When Louis Armstrong crooned "Way down yonder in New Orleans / There's the land of dreamy scenes", he definitely wasn't talking about Bourbon Street. But the fried oyster po'boy at Domilise's and a Sazerac at the Kingfisher probably would've made Satchmo quite happy. So leave behind the strip clubs and "Huge Ass Beers" of that neon-lit strip (unless you're escaping into Galatoire's), and eat and drink like we actually do in the Crescent City. That is, very, very well.
If you want more, head to Thrillist New Orleans for hot openings and the rest of our longtime favorites.
Why you're here: Fried chicken from the reigning "Queen of New Orleans Cuisine"
What you're getting: Yes, it might have a ridiculous-sounding name that you don't want to have to say to the cab driver, but there are few chefs in the Crescent City that command more respect and deference than the inimitable Leah Chase. Her perfect, crispy fried chicken should be on every person’s bucket list (even if it isn’t literally served in a bucket).
Why you're here: Donald “Sausage” Link’s James Beard Award-winning toast to Gulf seafood
What you're getting: Chef Link and his partners’ years of traveling the globe studying live-fire cooking have resulted in the totally fire-free raw bar, which offers some of the best bivalves in town, chosen from specific Louisiana oyster areas with an emphasis on freshness and size. Also, there's Peche's now-famous whole fish that helped net them their Beard.
Why you're here: BBQ shrimp, the NOLA staple created here
What you're getting: Okay, so the confusingly named “BBQ shrimp”, in the New Orleans fashion, has nothing to do with traditional BBQ. But it has everything to do with shrimp, particularly the kraken-sized monsters found in the Gulf of Mexico, poached in a ton of butter & black pepper. There are a number of places to find this favorite, but it’s the house specialty at “Manale’s”, and for good reason.
Why you're here: With a whopping 14 different dining rooms and tables draped in perfectly starched white linens, it’s pretty much what everybody thinks about when they think about classic New Orleans restaurants.
What you're getting: You know, good ol' Antoine’s still looks pretty decent for being 174-years-old, and everyone from Bill Clinton to Brad Pitt to the Pope has dined there. But we should start by saying that oysters Rockefeller -- a dish so rich, it was named after the wealthiest man in the entire country -- was invented at Antoine's. Also, escargots a la Bordelaise? Ecrevisses Cardinal? Cotelettes d'agneau grillées? Check, check, and check.
Why you're here: Aside from housing the famous French 75 Bar -- where you’ll find cocktail master and historian Chris Hannah and where you absolutely should get an after-dinner drink and cigar -- you can’t help but be charmed by Arnaud's Old World elegance.
What you're getting: Another historic fine-dining institution in the Vieux Carre, it has been offering classic Creole fare since 1918. And that's not to mention live Dixieland in the Jazz Bistro, a fantastic brunch, and dishes like Shrimp Arnaud, Crab Claws Provencale, Oysters Bienville, Crawfish O’Connor, Crabmeat Karen, and other fantastic French Creole dishes named after people (or places).
Why you're here: At lunch on a Friday, there's no bigger social scene in New Orleans
What you're getting: Jean Galatoire founded this Bourbon Street institution in 1905, and it continues to be one of the best places to eat (and to be seen) in New Orleans. This is the place to bust out your finest suit and enjoy some turtle soup au sherry, eggs Sardou, or baked oysters.
Why you're here: The coldest oysters in town, and their signature oyster loaves (fried bivalves sandwiched between buttery Texas toast)
What you're getting: There are a few things you should know about Casamento’s: they’ve been rocking the raw bar for nearly a century (since 1919, to be specific); it’s closed during the summer months; it’s small, so be prepared for a wait; and they have literally the coldest oysters in town, courtesy of a special stainless steel “oyster box” that keeps the bivalves cool sans ice, so they’re never watered down. But you should also know that if you slip him a tip as you wait in line, shucker-extraordinaire Mike will joyfully shuck an oyster directly into your mouth from across the room. Now that’s talent!
Why you're here: Classic New Orleans fine-dining outside the French Quarter -- Commander's Palace is uptown in the Garden District, right across from Lafayette Cemetery No.1.
What you're getting: You might recognize the former head chef’s name: Emeril Lagasse, who helmed the Palace’s kitchen in the '80s, long before “Bam!”. These days, chef Tory McPhail has that job, and isn’t doing so bad, if you count James Beard Awards as any measure of job performance. And if you’ve never had your post-dinner coffee filled with booze and lit on fire in front of you, make sure to order the café brûlot.
Why you're here: It's the second-oldest restaurant in the Big Easy (1856, to be precise) and has one of the most iconic bars in the country.
What you're getting: Given its placement on Decatur Street near Cafe Du Monde and its gigantic, iconic sign, Tujague's is pretty hard to miss. A meal here shouldn’t be missed, either -- you can get a traditional shrimp Creole, BBQ shrimp, veal chop, or lamb loin, as well as the famous brisket with Creole horseradish sauce. Don’t ask for a stool at the bar -- it’s stand-up only -- but do order the delicious Grasshopper cocktail, which they invented and which contains no actual grasshoppers.
Why you're here: New Orleans wouldn’t be New Orleans without Willie Mae’s.
What you're getting: Though natives will debate this, most consider Willie Mae’s to be the sine qua non of fried chicken in NOLA. After being devastated by Hurricane Katrina, locals and visiting do-gooders made sure that this beloved institution made it back on its feet.
Why you're here: The drinks in this Havana-inflected, "proto-Tiki" joint are the real deal.
What you're getting: When this place opened -- thanks to the pedigree of owners Neal Bodenheimer from legendary cocktail joint Cure, alongside rum savant Nick Detrich -- the hype was Bourbon Street-at-9pm-on-a-Saturday loud, and with food to match, the upscale Tiki spot continues to draw crowds.
Why you're here: A proper French 75, and those air-light soufflé potatoes will get anyone’s evening off to the proper start.
What you're getting: There’s a small handful of mixologists in New Orleans who are as well-known and respected as celebrity chefs, and Arnaud’s Chris Hannah is one of them. He specializes in reviving old-fashioned 'tails, but also has a slew of creative originals on the seasonal menu.
Why you're here: Not only does the historic bar manage to make a fair ride look glamorous, but the Pimm's Cup here is the best in the city.
What you're getting: Grab a drink at the Tales of the Cocktail HQ's 64-year-old lobby lounge, where the famous revolving bar once inspired regulars like Ernest Hemingway and Truman Capote to write stories better... then become incomprehensible after imbibing at a spinning bar.
Why you're here: Guinness, 'dogs, darts, and killer food courtesy of Boo Koo BBQ
What you're getting: Soccer hooligans of the Big Easy, unite at Finn’s! (Or, actually, don't?) There are other sports displayed on the 8ft TV, of course, but few seem more appropriate here than, ahem, “football”, paired with a properly poured pint of Guinness.
Why you're here: Head barman Chris McMillian is referred to as "legendary", and a sip of his Sazerac matches his rep.
What you're getting: Pair McMillian's expertise in the New Orleans bar with chef Greg Sonnier in the kitchen, and you’ll have an entire night you’re not likely to forget. Start at the bar early when you can get a great seat, knock back a few, then move to a table.
Why you're here: This restaurant bar, from the group that runs Commander's, focuses on drinks that match the caliber of the kitchen.
What you're getting: According to SoBou’s bar-chef extraordinaire, Abigail Gullo, "For a city that takes such great pride in its cuisine AND as much pride in its liquid culture, it's only natural that they would be combined and paired. This is a city of mash-ups, from Cajun and Creole cuisine to Vietnamese to the different ingredients of the Sazerac. We love to incorporate the whole culture into one big gumbo pot, literally. So it only makes sense that we would want to have our exquisite cuisine matched by exquisite drinks." Hence, if chef Juan Carlos Gonzalez has certain chilis on the menu, you’d better believe that those same chilis will find themselves on Abigail’s list of house cocktails.
Why you're here: 'Tails from the dudes behind Cure in a sexy hotel lobby setting
What you're getting: Named for a photographer who shot the Red Light District during Prohibition, Hotel Modern's boozery, Bellocq, is a candle-lit throwback that stirs up nothing but pre-Temperance cobblers, crustas, smashes, and punches... which one should drink in moderation lest they lead to any.
Why you're here: Some of the city's best cocktails tucked away in Mid-City
What you're getting: What to say about this place other than, if you happen to be there at 4pm on a Sunday afternoon, you can get both a haircut AND a drink for all of 10 bucks? Well, also that there’s free food on Mondays. Oh, and Shortall’s BBQ to chow down on from Tuesday-Friday.
Lower Garden District
Why you're here: This is one of the best beer bars in the country, but the attitude is laid-back and unpretentious.
What you're getting: With 40 brews on draught and more than triple that by the bottle, you’d be hard-pressed not to find something to satisfy even the nerdiest of beer nerds. Do they have Evil Twin Imperial Biscotti Break? Southern Tier Creme Brulee Stout? Green Flash Citra Session? Yes, yes, and yes. And if you can get a seat on the balcony, order up some Dump Truck Fries (Béchamel, roast pork, grilled onions, and wine au jus) and prepare to never leave.
Why you're here: Their lamb sausage po'boy shows why the new(ish) kid in town won hearts and stomachs so quickly.
What you're getting: Located in the back of the Erin Rose bar, this po'boy pop-up is well-known for its modern versions of the classic NOLA sandwich, including an eponymously killer po'boy featuring Moroccan-spiced lamb sausage with herby tzatziki sauce and sumac carrot relish.
Why you're here: R & O's is the best introduction to New Orleans' oft-forgotten other famous food: roast beef.
What you're getting: It may be an Italian spot featuring generous pizzas, veal Parm, and spaghetti, but the roast beef at R & O's is absolutely the best in the city. Chopped (not sliced), crazy tender, and drowning in dark, rich gravy, it’s the stuff that dreams are made of. Po'boy dreams.
Why you're here: Slow-roasted duck po'boy. Yep, slow-roasted duck.
What you're getting: You know good things are going to come out of a po'boy shop helmed by Jacques Leonardi, the man behind Jacques-Imo’s Cafe. The slow-roasted, pulled duck po'boy at Crabby Jack’s is the only one like it in the city, and for good reason: it’s unbeatable.
Why you're here: Mid-City's go-to po'boy haven has epic golden-fried shrimp po'boys.
What you're getting: This bakery goes all the way back to 1911, though in modern times it’s become well-known as a go-to spot for po'boys, particularly one spilling over with crispy fried shrimp. When the POTUS came to town and wanted a po'boy, he went here. You should, too.
Why you're here: The Ray Ray's a chicken cordon bleu on French bread. Yep.
What you're getting: A Po'boy Fest favorite, Southern fried chicken with grilled ham and Swiss cheese makes up Sammy’s famous Ray Ray po'boy. It’s just awesome.
Why you're here: It’s a classic. A legend.
What you're getting: While some folks consider Mother’s too touristy these days, visitors are right to line up around the corner for a Famous Ferdi Special, a po'boy featuring baked ham, roast beef, “debris” gravy, and all dressed up.
Why you're here: The perfectly golden-fried goodness of the fried shrimp/oyster po'boy
What you're getting: Yeah, there’s going to be a line at Domilise’s. You know why? Every fried seafood po'boy is battered and fried to order, resulting in a bit of a wait, but it’s worth it. Get the half-and-half, one side oyster, the other shrimp. Bonus points for adding spicy ketchup (their house condiment), which isn’t traditional, but it’s a genius touch.
1. Galatoire's209 Bourbon St, New Orleans
2. Dooky Chase's Restaurant2301 Orleans Ave, New Orleans
3. Willie Mae's Scotch House2401 Saint Ann St, New Orleans
4. Commander's Palace1403 Washington Ave, New Orleans
5. Tujague's823 Decatur St, New Orleans
6. Antoine's Restaurant713 Saint Louis St, New Orleans
7. Arnaud's Restaurant813 Bienville St, New Orleans
8. Casamento's4330 Magazine St, New Orleans
9. Peche Seafood Grill800 Magazine St, New Orleans
10. Pascal's Manale Restaurant1838 Napoleon Ave, New Orleans
11. The Avenue Pub1732 Saint Charles Ave, New Orleans
12. Kingfish337 Chartres, New Orleans
13. Twelve Mile Limit500 S Telemachus St, New Orleans
14. Finn McCool's Irish Pub3701 Banks St, New Orleans
15. Bellocq936 St. Charles, New Orleans
16. The Carousel Bar & Lounge214 Royal St, New Orleans
17. SoBou310 Chartres St, New Orleans
18. Arnaud's French 75 Bar813 Bienville St, New Orleans
19. Cane & Table1113 Decatur St, New Orleans
20. R & O's216 Metairie Hammond Hwy, Metairie
21. Domilise's Po-Boys5240 Annunciation St, New Orleans
22. Parkway Bakery & Tavern538 Hagan Ave, New Orleans
23. Mother's Restaurant401 Poydras St, New Orleans
24. Sammy's Food Service & Deli3000 Elysian Fields Ave, New Orleans
25. Killer Poboys811 Conti St, New Orleans
26. Crabby Jack's428 Jefferson Hwy, Jefferson
Established in 1905, Bourbon Steet fixture Galatoire's is all about re-creating old-timey antebellum New Orleans ambiance through classic French Creole cuisine. Jackets are required dress code when dining at this high-end traditional establishment. However, you won't feel overdressed; the waiters are all suited in tuxedos. With more than 2,000 square feet of luxurious space, Galatoire's has three floors: the first being the main dining room, the second (able to accommodate over 250 people) meant for larger special events, and the third is home to a smaller private dining area.
The history of this cozy Treme spot is just as interesting as the authentic Creole flavors it serves up: perfectly crispy fried chicken, shrimp Clemenceau, and hearty, zesty seafood gumbo. Helmed by Chef Leah Chase -- known to locals and notable folk like President Obama and Beyoncé as the “Queen of Creole” -- the spot’s storied past covers its tenure as a po-boy and lottery shop in turned, as of 1941, beloved restaurant and community outpost for live music, local artwork, and civil rights. It’s the perfect option for a relaxed yet refined lunch during the week, and we suggest making a reservation -- it’s no secret that Dooky Chase’s is a Big Easy institution, and seating fills up fast.
The fried chicken at Willie Mae’s Scotch House is the best in the United States. No joke: it was dubbed such by the Travel Channel and Food Network, and also won the James Beard Award for “America’s Classic Restaurant for the Southern Region.” Tucked away the Treme neighborhood, the cozy spot features all the accoutrements of a beloved local haunt -- memorabilia mounted throughout, news clippings chronicling the success of the family-owned business (which has been open since 1957), homey environs -- and it’s worth noting that there’s always a line out the door, regardless of weather. It’s a walk-ins only spot, so be prepared to wait -- but the soul food here is so satisfying, and it’s entirely worth it.
Executive Chef Tory McPhail was named the 2013 Best Southern Chef by the James Beard Foundation, so there's a good chance you'll enjoy his Cajun fine dining.
Located in the heart of the French Quarter, Tujague's is the second oldest restaurant in NOLA, a fact evidenced by a timeless, extensive old-school menu that focuses around traditional Creole fare. The place also houses one of the most iconic bars in the country, and invented the minty post-dinner Grasshopper cocktail, which is delicious, and contains no actual grasshoppers.
Opened in 1840, this classical and elegant St. Louis Street restaurant features 14 uniquely-styled dining rooms in which to enjoy French-Creole cuisine. It is in its 5th generation of family ownership, passed down from founder Antoine Alciatore. Dinner is an elegant and delicious ordeal, and you'll be dining where dozens of famous people have feasted before you, their photos now lining the walls. There's room for 700+ guests all dressed in formal attire so, what can we say, laissez les bons temps rouler!
Arnaud’s is a decades-old French Quarter staple that embodies the French Creole style in architecture, décor, and, of course, food. Inside the red building lined with innumerable French windows and a second-story balcony ornamented with mint green railing and shutters is a dining room straight out of a southern novel, with potted palm fronds, mosaic tile floors, and opulent chandeliers. Come for dinner or for the jazz brunch, where a jazz trio will serenade you while you decide among the menu’s Cajun and Creole items, from gumbo to crab cakes to shrimp remoulade.
A New Orleans landmark since 1919, Casamento's is the grandaddy of all oyster bars, serving up fried oyster po' boys and equally delicious raw oysters, shucked right in front of you. The space is small and completely tiled, because the owners know oyster juice spillage is inevitable when you're marathon-slurping your meal.
At PSG, East Coast flavors meet Southern hospitality in the form of Cajun inspired charcoal grilled seafood delicacies, raw bar options, and oysters on the half. This Warehouse District space features a rustic, wood-lacquered dining room that's spacious and yet intimate; the perfect place to catch up with a group over a seafood tower "for the table."
Look for the brightly glowing neon cursive on Napoleon Avenue, follow the tantalizing scent of Cajun spices, and voilà: you’ve arrived at Pascal’s Manale, a cozy Uptown joint where shellfish reign. Blending bold Creole flavors with Italian influences, the kitchen serves heavy-hitting favorites like frutta del mare drenched in homemade marinara sauce and the house specialty: Pascal’s Barbecue Shrimp, a local legend for its hefty portion and spice-obsessed butter sauce.
Located in the Lower Garden District, this American craft beer pub is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The tap list is heavy on one-and-done offerings with enough rarities to keep the beer nerds at bay, while the bottle list is about as thick as a small-town phone book, offering up everything from Belgian farmhouses to all-American IPAs, all of which taste considerably better when paired with the famous bechamel and pork Dump Truck Fries.
Thibodaux native, Chef Nathan Richard, created a menu at the casual Kingfish restaurant that combines the Cajun reverence for honoring ingredients and culinary history with a sophisticated, often playful take on modern trends that excite visitors and natives alike. The plateau de fruits des mer is this spots take on a traditional meat charcuterie board, using local seafood to create all manner of fresh and cured sausages, terrines, and smoked items.
Twelve Mile has all the little things that make a bar feel homey. You’ve got food if you need it, places to sit and stare at the curios that catch your eye -- like the stuffed shark and squid hanging near the Hyperbole and a Half print on the wall -- a solid jukebox, pool, and personalized matchbooks to light your smokes or pass a number to someone. It’s the neighborhood bar worth leaving your actual neighborhood to adopt as your own.
In the tradition of Irish pubs, Finn McCool’s is more than a bar. The Mid-City institution borrows from the best of two cultures: an Irish pub that functions more like a community center, and a no-pretensions New Orleans corner bar that welcomes all comers. What you’ll find at Finn’s are friendly bartenders and a heavily local crowd (unless, maybe, it’s St. Patrick’s Day). If you’re looking to watch football -- and I don’t mean the American kind -- Finn’s is the best place in New Orleans to plant yourself.
Located in the Hotel Modern, Bellocq is an upscale cocktail lounge that specializes in Cobblers (drinks served with crushed ice, citrus, berries and a fruit garnish) and other craft cocktails in an upscale and intimate atmosphere. Plush couches and vintage bar stools provide ample seating, and you won't have to fight a crowd to get a drink.
Aptly named, the famous Carousel Bar & Lounge in the Hotel Monteleone is NOLA's only revolving bar. But don't worry -- you'll only turn one revolution every 15 minutes, so you probably won't puke up that last Vieux Carre on that pretty patron sitting to your right.
Located inside the W Hotel, SoBou is a spirited restaurant south of Bourbon St (hence the name) feels like a modern-day Creole saloon. The restaurant and lounge is known for its hand-crafted cocktails, and serves creative spins on traditional bar snacks like crispy pork skin and spicy beer nuts, as well as some heartier dishes. SoBou also has a beer garden with beer taps in the tables and self-serve wine machines.
Originally designated as a "gentlemen only area" in NOLA's early days, this cocktail bar located within Arnaud's Restaurant features drinks like the Pisco Derby (that's pisco, lavender honey syrup, lime, and grapefruit) and bar snacks like Oysters en Brochette (translation: oysters wrapped with bacon and deep fried). You'll feel extra fancy having those cocktails and snacks served to you by bartenders clad in white tuxedos. In addition to more inventive drinks, you can't go wrong with the killer Old Fashioned or Sidecar either.
There are many things to enjoy about this throwback Caribbean restaurant and bar -- think Navy-strength rum and house-made falernum -- but best enjoyed here is the “Boss Colada”, a long and tropical drink fashioned from fresh pineapple, lime, Baska Snäps, and Peychauds bitters, garnished with a long pineapple leaf. Be warned: this bar is so low-key that there isn't even a sign out front. To find it, look for the line at Coop's on Decatur; it's next door.
R & O's plates a variety of Creole/Cajun dishes, but they're best known for their po' boys and other tasty sammies.
Under the same family ownership for over 100 years, Domilise's is something of a local New Orleans po-boy haven. While the legendary spot is unassuming, tucked inside a little yellow house on an Uptown corner, distinguished only by a hand-painted sign, it is relatively hard to miss due to the line that typically stretches out the door. Widely recognized for consistently good eats and veritable Southern hospitality, Domilise's has no trouble maintaining a steady crowd of regulars. The catfish and fried-oyster po-boys are among the most popular menu items, but guests can top their sandwiches with everything from pork sausage and roast beef, to shrimp and turkey breast. The Louisiana mainstay is something of a landmark for po-boy connoisseurs, and eat-seeking tourists, alike.
No one does po’boys like Parkway, and it’s no surprise: the Mid-City spot has been open since 1911, and the po’boy has been a staple of the menu since 1929. Regardless of whether you’re a local, a passerby, or even President Obama (who makes a point to snag a golden fried shrimp po’boy here when business brings him to the Big Easy), you really can’t go wrong with any of these delicious bad boys, all of which are served on fresh, house-made bread. Pro tip: if you can’t handle the spice level, a booze-loving mint julep will help.
Famous for their po-boys and jambalaya, Mother's has been specializing in authentic New Orleans-style cooking since it opened its doors in 1938.
This Cajun/Creole resto has a vast menu featuring a variety of options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but they're best known for their sammies, like the Ray Ray po-boy, which is built with Southern fried chicken with grilled ham and Swiss.
The French Quarter's popular Killer Poboys serves exactly that: top-notch po-boys, cooked up in the tiny kitchen at the back of Irish pub Erin Rose on Conti Street. The po-boys here are crafted with a new-age eye, some even incorporating untraditional ingredients like pork belly, smoked salmon, and sweet potato. The cash-only counter also serves up standout sandwiches like BBQ chicken confit, Black Bear beef debris, and chorizo & egg.