Best Restaurants in New Orleans
Wondering where to eat in New Orleans? Nola is foodie heaven. It is the only destination my husband and I have returned to every year since our first visit. And now we have a local friend, Dr. Matt, to give us the inside scoop. Discover the best the city has to offer, from fine dining to budget bites.
For the Classic Fine Dining Experience
Commander's Palace is revered by locals and tourists alike. Its non-stuffy approach to classic New Orleans fine dining makes it the number one spot for special occasions, jazz brunch, family gatherings, work parties, birthdays, lazy afternoons, you name it. After your meal you can wander around the Garden District to admire the beautiful mansions or stroll through Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 with this self-guided tour. It is simply the best experience you will have in New Orleans.
Pro tip: Make a reservation for the weekday lunch. There is a discounted prix fixe menu available and martinis are 25¢ with purchase of an entree. You're welcome.
For a Perfect Night Out (Away From the Tourists)
Bacchanal is the reason Joe and I want to move to New Orleans. It is everything you could ever want: part wine bar, part music venue, part cocktail bar and part backyard barbecue. It's located in Bywater, about a 15 minute drive from the French Quarter, so it is still mostly frequented by locals which gives it a laid back, homey feel. They have live music every night and hold wine tastings and other events often, so make sure to check out their calendar.
Pro tip: Pick a bottle of wine and a few cheeses from the fridge near the entrance. They will open the bottle for you, then take your cheese selections and create a fantastic cheese board. Then grab an outdoor table and enjoy the night.
For Crazy Good Italian
We ended up at Josephine Estelle by chance: we got caught in a down pour and ran in to wait out the rain. But when we walked in we were totally captivated. Attached to the iconic Ace Hotel, Josephine Estelle's dining room is big, bright and midcentury-chic. The handmade pastas are the best I have had outside Italy.
Pro Tip: Get the bucatini with amatriciana and guanciale. Trust me. Then wander through the lobby of Ace Hotel cause it's super cool.
For Your Morning Beignets
Everyone has a favorite beignet place. Mine is Cafe Beignet. It's small and adorable with a quaint outdoor courtyard so you can sip your cafe au lait in peace and attempt to clean off all the powered sugar you will spill on yourself.
Pro tip: Head to Cafe Beignet early for a morning beignet, then hit Cafe Du Monde at night when you need a pick me up. You won't care about the ambiance as much when you're tipsy.
Turkey and the Wolf
For the Best Sandwiches
Turkey and the Wolf was named one of the Restaurants of the Year by Food and Wine magazine and #1 Best New Restaurant in American by Bon Appetite in 2017. But don't let the fancy titles fool you: this place is as low-key as it gets. Bare patio, cafeteria-style plastic cups, and dinosaur-painted walls, this place has a hole-in-the-wall, basement hangout type vibe. It also has the best sandwiches you have ever tasted. Originally this was totally Joe's pick, I had no interest in a fried bologna sandwich, but trust me, you need to try the fried bologna sandwich. The specials change daily but we have never had a bad meal. And even though it is wildly popular we have never had to wait in line more than 5 minutes.
Pro tip: Just go.
For Some Old School Ambiance
The interior of Cavan is beautiful. Housed in a Gardern District mansion built in 1883, it has an old-school elegance with a welcoming modern vibe. You feel like you were transported back in time and invited to a lively dinner party. Surprisingly, tourists have not discovered Cavan, so it remains a local gem. Great for brunch, lunch or dinner.
For a Trendy Brunch
Justine is a relative newcomer to the historic French Quarter, but has caused quite a stir. One could almost be forgiven for thinking the exquisite decor might overshadow the food. It is somehow feminine, vintage, modern, eclectic, Parisian and bohemian all at once. But the food is still the real star here.
Pro tip: From Ariel Oakley, cardiac nurse and Modern Gibson Girl ambassador, get the Eggs en Brioche. It’s has lamb ragout, chermoula, and lemon, and it‘s mind blowing.
K Paul's Louisiana Kitchen
For the Best Fish You've Ever Had
K Paul's is one of the "original kings of Creole cooking" but it is anything but stuffy. Housed inside a cozy brick building, the open kitchen is loud and inviting and the friendly service makes the upscale cajun food that much tastier. This was my first fine dining experience in New Orleans and it was perfect.
Pro tip: Get the Blackened Yellowfin Tuna. Trust me. It is their signature dish, and it is the best fish you will ever have.
For More Fine Dining
Yet another fine dining establishment. But you'll notice a theme: fine dining in New Orleans doesn't mean small dishes and snooty waiters. On the contrary, fine dining in New Orleans means perfectly prepared dishes and amazingly friendly and attentive wait staff. Arnauds is no exception. We opted for the Jazz Bistro instead of the main dining room and were not disappointed. The jazz trio played Stand By Me (our wedding song) and I sincerely wanted our waiter to be my best friend. And make sure to stop by the bar, French 75, before or after your reservation for a classic New Orleans cocktail experience.
Pro Tip: If you want fun and cozy choose the Jazz Bistro. If you want grand and classy, choose the Main Dining Room (pictured). Order the Amandine and and the Souffle Potatoes.
For a Romantic Courtyard
Cafe Amelie boasts one of the best courtyards in the city. Nestled in a 150 year old building on Royal Street in the French Quarter, this is the best outdoor spot for superb Luisiana fare. Perfect for a romantic evening or elevated al fresco brunch.
Pro tip: Make sure to request the courtyard when booking, but know that seating location cannot be guaranteed.
For the best Poboys
Killer Poboys specializes in local ingredients and global flavors. So it may not have the most traditional poboys, but it does have (arguably) the best. I still went mildly classic with the seared gulf shrimp, but my husband opted for the seared pork belly and would not stop talking about it.
Pro tip: Go to the Erin Rose location, so you can get a frozen Irish coffee on your way out. You’ll basically be a local.
A big thank you to our local host and guide, Dr. Matt, for always housing us and pointing us in the right direction.