Where Should I Eat in New Orleans?
If you have ever traveled to Louisiana (or if you live there), you've probably included New Orleans on your list of cities to visit.
New Orleans is famed for its music, its history, its architecture, the accents of its residents, and its food.
Many of the things New Orleans is known for can be found in any of its neighborhoods, from Uptown to Bywater and from Gentilly to the French Quarter, just a few blocks can totally change the scenery. With the French, Spanish, and Caribbean influences coming together in the Creole (French Colonial) architecture on one block to Haitian and West African-inspired shotgun houses on the next to modern hi-rises, New Orleans is certainly an architectural smorgasbord of designs.
If all of those cultures coming together influenced architecture, you know that the combination influenced other things, especially the cuisine.
TASTES DEVELOP AND CHANGE
When I was younger, New Orleans cuisine was usually a Lucky Dog on the corner of Bourbon and Conti. One of the vendors would usually be set up there next to the fire hydrant (standpipe to some of the older residents), and at 2:30 on a Sunday morning, a Lucky Dog was a welcome treat after a night of Bourbon Street debauchery.
I am glad to say that my tastes have developed some since that time, and I am now relishing in the finer tastes of New Orleans.
IS FOOD GOOD ALL OVER NEW ORLEANS?
Finding good food in New Orleans isn't hard to do. Finding bad food in New Orleans isn't hard to do either, unfortunately.
While people familiar with New Orleans know to stick to certain restaurants, tourists that come in for the weekend might think that any of the restaurants along Bourbon or Canal or Tchoupatoulis are authentic Louisiana cuisine. Be warned: some are better than others (did I say that in a nice enough tone?).
IS THERE BAD FOOD IN NEW ORLEANS?
While some restaurants in New Orleans have been around for generations and pride themselves on providing consistent, quality food and service, other restaurants are ONLY in it for the money. Don't get me wrong, I applaud entrepreneurs who bring jobs to the area; I just think that some of them are so worried about money that they forget about quality. If you provide quality service and food, you'll get repeat customers; if you have a money-first attitude and skimp on providing a good experience, word will get around soon enough and few locals will recommend your restaurant.
WHERE SHOULD I EAT WHEN VISITING NEW ORLEANS?
If you take a trip to New Orleans, here are some tried-and-true restaurants that will give you a great taste of the city each time you visit. If you misplace this list, my best recommendation is to find someone from the area and ask questions. Most locals won't steer you wrong.
The following list might not include YOUR favorite restaurant in New Orleans - as I won't list a restaurant where I haven't eaten. I am only going with the ones I've tried and enjoyed. With that being said, I would LOVE to try YOUR favorite restaurant in the New Orleans area, so leave a comment!
R&O Restaurant, at the corner of Carrollton and the Metairie Hammond Highway, is a safe bet for a great, hearty meal. There's nothing fancy about this place, it's just a clean, friendly place known for its Ham and Roast Beef with Swiss cheese poboy. And its pizza. And its gumbo. And its pasta. Great for the whole family.
THE RIB ROOM
The Rib Room is the steakhouse at Royal Orleans Hotel on the corner of Royal and St. Louis in the French Quarter. A higher-end establishment with what seems to be a relaxed dress code, the food and service there was amazing. The atmosphere was not stuffy at all and, with the quality of service and food, one would expect a slight bit of stuffiness, so to speak. My recommendation: Prime Rib, medium-rare. And the beef short rib. And the Beef Carpaccio Salad. And the Lemon Blackberry Creme Brulee. The Rib Room is great for a date night or any special occasion.
Brennan's is on Royal in the French Quarter and is hard to miss with its distinctive pink front. We did the Sunday Brunch. Another higher-end restaurant, the brunch dress code seems relaxed at Brennan's and we saw several families with little ones dining. I had the New Orleans French Press coffee (chickory!) and the Eggs St. Charles, which is fried fish over a bed of creamed spinach, topped with two perfectly poached eggs and Brennan's Blood Orange Hollandaise. A few things we noticed about the wait staff: they worked together VERY well, and it was obvious that they were well-trained. Reservations at Brennan's are recommended, though we were able to get a seat at the bar and had a great brunch.
PARKWAY BAKERY & TAVERN
Parkway Bakery & Tavern on Hagan at Toulouse in Mid City is another one of those come-as-you-are restaurants that will feed you some of the best hearty meals you can find. Known for its poboys, you will also find poboys at Parkway, right alongside other poboys. (Do you get the idea? It's mostly poboys!). A great Rueben and a decent burger as well, Parkway is a sandwich lover's heaven. I order the fried shrimp poboy and an order of their fried pickles, and then pile the fried pickles on my poboy. Delish! Parkway has been slinging sandwiches since 1911!
DOOKY CHASE'S RESTAURANT
Dooky Chase's Restaurant is on Orleans Avenue, just a few blocks away from Parkway Bakery. I've only been there twice, and I ordered the same thing both times: their gumbo. IT IS AMAZING! Next time, though, I will dive into their Shrimp Creole.
CENTRAL GROCERY AND DELI
If you've never had a Muffuletta from Central Grocery and Deli, then you've never had a Muffuletta. Central Grocery and Deli is where the Muffuletta originated.
We recently had reservations set for 9pm at N7 on Montegut Street in the Bywater neighborhood. After we parked, we walked right past the entrance as this place is so unassuming! N7 bills itself as a "funky French bistro with a courtyard", which gives it a very Parisian feel. There are a few tables inside, but most are out in the (mostly covered) courtyard. We had steamed mussels as an appetizer, and then followed up with the Steak au Poivre and the Grilled Gulf Shrimp. I wanted to try the Soy Sauce Creme Brulee (you only live once, right?), but they were out. Reservations are a must. This place has great food, a wonderful vibe, and an extensive wine list that features wines of the smaller vineyards of Europe.
The Compere Lapin Restaurant (that's French for "Brother Rabbit") is located in the lobby of the Old No. 77 Hotel on Tchoupitoulas at Lafayette Street in the Warehouse District, just off of Poydras. The buttermilk biscuits with honey and bacon butter melted in our mouths, the Tuna Ceviche made our taste buds dance, and the Pork Griot dish sealed our decision to return. The specialty cocktails were creative and delicious!
Toups' Meatery is on Carrollton Avenue at Dumaine Street, about a block from City Park. If you like Cajun food and if you like meat, this is the place for you. Lamb, pork, venison, rabbit, Wagyu, duck, Toups' has it all! You'll also find boudin balls, sausage, cracklin - it's obvious that the owner is a Cajun from Acadiana!
Again, if you don't see your favorite New Orleans-area restaurant on this list, please leave a comment, we're always wanting to try new places!