The 38 Essential New Orleans Restaurants, Fall 2017
A snapshot of New Orleans dining
It's time to update the Eater 38, your answer and ours to any question that begins, "Can you recommend a restaurant?"
This highly elite group of destinations are the places that you should go to tonight, tomorrow, and again and again. These are places that we think must exist, places that have impacted or represent the constantly evolving culinary canon of New Orleans. Looking for the hottest places in town? Turn to the Eater Heatmap instead.
The Eater 38 is updated quarterly, and are listed geographically rather than ranked. This time around, two restaurants join the list: Casamento's, Magazine Street's 1920s era oyster bar (now back from its summer hiatus); and Lilette, John Harris' seductive Uptown sparkler.
To make room, it's time to say goodbye (for now) to Sylvain and Pizza Delicious.
All restaurants must have been open at least six months to appear on this list. Send your tips and your nominations right here, or feel free to share thoughts in the comments.
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To say it’s great food for a great cause doesn’t do justice to this cafe's operation, mission, or food. One of New Orleans most endearing restaurants, Cafe Reconcile doubles as a successful job-training program for at-risk teens and young adults. And even without that, the old-school New Orleans soul food, like seafood stuffed peppers and fried catfish, can stand on its own. The lively cafe stands tall in a brick building filled with colorful artwork and a large dining space in Central City, an area that has recently begun to be redeveloped. The area was a seat of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, but had been primarily known for the projects and blighted buildings that overtook the historic neighborhood in the 1980s. These days, it's is home to mission-driven projects like Cafe Reconcile and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, as well as a buzzing restaurant scene.
The pho and banh mi here are excellent. But regulars swear by the house specialties, like the goat curry at this Westbank favorite. It's a large restaurant in a strip mall, full of generations of Vietnamese families enjoying steaming bowls of pho and other specialties.
Amazing fried chicken, often called the best in town (or even the best in the country). Though it’s a little out of the way for many people, way on the edge of the Faubourg Treme, the food and atmosphere are quintessential New Orleans, among the best you’ll find in town.
Cochon Butcher is not just a fantastic butcher shop and deli hiding behind Donald Link's famed Cochon, but it's home to crazy good small plates, a great bar, and the best sandwiches in town. From duck pastrami sliders to muffulettas, these eats satisfy for lunch or dinner. There's plenty of seating, but it does get packed at lunch hour.
It’s impossible to say any shop has the best po-boys, but those at Domilise’s make a strong claim to that title. Founded in 1918, Domilise's doesn't look like much from the outside. The exterior is adorned only with a handprinted sign. Inside, the counter service only corner spot that originally opened as a neighborhood bar slings giant po-boys to locals, politicians, visiting celebrities, and anyone with good taste. They’re expensive for po- boys, but they’re large and worth every penny.
This Faubourg Treme landmark is famous for its soul food and lunch buffet, as well as its private collection of African American art. Dooky Chase is now run by Paris-trained chef, Edgar Chase, grandson of founder Leah Chase. The fried chicken rivals that at nearby Willie Mae’s, and the fried catfish will be some of the best you’ve ever had. Also try the Creole gumbo.
Chef Joaquin Rodas offers a seasonal menu of exquisite, affordable small plates seven days a week at this wine shop known for its amazing backyard and live music. There's also a cocktail bar that offers indoor seating. The menu features some items not as commonly found on the New Orleans menu, like Littleneck clams, grilled sardines, salt cod fritters, and house-made butter with radishes and bread. It really is a dream.
A meat-centric spot from Cajun chef Isaac Toups and his wife Amanda. House-cured meats, incredible cracklins, the best pork chop and dirty rice you've ever had, and lots of whiskey to wash it all down. Also, order the refreshing crab claws with chiles and pineapple.
Located in an unassuming strip mall in the center of a vibrant Vietnamese community in New Orleans East, Ba Mien features dishes from Northern, Central and Southern Vietnam, bringing all the regional flavors together. This restaurant withstood Katrina and became a community hub. It's also very affordable.
Beloved Vietnamese icon Pho Tau Bay was forced to shutter its Westbank location in 2015, but devotees now find the same great pho and banh mi in its sleek, renovated CBD location, which hadn't been used since Katrina.
Owner Justin Leblanc (a Southern Yacht Club alum) does exceptional boiled seafood, po-boys, and plate specials that are worth a visit to Mid City or the original Metairie location (4701 Airline Dr. ) Try the Peacemaker po-boy.
This jackets-required grand dame of Bourbon Street is renowned for its festive Friday lunch (prepare to stand in line and have a ball), but the 112-year-old restaurant also serves its incredible shrimp remoulade and pompano with crab meat for those in search of dinner (or lunch on a less crowded day) that's as old school Nola as it comes. Don't bother looking at the menu. Just ask your waiter what to order.
Chef Nina Compton's Caribbean and Italian infused menu stands out among Creole fine dining establishments, drawing from her Caribbean roots, experience in Italian cuisine, and classical French training and combining that with the culinary offerings of New Orleans. The result is a playful and well-executed menu full of intriguing flavors and ingredients in dishes like conch fritters, spiced pig ears, and curried goat that is bending the New Orleans culinary canon.Located inside the chic Old No. 77 Hotel, the restaurant's interior combines vintage and modern elements with cut glass barware, exposed brick walls, warm wood tables, and bright blue accents.
The John Besh Restaurant Group worked with James Beard Award-winning chef Alon Shaya for the modern Israeli restaurant that has been a game changer in the NOLA dining scene, with dishes that are best shared with a full table— incredible wood fired pita, an array of dips, light as air falafel, lamb stew— and a casual approach to fine dining that serves the spot well. It's currently going through some changes -- with the Besh Group and Shaya negotiating a split, but the food is in great hands with current executive chef, James Beard Award-winning Zachary Engel.
No surpise that Justin Devillier’s Uptown gem also has a spot on Eater National's Best Restaurants in America, with critic Bill Addison noting " an impeccable Sazerac" and "flawless dishes like crab beignets and turtle Bolognese." It's a charmer that doesn't disappoint for a business lunch or a grand dinner occasion.
Frank Brigtsen has been delighting diners at this quiet Riverbend restaurant since 1986 with now-famous items like the seafood platter. Sure, seafood platters are everywhere, but this one has no fried seafood on it. Instead, it is filled with a variety of little treasures like baked oyster LeRuth with shrimp and crabmeat.
Edgar Degas spent several months in New Orleans before returning to France and painting the works that made him famous. While here, he stayed in a mansion (now Degas House) along tree-lined avenue Esplanade Avenue. Just a few blocks down the street, Cafe Degas celebrates that. The menu of French bistro food (mussels and frites, escargot, French onion soup) hits the spot, but the interior is pretty much New Orleans at its very best. A pecan tree grows through the dining room. In fact, the dining room is really more of an open-air, lush patio, complete with metal tables and chairs that came from the French Pavilion at the Louisiana World Exposition in 1984. It's eclectic and smart and cool all at once.
This 1930s-era, working class steakhouse isn't fancy in the world of modern steakhouses. In fact, a step inside feels like a legitimate step back in time. There has never been a printed menu, as the only dishes coming out of the kitchen are steaks and sides. Generations of New Orleanians have passed through the doors and many of the people who work there have watched them grow up.
Tucked inside the charming Uptown neighborhood known for charming Creole cottages and air perfumed with sweet olive and night-blooming jasmine , you'll find preppy, Perlis-clad Uptowners dining on Clancy’s decadent, fried, cold-smoked, crab-topped soft-shells over white tablecloth topped tables as waiters who still wear tuxedos keep the bourbon flowing. It's as good a homage to the soft shell as there ever was. Reservations are a must.
The family behind this six-time James Beard Award-winning restaurant that opened in 1893 sees the world as a crazy, dizzying merry-go-round and the restaurant as a place to stop and take a break from it all. The convivial Garden District grand dame, where each table is topped with balloons and the hospitality sets the bar for every restaurant everywhere (there's even a documentary and a book to prove it), indeed feels a world away from it all.
The kitchen has made its mark as well, incubating hallmark chefs like Emeril Lagasse and Paul Prudhomme. Executive Chef Tory McPhail's "haute Creole cuisine" is impressive, but the hospitality and the atmosphere is where the charm and whimsy resides. Commander's invented the jazz brunch, and the bright blue restaurant sits in a Victorian-era mansion across from a typical raised-tomb, New Orleans graveyard, demonstrating the New Orleans attitude of decadence and fun in spite of it all. Note: This restaurant is on the expensive side of dining in New Orleans.
If every writer wrote the way that Team Essig and Stoltzfus composed a plate, there would be no need for editors. Every dish on the menu has no more and no less of what should be there. The menu changes with the season or more often, but the kitchen churns out everything from fancy-pants fried chicken and dry aged duck cabbage with lemon and puffed farro to okra done in a Mexican street corn style in two-story restaurant filled with warm wood and exposed brick on a corner of bustling Magazine Street. Be on the lookout for special dinners, like Fried Chicken and Champagne.
The kind of place that locals love and visitors dream of finding, it's a traditional poboy, fried seafood, boiled seafood, gumbo, raw oysters, chargrilled oysters, blackened anything restaurant with it's own fresh seafood market in the adjoining space. You'll find fresh oysters, royal red shrimp, alligator, all of the good things. It's out by the airport, so it's a must-do pretty much when en route to the MSY. Try the chargrilled calamari or the Swamp Platter.
Jamila's Tunisian restaurant is the quintessential neighborhood spot. Husband and wife team Jamila and Moncef run this place like it's each diner's second, more perfect, home. Gracious and welcoming, Moncef never hurries dinner along while Jamila whips up couscous, lamb, and an outstanding crawfish, spinach, and zucchini bisque in the back.
New Orleanians have been big fans of pho for decades, a town with lots of authentic and creative Vietnamese restaurants to satisfy their palates. This mint green cafe sits on the Lower Garden District stretch of busy Magazine Street near quirky antique and curiosity shops. The interior is simple and clean, but the rich pho broth simmered eight hours imparts a decadence that puts it at the top of the city's crowded pho list. Many claim it is the very best, and that includes fans like Chef Donald Link.
This bright purple spot on the corner of Esplanade and North Claiborne isn't anything fancy, but those long lines and randomly parked cars around the store make a strong call for anyone who happens to pass. Manchu Food Store is one of the few old school places doing ya-ka-mein, a New Orleans noodle soup that spells comfort. Feast on egg foo young, Saint Paul sandwiches, expert fried chicken, and ya-ka-mein.
One of the most picturesque spots in the city, Morning Call is nestled in City Park under the shade of oaks as it overlooks the bayous in the park. It's a spot for cafe au lait, beignets, jambalaya, and gumbo. Plus, it's open 24 hours.
If you really want to know why Mosca's is an essential New Orleans restaurant, grab your old New Yorkers and dig back to the November 22, 2010 issue in which Calvin Trillin profiles this Louisiana Italian road house on Highway 90, a restaurant that never ever changes (this is a good thing). A jukebox, mostly filled with Louis Prima, serenades a dining room full of locals sharing plates of Chicken a la Grande and Oysters Mosca. It is a restaurant that demonstrates Sicilian contributions to the New Orleans version of Italian food, which -- mind you — is not the same as American Italian food. Full disclosure, this is actually a short drive across the Huey P. Long — not actually in New Orleans.
Some call them the best po’ boys in town. And the line to the order window tends to wrap throughout the entire dining room towards the door. So they must be doing something right.
This St. Claude Avenue food hall offers an array of vendors that can take care of any dining situation, from breakfast to dinner, at an affordable price point. New additions include T2 Street Food (Vietnamese from Tan Dinh offspring), Good Bird (rotisserie chicken sandwiches) and Fritai (Haitian eats). Don't overlook the coffee, cocktails, juice, and pastry offerings as well.
Though it’s primarily a wine bar, The Delachaise has small plates and snacks that are filling enough to have for dinner, and perfect for snacking on with friends, inside or on the front patio overlooking St. Charles Avenue. Whatever you do, get an order of duck fat fries with malt vinegar aioli for the table
Vincent's is Louisiana-style Italian at its best, both in the food and the hospitality. The owner is known to greet guests by name and with a kiss. The wait staff doesn't change over much, so going there is really like visiting family. The menu includes a killer crab meat salad and Louisiana specialties like seafood-stuffed mirliton, corn and crab bisque, veal Roberto (topped with crabmeat), and gelato from Angelo Brocato's.
Harahan has recently gotten a splattering of good, new restaurants, but those who are in-the-know know that Seither's (with its bright exterior and oyster shell parking lot) has been out in Harahan for years serving excellent New Orleans dishes, chargrilled and raw oysters, boiled seafood, creative and traditional po-boys, and...and...The menu is extensive and everything is worth having, so good luck. Also, catch Seither's boiling up crawfish at the Maple Leaf Bar from time to time during the season.
Chef and owner Jason Goodenough has been consistently turning out some of the best dishes in New Orleans since opening his small, intimate restaurant in the Riverbend neighborhood about three years ago. He's an accomplished chef who runs his own kitchen and working at perfecting what he's doing, rather than filling his time trying to build a restaurant empire. The waitstaff is full of warm, knowledgeable individuals — the perfect liaison between the kitchen and the diner. Try the housemate tagliatelle or, really, anything on this fine menu.
Originally opened in 1899, this classic French-Creole restaurant opened again under Dickie Brennan's alum Alfred Singleton, who is chef and partner. The menu is old-school compared to many of the restaurants opening now in the city, and the crab cakes are some of the best in town. Dinner, brunch, and small plates.