As is the tradition at Eater, we're rounding up the year with a survey of friends, industry types, bloggers and others to get a feel for the highlights and lowlights of the last year in eating in New Orleans. This morning we talked about Top Restaurant Standbys; now it's time for Favorite Newcomers, related to you here in no particular order.
Midway Pizza. [Photo: yelp / Kelley M.]
Question: What were your favorite newcomers of 2011?
Brett Michael Dykes, aka Cajun Boy at Uproxx: I had a love/hate relationship with Ste. Marie initially, but it's become one of the places I frequent the most. The space is beautiful, the "scenery" is usually quite nice ? I go there after every Saints home game to eat and drink. Also, I'm a sucker for simple bowl of French onion soup done right, and I think theirs is excellent.
Emily Smith, blogger, Fleurdelicious: 2011 was a rather uneventful year for fine dining in New Orleans, so I guess my favorite newcomer would have to be The Company Burger. And even though it's not technically a restaurant, I think the world is a happier place now that Geaux Plates is in it.
Rene Louapre, Blackened Out: All the places I really liked when they opened, have had monumental changes. Most opened or transitioned late 2010. Dominque's is no more, Pete Vasquez adventure at Mimi's was short lived. But the one restaurant I have really loved that opened in 2011 is High Hat. And I was pleasantly surprised by Midway Pizza. I am very intrigued to see where Root will go.
Lauren Bierbaum, Associate Director, Partnership for Youth Development: The entire Freret corridor.
Andrew Marin, Twitter personality: Matt Murphy's Irish House is delicious despite being overpriced. Cafe Abyssinia brought some nice, if inconsistent, ethnic variety to the city. But hey, it's only the first year for both. Company Burger. Mmm, Company Burger.
Lorin Gaudin, New Orleans Food Goddess: Root; Cafe Abyssinia; all the new burger and pizza places; all the pop-ups - they're so much fun.
Fran Merkley, Events Manager, Pat O'Brien's: The Company Burger, Blue Dot Donuts.
Paul Tuennerman, aka Mr. Cocktail, Tales of the Cocktail: Okay, now that you've painted me into a corner I have to come clean. In 2011, my "Favorite New Restaurant" would have to be Sylvain. Those folks are doing amazing things both in the Kitchen and behind the Bar. My only complaint; it is tough to decide between the tree-covered courtyard or a seat at the bar.
Colleen Rush, editor, NewOrleans.com: You can't think "new" in New Orleans restaurants without flogging what's happening on Freret Street. [...] The one place that knocked it out of the park from Day 1: The Company Burger. Say what you want about the burger trend at long last hitting New Orleans (and maybe at the speed of overkill), but that burger is obscene.
Noodles & Pie pretty much rocked my world, but it's also the perfect example of how pop-up restaurants are ruining the world of food. They giveth, and then they taketh away. It hurts my food nerd feelings. (See: MVBurger.)
I know it's way too early to say this about a place that's only been open a few weeks, but Root had me at "Chef Phillip Lopez." I wouldn't say it's a "favorite" (again, too early), but I can say it's one of the most interesting new restaurants to open in 2011. I saw glimmers in Rambla when he was in the kitchen, but now that he's in his own space, it looks like Lopez has more room to noodle around with the menu, and I like the eclectic, ethnic, but-still-kinda-local flavor of it.
Randy Fertel, author, The Gorilla Man and the Empress of Steak: Cowbell (new to me)
Alexander Hancock, editor, Eater NOLA: Company Burger, full-stop.
Feel free to add your own favorite standbys in the comments.