813 Bienville St, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA
The French 75 is attached to historic Arnaud’s Restaurant, founded in 1918 and located just off Bourbon Street. Once you get through the doors, you’ll feel miles away from the crass college-age drinkers and luridly colored beverages a few steps down the block. With its elegant tile floor, imposing wood backbar, and French cabaret music wafting throughout, the place is both refined and relaxed. Head bartender Chris Hannah is among the city’s best compounders of traditional drinks. (He scored the French 75 a 2017 James Beard Award for Outstanding Bar Program.) The list is built around the classics, with some subtle feints into modernity. Ask about his Bywater 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.
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?)
1179 Annunciation St, New Orleans, LA 70130, USA
Cake and cocktails. It’s pretty simple, really, and a surprisingly winning combo. Bakery Bar doesn’t offer terrific promise from the outside—it occupies a former corner grocery store in the shadow of a noisy overpass linking to the Crescent City Connection bridge. But step inside and you’re transported; it has all the charm you might imagine in a circa-1960 neighborhood bar. But even better: There’s a display at one end of the bar showcasing the delectable work of Debbie Does Doberge, a local maker of intricate layer cakes that are moist and bursting with flavor. Order a slice of whatever looks good, grab a seat at the bar, and ask the bartender what cocktail might pair well with your dessert.
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.
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.
321 N Peters St, New Orleans, LA 70130, USA
Owner and tiki archaeologist Jeff “Beachbum” Berry spent the better part of three decades researching early tiki drinks—he’s noted for unearthing the once-thought-lost recipe for zombies (dating back to 1934). He’s also the author of eight books about tiki drinks and culture, and he and his wife set down roots in New Orleans a few years ago to share some potable history with guests. Latitude 29 is more austere and understated than the original Polynesian pop palaces, but the drinks are every bit as elaborate. Sample faithful re-creations like that original zombie—or maybe a mai tai or a Navy Grog. He’s also got a smattering of delicious originals, crafted using nontraditional spirits like bourbon and vodka. The food provides welcome ballast—the pork ribs and dumpling burger rarely fail to satisfy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).