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Fried chicken on top of mac and cheese served with potato salad from Heard Dat Kitchen.
Bourbon Street Love from Heard Dat Kitchen
Heard Dat Kitchen

Where to Eat, Drink, and Snack in New Orleans: A Local’s Guide to Neighborhood Gems

Neighborhood recommendations for West Indian cuisine, boozy sno-balls, buttermilk drops, and more, from New Orleans East to the Westbank

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Bourbon Street Love from Heard Dat Kitchen
| Heard Dat Kitchen

People travel from across the world to experience New Orleans’s famous culture, and with good reason. Even in the COVID era, the city is constantly evolving, with restaurant and bar owners bringing new atmospheres and dining experiences to the already fabulous landscape of offerings. When you live here (and happen to be a die-hard food enthusiast) it can be tough to balance trying out new options with the desire to revisit favorites, but it’s worth trying, and this guide is here to help.

Covering longtime institutions and hit newcomers from New Orleans East to the Westbank, here’s one local’s advice on where to eat, drink, snack, and party in New Orleans.

To learn more about Lynn, visit her website here.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; the latest data about the delta variant indicates that it may pose a low-to-moderate risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial transmission. The latest CDC guidance is here; find a COVID-19 vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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The Blue Flamingo

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This New Orleans East bar and restaurant is on the newer side, but has already become a cozy and fun neighborhood destination for good music, fish plates, stuffed bell peppers, and birria taco Tuesdays. Soul food Sunday is a great day to visit, as is Saints game day.

Madchef at 59th

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Chef Derek Robinson Jr. is building his culinary empire with a line of seasonings called Chef Gone Mad, but it started with his wildly popular restaurant at Miracle Plaza, Madchef at 59th. His talent is clear in everything he serves, from high-end lobster and steak platters to the wings, tacos, and burgers.

Salads Galore & More

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This spot calls itself the “healthiest feast in New Orleans East,” offering a daily menu of salads, turkey burgers, wraps, stuffed baked potatoes, and more, with favorites like the smoked turkey breast hoagie, blackened fish sandwich, and the Witch Doctor wrap with grilled chicken and shrimp. Hours are somewhat limited, but it’s reliably open for lunch during the week.

Messina's Runway Cafe

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This Lakefront gem with art-deco decor is tucked away from many of the neighborhood’s other popular restaurants inside the historic Terminal building, and while it was closed for an extended period during the pandemic, it’s back at it with a new head chef. In addition to eggs Benedict and shrimp and grits, the longtime breakfast and lunch favorite is known for it signature sweet potato biscuits. 

Culture Park NOLA

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This sprawling hub of entertainment in Gentilly is the latest from the owners of Mid City’s Bar Culture, cousins Nick Reed and Nathaniel Wilcox. Culture Park is meant for a party — the expansive outdoor space is decked out with tables, couches, swings, and a stage, hosting live DJs, numerous food vendors, and experiences like Champagne Classics and Wine at the Park. No children allowed, and prepare for parking; it gets packed on weekends.

Ray's On The Ave

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Elray Holmes’s Ray’s on the Ave is a local institution (even after it moved away from its original Avenue) in large part due to Holmes himself. He’s active in the community, holding frequent meal giveaways, and cooks some of the best traditional Creole food in the city. Go for the food, Saints games, happy hour, or live music, it’s always a good visit.

Ray’s On The Ave

Buttermilk Drop Bakery

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New Orleans loves its buttermilk drops, and the Buttermilk Drop in the Seventh Ward makes an excellent one, of course. It’s also a great destination for homestyle breakfast and lunch, including a customer favorite, breakfast rice.

Buttermilk Drop breakfast with breakfast rice
Buttermilk Drop Bakery/Facebook

Don Villavaso on the Bayou

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Don Villavaso on the Bayou is a perfect hangout, situated right off tree-lined Esplanade Avenue in the heart of Bayou St. John. The large, comfortable patio and cigar area makes for a great post-dinner visit, but it’s also a destination for food — most popular are the charbroiled oysters and steaks, as well as crawfish Sundays and Friday fish fries. Can’t beat the ladies night happy hour, Fridays 5 to 8 p.m.

Sweet Soulfood

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Sweet Soulfood is a boon for the New Orleans vegan community, a Treme eatery where a changing menu usually includes stuffed bell peppers greens, mac and cheese, chicken fried cauliflower, eggplant lasagna, and jambalaya, served cafeteria-style.

Up & Adam Eatz

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This Mid City newcomer originally operated as a coffee brand, created during the pandemic. Now up and running and a breakfast and brunch spot, it serves New Orleans-style breakfasts ranging from shrimp or catfish and grits, crawfish omelettes, beignets, and classics like eggs and bacon. 

Hank's Bar

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Small and old-timey, this beloved Treme bar has been welcoming neighbors to its bright green building for years at the corner of Robertson and Kerlerec. It’s a Thursday night destination for stuffed seafood potato plates, and for fried fish, chicken plates, and seafood gumbo other days of the week (daily menus are posted on Instagram). Come nightfall, whether music is coming from the jukebox or DJ, Hank’s keeps visitors dancing.

Hank’s
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NOLASIPS Snobar And Bistro

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The incredibly talented 22 year-old owner of NOLA Sips Snobar and Bistro, Stricen Carter, started out with a stand specializing in designer sno-balls before expanding with a boozy version on St. Claude Avenue. The bright, festive spot serves customizable alcoholic sno-balls (and other boozy drinks) as well as traditional sno-ball stand bites like nachos, wings, burgers, tacos, and more.

A boozy sno-ball from Nola Sips 
Nola Sips/Instagram

Bar Culture

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This small and lively bar was once an old Mid City gas station — its owners were seeking a location to create an out-of-town feel with New Orleans flavor. The result is one of the neighborhood’s favorite nightlife venues, where you can also catch *fully loaded* chargrilled oysters, crawfish boils, and other New Orleans specialties.

Tiger's Creole Cuisine

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Tiger Watson runs this Treme gem, and the New Orleans native has created a lively — and delicious — destination for the neighborhood in the eight or so years he’s been open. You may end up here for the strong drinks and good vibe, but it serves some of the freshest comfort food in town — perfectly-fried catfish and shrimp, crawfish pies, wings infused with Hennessey, two kinds of yak-a-mein, and the catfish Reagan are all highlights.

Catfish Reagan
Tiger’s Creole Cuisine

Mr. Potato

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Mr. Potato started out as a food truck before its increasing popularity led to a restaurant on Tulane Avenue, opened in 2020. Kimberly Rollins and Ned Stalks serve up potatoes that are beyond loaded here — chose from loaded fries or baked potatoes filled or stacked with various combinations of seafood, steak, cheese, vegetables and herbs, and other craveable toppings.

The Good Bar

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“Where good times meet good people,” says the Good Bar, an easy-to-miss spot in a not-so-hidden area of the city, the French Quarters. After a visit to the adjacent French Market, stop here for a friendly vibe, oysters, cocktails, and hookah. It’s also surprisingly good for breakfast — build your own omelette (or try the Cajun version) or go with the French toast.

This Uptown hideout serves wine by the glass in addition to a selection of 100 bottles, but crafty bartenders and their creations are not to be overlooked. With a clean and crisp atmosphere, Oak offers an intimate setting for live jazz, rhythm and blues, and soul music. Visit on Wednesday for half-price bottles (under $70).

Heard Dat Kitchen

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Chef Jeff Heard’s Central City restaurant has been serving quality interpretations of classic Creole dishes and original new creations for years, a neighborhood favorite for comforting food with a twist. Try Heard’s blackened and fried seafood dishes, the grilled cheese-gumbo combo, and signature dishes like the Superdome, made with blackened fish, lobster potatoes, and sweet corn, topped with huge, delicious onion rings. Open Monday through Saturday.

Ice Cream 504

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With the help of his Aunt Ruby, Michael Southall, owner of Ice Cream 504, has been churning ice cream since he was a kid in Napoleonville, Louisiana. His Jena Street shop, near Freret Street, is known for simple, fresh flavors like strawberry cheesecake, peach sorbet, fruit cake, and pistachio layered with caramel and dark chocolate. The patio makes an ideal setting to enjoy some scoops.

Basin Seafood and Spirits

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The talented chef and owner of Baru Edgar Caro opened this seafood restaurant for lighter versions of Louisiana dishes in 2016, offering a nice courtyard along a busy stretch of Magazine Street. It blends in so well it’s easy to forget about the 50 cent raw oyster Mondays, weekday happy hour, and bottomless mimosas on weekends — it’s also known for it’s great blue crab beignets, a local favorite. 

Island Paradise Restaurant & Grill

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For traditional West Indian Creole food on the Westbank, look no further than Island Paradise, a hidden gem in Gretna serving dishes influenced by African, East Indian, and Asian flavors. Of the menu’s many highlights, don’t miss the doubles to start, or the Trini callaloo, or the stewed oxtails. Also the curried goat...and the tacos are surprisingly good, too.

Second Vine Wine

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Troy Gant recently moved the location of this hidden gem from the Marigny area to busy Magazine Street after it closed at the start of the pandemic. He’s back to offering an unpretentious and comfortable atmosphere Uptown, with a wide range of affordable wines sold by the glass and bottle. Second Vine hosts frequent wine tastings and can be rented for private events.

Talented Toya's Sweet Reality

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This sweet shop recently opened in Terrytown on the Westbank, specializing in over the top milkshakes — try to the strawberry wedding cake flavor — and custom cupcakes, wedding cake, and birthday cakes. If you’re looking to drop by, there’s usually banana pudding, pound cake, or other treats in the case.

Food Symphony Restaurant & Catering

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Family-owned and offering a friendly, relaxed atmosphere, Food Symphony on Lapalco Blvd. is the spot for delicious Louisiana specialties like Cajun pasta and shrimp Creole, as well as great ribs, crab cakes, and any variation of wings on offer. Catch a boozy happy hour — with strong drinks and discounted appetizers — Monday through Friday, 5 to 8 p.m.

Fried catfish and mac and cheese
Food Symphony Restaurant & Catering

The Blue Flamingo

This New Orleans East bar and restaurant is on the newer side, but has already become a cozy and fun neighborhood destination for good music, fish plates, stuffed bell peppers, and birria taco Tuesdays. Soul food Sunday is a great day to visit, as is Saints game day.

Madchef at 59th

Chef Derek Robinson Jr. is building his culinary empire with a line of seasonings called Chef Gone Mad, but it started with his wildly popular restaurant at Miracle Plaza, Madchef at 59th. His talent is clear in everything he serves, from high-end lobster and steak platters to the wings, tacos, and burgers.

Salads Galore & More

This spot calls itself the “healthiest feast in New Orleans East,” offering a daily menu of salads, turkey burgers, wraps, stuffed baked potatoes, and more, with favorites like the smoked turkey breast hoagie, blackened fish sandwich, and the Witch Doctor wrap with grilled chicken and shrimp. Hours are somewhat limited, but it’s reliably open for lunch during the week.

Messina's Runway Cafe

This Lakefront gem with art-deco decor is tucked away from many of the neighborhood’s other popular restaurants inside the historic Terminal building, and while it was closed for an extended period during the pandemic, it’s back at it with a new head chef. In addition to eggs Benedict and shrimp and grits, the longtime breakfast and lunch favorite is known for it signature sweet potato biscuits. 

Culture Park NOLA

This sprawling hub of entertainment in Gentilly is the latest from the owners of Mid City’s Bar Culture, cousins Nick Reed and Nathaniel Wilcox. Culture Park is meant for a party — the expansive outdoor space is decked out with tables, couches, swings, and a stage, hosting live DJs, numerous food vendors, and experiences like Champagne Classics and Wine at the Park. No children allowed, and prepare for parking; it gets packed on weekends.

Ray's On The Ave

Ray’s On The Ave

Elray Holmes’s Ray’s on the Ave is a local institution (even after it moved away from its original Avenue) in large part due to Holmes himself. He’s active in the community, holding frequent meal giveaways, and cooks some of the best traditional Creole food in the city. Go for the food, Saints games, happy hour, or live music, it’s always a good visit.

Ray’s On The Ave

Buttermilk Drop Bakery

Buttermilk Drop breakfast with breakfast rice
Buttermilk Drop Bakery/Facebook

New Orleans loves its buttermilk drops, and the Buttermilk Drop in the Seventh Ward makes an excellent one, of course. It’s also a great destination for homestyle breakfast and lunch, including a customer favorite, breakfast rice.

Buttermilk Drop breakfast with breakfast rice
Buttermilk Drop Bakery/Facebook

Don Villavaso on the Bayou

Don Villavaso on the Bayou is a perfect hangout, situated right off tree-lined Esplanade Avenue in the heart of Bayou St. John. The large, comfortable patio and cigar area makes for a great post-dinner visit, but it’s also a destination for food — most popular are the charbroiled oysters and steaks, as well as crawfish Sundays and Friday fish fries. Can’t beat the ladies night happy hour, Fridays 5 to 8 p.m.

Sweet Soulfood

Sweet Soulfood is a boon for the New Orleans vegan community, a Treme eatery where a changing menu usually includes stuffed bell peppers greens, mac and cheese, chicken fried cauliflower, eggplant lasagna, and jambalaya, served cafeteria-style.

Up & Adam Eatz

This Mid City newcomer originally operated as a coffee brand, created during the pandemic. Now up and running and a breakfast and brunch spot, it serves New Orleans-style breakfasts ranging from shrimp or catfish and grits, crawfish omelettes, beignets, and classics like eggs and bacon. 

Hank's Bar

Hank’s
Google Maps

Small and old-timey, this beloved Treme bar has been welcoming neighbors to its bright green building for years at the corner of Robertson and Kerlerec. It’s a Thursday night destination for stuffed seafood potato plates, and for fried fish, chicken plates, and seafood gumbo other days of the week (daily menus are posted on Instagram). Come nightfall, whether music is coming from the jukebox or DJ, Hank’s keeps visitors dancing.

Hank’s
Google Maps

NOLASIPS Snobar And Bistro

A boozy sno-ball from Nola Sips 
Nola Sips/Instagram

The incredibly talented 22 year-old owner of NOLA Sips Snobar and Bistro, Stricen Carter, started out with a stand specializing in designer sno-balls before expanding with a boozy version on St. Claude Avenue. The bright, festive spot serves customizable alcoholic sno-balls (and other boozy drinks) as well as traditional sno-ball stand bites like nachos, wings, burgers, tacos, and more.