The Best Restaurants in New Orleans
With options ranging from fine French cuisine served in white-cloth dining rooms to local joints dishing out classic muffulettas or po’boys, and pouring perfect Sazeracs, New Orleans offers your mouth the makings of a great vacation.
1403 Washington Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130, USA
Chef Tory McPhail was recently named James Beard’s Best Chef South and his forward-looking take on Creole classics keeps this New Orleans institution, which has launched the careers of the likes of Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse, current. Still, you can’t go wrong with classics like the turtle soup, gumbo, and bread pudding souffle. On Saturday and Sundays, there’s more pomp than usual, including a jazz trio that makes its way from table to table, but weekday lunches are nearly as iconic and, thanks to 25-cent martinis, a good reason to have a midday cocktail.
133 N Carrollton Ave, New Orleans, LA 70119, USA
Revel is easy to overlook—it’s on a busy stretch of Carrolton Avenue (just off the Canal Streetcar Line) amid a slew of other neighborhood restaurants. But it’s the only one here helmed by Chris McMillian, among the nation’s most prominent bartender-historians. He knows the history and lore of New Orleans drinks better than anyone, and is pretty conversant with cocktails from, well, just about anywhere. The drinks list here is solid, but ask McMillian what he’s been enjoying whipping up lately, and order one of those. And come hungry—the kitchen, manned by his son-in-law, serves up great bistro fare.
4510 Dryades St, New Orleans, LA 70115, USA
Charlie’s is old-school New Orleans writ large. It’s one of a handful of surviving notable neighborhood steak houses (it’s not far from where the original Ruth’s Chris was also once a neighborhood spot), a no-frills joint with faux-wood paneling on the walls and no menus to hand out. The waiters ask you what size you want, and also if you’d like to start with an order of fried onions. (The correct answer is yes.) Pro tip: Kick off your evening an hour earlier and a couple blocks away at Pascal’s Manale with a dozen or two bivalves at the marble oyster bar of a revered Italian-Creole “red gravy” spot.
417 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130, USA
Owen Brennan founded a fine-dining restaurant empire in 1946, when the proprietor of Arnaud’s taunted him by saying that no Irishman could succeed with anything other than a hamburger joint. Brennan got his revenge at this French-and-Creole restaurant located in a sprawling pink 1795 Spanish-era structure that’s become iconic. After some slouching in recent years, Brennan’s is back on culinary maps following a change in ownership (from one branch of Brennan descendants to another). Pro tip: It’s more famous for breakfast than dinner. Among the more noted dishes is eggs Hussarde, involving poached eggs and Canadian bacon served with both Marchand de Vin and hollandaise sauces.
1732 St Charles Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130, USA
Every streetcar ride should take you to a neighborhood beer joint. So this makes an excellent spot to hop off the St. Charles Streetcar. Owner Polly Watts has carved out a name for this place with her terrific selection of craft beers, many of them extremely limited releases. As a bonus, there’s an equally impressive whiskey-by-the-glass collection. The downstairs, where locals hang and shoot pool, offers an ideal environment for starting a conversation. (Sample question: “Hey, you know of any good bars for music tonight?”) If you’d like somewhere quieter to chat while marveling over an obscure kolsch, clomp up the narrow wooden stairs to the second floor, and see if you can wangle a seat on the balcony.
1201 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70116, USA
Verti Marte is at heart a cramped, bare-bones deli. But any effort the owners have failed to expend on stocking the shelves or sprucing up the decor they’ve put into making excellent food. Head to the small counter in the back and make your request; while your sandwich is being assembled, forage for chips or soda. Verti Marte is known for its oversize po’boy sandwiches (shrimp, dressed, is among the more popular), along with muffulettas and tasty side dishes, like smothered cabbage and Brussels-sprout salad. Still hungry? Nobody has gone wrong by ordering the bread pudding and pecan pie.
4801 Tchoupitoulas St, New Orleans, LA 70115, USA
Hansen’s was started in 1939 by Ernest Hansen, who engineered a loud, homemade machine that shaves the ice to a fineness that many argue is unmatched across the city. (Oh, and they will argue.) The shop is still run with considerable care and attention by Ernest’s granddaughter, Ashley. Snowballs—cups of thinly shaved ice topped with brightly colored sweet flavorings—are a minor obsession in New Orleans. While widely available, snowballs, as well as the culture that surrounds them, seem more advanced at Hansen’s. The selection of flavors is vast, and true connoisseurs mix and match flavors, adding two or three to an order to get just the right balance. (Almond-lime? Orange-coconut?)
535 Tchoupitoulas St, New Orleans, LA 70130, USA
Nina Compton, a native of Saint Lucia in the Caribbean, came to New Orleans a few years ago to compete in the Top Chef television series. She didn’t win the culinary slugfest, but New Orleans came out ahead—a short time later she returned to set down roots by opening Compère Lapin, a charming, brick-accented restaurant in a hotel that’s a reasonable stroll from the French Quarter. It’s good to get there early to grab a drink at the bar, which treats its libations with the same seriousness as the kitchen does its food. (A frozen drink… with chartreuse.) The dishes are alive with creative Caribbean flavors—among the more memorable plates are the seafood pepper pot, black drum, and curried goat.
2381 St Claude Ave, New Orleans, LA 70117, USA
This late-19th-century city-owned seafood market, which was by and large abandoned after Hurricane Katrina, was reborn as an upscale food hall several years ago. The dilapidated structure was spruced up and the navelike interior painted an austere, modern white. Then a dozen or so food vendors moved in, serving as a sort of incubator for those with an idea but no desire to go the food-truck route. It’s a great place to swing by for lunch or a casual dinner—you can get craft cocktails and spend some time at the oyster bar, then browse the other offerings, which include crab mac and cheese at Fritai and alligator-sausage hash at Elysian Seafood.
3025 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115, USA
Sucré opened a couple of years after Katrina swept through a bustling stretch of Magazine Street not far from the Garden District. It quickly established itself as the city’s premier destination for chocolates, macarons, gelato, and, well… basically anything with sugar. The original shop is bright and modern rather than cluttered and fussy, and the intricately decorated confections are neatly housed in chilled cases, like jewels in a vitrine. But there’s nothing precious about the tastes here—it’s all big, bold flavors. If you’re here around Mardi Gras season, ask about the seasonal king cake, all lustrous and gilded. Sucré also recently opened a French Quarter outpost with an upstairs tearoom.
923 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116, USA
The fragrant, pleasingly cluttered Central Grocery is a holdover from an era when Italian-run groceries occupied storefronts throughout the city. This timeworn shop across from the French Market still boasts an old-world charm, filled with tall shelves crowded with imported goods and various whatnots, mostly Italian. But that’s not why you’ll see lines out the doors. The crowds are clamoring for muffulettas, classic New Orleans sandwiches that originated here about a century ago. (Slogan: “Imitated by many, but never duplicated.”) A muffuletta comes on a type of round, flattish loaf (not unlike a focaccia) that originated in Sicily. The details may vary, but it typically includes cured meats (capicola, salami) and cheese (provolone). What distinguishes it from a hubcap-shaped hoagie is the topping—a tangy marinated-olive salad. Know this: You don’t need to order a whole one; a quarter-sandwich is still plenty filling for one person.
930 Tchoupitoulas Street
Cochon is the brainchild of chefs Donald Link (also of Herbsaint and Pêche Seafood Grill) and Stephen Stryjewski, who have taken Cajun-style cooking out of the comic books and given it an updated, serious sensibility. You’ll find pretty much every part of the pig on their menu, and every bit of it cooked with panache, like Louisiana Cochon (extremely tender, long-cooked pork) served with turnips, cabbage, and crackling skins. Or try the fried alligator with chili aioli. This is a great restaurant for dining with a small group, so you can pass and share—the flavors always pop on the first bite, and it’s a treat to sample this dish and that, one after the other.
811 Conti Street
Po’boys are on just about every New Orleans visitor’s list of must-eats. They’re a longtime local favorite—built on long, thin-crusted bread that is satisfyingly audible on first bite. Killer Poboys embraces tradition and then adds to it, with inventive fillings that go beyond the traditional roast-beef-and-fried-oyster, like rum-glazed pork belly with lime coleslaw, or roasted sweet potato with a black-eyed-peas-and-pecan spread. Two locations are around the corner from one another in the French Quarter; one of them operates in the back of the Erin Rose bar. If it’s not too busy, order your sandwich there and enjoy it with a frozen Irish coffee.
617 Piety St, New Orleans, LA 70117, USA
Every city worth its salt has at least one great pizza joint. So why go out of your way to visit this one? Three reasons: (1) the pizza, (2) the neighborhood, and (3) the pizza. The eatery started as a delivery pop-up, with thin-crust pies made in a shared kitchen, and its hours and phone number shared among Bywater residents like state secrets. The name proved as accurate as it was uncreative; demand was vast, and the place finally landed its own spot. Pizza Delicious doesn’t attempt to be cute or overly wry with toppings, but it sets itself apart with fresh ingredients and an eye to perfection. Pro tip: Get a pie to go and head over the arching footbridge at the end of the block and enjoy dinner at Crescent Park with its waterfront view.
800 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116, USA
Café Du Monde is always open; it’s the clientele that changes—from visiting families and local pensioners early in the morning, to couples in the evening, to Bourbon Street refugees looking for coffee and ballast in the night’s thinnest hours. This huge coffee stop is a rarity—a tourist trap that locals actually love (although they will rarely wait when lines are long). It’s been around for more than a century, and basically serves two items: beignets and café au lait. The beignets are similar to Spanish buñuelos, fried fritters of dough, and are one of those French traditions that’s survived here more durably than in France. While probably not on anyone’s diet list—they come piled with powdered sugar—they’re surprisingly light, and an order (which equals three beignets) disappears with unusual haste.
611 O'Keefe Ave, New Orleans, LA 70113, USA
Pastry chef Kelly Fields does complicated things with simple ingredients at her modern bakery and eatery. It’s part of the restaurant group overseen by local star chef John Besh, so it’s no surprise that it’s drawn nods from the James Beard Foundation, among others, for its delectable biscuits, corn bread, and more-involved dishes like crawfish and grits. Located in the sleek new district of mid-rise condos and apartments a couple blocks north of Lafayette Square, Willa Jean makes a great spot for a lazy breakfast or brunch—reservations are all but essential on weekends. It’s local knowledge that it’s also open for dinner and that the quality at that time of day remains high, with varied delicious dishes like braised lamb pasta and beer-can chicken (plus, it’s easier to get in).
2401 St Ann St, New Orleans, LA 70119, USA
“Well, we’ll see about that!” loudly harrumphs an endless of stream of out-of-town customers, eager to challenge the claim that Willie Mae’s makes “the world’s best fried chicken.” They’re usually much quieter when they depart—invariably cowed into silence by the spicy, armor-plated crust surrounding strikingly moist meat. Not a chicken lover? You can also dig into pork chops, veal, or catfish at this iconic (if out-of-the-way) neighborhood institution in Treme, a five-minute taxi ride out of the French Quarter. Willie Mae herself is no longer at the helm, but her granddaughter has taken over and seems to guard its reputation as tightly as she does the family chicken recipe.
144 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70130, USA
Bourbon House is one of New Orleans’ best restaurants, serving fresh seafood (oysters topped with caviar!) and dishes made with local ingredients. In fact, over 70% of ingredients are sourced within 150 miles. Moreover, Bourbon House is passionate about fresh seafood and if something isn’t in season you won’t see it on the menu. For dessert, try their chocolate chunk bread pudding with bourbon sauce or a bourbon milk punch made with milk, gelato, nutmeg and bourbon. Bourbon is, unsurprisingly, a specialty: The restaurant offers over 100 different bourbons. With picture windows looking out on Bourbon Street, it’s also a great place to people watch.
307 Exchange Pl, New Orleans, LA 70130, USA
How to choose between sweet potato biscuits, truffle grits, and the free-range lamb meatloaf sandwich? Try them all! (Just kidding) As a solo diner, I skipped the sweet potato biscuits (sadly). The grits and sandwich looked and tasted like perfection, to the point where two passersby commented how delicious the sandwich looked and ended up eating there. Outdoor seating in a petite pedestrian mall makes for lovely ambience as well. No loud motorcycles here!
3218 Dauphine St, New Orleans, LA 70117, USA
Tattooed, yoga mat-toting hipsters frequent this Bywater haunt for its locally roasted coffee, kale salads, and just-pressed juices. And on select weekday nights, the space plays host to a pop-up called Twilight Tacos. The succinct menu includes four different tacos (raisin thyme chicken with mole, purslane, and queso fresco, perhaps, or braised pumpkin, chard, and poblano salsa with toasted pepitas), plus rice and beans, chips and salsa. It’s BYOB, but the house lemonade and limeade are made for mixing, as are craft syrups like pineapple-jalapeno.