When the CBD became a ghost town overnight at the onset of the pandemic, the concentration of restaurants that fed the thousands of office workers in this bustling neighborhood became painfully obvious. While some places closed, relocated, or, best case, held on for dear life, the area has recently experienced a food resurgence, with an influx of new restaurants offering wide-ranging cuisines including Indian, Thai, Israeli, and more. There are too many to count, but this lineup shows a mix of what’s for lunch (and beyond), the best of new and old, in the Central Business District.Read More
Where to Eat in New Orleans’s Central Business District (CBD)
The downtown neighborhood has recently experienced a food resurgence, with an influx of restaurants offering Indian, Thai, Israeli, and more
Chef Nanyo Dominguez offers ceviche every which way at the alluring Bésame, the natural choice for pre- or post-theater nibbles, catty-corner from the Saenger just across Canal Street. Tapas with a focus on fresh Gulf seafood incorporates Latin and Caribbean flavors from Mexico and South America. Try the guacamole studded with fried pork rind, Mexico City style, and the queso with its crawfish upgrade. The bar features South American wines and South American spirits, including mezcal, pisco, and brandies.
A place this crowded from 10 a.m. to 6 a.m. daily deserves homage. Follow the lead of those who frequent this swankier version of the original Cleo’s to get a whiff of owner Tarek Madkour’s vision. There are Egyptian dishes nodding to his heritage, including an awesome, multi-dish breakfast, plenty of seafood, and earthy sauces like the herb-driven zhoug and toum, the whipped garlic spread that improves everything. The no-frills decor is replaced by lacy arabesque designs and a warm Mediterranean vibe. There’s another location on Decatur Street in the Quarter.
Tucked away in the Wyndham Garden Hotel, Namaste Nola is a gem, with both Southern and Northern Indian dishes on a vast menu. Chef Suda Kasarapu is one of three friends, now partners, in their own business. The chef blends, toasts, and grinds as many as 18 different spices to make dishes like his popular korma sauce and chicken kolhapuri. Not the typical Indian buffet, for sure.
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Two Chicks Café - CBD
This welcoming juice and breakfast bar is swell, with smoothies, breakfast sandwiches, and vegetarian crepes. More than the same old, Two Chicks offers a crab cake Benedict, chia pudding, creative omelets, and after 11 a.m., lunch options like a chicken club and a grown-up grilled cheese with pickled beets on jalapeno toast. Like the original next to the Convention Center, you can also order breakfast cocktails with your meal.
Breads On Oak
The opening of this downtown Breads on Oak outpost was sweet news for the plant-based eating crowd, but really anybody in love with rustic breads and tasty pastry will be dazzled. Just two blocks off Canal, tourists on social media continually rave about the many vegetarian and vegan options. Great coffee too.
Baroness on Baronne
This CBD wunder-bar is full of surprises. Terrific cocktails are priced between $8 and $13, and there are zero-proof drinks for the sober curious. The reasonably priced lunch menu includes the chef’s lasagna, a half-pound cheeseburger, and pulled pork sliders. The Baroness also has a VIP room, described as a tantric oasis. Make of that what you will.
Open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., this Mediterranean eatery brings homestyle Israeli street food to the table. Olive opened in 2020, with an emphasis on healthy, fresh ingredients cooked to order. From shawarma made with chicken or beef to the marinated lamb chops that are a house specialty to a plethora of vegetarian options, Olive doesn’t disappoint.
A stalwart breakfast and lunch joint since 1965, Commerce dishes all the classics, along with zippy bloody marys and a full bar during opening hours, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Hearty portions include three-egg omelets (get the Cajun shrimp), smash burgers, seafood po’ boys, and breakfast biscuits. The menu surprises, like the burger on a buttered brioche bun with chimichurri, roasted peppers, and provolone — just ask for the Argentinian.
Chef Amy Mehrten’s star is surely on the rise. The chef at Copper Vine, a CIA grad with an innate sense of what tastes good, dishes shareables like black truffle fries, crawfish beignets, and seared duck breast with pickled blueberries. She’s on a growth track, with the restaurant expanding to become Copper Vine Winepub & Inn, with 11 guest rooms in the newly built structure adjacent to the restaurant. Mehrten’s ready.
The newest location from the family that first served platters of fried catfish in Hollygrove in 1943, Barrow’s Poydras serves the CBD with thin fried fillets, crab meat pasta, po’ boys, gumbo, and more. Red beans and rice is a bargain for lunch, just $7.99.
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Yo Nashi is a fabulous omakase experience led by chef Mack Broquet, formerly with Commander’s Palace. Choose a multi-course menu starting at $89 that marries local ingredients and flavors with Japanese technique and presentation. A typical menu might include tuna tartare, sashimi, a range of sushi, and an entree like seared Gulf fish with local mushrooms. Take a test drive during happy hour, offered Thursday through Monday, 5 to 6:30 p.m., with special drink prices and an a la carte sushi and small plate menu.
Couvant at The Eliza Jane Hotel
New Orleans-born chef Ryan Pearson brings new vim to Couvant, embracing French technique, but with modern, creative style. His allegiance to local dishes and the bounty from the Gulf burns brightly on a menu that is the best of both, like in his bouillabaisse, which includes Gulf fish and Grande Isle shrimp. The restaurant offers brunch Friday through Sunday along with fun special dinners like the monthly Tour de France, saluting regional cuisine in a monthly exploration that hopscotches between Burgundy and Alsace.
Tsunami Sushi is the name of this cavernous spot on Poydras, but the menu itself is a monsoon of options. From tempura to special rolls to tuna tataki and miso sea bass, there literally is something to please every eater. The negi-toro handroll is an addictive mound of fatty tuna with wasabi, caviar, and sushi rice on a handy seaweed raft. Catch weekday early bird specials from 3 to 6 p.m.
Chef Aarón Sánchez is the face of Johnny Sánchez, the fetching Mexican restaurant on Poydras Street with an eye-popping design and a menu influenced by his Mexican heritage and Texas upbringing. But whenever Sánchez is jetting off to fundraise for his scholarship program for Latinx students or film TV shows like MasterChef, chef de cuisine/partner Miles Landrem is a steady hand on the wheel ensuring a real deal menu that includes queso, creative tacos, arroz con pollo, one of the best burritos in town, and street corn.
When chef Michael Gulotta reopened Maypop after a 13-month pandemic closure, the chef’s Italian roots very much informed the tweaked menu. Sure, Vietnamese fish sauce is still in rotation but his interplay between cultures seems expanded and refined. The garganelli pasta with Gulf shrimp is just one winning dish.
Commons Club New Orleans
There’s nothing common about the Commons Club at the Virgin Hotel New Orleans, thanks to talented local chef Alex Harrell’s deceptively simple menu of elevated seasonal cuisine. Whether munching on beef tartar with caviar, a Berkshire pork chop with collards, or local Gulf fish with grits, the repast satisfies. Add in the sexy design by New Orleans-based Logan Killen Interiors, and the effect is uncommon indeed.
Tava Indian Street Food
Chef Manish Patel builds his menu at Tava around dosa, a slightly sour fermented rice and lentil pancake that is a favorite Indian street food. Made fresh daily, dosa is served with savories like masala potatoes, shredded lamb vindaloo, and garbanzo bean curry, with a serving of lentil soup and coconut chutney on the side. Or try the spicy chicken 65 sandwich, so good.
Devil Moon Barbecue and Brewery Saint X
Barbecue lovers need to discover Devil Moon’s juicy briskets, dark and crusty, with a just-right balance between chewiness and tenderness. Platters are built around brisket, offered lean or fatty; smoke-reddened pork ribs, housemade sausage, or fancy-tasting smoked turkey and come with two sides. There’s pulled pork of course, with sides beyond the usual including dirty rice and collard greens. From the same folks is Brewery Saint X next door, which delivers dishes from Louisiana-born chef Shannon Bingham like confit beef cheeks with salsa verde, roasted Gulf fish with New-Orleans style barbecue sauce along with sandwiches, salads, and snacks. Sip 15 German and British style drafts but the house-bottled cocktails and sustainable wine list impresses.
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This brilliant new Thai spot rounds out the restaurant row that includes Tava, Blaze, and Willa Jean. The family-run Dahla restaurant offers a sophisticated setting and a traditional menu bursting with Thai flavor. Try the spicy drunken noodles with shrimp, the ginger filet of snapper, and the tiger tears, a citrus-forward salad of flank steak and vegetables. An inspired drinks menu praises the bar.
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