New Orleans is widely known for its music and festivals, but there is so much more to this vibrant city. Beyond the beads and nightlife is a cultural and historically-rich mecca that has been rebuilt with vigor since Katrina hit ten years ago. The restaurant scene has blossomed, in particular, with the addition of concepts that answer to both cultural expectations and national trends.
We visited recently and built a list of restaurants to help you skip all the Yelp reviews and enjoy your stay. Our favorites follow some or all of the following criteria:
- Are small or locally-owned
- Serve up sustainable meat and produce
- Offer a creative menu
While we have some of the most talked about restaurants on this list, we chose to highlight some of the hidden gems this city has to offer as well. From burgers to live music and fine dining, this food adventure blog is the perfect guide to eating in New Orleans!
Atchafalaya is situated in the southwest corner of the Garden District. This southern-rustic spot is heavy on the wood with classic accents and walls boasting local art – all of which is for sale. You feel comfortable almost immediately after walking through the entrance. If you have to wait for a seat (we recommend making reservations), their bar is staffed by some of New Orleans’ friendliest bow-tie wearing bartenders. The barrel aged cocktails that bar manager Eric Dahm creates will keep you satisfied.
Their menu features an even mix of surf and turf dishes, all embodying the area’s culture with some modern culinary flare. Chef Chris changes the house mussels almost daily with broths ranging from a kimchi-base to beer. The kitchen is quite small, which is surprising given how much amazing food comes out of its doors!
We enjoyed their Pork Scallopini the most. The loin is cut thin and pounded 3-4 times, then cooked just 1.5 minutes on each side to keep it juicy. Braised pork bones give base to the sauce, maintaining the natural flavor of the meat amidst the addition of veggies and capers. The bed of grits cushions this savory dish while crawfish tails complement the earthiness of the pork rather than overpower. Even with hand crafted cocktails and an appetizer in your belly, you won’t have trouble finishing this entire dish!
Walking into Bacchanal Wine feels like you’ve stumbled upon a small wine shop. Bottles from around the world fill the short walls and one standing fridge offers high-end packaged meats and cheeses. After checking out, the cashier opens your wine, sends your purchased goods away and points you towards the back door. First-time visitors may find themselves confused.
Once outside, stacked trays filled with wine glasses, plastic buckets and other table needs are poised for the taking. Just five more steps past the free-standing kitchen sink and a massive, tree covered patio opens up. At this point, you feel like you’ve entered another world. Tables with mismatched chairs co-mingle with heaters for chilly evenings. A stage is tucked towards the back for jazz trios and local bands to entertain guests. Shortly after you find your table, a waiter appears to serve whatever goods you chose inside. There is no doubt that this may be one of the most unique concepts New Orleans has to offer.
We suggest you try their pork chop. The anchovy arugula salad adds a bit of salty to the sweet balsamic glaze drizzled atop the meat. These flavors work incredibly well with the subtlety of the pork. Paired with the right bottle of wine, this dish will lead you through an unforgettable dining experience.
Cochon translates to “pig” in French, so you can guess what kind of dishes grace the menu in this popular Arts District restaurant. You’ll find everything from pork cheeks to ham hocks and the cochon itself. Prefer a live dining experience? Sit at the chef’s counter and get a first row seat to their wood-fired stove. We highly recommend it. You’ll get to watch them rotate wooden embers with their whole fish, oysters, and our favorite from the boucherie – their smoked pork ribs. It’s especially fun watching the chef add a serving of ribs to the flames after you’ve put in your order! You won’t be able to take your eyes off them.
The ribs are smoked naturally in-house, then finished in the oven with their slightly smoky, slightly spicy sauce. The watermelon chutney surprises you with a savory mix of cloves and coriander that doesn’t take over your palate.
We suggest ordering a side of their ultra creamy mac and cheese to accompany this a la carte dish. You’ll be reminded of long summer days spent barbecuing with close friends and family.
The Company Burger
Looking for the best burger in New Orleans? Look no further. The Company Burger has two locations – the original on Freret in Central City and the newest on O’Keefe, closer to the French Quarter. They have something for everyone in this counter-style eatery.
Order your carnivorous or vegetarian meal of choice, take a number and wait for delivery. It’s that simple… and quick. You’ll wait less than 10 minutes for your food, which is impressive given how busy The Company Burger gets!
The lamb burger was the best we’ve ever had – ever. This could be because the lamb is humanely raised on pasture for only eight months, but we think it’s also because they top it the right way. You won’t find ketchup, mustard, lettuce or tomato. Instead you’ll find feta cheese, basil mayo and red onions on this juicy burger. Simple, yet amazing.
Nestled in a quite neighborhood towards Jefferson Avenue is a local favorite: Gautreau’s. There is no sign to notify restaurant-goers of its presence, just a set of frosted glass doors and heavily draped windows. This fine dining establishment is cozy and classy with a touch of history. Even though there’s no bar, they still have their regulars, all known by name. This goes to show how beloved this restaurant truly is. The dining room seats 60, so be sure to make a reservation well in advance.
Gautreau’s name was inspired by the famous Portrait of Madame X by John Singer Sargent, who features the founder’s distant cousin. Beyond the restaurant’s name, however, is a reputation for bringing up some of the best chefs in the country. Susan Zemanick is no exception. Ask to meet the chef and you’ll be greeted by one of the most approachable star chefs in the city. Before the age of 30, Sue appeared on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters, received five James Beard nominations and was recognized as Food & Wine Magazine’s Top 10 Best New Chefs in America. Her talent is reflected in every item on the menu.
At the top of our list is the Pork Osso Buco. This spin on the classic Veal Osso Buco should not be passed up. The pork falls apart under your fork and gives way to house-made tagliatelle on a light bed of jus. Fresh grape tomatoes and Castelvetrano olives add a fresh perspective to this dish. The clean flavors go quite well with a Pinot Noir, rounding out what may just be the finest dining experience you’ll have in this great city.
New Orleans is Emeril Legasse’s stomping grounds. He got his start at the legendary Commander’s Palace, as many great chefs do in this region, before making a national name for himself. NOLA Restaurant is his second concept to grace the streets of the French Quarter. This warehouse-style restaurant features three floors of dining with an open action kitchen, chef’s food bar and wood-fired brick oven. Service is top notch with the incredibly knowledgeable Averille Thomas running the house.
At the heart of it, NOLA brings New Orleans cuisine to a new level. Their recipes go beyond the traditional Cajun and Creole influence to focus on what can truly be considered New Orleans fare. This gives Chef de Cuisine Brian Mattola a chance to be creative but still hold true to the flavors of their culture.
We were drawn to the Grilled Pork Chop. This bone-in chop is cooked sous vide then finished on the grill to create a moist yet flavorful center-of-the-plate item. Grill marks score the long external bone to offer a most compelling presentation. The flavors of this dish connect as you move around the plate, each taste melding with the next. Pecans top the pork, which complements the onion sauce, which complements the sweet potatoes, which complements the full flavor of the pork. This was the perfect meal to wrap up our food adventure in New Orleans!
Traveling to New Orleans soon? Be sure to let us know if you stop by any of the restaurants listed here and tell us what you think!