The New Orleans Guide
The first thing that hits you when you arrive in New Orleans is that it feels unlike anywhere else in the country (or the world, for that matter). No other city has the same fascinating sense of time and place—and no other city can lay claim to introducing the world to Creole cooking, jazz, and of course, Mardi Gras. In the fourteen years since Hurricane Katrina devastated the region, New Orleans has flourished. We recently paid a visit to check out the city’s newest, greatest restaurants, hotels, and bars—plus a few classics we missed the first few times around.
Lilette3637 Magazine St., Uptown | 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.
La Petite Grocery4238 Magazine St., Uptown | 504.891.3377
This storefront on Magazine Street has a romantic past that includes a stints as a stable, as the local tea and coffee depot, and a flower shop. It’s a space that’s always provided the neighborhood with quality provisions, and not much has changed. These days, it’s occupied by La Petite Grocery, which serves one of the best brunches in town. The food is locally sourced and simple but ridiculously tasty: Stone-ground grits with just a little salt and butter, a jar of assorted pickles to nibble, and NOLA’s iteration of a lobster roll—the Gulf shrimp roll—are a few standouts. While the crisp white tablecloths and low, golden lighting are undeniably elegant, Le Petit Grocery still maintains a casual ambiance that’s typical of New Orleans.
Balise640 Carondelet St., French Quarter | 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 Le 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., Garden District | 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. There is a dress code.
Drago’s at the Hilton Hotel2 Poydras St., Warehouse District | 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., Warehouse District | 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., Warehouse District | 504.524.4114
This is a finer, more romantic dining experience from the same people behind Butcher, Cochon, and Pêche. 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., French Quarter | 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., Warehouse District | 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., Warehouse District | 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., French Quarter | 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., East Carrollton | 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., Warehouse District | 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., French Quarter | 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., French Quarter | 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., Uptown | 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., French Quarter | 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., French Quarter | 504.267.3500
On the heels of an insanely successful outpost in Costa Rica (and a spot in Israel before that), restaurateurs 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., French Quarter | 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., Uptown | 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., Warehouse District | 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., Uptown | 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.
Brennan’s417 Royal St., French Quarter | 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.
Cavan3607 Magazine St., Touro | 504.509.7655
Cavan occupies a weathered 1883 Uptown mansion, and while the whole place feels like it might fall apart, that’s part of the charm. It’s named for an Irish orphan from County Cavan who lived in this very house, and not much has changed since the early 1900s. The classic white clapboard exterior and beautifully preserved interior are reason enough to visit. Salmon-colored walls, plush velvet seating, and original architectural details, like stucco cornices, set the tone for leisurely, elegant meals. The gingerbread-spiced jerk fish with sweet potato hash and eggnog beurre blanc is a dish you probably can’t find anywhere else—and it’s also really, really good.
Domilise’s Po-Boys & Bar5240 Annunciation St., Uptown | 504.899.9126
The Northeast has the sub, Philly has the hoagie, and the New Orleans’s beloved sandwich mascot is the po’boy. And Domilise’s, which celebrated its one hundredth anniversary last year, is the place to try the best. It’s not fancy (the wood-paneled walls and the red and yellow plastic bottles of ketchup and mustard on Formica tables are delightfully retro), but the food is heavenly. If it’s your first time, go for a classic, like the fried, perfectly crisp shrimp or oyster po’boy on a Leidenheimer roll. Be aware that it gets crowded—coming on the earlier side (before noon) is a good idea.
Galatoire’s209 Bourbon St., French Quarter | 504.525.2021
Step through the door at this New Orleans dining institution, and you might forget what decade it is. The dining room—full of French bistro chairs, white tablecloths, and ceiling fans—seems virtually unchanged since 1905, when the restaurant opened. But it’s the crowd, decked out in their old-school Sunday best (even during the week), that is really transportive. We’re talking gents in bow ties and seersucker suits (jackets are required), and ladies in pale-pink and pistachio dresses. The menu is similarly unaffected by modern trends, full of classic dishes like the seafood okra gumbo (Louisiana shrimp, oysters, shellfish stock, and okra in a light roux) and the avocado and crabmeat salad. This is New Orleans as its best, and your experience in the city is practically incomplete without a meal here.
Arnaud’s813 Bienville St., French Quarter | 504.523.5433
If you haven’t been to Sunday brunch at Arnaud’s to listen to live Dixie jazz, have you really been to New Orleans? Some locals would answer with a resounding no. A French Quarter restaurant on lively Bourbon Street, Arnaud’s (like its iconic neighbor around the corner, Galatoire’s) has been around for over a century. Waiters in black tie deftly waltz around the grand, high-ceilinged dining room to serve shrimp bisque, crab cakes, Belgian waffles, and chicken and andouille gumbo. It’s also home to French 75—one of our favorite bars in the city, especially for its Garden Mayahuel (Cabeza tequila, mezcal, ginger, pineapple, basil, and lime juice), once the sun sets.
Coquette2800 Magazine St., Garden District | 504.265.0421
Coquette’s seasonal dishes flit between Southern classics and more-contemporary interpretations of regional favorites. While the menu may be short, it’s never boring. Case in point: the catfish dip that’s paired with pickled beets, speckled trout, and preserved kumquats and the local grilled Gulf shrimp. The space is beautiful, too. It’s grand but not fussy, with brick walls, the original 1880s ceiling, and elegant chandeliers that make an afternoon lunch feel special. If you’re in town during the summer months, Coquette’s special fried chicken and champagne nights are a fun (and delicious) time.
LUVI5236 Tchoupitoulas St., West Riverside | 504.605.3340
The interior of Luvi screams a good time. Designed by Jennifer Wade, the wife of chef Hao Gong, the design is loud-in-a-good-way—turquoise walls, floral-printed chairs, and abundant use of print and texture. All of it hints at the deeply complex, fun-to-eat food coming out of the kitchen. The restaurant is named for chef Gong’s two kids Lulu (Lu) and Violet (Vi), and the menu fuses both the chef’s heritage (Gong was raised in Hong Kong) and his Japanese culinary training. It’s a beautiful marriage. Our suggestions: a bowl of mama’s dumplings, with its salty, sweet-and-sour broth; the smashed cucumbers; and more than one dish of the Million Dollar Baby, a satisfying mix of raw and seared tuna. To make it even better, order a couple rounds of the citrusy, gingery Juniper Chu Hai cocktails, made with shochu.
N71117 Montegut St., St. Claude
In the Bywater, N7 is a sexy, under-the-radar space serving understated French bistro food. The building has, at various points in time, operated as a tire shop and a stable, and now, as a restaurant, gives off rustic, shabby-chic vibes in spades. The wine list is European-focused and offers plenty of biodynamic and organic options. Much of the menu is devoted to canned fish (a delicacy in the Basque region) like squid and sardines, plated with pickles and preserved lemons. Steak au poivre, matchstick-thin fries, and the most stunning imported anchovies (plus a crusty baguette) is our standing order—always with a glass of red wine. Take a seat at the bar—or cool off in the courtyard—admire the old French movie posters on the walls, and soak up the buzzy, eclectic crowd at this neighborhood gem.
Saffron4128 Magazine St., Touro | 504.323.2626
Saffron is a family-owned business that started out as a catering company (in operation for twenty-six years) but is now a full-fledged restaurant on Magazine Street. Come with a crowd and pile the table high with Indian delicacies like Bombay-style shrimp with tomato remoulade, crabmeat pudha, stacks of lentil pancakes, a heap of buttery roti, and all the accompaniments including raita, gobi, and pickles. The menu is a fusion of Indian and local flavors, and the dishes are designed to share. Equal attention is lavished on the tongue-in-cheek cocktail list. The Nah-ma-stay Swizzle, for instance, is a muddle of rum and roasted mango and is completely addicting.
Brigsten’s723 Dante St., East Carollton | 504.861.7610
In an old Victorian cottage in Uptown, Brigtsen’s feels like a classic dining room from the 1800s, complete with original fireplaces, heavily draped windows, and white tablecloths. Settle in for a long supper of Creole and Acadian dishes, like the signature gumbo or the smoked pork chop with andouille sweet potato hash. Pro tip: Come with a crowd, if only to order the famous seafood platter. Heaped with grilled and baked redfish, oysters, scallops, and whatever else is in season, it’s served with shrimp cornbread and smothered okra—and it is sensational. A classic bread pudding is the best way to round off the meal.
Satsuma Café7901 Maple St., Bywater | 504.309.5557
The Satsuma Café Kale Salad, made of all local ingredients, fresh, and organic, features Lacinato kale, Parmesan dressing, and (this is New Orleans after all) a piece of bacon on the side. This is the BEST SALAD in the city, hands down. A few blocks away from Desire Street, (which kind of says it all), and in the stunning Baywater, this is the hippyish place to go for great coffee and espresso, fresh ginger muffins, super great Nutella banana pancakes, fresh BLT’s with real tomatoes, hummus, bagels and lox with all the sides, and fresh juices made to order. It’s also all organic. Sit at the Squirrel Table and read the New York Times, or a local paper with the locals (and believe me, they’re there). It has a totally great vibe and fresh, fresh, fresh organic food. These guys make an effort and it shows.