Where to stuff your face in New Orleans
Pack your stretchy pants, folks.
Food is one of my primary motivations for traveling in general, and that's definitely the case with New Orleans. I've been to the Big Easy four times over the past nine years for long weekends, and have gradually made my way from "meh" dining to food and experiences that are out of this world.
Here are a few of the restaurants and cafes that have topped my list, in no particular order.
Get your 🍸3 martini lunch on at Commander's Palace
This famous, historic restaurant in the Garden District is worth a visit. But don't come here for dinner, come for lunch. Why? At lunchtime only, they have $0.25 cent martinis.
That is not a typo. Twenty-five cent martinis, y'all.
Like most fancier restaurants, the menu is also less expensive at lunch. Jackets are required for men, and a reservation is strongly recommended. Grab one for a lunchtime seating, enjoy the meal, and sip slow. They'll sneak up on ya.
Start the weekend off with a 🍾bang at Galatoire's
If you get the chance to experience a Friday lunch at Galatoire's, don't turn it down. This is where all of New Orleans - locals and tourists - come to celebrate. Every so often, someone will get up and invite the whole dining room for a toast, and occasionally even buy the room a round. Don't be surprised if you end up making friends with the folks from the next table over, too.
Here's the catch: you want to be in the downstairs dining room - that's where it all happens - but reservations aren't accepted for downstairs. To get in, you have to either wait in line super early on Bourbon Street, or pay someone to wait for you.
Also, note that jackets are required. Dress up, it's a party!
Die & go to 😇hummus heaven at Shaya
Who would've thought an Israeli restaurant would be at the top of every food writer's list for New Orleans? One visit here, however, and you will fully understand why the place won a James Beard award - and find yourself scheming how to come back before your flight home. I was first turned on to Shaya after a friend made a repeat visit to the cozy, chic restaurant in the same weekend, and then stumbled upon article after article praising the place in my own research.
What you need to get here are the dips and spreads - specifically, the tahini hummus and ikra (whipped cream cheese, paddlefish caviar and shallots). Don't be dismayed by the single pita that's brought with your dish - you don't want more right now. Hot bubble-shaped pita bread comes freshly baked to your table on a regular basis, and in that form, it's an equal player in the flavor profile that will have your eyes turning heavenward. Any cooler, and it'll have lost its magic.
Pro tip: Can't get a reservation at Shaya? Try Saba instead, a new restaurant by the original chef of Shaya. I haven't dined at Saba but I'm sure it's also top notch.
Try a new-old favorite 🥪at Turkey & the Wolf
Don't be fooled by the casual, whimsical ambiance of Turkey and the Wolf. There's a reason this nostalgic sandwich joint was recently named the #1 Best New Restaurant in the U.S. by Bon Appetit.
Both the fried bologna sandwich, with crunchy, vinegary kettle chips smashed between bologna and bread, and the collard green melt - which somehow tastes like a reuben, despite being vegetarian - might not sound like much, but are totally worth the hype. No reservations, just show up, but be ready for a line, or go just before or after the rush.
Raise the bar 😍at Compere Lapin
"Meals aren’t about trends, shock value, or opulence. Meals are about moments, memories and those who surround you at your table." This is the philosophy behind Compere Lapin, a delicious and creative Creole and Caribbean fine dining spot in the Warehouse District, so-named for a folk tale featuring a rabbit.
If you need wine pairing advice, trust your server with the task. The curried goat with sweet potato gnocchi, it turns out, is perfectly paired with a sweet Riesling. With the dish, it tasted like a chardonnay. Who knew?
You're gonna need a bib 🦐at Mr. B's Bistro
Order the barbecue shrimp and get a paper accessory for free. The jumbo shrimp is a fan favorite, and one that has found me back at Mr. B's on multiple occasions. The rest of the menu is also delicious. And you'll be in good company (apparently this place has seen a few famous faces over the years).
WORK UP AN APPETITE WITH A DOZEN AND SOME BUBBLY 🥂at Royal House
In my opinion, you could do a lot worse than to start every meal with an appetizer of fresh oysters and a glass of something white or bubbly. On my last visit, I kept returning to Royal House, regardless of where I was slated to have dinner each night. The fresh oysters on the half shell were delicious, and I thought I was happy enough with that - until I tried the chargrilled, with Parmesan butter cheese filling, and, oh my.
Hey, nobody said you were here to behave.
Hang out at 🍻Coop's Place
This casual, divey spot has been a go-to on multiple trips for its down-home Cajun and Creole cooking. Grab an Abita and dig in.
Get creative at 🎨Coquette
Don't order from the menu here: let the chefs take over your palette for the evening with the 5 course blind tasting menu, complete with wine pairing.
Muffalettas 🥙 worth waiting for at Central Grocery
Po boys aren't the only authentic sandwich around. Muffalettas were actually invented in New Orleans by Sicilian immigrants. If you love a good Italian sandwich or olive spread, you must try one while you're here - and the ones from Central Grocery on Decatur are arguably the best. There may be a line (like there is for many places in NOLA), but it's worth it.
Create new 🍔 cravings at Cochon Butcher
Butcher is the more casual sandwich joint attached to the fancier Cochon. Cochon also came highly recommended to us, but I dined there in 2015 and was a bit underwhelmed; Cochon is also hard to get into and pricey. Butcher, however, has been a real treat on multiple trips to NOLA.
On my last trip to New Orleans, I insisted on going there twice. Le Pig Mac is an indulgent and high brow (but still, somehow, high-fidelity) take on the Big Mac, and the pork belly with mint and cucumber blew my mind.
Don't wear black to ☕️ Cafe du Monde
By no stretch of the imagination is this an exhaustive list of the best places to dine in New Orleans - but I hope it has helped you discover a few new spots to add to your NOLA long weekend itinerary. Got a few more? Let us know in the comments.
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