said, the perfectly soupy Bananas Foster French Toast is pretty special. Plus, the restaurant’s Jackson Square location allows for some pretty dreamy views of St. Louis Cathedral.
Sylvain625 Chartres St. | 504.265.8123
Sure, it’s housed in a creaky, 18th-century townhouse in the French Quarter, with a tattered American flag on the wall and a resident ghost (a madam who ran a brothel here in the 20’s), but what separates this gastropub from others with similar aesthetics is how genuinely cool it is. For the most part, the menu is standard comfort food—but with unexpected tweaks, like champagne and fries or the buttermilk-fried chicken sandwich. There’s also a well-stocked bar that’s perfect for anyone dining alone and a tiny but super dreamy outdoor seating nook.
Clancy’s6100 Annunciation St. | 504.895.1111
Though the Clancy family sold their beloved restaurant in the early 80’s (it’s been around since the 40’s), it lost none of its warmness in the transaction. Much like the simple, white-washed main dining room (upstairs is the quieter, more date-friendly area), the menu is classic, no-frills Creole. For the perfect meal, start with an order of fried oysters with brie, then move onto the lobster and mushroom risotto. And of course, finish with the famous lemon icebox pie.
Italian Barrel1240 Decatur St. | 504.569.0198
Last year, the dining space was expanded from six tables to 16, and it’s no surprise they have zero problems filling them all as Chef Samantha Castagnetti is a pro when it comes to churning out exceptional Northern Italian dishes. The homemade pumpkin ravioli, penne alla vodka, and Porcini mushroom ravioli are perfect as are the desserts (get the espresso crème brulee).
Doris Metropolitan620 Chartres St. | 504.267.3500
On the heels of an insanely successful outpost in Costa Rica (and a spot in Israel before that), restauranteurs Itai Ben Eli and Doris Reba Chia chose the Crescent City for their newest venture: A steakhouse specializing in dry-aged meat, which is why the on-site dry-aging room and a full-time “meat sommelier” make sense. The menu also offers Mediterranean-inflected specialties like lamb chops with tahini yogurt and fresh Gulf fish with a side of tzatziki. The enclosed courtyard offers a nice place to escape the madness of Chartres Street.
Irene’s Cuisine539 St. Philip St. |504. 529.8811
This French Quarter Creole/Italian gem is notorious for its hours-long waits (they’re pretty stingy about reservations here), but that’s ok, the adjoining piano bar makes for a great place to pass the time. Once you get seated in a tiny, lovingly cluttered dining room, go straight for the seafood—crab au gratin, shrimp bisque, and all manner of oysters—or the house special duck St. Philip. The more traditional Italian fare (fresh pasta, roasted chicken, panna cotta) is pure garlic-y goodness.
Gautreau1728 Soniat St. | 504.899.7397
This Uptown jewel box of a restaurant (it’s set in a converted pharmacy, though you wouldn’t know it from its elegant interior and pretty but totally nondescript facade) is known for discovering and nurturing fresh talent—most recently, it’s James Beard-winner Chef Sue Zemanick. As evidenced by dishes like pork osso buco with apple-fennel gremolata, foie gras torchon, and coconut-lemongrass semifreddo, the focus here is on refined American food with a nod to traditional French flavors.
Sac-a-Lait1051 Annunciation St. | 504.324.3658
In addition to generating some major excitement from the food world, this months-old restaurant from husband-and-wife team, Cody and Samantha Carroll, is already a favorite with locals, which is pretty impressive for a newcomer. It’s housed in a massive old cotton mill in the Warehouse District, so diners can spread out and keep an eye on the sprawling open kitchen while enjoying the small but mighty seafood-centric menu.
Atchafalaya901 Louisiana Ave. | 504.891.9626
Owned by couple, Rachel and Tony Tocco, Atchafalaya has culinary roots that reach as far back as 1924, when it was a mom-and-pop Italian joint. The food is traditional Creole, the staff friendly, and most of the materials used to rebuild post Katrina were salvaged from the storm, making the whole experience an homage to its storied past. While the daily dinner menu is great, the weekend brunch (shrimp and grits, savory bread pudding) is extraordinary, thanks in no small part to the famous Bloody Mary bar and live music.
Angeline1032 Chartres St. | 504.308.3106
As head chef at Sylvain, Alex Harrell helped propel it to city-wide acclaim. Now, as owner of his own restaurant—the brand-new Angeline (named after his mom)—he’s aiming to change how people view Southern cuisine by shying away from the buttery heaviness its known for and incorporating Northern Mediterranean elements. Dishes like Southern fried quail, butter bean tortellini, and Louisiana blue crab with linguini help his cause.
Brennan’s417 Royal St. | 504.525.9711
Though it’s pretty great all around, this Royal Street landmark (it was established in 1946 and has recently undergone a top-to-bottom revamp) is most famous for three things: the house-special brandy milk punch, the elaborate breakfast spread (Creole citrus crepes, crispy veal cheek grillades, escargot omelet…), and the lavish, borderline kitschy decor. Each of the eight dining rooms has its own theme but shares the same pomp (crushed velvet seating, starched tablecloths), which explains the strict dress code (i.e. jackets are required at dinner). Speaking of dinner, with chef Slade Rushing at the helm, the new menu is a lighter, more refined version of the original. And get the Bananas Foster: The recipe and table-side flambeing methods haven’t changed in over 50 years.