It’s been three years since I posted my last “What to Eat in New Orleans”. Thanks to Covid, you never knew what restaurant was going to temporarily close for multiple reasons, or shut its doors forever. Most survived, the teflons continued, and some hidden local spots started to shine after I spent more time in the city. If you feel like there aren’t enough new places on this list, it’s because we instinctively hit our favorites since they felt comfortably familiar and we wanted to support them.
I have categorized restaurants by Fine Dining, Casual Dining, Breakfast/Brunch, plus a new section, Lagniappe. Each restaurant has neighborhood and dress code information.
Fine Dining. Most serve both lunch and dinner, unless noted.
Peche – This is hands-down, one of the finest, consistent restaurants in Nola. 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. The steak tartare w/ oyster aioli is ridiculous here, becoming everyone’s favorite after one bite. Everything else is amazing too. In the Warehouse district, and slightly fancy.
R’evolution – Such a special dinner experience we forget to go there. 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. Due to Covid, I hope they are still serving their dessert in darling jewelry boxes. They change their menu regularly. In the French Quarter. Dress up!
Arnaud’s – For lunch or dinner. Select one of two dining rooms, one with jackets required and the other more casual. The latter includes jazz music during dinner and Sunday brunch. This very traditional New Orleans spot has allowed me to make big crowd reservations in a pinch, even during Jazzfest. It is right off of Bourbon Street, so you’ll also see 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. The original chef moved onto Saba (which, I hate to say it here, is also REALLY good). I’m sorry gluten free diners, but this is the best pita bread ever. We have to stop newbies from eating too much. The curried cauliflower hummus is creamy with wonderful flavors. Of course, there is also fried chicken hummus. You’ll peruse the menu, and have a hard time restricting the salatim, small plates, hummus, or large plates to a conservative amount. Everything is fresh, wholesome and delicious. In the Garden District, on Magazine St. Business casual is appreciated but not necessary.
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. Be snoopy and check out the whole restaurant’s unique rooms. 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. 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. The Caribbean chef, Nina Compton has received accolades for her creative cooking, including many James Beard nominations and awards. Although I think Covid has hit their staff hard, the food is inventive. Hoof Soup anyone? The donut bagel at brunch quiets everyone as they dive into the dish. In the Warehouse District. Dressy casual
Herbsaint – For dinner, or a long lunch. This restaurant is overlooked because I think it’s been good for so long. Now that we live next to it, we know its menu very well, and everything is fantastic. The spaghetti dish with the perfectly poached egg is a valid low carb diet-break contender. In the CBD. Casual dressy.
Commander’s Palace – For lunch or dinner. You must mention this iconic restaurant when recommending superb establishments. This is a super special, celebratory spot with the typical creole fare, done up a notch. Or, just go for a lunch splurge. 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. Their new chef, Meg Bickford, has “spiced” things up a bit. In the Garden District. Dress attire.
Clancy’s – I kept this restaurant off my list for years due to a couple of offputting visits here. They have lured me back, and now I tell all visitors it’s a compulsory stop. Located in an unassuming Uptown neighborhood, everything on the menu makes me salivate, and the staff is friendly. Turtle soup, black drum, veal dishes, lemon ice box pie are favorites. And there’s so many others. MAKE a reservation here if you come to Nola. Uptown Garden District aka Black Pearl. Business casual.
Zasu – I don’t go or mention this place much because a) I always make reservations too late at this tiny place, and b) I don’t want others to know about it because then it will be harder to get into. Their menu is limited, ecclectically good, and changed often. Mid-City. Casual.
Bywater Bistro – Good for Sunday brunch and dinner. Why haven’t I been there lately? Bywater. Business casual, but you’re in a funky part of town.
Gabrielle – Leave the most visited neighborhoods, and come to Treme for some tremendously delicious cuisine. The ambiance is understated; the food rich, yet elegant. Re-opened after a Covid break. Treme Neighborhood. Look nice; wear a collared 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, because we eat here so regularly. 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 (off the menu). In the Warehouse District. 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 – For lunch or dinner. This restaurant, in an unassuming strip mall, seems immemorable until you enter, eat their food, and declare that you will return forever. There’s a weekly, daily special, and it’s available until they run out of it. The Saturday cochon de lait (pig) can 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 into 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. No reservations, but just keep drinking at the bar. I try and get back there whenever I can. “Jacque” is a great host. Near Tulane, Uptown. Very casual.
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.
Casamento’s – Yet another dining institution in New Orleans. If you like oysters, go here.
They have raw oysters, char-grilled oysters (highly recommended), oyster po-boys, oyster loaf. They also have other seafood favorites. Closed in the summer. Uptown. Casual dress
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.
Willa Jean’s – A great breakfast and lunch spot. I break the Bloody Mary 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.
Ruby Slipper – Breakfast & lunch only. The Ruby Slipper is a classic restaurant for your Nola morning “trifecta” – water, coffee, Bloody Mary. I could try everything on the food menu; I’m working on this goal. They have many locations now but my favorite, most crowded, and nearby 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 menu is so amazing, you’d be missing out on the best meal. A lovely, more casual place for a significant mid-day meal. There’s a beautiful wine/party room in the back for big groups. 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. They serve it with a FORK. Food is almost irrelevant after one of these. In the Garden District, on Magazine Street. Business casual.
Apolline – This restaurant is making the list because a) it’s open for brunch Tuesday through Sunday b) it serves a great dinner, too and c) Bottomless bloodies and mimosas. OR the Deluxe Bloody Mary which puts La Petite Grocery’s Bloody in second place. Cinnamon bacon, Shrimp & grits, and Eggs Apolline are recommended. Uptown. Smart casual.
Bearcat – The Bearcat is sorta new. Be prepared for a line to dine. If you don’t mind, it’s worth it. The biscuits are awesome, the egg dishes divine. They serve gluttonously yummy dishes along with vegan, gluten-free choices. Some of their cocktails have cereal in them. I’m going to have to get out of the Bloody Mary box, and try one of them. Open Wednesday through Sunday. CBD and Uptown. Casual.
Cafe du Monde– I’m mentioning this place because if you come to New Orleans and don’t come here, you’re missing a tradition. Yes, it’s touristy. Let me tell you what the menu is right now: Beignets, coffee, iced coffee, frozen coffee, orange juice, milk and water. Beignets are decadent. We get the coffee shipped to us. The wait line goes quickly, or you can get the food to go. But it’s worth it to just sit back in their simple patio. You can pretty much eat here ANY TIME of the day. In the French Quarter. Very casual.
Lagniappe aka “Other Stuff”
These establishments serve food that is not typical New Orleans fare, or their specialty is drinks, then food.
Stein’s – Even though they accused me of stealing a bag of potato chips last time I was there, ironically, the best thing to get over that trauma was the sandwich I bought. And the free cookie they gave me as an apology. Philly boys bringing the deli to Nola righteously. And I don’t even like deli food that much. Garden District
Venezia– If you’re in New Orleans, and you’re looking for an OG, red sauce, neighborhood Italian restaurant, this is it. Inexpensive, generous portions, attentive staff, it’s a little Northeast flavor in New Orleans. (P.S. Evidently there are a few of these hidden in town. I’ll report back.). Mid-City.
Angelo Bracato’s – After you’ve eaten at Venezia, you go here. Or you just need an Italian pastry, cookie or gelatto fix. I walked in, my husband asked me if I wanted anything, and I said, “Yes. Everything.” Mid-City
Bar Marilou – Nestled in the Maison de la Luz Hotel, this cozy, loungy, gorgeous bar has a great vibe. There’s food, just in case, but the stars are the ambiance and cocktails. CBD
Bouligny Tavern – I peered into the windows of this small establishment and thought, “I’ve got to check this lounge out.” The first time we sat at the bar, the bartender not only took our drink orders, but orchestrated the turntable for us. It’s grown up compared to most other bars in Nola. Uptown.