3 Meals: Where to eat in New Orleans
To say that New Orleans is an eater’s kind of town is a huge understatement. With a long history as a cultural melting pot French,Spanish and German influences mixed with Afro-Caribbean elements to create a cuisine that is wholly unique to New Orleans. This is the city that invented the cocktail (thank you by the way) and where brunch is a spectator sport. Tradition is rooted strongly here with several restaurants being in operation for over a century but the past few years have also seen a new breed of chef stretching New Orleans’ culinary boundaries with delicious result. Grab your fork, these are my picks of where to eat in New Orleans.
Beignets at Cafe du Monde is a must for any visit to New Orleans. The original cafe,located near the French Market, has been operating since 1862 and is known for two things – beignets (square doughnuts covered in powdered sugar), and coffee laced with chicory (served black or au lait). Lines can be long in the morning but you can get your beignet fix to go. A better bet is to head to Cafe du Monde in the afternoon or evening, grab a table and enjoy your bites of fried, airy deliciousness with a view of Jackson Square.
Stanley, located near the St. Louis Cathedral, serves up elevated American and Creole comfort food. Since the good times in New Orleans roll long into the night Stanley offers its signature breakfast menu all day.
The Breaux Bridge Benedict- french bread topped with housemade boudin, gooey American cheese (it works, trust me on this) and 2 perfectly poached eggs. I can’t think of a better way to wake up in New Orleans.
Vacherie, tucked within the Hotel St. Marie, celebrates Creole cuisine with a Franco-German influence. They also offer a mighty fine breakfast. Andouille hash, crawfish fritatta and johnnycakes with Steen’s cane syrup are your best bets here to help recover from the previous night’s festivities. They also serve what may be one of New Orleans’ most impressive biscuits.
This New Orleans’ institution has recently reopened after a 20 million dollar renovation and is better than ever. Under the helm of executive chef Slade Rushing smartly dressed servers scuttle about the watermelon hued dining rooms presenting classics like creamy turtle soup with spinach finished with a touch of sherry or one of the menus delicious newcomers (BBQ lobster anyone?). Breakfast here is a boozy multicourse affair that often starts with a bloody Mary or two and ends with dessert, usually their decadent praline-studded bread pudding . I also have a personal food rule that if a restaurant has something that comes to the table on fire I have to order it making Brennan’s iconic bananas foster a must for me.
Exposed brick, dark wood and plenty of natural light beget the handsome space at Coquette, which occupies an unassuming corner on Magazine Street in the tony Garden District. Chef Michael Stoltzfus marries his Eastern Shore sensibilities (crab cake and soft shell crabs are frequently featured)with local ingredients to create an ever changing menu. The $25 3 course brunch is quite possibly one of the best deals to be had in New Orleans. Start your brunch with a scratch made bloody mary or a craft soda (pineapple jalepeno has just the right kick) along with first course of crisp greens lightly featuring parmesan, bottarga and gourgere croutons (which are a brilliant idea) or warm bowl of spicy gumbo. I’m never one to pass up a good egg dish so a traditional breakfast plate of scrambled eggs with bacon and creamy Anson Mill grits won out over the fried catfish. Warmly spiced gingerbread donuts with pumpkin ice cream pair perfectly with an espresso while lazing away the rest of your Sunday afternoon. Equal parts French bistro and American farm-to-table, Coquette is 100% delicious.
No sandwich in New Orleans is more iconic than the classic po’boy and there is no better place to get your fix than Johnny’s. Serving their signature sandwiches since 1950 you can choose from a wide variety of fillings ranging from chicken and roast beef to softshell crab and alligator sausage. Johnny’s is a no frills kind of place and you’ll find everyone from bankers to musicians and travelers waiting in line. Go classic and get the fried oyster po’boy and don’t forget to add a cup of their seafood gumbo.
Perhaps the most well known restaurant in New Orleans, Commander’s Palace has stood watch on the corner of Washington Avenue and Coliseum Street since 1880. Long recognized as the grande dame of “haute Creole” cuisine Commander’s Palace does not rest on its laurels with offerings like chicory coffee laquered quail and the “Queen of all desserts” bread pudding souffle finished table side. The 3 course prix fixe lunch along with the Commander’s 25-cent martinis continue to be one of the best values in town.
New Orleans may have previously been known as the “City of 1000 restaurants and one menu” but the past few years have seen a new wave of chefs unafraid to push New Orleans’ culinary limits. At the forefront is chef Philip Lopez who pioneers with a modernist take on local flavors at his restaurants Root, Square Root and Root Squared.Serious foodies clamor for one of the 16 chairs at twice nightly seatings for a 9-15 course tasting menu with full view of the chef and his team. The food here is refined and technical but also has a bit of whimsy. Take the Southern Picnic- fried chicken cotton candy highlighted with mustard seeds and fried okra.
Looking for something a bit more casual?
Head upstairs to Root Squared for craft cocktails and house cured charcuterie. The staff is inviting and knowledgeable and the food is no less spectacular. In fact the the foie gras terrine with grapefruit-shallot jam is still on my mind.
If Commander’s Palace is the grande dame of New Orleans then SoBou is its hip jet setting younger sister. Located the W Hotel’s French Quarter outpost the sleek modern space attracts lovers of craft cocktails and bourbon (aficionados can get a sip of the elusive Pappy VanWinkle here). Arrive a bit early for happy hour and share a bunch of Louisiana street food inspired small plates with a group of friends. A bowl of smoked chicken gumbo over creamy mashed potatoes is warm and comforting while the tuna cones- miniature tomato waffle cones filled with sashimi grade tuna topped with pineapple ceviche and avocado-basil ice cream- is sure to bring a smile to your face.
Cafe Amelie, tucked away off Royal Street, may be home to the French Quarter’s prettiest courtyard. The food here is French inspired and fresh but still uniquely New Orleans. The roast chicken here is simply but perfectly prepared and the andouille maque choux that accompanies the succulent pork chop is highly addictive.
What are some of your favorite eats in New Orleans?
I was graciously hosted by The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau but as always all opinions are my own. For more information please visit their website at www.neworleanscvb.com or on Facebook(New Orleans), Twitter (@NewOrleans) and Instagram (NewOrleansCVB).