A Curated List of NOLA Restaurants
Making a list of my favorite spots to eat in New Orleans is so hard to do. Some of the big-name award winners like Peche, Cochon, August and Herbsaint all come to mind for their excellent food and creative chefs. But since they appear on every hot food list, I thought I would just make a list of some of my other favorites that may be a little less known.
Galitoire’s is my favorite of the classic New Orleans restaurants. It is where locals go to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, divorces or just the simple fact that it is Friday. The food is traditional New Orleans French. It is critical that you sit downstairs even if you have to wait for a table. Tourists sit upstairs. Locals downstairs. Men MUST have a jacket, but if you forget yours don’t fret as they will provide one. It is fun to watch the dripping jewels on many of New Orleans' grand dames and see the pure joy of those countless celebratory tables. Favorites for me are all the classic dishes, including the fried eggplant appetizer served with powdered sugar (a must as crazy as it sounds), the trout almandine and seafood stuffed eggplant. The maître d, Joe Plavetsky, is exceptional.
Located in the Southern Food and Beverage museum is Chef Isaac Toups' take on regional Southern cuisine. With a small/large plate approach, it is the perfect spot for a shared meal. Get there early and take a walk around the small museum and you will learn the truth about red beans & rice. The sourdough biscuits with crab fat butter are a must-order. Chef Toups is famous for his smoked meats so check out the smoked pork shoulder. Also make sure and order that day’s local farm vegetable plate as an antidote to the fried food New Orleans is famous for. Finally, don’t forget an order of the crab salad with coconut and lime dressing.
Don’t be turned off by the simple fact that MoPho is nestled in an unattractive strip mall next door to a Burger King. This restaurant is hard to classify as it is partly an Asian noodle house, contemporary po-boy shop and smokehouse. The food is playful, delicious and the flavors explode in your mouth. The pepper jelly braised clams with smoked pork jowl, mint, crispy shallots and annatto beignets says it all.
Coquette in Uptown has some of the best of Southern contemporary cooking. Chef/Owner Michael Stoltzfus never ceases to amaze me with his unusual takes on traditional dishes like deconstructed fried chicken or amazing smoked fish. Michael was previously the sous chef at August so he brings the exceptional quality of a white linen spot but in a more relaxed, former 1880s grocery store/automotive shop.
Patois also in Uptown New Orleans is set in a neighborhood and totally off the beaten path. It is well worth the trip. This old corner store is popular among locals and tourists. Chef Aaron Burgau serves his twist on new American/French/Farm to Table food. A great adventure is to take the street car from the Quarter to Audubon Park. You will get to view all the historical mansions along the way. Take a walk around the park ellipse and either Uber it or walk to the restaurant as it is not that far.
Looking for a great po-boy in an authentic setting? Head to Domalisse for shrimp or oyster po-boys. Or better yet, order a “fully dressed half and half.” Yes it is a 100% dive. A true NOLA experience. Expect a line but it moves quickly. I personally like to eat at the counter and drink my beer right out of an ice cold bottle.
Walk into this unassuming tiny restaurant and step back to the 50s. The tile walls and open shucking area haven’t changed since my childhood. Nor has the sliced white bread. For nearly 100 years, Casamentos has been shucking the freshest oysters and serving them up three basic ways—raw, fried and broiled. Go with a friend. Start with a dozen raw. Move on to a dozen broiled, succulent oysters served piping hot with just a bit of butter and Parmesan. Finish off your oyster adventure with their famous “oyster loaf.” The wait will be worth it.
Dooky Chase in the Treme. This place is the real deal when it comes to Creole food. If you are lucky, James Beard award-winner Leah Chase (age 94) will pop in the dining room to offer some pearls of wisdom. Her stupendous African American art collection and her Fried chicken are both reasons to go. Also, if it is on the menu, try the Gumbo Z’Herbes that has seven different types of greens for good luck. This restaurant was a critical meeting spot for many of the legendary figures of the Civil Rights Movement.
The Erin Rose Irish bar (tiny) is located right off Bourbon Street in the Quarter and is truly a hidden gem. It’s my favorite “real bar” with no pretension. But if you are hungry, go past the bar and poker machines to the window in the back. There you will find Killer PoBoys. I love these guys as they have a contemporary take on the classic sandwich with some great vegetarian options. It is cash only. And grab an Irish coffee while you wait.
Just want to drink your dinner? Hop in a cab and go Uptown to the up and coming Feret Strip for a visit to Cure. They have true mixologists and small bites. It is hip and fun, including a nice patio for soaking up the warm and muggy New Orleans weather. And if you are still hungry, walk down the street for a quick but tasty burger at Company Burger.