In the world of New Orleans restaurants, being the best doesn’t necessarily mean being the fanciest or most expensive. What sets the best restaurants in New Orleans apart is the abundance of heart and soul in every meal. Whether it’s white-table-cloth fine dining or neighborhood taverns, old school or new guard, the passion for food, service and ambiance burns brightly.
New Orleans Restaurants
Though just a surface scratcher—seriously, this city excels in the culinary arts—here are 10 of the best restaurants in New Orleans to begin your immersion.
James Beard award nominee Nina Compton harnesses inspiration from her childhood home in St. Lucia, not only in name (“Compere Lapin” is a slightly naughty, yet beloved rabbit from Caribbean and Creole folktales) but also in sublime signature dishes like curried goat with sweet potato gnocchi, seafood pepper pots, and conch croquettes.
The playful melding of island and delta flavors delivers one of New Orleans’ best dining surprises, and engaging service and inventive cocktails put the experience over the culinary top. Reservations are essential for the cozy brick-walled dining rooms on the ground floor of Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery.
Over a century has rolled by since French immigrant Jean Galatoire founded this revered Creole New Orleans restaurant in the heart of the French Quarter on Bourbon Street. Today, the fifth-generation proprietors proudly share Galatoire’s rich legacy through delicious mainstays that never go out of style. Let the tuxedo-clad waiters, who deliver the very definition of impeccable service, guide your experience through classics like Oysters Rockefeller, shrimp étouffée, and the signature Crabmeat Yvonne featuring Louisiana crabmeat and artichokes.
Make reservations for the upstairs dining room or arrive early for a first-come, first-served seat in the coveted downstairs rooms. And if you can get a table for Friday lunch—the ultimate locals social event—celebrate with a fine bottle of French wine. A jacket is required for men or dinner and all day on Sunday.
Venture beyond traditional Creole and Cajun cuisine for a taste of modern, innovative New Orleans. Executive Chef Michael Gulotta flirts with culinary borders by fusing Asian flavors and Southern staples to create fresh dishes that taste like instant classics. Try slow-roasted pork belly grillades and cheese grits, or go for house-made noodles with blue crab and sausage. You can’t go wrong with the bold and tasty offerings at this inventive New Orleans restaurant.
For the weekend Dim Sum Brunch, you’ll find the sleek dining room jammed as diners savor dumplings and contemplate the dining room’s striking and fitting centerpiece: a clever mural spotlighting two deltas, the Mississippi and Mekong, seemingly a world apart, yet seamlessly intertwined in plate after plate.
Attention, lovers of pork and bourbon: this Cajun southern-powerhouse in the Warehouse District is your nirvana. French for “pig,” Cochon specializes in locally sourced pork, sausages and seafood from Louisiana’s finest farms and fisheries. At this meat-centric standout among the best restaurants in New Orleans, start with wood-fired oysters, then dig into intensive flavors of cochon and cabbage served with cracklins and pickled turnips. Don’t leave the table without cleaning a casserole dish of mac and cheese.
Seats at the bar and patio are for walk-ins, but it’s best to make a reservation. Or, opt for the butcher shop/sandwichery/food haven next door, Cochon Butcher, where small plates like hot boudin and cuck pastrami or pimento cheese sliders are ideal for sharing.
No list of the best restaurants in New Orleans would be worth its salt without a nod to AAA Four Diamond and six-time James Beard Award-winning Commander’s Palace. This landmark New Orleans restaurant has long lit up the Garden District with its eye-catching turquoise building, festive setting, and haute Creole dishes. Under the visionary direction of Ella Brennan—the family name Brennan is synonymous with fine dining in New Orleans—Commander’s continues to set the table for world-class dining. Miss Ella, as she’s affectionately known, once famously said she didn’t want a dining room “where a jazz band can’t come marching through,” and that celebratory spirit rings brightly during every meal.
Splurge with Chef Tory’s multi-course menus, and be sure to try the famous turtle soup, set off with a splash of sherry. Reserve a table for lunch, where extra perks include 25-cent martinis (nope, not a typo). Dining at Commander’s is an occasion worthy of elegant attire. Think: business chic to cocktail attire. If you can’t snag a reservation online, call directly.
Dooky Chase’s Restaurant
This quintessential New Orleans restaurant has been a gravitational force since 1941, beckoning locals from all over the city and visitors the world over to Tremé. Nonagenarian Chef Leah Chase is celebrated as the Queen of Creole comfort food, earning countless accolades including lifetime achievement awards from both the James Beard Foundation and Southern Foodways Alliance for inspiring generations.
Chase’s philosophy is simple: Feed people good food. She has shared her creations with civil rights leaders, politicians, and entertainers—Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush dined here, as have Quincy Jones, Duke Ellington, and Ray Charles. While you never know who you might find in the dining room, delicious Southern dishes like crispy fried chicken, okra, and red beans and rice are always the star attraction. Don’t miss the peach cobbler and sweet tea. Another draw is Chase’s stellar collection of African-American artwork, featuring works by Jacob Lawrence and Elizabeth Catlett, to name a few.
La Petite Grocery
Breezy charm sweeps through this century-old corner cottage in Uptown, setting the stage for elegant yet relaxed dining. Owner and chef Justin Devillier has impressive bona fides, recognized by the James Beard Foundation as the South’s Best Chef and voted New Orleans magazine’s Chef of the Year in 2014 for his creative take on New Orleans’ classics—and with one bite of the oh-so light and creamy Blue Crab Beignets, you’ll understand why. Whether you choose to dive into a shellfish stew or devour succulent braised lamb at this New Orleans restaurant, be sure to order a pickle jar side, a delightfully Southern accompaniment.
Stepping on the porch of this cottage in the Riverbend of Uptown may feel like visiting family, but you’re actually stepping into one of the best restaurants in New Orleans. That homey, welcoming spirit flows through the cozy dining room of Chef Frank Brigtsen’s homage to classic Cajun and Louisiana cuisine. With years of experience in the famed kitchens of Commander’s Palace and K-Paul’s, Brigsten set out to showcase the region’s finest ingredients. Glowing accolades have followed, including a “Top Chef” nod from Food & Wine magazine and James Beard Award for America’s best Southern chef.
The menu changes daily and features a decadent seafood platter, referred to as the shell beach diet, loaded with Gulf Coast favorites like shrimp, baked oysters, scallops, and extra treats like shrimp cornbread. Get started with a creamy oyster chowder, but remember to save space: the day’s bread pudding is an essential eat.
For 27 years, chef Susan Spicer has pioneered a slow food, local sourcing philosophy, influencing and inspiring fellow chefs and foodies alike from the kitchen of her James Beard Award-winning New Orleans restaurant. Housed in a 200-year-old French Quarter Creole cottage oozing with charm, Bayona infuses Mediterranean and American South flavors into innovative signature dishes, many of which are featured in her acclaimed cookbook, Crescent City Cooking. Order a sweet potato brioche to share, indulge in the luxuriously creamy garlic soup, then savor a local favorite like lightly sautéed redfish with Calabrian chili aioli.
For the ultimate in New Orleans romance, request a table in the courtyard and begin with exquisite craft cocktails like a cucumber julep with house-infused cucumber vodka. For more boozy goodness, above-par bloody marys are $5 at lunch, Wednesday through Friday.
Chefs Kristen Essig and Michael Stolzfus excel at creating palate-pleasing contemporary Southern cuisine and a welcoming vibe, making Coquette an instant Garden District favorite. Peek through the downstairs windows of this two-story circa 1880’s cottage and you’ll spot locals gathered at the elegant wooden bar, tin ceiling overhead, and feels-so-right glow emanating throughout.
At this welcoming New Orleans restaurant, plan to order small plates to share or let the pros guide your experience with the “Put Yourselves in Our Hands” tasting menu, an expertly crafted five-course blind-tasting with wine pairings.
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-Original reporting by Jess Simpson
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