New Orleans is a town full of folks who start talking about dinner plans before the lunch plates are scraped clean. A word of advice: If you’re coming, come hungry, and make the most out of every meal. To help, here’s a belly-busting, 24-hour dining and drinking itinerary for exploring the French Quarter. It’s ambitious no doubt, but it also walks the line between traditional and new, Creole favorites and modern game-changers. Since you won’t be sleeping much, there will be plenty of time for grazing.
9:30 a.m. — Brennan’s
417 Royal Street
If Galatoire’s is the French Quarter’s iconic lunch restaurant, Brennan’s is the equivalent for breakfast. Brennan’s stuns for the first meal of the day, with traditional dishes like seafood gumbo, eggs Sardou, and turtle soup served alongside morning cocktails and chicory coffee in the ornate dining room. We know it’s early, but by all means, try the Bananas Foster. After breakfast, explore the Quarter via Royal Street — you’ll need the walk to stave off the urge to go back to bed.
Noon — Johnny’s Po-Boys
511 Saint Louis Street
Split a po’ boy from Johnny’s, a classic, unassuming counter-service spot with red and white checkered tablecloths and paper-wrapped po’ boys. Stop in for an early lunch and choose from over 30 kinds of sandwiches, like shrimp and oyster, roast beef, or even soft shell crab. Looking for a splurge lunch? Go the opposite route with Galatoire’s, especially if it’s Friday, for high fashion, flowing champagne, and decadent excess.
1:30 p.m. — Felix’s
739 Iberville Street
A longtime staple of New Orleans’s seafood scene, Felix’s small façade on Iberville Street is the perfect place to slurp a few oysters in the Quarter. The fluorescent sign beckons, promising some of the freshest oysters in town — raw or charbroiled — so grab a seat at the bar to enjoy a local beer while your order is shucked right in front of you.
3:30 p.m. — Café Du Monde
800 Decatur Street
An all-time favorite New Orleans experience is to order takeaway beignets from Café Du Monde and commandeer a bench a few steps away facing the Mississippi River. Wander that way in the afternoon for a sugar and cafe au lait pick-me-up and find a small crowd of like-minded visitors. The deep-fried pillows of dough come three to an order, hot from the fryer, and dusted with powdered sugar, best enjoyed with chicory-laced cafe au lait on the side.
5:30 p.m. — Manolito
508 Dumaine Street
Manolito is a Havana-inspired bar and cafe from a few veteran New Orleans restaurant and bar proprietors, and the vibe and drinks reflect the expertise behind it. It’s a tiny place with a tiny bar but rarely feels cramped — a loft-like second level offers a handful of tables, while downstairs is best for chatting with other patrons, a common occurrence. The main attraction at Manolito would have to be its cocktails, like the signature Jazz Daiquiri made with Jamaican rum, lime, agave nectar, Creme de Cacao, and coffee beans, but really, every drink on the menu is excellent. A small Cuban menu is worth your attention as well and includes a few small snacky plates so you won’t spoil your appetite for dinner.
7:30 p.m. — Saint John
1117 Decatur Street
Eric Cook’s Saint John is on the newer side when it comes to French Quarter dining, but it’s a stellar example of Creole cuisine with a contemporary twist — familiar enough to satisfy the sticklers for tradition, and modern enough to introduce diners to a new flavor or ingredient. Cook and team’s menu is informed by 18th-century Creole cookbooks, dishes like slow braised smothered turkey necks, a hot shrimp remoulade with fried green tomatoes and okra chow chow, whole fish almandine, and pork belly cassoulet. A celebratory atmosphere, wide-ranging wine list, and knowledgeable staff make it a great choice for dinner.
9:30 p.m. — Sylvain
625 Chartres Street
This charming, romantic French Quarter restaurant is known for its exceptional ambiance, great drinks, and unexpected food. A great stop for a nightcap, sit at the candlelit bar and let the bartenders guide you in your cocktail selections, or grab a table in the hidden courtyard and prepare to be enchanted. Still hungry? An always-satisfying menu includes a beloved Southern fried chicken sandwich to a Champagne and fries special, perfect for a celebration.
Late Night — Bar Tonique
820 N. Rampart Street
Before the onslaught of craft cocktails came rolling into New Orleans post-Katrina, Bar Tonique was the first to specialize in a new wave of well-made drinks, and they still do, along with an unpretentious vibe that’s made this bar a standout among the city’s best. This is where folks that sling drinks come to get drinks — always the sign of a good haunt.
Early Morning — Clover Grill
900 Bourbon Street
A great place for a snack after a night in the bars, it doesn’t get any more local than this old-school divey diner. Sit at the counter for the best view of the surrounding shenanigans and hear stories from the staff. Here you can order breakfast anytime, or try one of their famous burgers — they’re made under a grease-splattered hub cap, and yes, they’re good.