Less than two years ago, I posted my first “What to Eat” for New Orleans. Some of the restaurants still stand, others were hearsay recommendations that I finally visited, and then there were those found unfit for food service (ouch).
Let’s check out the spots that merit a meal, from my own experience, or from foodies whose opinion I respect. I have categorized restaurants by Fine Dining, Casual Dining, and Breakfast/Brunch. Each has neighborhood and dress code information. Website links connect through restaurant names.
Fine Dining. This includes lunch and dinner, with locations
Peche – If you can’t get in for dinner, go for lunch. If you have a big group, order the large, sharable fish of the day, like tuna collar. One of the best fish dishes I have had. Even the steak tartare w/ oyster aioli is ridiculous here. Besides the crawfish capellini, there’s only one other pasta dish in town that merits more of a low carb diet break (okay, two if you count the Crawfish Monican at Jazzfest). Its spicy, light tomato sauce is divine. In the Warehouse district, and slightly fancy.
R’evolution – A special dinner experience. Their food prep and presentation are amazingly traditional yet creative. The Snapping Turtle Soup includes deviled quail eggs that I ate willingly, and I don’t even like deviled eggs. Of course, the sweet tooth in me loves how the complimentary dessert comes in jewelry boxes. They change their menu regularly.
In the French Quarter. Dress up!
Arnaud’s – For lunch or dinner. There are two dining rooms: one requires jackets, the other is more casual, and has jazz music at night. I love this restaurant because not only is it very traditional New Orleans, I can make a big crowd reservation here in a pinch, even during Jazzfest. It is right off of Bourbon Street, so you can watch the ruckus go by. French 75 is their historically famous bar, and there is a crazy Mardi Gras Museum in the restaurant, too. Get the Oysters Arnaud, which includes each of the many different grilled oysters they cook. The turtle soup is great, too. In the French Quarter. Dressy in one room, more business casual in the other.
Shaya – For lunch or dinner, but I’d prefer dinner. The original chef moved onto Saba (see below). I’m sorry that y’all who are gluten free can’t have the best pita bread ever. Makes the stuff you buy at the grocery unfit to eat. The curried cauliflower hummus is creamy with wonderful flavors, and well, everything is fresh, wholesome and delicious. You’ll peruse the menu, and have a hard time restricting the salatim, small plates, hummus, or large plates to a conservative amount. It’s all so good. Wear loose clothes! In the Garden District, on Magazine St. Business casual is appreciated but not necessary.
Upperline – For dinner. This special restaurant is one of my favorites in Nola. When you walk in, JoAnn, the owner. will greet you as though you have come over for dinner at her home. The prix fixe meals are the way to go. The duck is sensational, and the fried green tomatoes with shrimp remoulade (originating in this establishment) is the real deal. Where else do you see “Brandy Alexander” as a dessert option? In Uptown. Dress like you are going to a nice dinner at someone’s house.
Galatoire’s – For lunch or dinner. I have not been here, but this is a restaurant that is TRUE New Orleans. Evidently, Friday lunch is a scene, and a town tradition. People hire “line sitters”. Order anything creole. In the French Quarter. Jackets required for dinner, business casual for lunch.
Antoine’s – For lunch or dinner. Similar to Galatoire’s, this is a tradtional Nola favorite. I celebrated a “special” birthday lunch in one of their elegant private dining rooms that are named after historically significant Mardi Gras parades. Claiming to be the oldest creole French restaurant in town, they are known for inventing Oysters Rockefeller and Eggs Sardou. The Baked Alaska is a must, as they do it right. In the French Quarter. Same dress code as Galatoire’s.
Luke’s – For lunch or dinner. This is a regular lunch spot for us, especially after an action-packed night. My husband loves this place, and now I do too. Go ahead, scream “Hurray!” when they tell you that the Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Soft Shell Crab is on the menu for the season. The burgers, brussel sprouts, shrimp and grits, and flammenkuchen are favorites. The oyster bar is impressive. In the Central Business District (CBD). Not dressy
Compere Lapin – For lunch, dinner, any meal you can get. This has turned into one of my favorite places. This is the OTHER spot where you should break your low carb diet – get the Cauliflower, Clams and Shrimp Scaliatelli. It sounds bizarre, but it’s amazingly delicious! The Caribbean chef, Nina Compton has received accolades for her creative cooking, including many James Beard nominations and awards. We even look out for our favorite waitress who taught us how to tip the kitchen well: buy them a six-pack and it doesn’t have to be fancy. In the Warehouse District. Dressy casual
Bywater American Bistro – This is Nina Compton’s second restaurant that has received major accolades. I have been trying to get in here for months. Located in the charmingly colorful, barely ungentrified Bywater area. I will be there in May, to try the Crispy Hogs Head Boudin, Fried Gulf Oysters and the Smoked Ricotta Agnolotti. But people – I just looked at the brunch menu, and that may be the meal of all meals. Bywater District. Casual.
Herbsaint – For dinner, or a long lunch. This restaurant is overlooked because I think it’s been good for so long. But now that we live next to it, we will know this menu very well! Having received its second Best Chef in the South award this year, the food and atmosphere is delicious. The spaghetti dish with the perfectly poached egg is another low carb diet-break contender (Do you see a trend?). In the CBD. Casual dressy.
Commander’s Palace – For lunch or dinner. I can’t write a top restaurant list without recommending this iconic restaurant. This is a super special, celebratory establishment with the typical creole fare, done up a notch. Did someone say 25-cent martinis? “Crack bread pudding” is how my friend describes the Creole Bread Pudding Souffle. For foodies, watch “Commanding the Table”, a documentary on the history of Ella Brennan, the restaurant’s founder. In the Garden District. Dress attire.
Justine – This new hot spot in the French Quarter has married the best of a French bistro with New Orleans cuisine. As you walk through the restaurant, you’ll feel like you are strolling through various venues, as the glamorous decor morphs through the space. Watch out for the cabaret dancers throughout. Now the food – again – think French bistro – steak with yummy shoestring frites, Chicken Paillard that was so good I ate way more than expected, and a Petite Filet au Poivre prepared beautifully. The desserts looked amazing; we sadly refrained. In the French Quarter. Dress chic or smart so the dancers come flirt with you.
Maypop – How could I forget about this place? Another foodie friend, Brian Ferdman, recommended Maypop. We’ve been there half a dozen times since. Owned by the same people as Mopho (see below), their Asian-fusion meals include the expected curry, and then there’s Warm Crawfish with Spring Pea Salad with Creole Cream Cheese (the latter a blast from the past dairy item). I loved the squid ink pasta with crawfish. Dinner, lunch, Dim Sum Weekend Brunch – whenever you can, try this place out. CBD. Dress decently.
Gabrielle – Leave the most visited neighborhoods, and come to Treme for some tremendously delicious cuisine. The ambiance is understated, but very comfortable. The food is rich, yet elegant. She-crab bisque, Panko-fried boudin, pork rib chop with root beer glazed apples…you get the picture. Maybe share some plates? However, the food is so yummy, you want to finish everything. Oh wait – dessert? They are worth it. Just moderate your dinner portion consumption. Treme Neighborhood. Look nice; wear a colored shirt.
Casual Dining – Don’t worry about a dress code. Just go eat here.
Cochon – For dinner or lunch. Pork lovers, unite. My husband hesitates going to Cochon, as we’ve eaten here so often. He’s so happy afterwards. Outside of the fried livers, all the Small Plates are tremendous. If you can’t get a reservation, or want something more casual, go around the block to Cochon Butcher. Best BLT ever. In the Warehouse District. Casual dress.
St. Cecilia’s – For dinner or lunch. Tucked away across from the French Market, this super casual spot is unusually quiet for its location. The Southern, uniquely prepared food and drinks are well done. In the French Quarter. Casual dress
Willa Mae’s – For lunch only. This is the simplest, finest Southern cooking you will have. America’s Southern Classic Restaurant James Beard winner here. There are regularly lines out the door, so be strategic with your timing. I don’t even know what else to order here outside of fried chicken. The green beans are great, even though they are overdone. Treme neighborhood. Casual dress.
Liuzza’s On the Track – For lunch. There is only one thing I have ever ordered here, and it is divine: The BBQ Shrimp Po Boy. You’re on your own after that. Near the Racetrack/Jazzfest Fairgrounds. Very casual.
Mopho – This restaurant in an unassuming strip mall seems immemorable until you enter, eat their food, and declare that you will return forever. I tell only those I love about this spot. Every day they make a special dish, and it’s available until they run out of it. This occurs especially for the cochon de lait (pig) on Saturday that will sell out by dinner. Chicken & waffles on the weekend are a crowd pleaser. The chicken wings are delicious. There’s a pho for hangovers. The bottom line – Mopho’s ability to take Vietnamese cuisine flavors and incorporate them in everything on the menu is divine. Mid-city area. Very casual.
Jacques Imo’s – For dinner. Super colorful and boisterous, this Oak Street charmer has great Cajun food, including shrimp and alligator sausage cheesecake. That item made me beg to go there until my family caved, and we just hoped that the “no reservations” wait wasn’t too long. Just keep drinking at the bar. I try and get back there whenever I can. Near Tulane, Uptown. Very casual.
Breakfast/Brunch – You could try these at other mealtimes, but these are my mid-day favorites. Notice I didn’t write “My Morning Favorites”. Don’t judge me because cocktails are highlighted in almost all of these picks.
Ruby Slipper – Breakfast & lunch only. There are mornings in Nola when nothing but the Ruby Slipper will do for our “trifecta” – water, coffee, Bloody Mary. And then the food menu. I could try everything on it; I’m working on this goal. There are many locations now but my favorite, and most crowded, is the CBD establishment. CBD, Marigny, Garden District, plus other locations. You could probably wear your jammies here.
Brennan’s – The restaurant that defined “brunch”, this renovated and historically significant institution is the home of Bananas Foster and a few other menu staples. The food is sumptuous, and of course the Bloody Marys are fantastic. You could have dinner here, but the brunch items are so amazing, you’d be missing out on the best they offer. A lovely, more casual place for a significant mid-day meal. In the French Quarter. Business casual.
La Petite Grocery – Yes, it’s a lovely place to eat for dinner, but it’s one of my favorite brunch places. The Big Red Hammer is one of the BEST Blood Marys in town (do you see a trend here?) They serve it with a FORK. Food is almost irrelevant after one of these. In the Garden District, on Magazine Street. Business casual
Willa Jean’s – Another great place you can go for dinner, but it’s more appropriate for brunch or lunch. I break the trend here with one word – Frose, the home of the frozen rose slurpee-like drink. They should have one of those punch cards for frequent customers. Like me. The baked goods here are so good, it’s hard to decide which one to order. Take another slice of pie home! Egg, and salad dishes are excellent. The cornbread IS worth the calories. In the CBD. Casual.
Surrey’s – This place has to have great food, because there serve no alcohol, and I’m mentioning it. (Nor do the remaining recommendations.) Their biscuits are delicious, their cheese grits are worthy, and all the Mexican items are delicious. I don’t even think I’ve ordered anything from the lunch menu. Get there early or you’ll wait in line. On Magazine St in the Garden District and Uptown. Casual.
Cake Cafe – A very simple dining spot, the baked goods are divinely simple, including biscuits and cupcakes (yes, I had one for breakfast). In the Marigny. Very casual.
Cafe du Monde– You can pretty much eat here ANY TIME of the day. And we have. Let me tell you what the menu is right now: Beignets, coffee, iced coffee, frozen coffee, orange juice, milk and water. Squeeze a meal in here. Beignets are decadent. We get the coffee shipped to us. Or stop in the middle of the day, or the night! The line goes quickly, or you can get the food to go. But it’s worth it to just sit back in their simple patio.