Today we announce the seventh annual Eater Awards, celebrating the chefs and restaurants that truly made an impact in 2016. We recognize New Orleans best new restaurants, bars, and the chefs and designers that have taken the food world by storm. Read on to learn more about this year's best of the best.
In previous years, Eater readers narrowed down the finalists, with the editorial board ultimately choosing the winners. This year, Eater is recognizing both a public vote winner and an editor's choice for each category. Find Eater's National winners here.
Chef of the Year
Lisa White & Kelly Fields
Southern charmer Willa Jean has been open for about a full year now in the Warehouse District and it's only getting better thanks to the creative vision of its masterminds Kelly Fields and Lisa White. The restaurant is ever-evolving with desserts that delve into intriguing and complex flavors and textures, baked goods that make for incredible take-out snacking at any time of the day, and a bar program— coffee cocktails, frozen rose— that's a major draw. But that's just lagniappe. Willa Jean is named for Fields' grandmother and her menu of all things Southern comfort food—artichoke cheese dip, corn and crab fritters, chicken pot pie— gets a lending hand from White's impeccable baking of all things cornbread and biscuits. It's an incredible transition for the duo who put the Besh Group's pastry game on the map and they'll no doubt continue to push boundaries for the empire in years ahead.
Lisa White & Kelly Fields
Nominees: Lisa White & Kelly Fields, Susan Spicer (Rosedale), Mason Hereford (Turkey And The Wolf), Dan Esses (Dryades Public Market, Three Muses), Phillip Lopez (Part & Parcel, upcoming Petit Lion)
Restaurant of the Year
The Ace Hotel's chic art deco osteria Josephine Estelle sits at the forefront of a new wave of exceptional eateries in the Warehouse District, with a menu that excels at seasonal Italian dishes with a Southern bent— from light as air parmesan soufflé to snapper crudo with intriguing housemade pastas and a solid charcuterie program from Memphis-based chefs Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman, who are known for their craft butcher shop back in Tennessee. In a year that saw numerous restaurant openings, Josephine Estelle edges out the competition with a keen eye for style, a gracious staff, consistent kitchen, and a seamless operation during breakfast, lunch and dinner, not too mention some of the best new desserts in town as well.
This modern bistro and wine hub managed to carve out a niche for itself on a street (Freret) that seems to already offer a restaurant for practically every occasion. Casual and sleek, with vegetarian options, and an extremely knowledgable staff, this is a spot that seems to reflect where New Orleans is right now in terms of dining out— It's upscale, but not stuffy; Innovative, but not intimidating; local, but not too heavy on the butter. For locals, it's a new best bet for grabbing wine or a cocktail and a lighter meal at lunch, brunch, happy hour or dinner.
Nominees: Josephine Estelle, Bar Frances, Cavan, N7, Caribbean Room
Design Of The Year
Part of a $10 million overhaul of the Garden District landmark Pontchartrain Hotel, this jackets-required destination restaurant from the Besh Group features a main dining room filled with bird prints and banana leaves, a swanky red room, and a lounge filled with velvet sofas and a portrait of Lil Wayne. It's Southern nostalgia with a hint of irreverence from AJ Capital, a sentiment also captured in chef Chris Lusk's cooking.
Nominees: Caribbean Room, Josephine Estelle, N7, Trinity, Meril
Bar of the Year
A solid menu of pisco drinks downstairs and a blender bar on the deck give the small CBD hotel Catahoula major after-dinner-destination appeal. The two bars are home to one of the strongest teams of bartenders in town— headed by pisco whiz Nathan Dalton— and that wealth of talent means you'll find some of the best signature cocktails the city has seen in some time, with drinks that range from riffs on classics, to whimsical concoctions like The Coolest Kid In Class (a seasonal sipper served in a Capri Sun-like pouch), to social libations served in watermelons, and drinks that feature taste-altering berries and mind-numbing Amazonian flowers. It's fun, but still maintains a low key vibe perfect for a date night or an evening out with friends.
This gorgeous Mid City bar, headed by bartender Wyatt Lowrey, features an array of classic and modern cocktails, served in the amber glow of a former church's stained glass windows. It's a cool spot for winding down after work, and also features a late night happy hour and one of the strongest beer menus in town, with an array of bombers available.
Nominees: Catahoula, Vessel, Revel, Bakery Bar, Hot Tin
Hottest Restaurant Of The Year
No shock here. This sandwich and cocktail hub from former Coquette sous Mason Hereford and drinks whiz Lauren Holton has put pretty much every other restaurant to shame since opening in August, with a rotating menu of Instagram-worth stoner snacks, Monday night pasta bowl specials, and a knack for hilarious nostalgia— football games are shown via a television on an av cart, drinks come in a plethora of throwback ET, Care Bear and Disney glassware. Needless to say, Turkey And The Wolf has wrangled quite a cult following with good vibes and humor, but it's the incredible sandwiches that have managed to garner a spotlight in one of America's best lunch towns.
Turkey And The Wolf
Nominees: Turkey And The Wolf, Toups South, Meril, Blue Oak BBQ, Seaworthy