500 Chartres St., French Quarter
The Napoleon House is the tourist trap that is well worth the hassle to visit. Smack in the heart of the French Quarter, it is the enclave that was built for Napoleon had he ever arrived into New Orleans. He didn’t. The walls, the paintings, the bar, and the bar staff however, breathe history and realness. They have vegan beans and rice for lunch, and it’s worth the wait in line for the sweet tea alone. If you’re going to have a Sazerac in New Orleans, have it here. Have two, and don’t call us.
820 N. Rampart St., French Quarter
Okay, this is the real deal: easily one of our favorite return-to bars in New Orleans. This joint concocts drinks according to the recipe from the year the drink was invented. So you get lots of authentic pre–Civil War and 1920s recipes, made from rum and gin (I don’t drink gin, ever!…but I do here…) It’s basic, with little fanfare, and there's no need to shout here—there’s enough of that three blocks away. This is real, carefully and lovingly prepared, super authentic, and reasonable. And on Sundays, there are a couple of crock-pots in the back booth with beans and rice to deaden or carb out the inevitable weekend hangover.
7901 Maple St., Bywater
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.
723 Dante St., East Carollton
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.
4128 Magazine St., Touro
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.
1117 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.
5236 Tchoupitoulas St., West Riverside
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.
2800 Magazine St., Garden District
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.
Central Grocery & Deli
923 Decatur St., French Quarter
Like the po’boy, beignet, and gumbo, the muffuletta is a classic New Orleans culinary treat. Picture a thick loaf of Sicilian sesame bread stuffed with salami, ham, pepperoni, marinated olives, and pickled vegetables and you get the idea. And the place to get what is possibly the city’s best version is at Central Grocery, in the French Quarter. It makes sense, as the sandwich is said to have been invented by founder Salvatore Lupo, a Sicilian immigrant who opened the place in 1906. It’s worth ordering more than one, as the sandwiches keep well and make great midnight snacks.
813 Bienville St., French Quarter
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.