A dining guide to New Orleans
A dining guide to New Orleans
Posted Sat, 05/28/2011 - 10:57
Tapas at RioMar
Dining room at Luke
The author on the patio of Green Goddess
After Hurricane Katrina, some people wondered if New Orleans was worth rebuilding and said, “Sure the food is good, but can’t you just take the recipes and start all over in another city?” But to understand why generations of people have found dining in New Orleans such an enchanting experience, you really must understand the culture of this city. The food in its own right is amazing, to be sure. But it is not just about the food. It is also the music, the history, the architecture, the creativity, and the quirky, gracious people that make eating in New Orleans an experience unique to this magical city.
And I should know. I am married to “The Man Who Ate New Orleans.” My husband is on a quest to eat at every independently owned restaurant within the city limits. In the five years that we have lived in New Orleans, he has eaten at about 700 so far, and has just a handful left. What started as a desire to sample a wide variety of cuisine turned into an amazing journey and exploration of the fascinating culture and history of New Orleans.
Through this experience I have truly come to love and appreciate the amazing variety and creativity that makes up New Orleans cuisine. In compiling this list of restaurants to recommend, the most difficult task was deciding what to leave out.
New Orleans is truly a city of neighborhoods, so that is how I have organized our tour. I have limited the field to the seven areas closest to the convention center and most accessible by walking, streetcar, or public bus. The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau may also be helpful for obtaining local maps and other information.
Dining attire in New Orleans is generally very casual at all but the fanciest spots. For dinner, particularly with larger groups, I’d recommend calling ahead for reservations. A few places are cash-only and have been noted as such.
Price estimates are per person for an entrée and do not include appetizers, desserts, beverages, or sales tax.
$ Under $10
$$$$ $35 and up
Stretching from Magazine Street to the river, and from Race Street to Poydras. This is the area in which the convention center is located. Adjacent to the port, this district was largely old warehouses, repurposed now as funky music clubs, bars, apartments, and eateries. There are about 40 restaurants here, in a range of styles and prices.
Handmade pastas, house-cured salami, and the finest locally grown herbs make this a favorite with locals. This is rural Italian food at its very best. 870 Tchoupitoulas. 504-208-9280. L Fri., D Mon.–Sat. $$$.
Chef John Besh is a true hero in this city, aggressively investing in new ventures after Katrina when weaker souls nervously hedged their bets. His newest, located inside the astounding National World War II Museum, manages to be modern and hip, and yet still echo the 1940s design vibe. Creative offerings include a muffuletta (a local Italian sandwich) made with artichokes instead of olives. Sometimes my family will come by here at night and get the Peppermint Pattie desserts to go and eat them on the patio outside. 945 Magazine St. (enter on Andrew Higgins Drive). 504-528-1940. L, D daily. $$.
House-cured meats and killer sandwiches make this a casual favorite. 930 Tchoupitoulas. 504-588-7675. L daily, D Mon.–Sat. $$.
Chef Adolfo Garcia believes in keeping things simple, letting the excellent, fresh ingredients stand for themselves. The resulting light, Spanish-influenced, seafood-centric dishes are just so good. This is probably the city’s favorite place for tapas. 800 S. Peters. 504-525-3474. L Mon.–Fri., D Mon.–Sat. $$$.
Central Business District (“American Sector”)
The Central Business District, or CBD, is the high-rise downtown area roughly contained by Route 10, Route 90, Canal Street, and the river, with a portion of its riverside carved out for the Warehouse District. Historically this had been called the American Sector, to distinguish it from the formerly French part of town. Of the 80 restaurants in this neighborhood, here are a few gems:
When chef Donald Link won the James Beard Best Chef Award for the South in 2007, some people wondered why it took so long to honor him. One meal here should have sealed it. Gourmets swoon over things like the duck leg confit and the crab meat and watermelon gazpacho, but I love the simple gumbo, made with a dark roux. 701 St. Charles Ave. 504-524-4114. L Mon.–Fri., D Mon.–Sat. $$$.
Alsatian French dishes, with some German and Northern Italian touches. This place has a sophisticated but fun feel with antique ceiling fans, tin ceilings, and inlaid wood floors. The cochon de lait sandwich (a juicy local pork dish) and the oyster salad with avocado just might convince you to move to New Orleans. 333 St. Charles Ave. 504-378-2840. B, L, D daily. $$$.