The greatest thing about New Orleans’s iconic food culture might just be how welcoming it is to the uninitiated. There’s no need to be intimidated when entering the land of gumbo, po' boys, and beignets, rather the challenging part is whittling down the options in order to taste the very best. Let this guide help cut through the noise — and hotel promotions — to get straight to the good stuff.
Welcome to the Big Easy
When it comes to specialties of the city, among its vast food iconography are the famous dishes invented by New Orleans restaurants, like oysters Rockefeller at Antoine’s, Brennan’s coming up with bananas Foster, or the gumbo z’herbes at Dooky Chase. And like so much else from New Orleans, the stories behind their inventions only serve to bolster their icon status. Wondering what classic dishes and drinks to try where? Start with a shrimp po’ boy at Domilise’s, beignets at Cafe du Monde, Creole gumbo at Dooky Chase, oysters at Casamento’s, barbecue shrimp at Pascal’s Manale, a French 75 at the French 75 Bar, and a sazerac at the Carousel Bar.
Where to Start on Eater New Orleans's Key Maps
Eater New Orleans maintains frequently updated guides to everything from where to find sno-balls to specific dishes like yak-a-mein — an iconic New Orleans noodle soup and hangover cure. Here, Eater narrows the field to highlight some of the very best destinations in the area.
Eater New Orleans’s list of standouts includes a number of exceptional restaurants in most of the city’s neighborhoods. For a day’s worth of knockout dining, start with breakfast at Brennan’s (fancy) or Molly’s Rise and Shine (casual); a lunch of fried chicken and red beans at Dooky Chase’s; and dinner at Brigsten’s for the best of modern Creole cuisine in a charming cottage on the Riverbend; Mosquito Supper Club for an exploration of Louisiana cuisine in a peaceful setting; or Bar Brine for something a bit funkier (and rarer, vegetarian-friendly). Serigne Mbaye’s Dakar NOLA, now a year old, is one of New Orleans’s most celebrated restaurants for connecting Senegambia and New Orleans through food, and Mamou is a French Quarter standout showcasing the best in modern French cuisine.
Hottest Restaurants and Bars
Among the hottest of the hot right now is LUFU NOLA, a modern Indian pop-up-turned-restaurant in the CBD. Hungry Eyes is an ’80s-themed dinner and drinks restaurant from the team behind breakfast and brunch destinations Molly’s Rise and Shine and Turkey and the Wolf; and Sun Chong in the French Quarter, a design-driven French Quarter stunner from restaurateur Larry Morrow continues to captivate. Francolini’s is serving some of the best new sandwiches to hit New Orleans since the invention of the po’ boy, and the reopening of Emeril’s, Emeril Lagasse’s flagship restaurant, and its new wine bar is big news. Wondering where to drink right now? Fives is an elegant new cocktail and oyster bar in the French Quarter that has quickly become one of the city’s top destinations, and Justini’s in New Orleans’s Bywater neighborhood is a beautiful new bar that pays homage to the city’s legendary Black woman bar founders.
Iconic Dishes and Restaurants
Perhaps more than anywhere else, New Orleans is a city filled with iconic dishes. Po’ boys, red beans and rice, sno-balls, beignets, and gumbo help define the city; many are also central to a restaurant’s identity and history, like turtle soup at Commander’s or muffulettas at Central Grocery. Here’s a guide to the city’s most iconic dishes and where to get them, and here are the 25 classic restaurants we think every New Orleanian needs to experience at some point. For a further taste of New Orleans history, have a meal at one of these classic Creole restaurants.
Enjoy cocktails at the handsome Hermes bar at Antoine’s restaurant or at Arnaud’s James Beard Award-winning French 75, both longtime classics on Eater’s essential bars map. To get a feel for neighborhood bars, look no further than Kermit Ruffins’s Mother-in-Law Lounge, R Bar in the Marigny, or Pal’s Lounge in Mid City. As for the hottest spots to imbibe? Try cocktail havens like Jewel of the South, Manolito, or Fives in the French Quarter, Columns on St. Charles Avenue for a classic Southern porch setting, or Cure in Uptown to experience one of New Orleans’s original craft cocktail destinations. In the mood for something tropical? Try Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 or Cane & Table. Finally, if dive bars are more your speed, this thorough guide to New Orleans’s essential dive bars guide is your friend.
Brunch was popularized here in New Orleans at Madame Begue’s, when it was called “second breakfast” and served as a nightcap for dock workers. Commander’s Palace invented the jazz brunch — and it’s still very worth a visit. Consider a classic Creole brunch at Saint John in the French Quarter, or a Carribean-inspired meal at Compère Lapin. For something a bit different, there are inventive menus being served at newer destinations like Mister Mao, Palm and Pine, and 14 Parishes. Here is a complete guide to the hottest new spots for brunch, and for the booziest bottomless brunch deals in town, see this guide.
Don’t get brunch spots confused with New Orleans’s essential breakfast restaurants. For an extravagant meal complete with bananas Foster flambéed tableside, look no further than Brennan’s. Find funky and fun settings for breakfast at Molly’s Rise and Shine in the Garden District, both locations, or Bearcat, Alma Cafe in Bywater, and Two Chicks Cafe downtown. For a classic greasy spoon breakfast, the famed Camellia Grill Uptown on the beautiful St. Charles Avenue, Stanley in the French Quarter, or Slim Goodies Diner on Magazine Street all knock it out of the park.
It’s been said that New Orleans is America’s finest lunch town, and locals take the midday meal seriously. From po' boys and muffulettas to three-martini lunches, it is not a meal to skip when visiting. For the ultimate New Orleans lunch experience, head to Galatoire’s, Commander’s Palace, (Gentlemen: Bring your jackets) or Dooky Chase’s.
For casual, quicker options, Parkway Bakery and Tavern is a favorite for roast beef or fried shrimp po' boys, and it sits right next to Bayou St. John for a lovely post-lunch stroll. If you’re in the Quarter, go with Johnny’s Po-Boys, or while Central Grocery remains closed, a muffuletta from Napoleon House (with a Pimm’s Cup to wash it down). To try some of the city’s best sandwiches that aren’t po’ boys, Francolini’s, Stein’s Deli, Cochon Butcher, and Turkey and the Wolf — get the collard green melt — are the best of the best. Not a sandwich fan? Go another route at one of the city’s favorite spots for pho, Lilly’s Cafe on Magazine Street, or Toups Meatery for a taste of Cajun in Mid City, or Lil’ Dizzy’s for fried chicken and sides in Treme. For more lunch suggestions, check out Eater’s complete guide to New Orleans’s essential lunch restaurants.
Head to Casamento’s, Pascal’s Manale, or Seafood Sally’s for big, wild Gulf of Mexico oysters and a lively atmosphere. To taste the farmed oysters, smaller and often more consistent and sweeter in flavor, head over to Seaworthy in the Ace Hotel (it’s open late), Donald Link’s seafood mecca Pêche, or Warehouse District hotspot Sidecar Patio and Oyster Bar, which also has one of the city’s best courtyard dining areas. To find a good deal on oysters every day of the week, here is a guide to the best oyster specials in New Orleans right now.
Vegan, Vegetarian, and Gluten-Free Dining
Start with Sweet Soulfood, a vegan soul food spot with mac and cheese, stuffed bell peppers, and many of the other New Orleans soul food classics. Meals from the Heart is a lovely option in the French Quarter, I-tal Garden is making a splash on Claiborne Avenue, and Kindred in Uptown serves excellent fresh fruit daiquiris in addition to delicious vegan cuisine. Here are complete maps of spots for vegan or gluten-free dining.
New Orleans is the birthplace of a number of sweet treats — bananas Foster, as mentioned, sno-balls, pralines, beignets — the list goes on. Beloved dessert shops like Angelo Brocato and the trendy Sucre are joined by a bevy of restaurants known for their versions of bread pudding, Ponchatoula strawberry shortcake, and sweet potato pie — find those here. Eater maps the best bread pudding in town here, and to cool off with a sno-ball from spring through fall, let this be your guide.
New Orleans Food Neighborhoods To Know
These are the key areas of the city every self-proclaimed food person needs to get acquainted with — complete with what to eat and drink in each.
The French Quarter
The oldest and the most famous section of New Orleans, the French Quarter or Vieux Carre is home to Bourbon Street; throngs of tourists; residents (the French Quarter is first and foremost a neighborhood); and some of the most iconic dining and drinking experiences in New Orleans. These run the gamut from boozy go-cups of frozen Irish coffee at Molly’s at the Market and purple drinks at Lafitte’s to the hip offerings of Sylvain and classic courtyard dining at Bayona. In the Quarter to experience the classics? Make a reservation at Antoine’s, Arnaud’s, Brennan’s, or Cafe Sbisa.
Here are full guides to great French Quarter bars, incredible restaurants, and purely iconic dining experiences. Only have 24 hours to pack in all the best dining and drinking in the French Quarter? Let this be your guide.
Treme is the oldest African-American neighborhood in the United States and is considered by many to be ground zero for New Orleans culture — with Mardi Gras Indians, second lines, and tons of good music. Head over to Kermit Ruffin’s Mother-in-Law Lounge or the Candlelight Lounge for a night of music. Grab breakfast at Buttermilk Drop Bakery and plan to have lunch at Dooky Chase’s, where some of the city’s most influential cooking can be had. Have dinner at Fritai, Charly Pierre’s Haitian hotspot, or Gabrielle, an intimate neighborhood destination for upscale Creole cooking.
The Lower Garden District, stretching from St. Charles Avenue to the river, and Jackson Avenue to the Expressway, is home to a great number of new restaurants and bars. Longtime favorites include HiVolt for coffee, Surrey’s for breakfast, and Lilly’s for pho. The LGD is also home to some of the best sandwiches in the city from nationally-lauded Turkey and the Wolf and dinner destinations like Lengua Madre, the modern Mexican tasting menu from Ana Castro. Feeling nostalgic? Try Mr. John’s, a classic Italian steakhouse with an old-school feel. Barrel Proof and Bakery Bar are great for after-dinner drinks; the former is a dark, edgy bourbon haven, and the latter is a charming corner hideaway for dessert and a nightcap. Wine lovers are flocking to the moody and oh-so-sultry Tell Me Bar.
The Garden District
The Garden District, with grand homes surrounded by lush landscaping on oak tree-lined streets, stuns with its opulence. Even the cemeteries seem lavish, especially Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, which sits across the street in the shadow of Commander’s Palace restaurant behind black iron gates. The food of the Garden District follows suit, like the smart Coquette. 1920s-era oyster bar Casamento’s, covered in tile from the floor to the ceiling, and Joey K’s, best for fried seafood, red beans and rice, and jambalaya, offer more of a casual, neighborhood feel.
Bywater has become a destination for dining and drinking in the last decade or so, a credit to many creative minds who have set up shop in this downriver neighborhood. For a quintessential New Orleans corner store experience, head to Frady’s for po’ boys or the “old man’s plate.” Grab a beer at neighborhood dives like Markey’s Bar, Vaughan’s, and BJ’s, or for a more refined setting, Bacchanal’s sprawling outdoor area is perfect for afternoon or evening wine-drinking and small plates. The neighborhood is also home to some of the city’s best barbecue from the Joint, and on the other end of the spectrum, Saint-Germain, where a range of food and drink possibilities make for a memorable dining experience. Sneaky Pickle + Bar Brine offers creative vegan fare alongside excellent cocktails and non-vegan delights, and Bywater American Bistro is chef Nina Compton’s acclaimed neighborhood bistro, ideal for an elegant dinner. Here’s a full list of spots not to miss in the Bywater.
Faubourg Marigny, on the downriver border of the French Quarter, is home to Creole cottages, Frenchmen Street music clubs (like the Spotted Cat), St. Claude Avenue bars, and eclectic restaurants. To combine all three, head to Snug Harbor. For dinner and cocktails, check out the Elysian Bar, or Paladar 511 for creative California-Italian cuisine with fresh pasta and thin-crust pizza. Budsi’s Authentic Thai is a delicious destination for fresh Thai food, and for drinks, Anna’s just a block away are great spots. Here’s a full list of the best places to dine and drink in the Marigny. If it’s food and music you’re after, these spots, both in and out of the Marigny satisfy the ears and the stomach.
Jazz Fest brings tons of music lovers to this area every April and May, but there’s no bad time to enjoy mussels and frites at Cafe Degas or paella at Lola’s, both of which overlook tree-lined Esplanade Avenue. For lunch, find Creole and Southern food at Neyow’s, a po’ boy at Liuzza’s by the Track, or barbecue from Blue Oak BBQ. Ralph’s on the Park provides a classic New Orleans dinner with a view of City Park, and for a creative, memorable meal highlighting fresh Gulf seafood and regional produce, Sue Zemanick’s Zasu is one of the best spots to open in town in recent years.
The large Uptown area is home to stunning examples of 19th-century architecture, Audubon Park, and Tulane and Loyola universities. It boasts some of the city’s hottest restaurants, like Mister Mao, Dakar NOLA, and Hungry Eyes, classics like Camellia Grill, and white tablecloth legends like Clancy’s. When broadly defined, the neighborhood includes stunner Mosquito Supper Club, Freret Street’s cocktail gem Cure, and La Petite Grocery. Of course, the neighborhood is also home to the city’s favorite dive, Snake and Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge.
Other neighborhood guides to dining and drinking:
Bayou St. John
Central Business District (CBD)
North Claiborne Avenue
Near the Superdome
St. Charles Avenue
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