Over the past year, New Orleans’s dining scene has continued to grow in ways that keeps it one of the most exciting places to dine in the country. From long-awaited debut restaurants from some of NOLA’s favorite chefs to French Quarter spots refreshingly geared towards locals, 2019 brought a slew of exciting newcomers. Here are our picks for five of the biggest restaurant openings of the last 12 months.
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Making its debut on New Year’s Eve last year, Zasu is from James Beard Award-winning former Gautreau’s chef Sue Zemanick. With Zasu she finally has her own restaurant, and the city is better off for it. Approachable but upscale with the feel of a neighborhood bistro, every item on the tight, thoughtful menu expertly showcases Gulf coast gems from seafood to produce.
Jewel of the South
The next restaurant debut to make an impact came in March, from Chris Hannah, the James Beard Award-winning former bartender at Arnaud’s French 75 and partner Nick Detrich (the team was also behind our favorite bar debut of 2018, Manolito). On the quieter, more accessible outskirts of the Quarter, the tiny 19th century Creole cottage housing this beautiful cocktail bar and restaurant feels refreshingly made for locals. While the cocktails may have top billing due to its founders, the food from behind-the-scenes chef Phillip Whitmarsh is an ever-changing mix of delightfully creative small plates.
Opened in April, Gianna was the first new restaurant from Donald Link’s restaurant group since the beloved Peche, a Warehouse District neighbor. Chef Rebecca Wilcomb fully comes into her own with the delicate regional Italian menu, featuring “tortellini in brodo” (broth), meat-filled pasta dumplings in clear chicken broth served with parmesan cheese, cured meats, locally farmed produce, Gulf seafood, and more expertly-crafted fresh pastas.
Palm & Pine
Another new addition to the outskirts of the French Quarter came in July, a hard-fought first restaurant from the couple behind successful pop-up Old Portage at neighboring bar Black Penny. Palm & Pine, like Jewel of the South, stood out for its seemingly thoughtful orientation to locals and fellow service industry workers — a wise move in a city whose restaurants face an annual tourist exodus every summer. The pair serves fresh and interesting food here, with an emphasis on local produce and flavors from “the South, and South of that.”
The co-chefs and owners of the Garden District’s nationally-acclaimed Coquette opened their much-awaited second restaurant, Thalia, in August. The 37-seat restaurant on the corner of Thalia and Constance Streets in the LGD is a more casual counterpart to Coquette; kid-friendly, affordable, and built as a neighborhood gathering spot. With consistently delicious food and cocktails in a warm and hospitable setting at reasonable prices, we expect Thalia to be a favorite for years to come.
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