In a city like New Orleans, starting a successful restaurant can be less than easy. Still, with a lower overhead than other major American cities (yes, we mean you, New York!), combined with amazing local produce and seafood, the Crescent City has always courted new additions to its culinary scene. 2014 has been a fine testament to this tradition, with some truly outstanding new eateries looking to grab some attention. Here are the best from this year:
This new taqueria in the Central Business District is exactly what you think would happen if you paired up NOLA golden boy/Chef John Besh with Chef Aarón Sánchez: killer modern Mexican cuisine in a casual atmosphere (check the tattoo art lining the walls) featuring locally sourced ingredients. That sometimes means fried crickets with your guacamole, by the way, but we’re game. Don’t miss out on the dessert menu either; they make their own Choco Tacos, hermano!
Lower Garden District
Did New Orleans need a food laboratory/chef’s table restaurant serving up Dr. Seuss-esque concoctions (meals are a tasting-menu parade of 12-15 courses for the intrepid diners, and last two and a half to three hours)? If anyone is going to say “yes” to that question, it’s Chef Phillip Lopez, who you might recognize from his flagship restaurant, Root, known for its foie gras cotton candy, cigar box-smoked scallops, and other whimsical fare. Square Root takes it to the next level. If you’re an adventurous eater looking to drop $150 per person (more with drink pairings) on a crazy and elaborate dinner, this is the place for you.
A perennial local favorite, Marti’s became a number of different restaurants (including Peristyle) before being brilliantly reinvented this year. It’s quickly become a favorite dining spot once again, thanks to a gorgeous dining room and a seafood-heavy menu that also includes house-made chorizo, stuffed Texas quail, and one hell of a double-cut pork chop. It’s the kind of place you go for your birthday, or on a fancy date. Or on your fancy date’s birthday. Or, you know, Wednesday.
Talk about a facelift... the extensive, multi-million-dollar renovation of Broussard’s, which reopened grandly in 2014, is more of a whole body lift. In a town filled with elegant dining spaces, this place stands up to the very best. The soul of the place, however, is deeply intact. For traditional French Creole fare, it’s hard to do better than Broussard’s. The handsome Empire Bar, behind which you’ll find legendary bartender Paul Gustings, is also a great spot for a proper cocktail.
If ever there was a restaurant version of “the old switcheroo”, Meauxbar is it. After closing (much to the disappointment of local diners), the owners of another popular restaurant, Sainte Marie, decided to close shop as well, and transport the kitchen crew en masse to reopen Meauxbar. If that’s a little confusing, the menu, courtesy of rising star Chef Kristen Essig, is far from it. The refined, eclectic menu includes everything from escargot and bone marrow (with a shot of Herbsaint out of the bone, if you like) to a fantastic Goat Cheese Tart, French Onion Grilled Cheese, and bolognese over spatzle.
New Orleans might have an overabundance of wonderful Vietnamese restaurants, but finding some great, authentic Chinese food has always been more of a challenge. Enter Bao & Noodle, which looks to serve up traditional mainland fare at friendly prices. Chef/owner Doug Crowell, a Herbsaint veteran, looks to his wife’s Chinese-American heritage for menu inspiration, and you’ll find classics like beef chow fun and scallion pancakes, as well as char siu bao (sticky buns) and something called Strange Flavor Peanuts.
Chef Michael Gulotta (formerly chef de cuisine at Restaurant August) opened what is easily one of the most exciting and inventive restaurants in the Crescent City with MoPho. Aside from having a fun name, the new Mid-City eatery offers pho and banh mi, of course, but be on the lookout for Gulotta’s creative blending of Southeast Asia and South Louisiana, like Crispy Fried P&J Oysters with a pickled blue cheese salad and “MoPho mayo”, pepper jelly-braised clams, and some of the most amazing glazed chicken wings in town.
The Riverbend area of Uptown New Orleans is no stranger to great restaurants (think Brigtsen’s and Dante’s Kitchen, among others). Adding to the scene is the freshly opened Carrollton Market, which impressed local diners right out of the gate with its “market-driven menu”. Seriously: the chef and crew scour local farmers’ markets for seasonal ingredients, which means the menu changes constantly with what’s coming out of the ground or the Gulf. It’s a risky gambit for a restaurant, but Carrollton Market pulls it off.
Hand-pulled ramen noodles with creative toppings in a lovingly brewed broth paired with... pie? Why not? Noodle & Pie has plenty of both, and both are well worth your hard-earned duckets. The excellent small plates are an added bonus, including deep-fried Brussels sprouts, and a wholly awesome Korean sesame fried chicken that will make you say “Popeye who?”
Chef Alon Shaya’s pizza at Domenica, in the Roosevelt Hotel, is so damn good, it needed its own new home Uptown. Expect the same outstanding Neapolitan-style pies topped with fresh, seasonal ingredients and house-cured meats in addition to the very best garlic knots in New Orleans, which are served with an air-light, roasted Parmesan fonduta for all your dipping needs. It also has Domenica’s crazy (and crazy-tasty) whole roasted cauliflower, as an added bonus.
There’s always been plenty of excellent Italian food in the Big Easy, thanks to a heritage rich with Italian immigrants (thank goodness -- otherwise there would be no such thing as a muffaletta!). Adding to the scene is Marcello’s, which offers a huge menu filled with the classics, as well as a few modern additions, not to mention an extensive vino list to go with them. There’s plenty of calamari, veal parm, spaghetti bolognese, and chicken cacciatore, as well as lamb lollipops over pappardelle, and fettuccine with fried oysters and vodka sauce.
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1. Johnny Sanchez930 Poydras St, New Orleans
2. Square Root1800 Magazine St, New Orleans
3. Marti's1041 Dumaine St, New Orleans
4. Broussard's Restaurant & Courtyard819 Conti St, New Orleans
5. Meauxbar942 N Rampart St, New Orleans
6. Bao & Noodle2700 Chartres St, New Orleans
7. MoPho514 City Park Ave, New Orleans
8. Carrollton Market8132 Hampson St, New Orleans
9. Noodle & Pie741 State St, New Orleans
10. PIZZA domenica4933 Magazine St, New Orleans
11. Marcello's Restaurant & Wine Bar715 Saint Charles Ave, New Orleans
Located in the Central Business District JS features killer modern Mexi-cuisine (made with locally sourced ingredients) in a casual atmosphere -- make sure to have a gander at the tattoo art lining the walls.
Run by Executive Chef and Owner Phillip Lopez, Square Root is the sequel to the outstanding and innovative resto Root, and it centers on a modern kitchen design, where contemporary culinary techniques are the main attraction and an eclectic menu will keep surprising you as you try more and more of it.
This modern bistro went under in 1988 but is back from the dead to serve a menu mainly featuring flavors of southwestern Europe.
Broussard’s offers a slightly different interpretation of French-Creole cuisine than other illustrious New Orleans fine dining establishments: contemporary interpretations give traditional dishes a new lease on life. Sweet potatoes are whipped with ginger, fried chicken is glazed with red chili and perched on a sweet potato biscuit, and the chicken fricassee is flavored with truffle and artichokes. Broussard’s is also home to the Empire Bar, where mixologist Paul Gustings pours up his signature Ramos Gin Fizz.
This swanky wine bar/restaurant serves up wholesome European dishes like pork belly with crispy scallops, and steak tartare courtesy of renowned Chef Kristen Essig.
This Marigny joint doles out traditional Chinese fare at friendly prices, featuring classics like beef chow fun and scallion pancakes and more.
This Mid-City eatery is run by former chef from John Besh's August, and the quality is apparent. It combines the flavors of the Gulf with the flavors of Vietnam making for a fresh exploration into classic Vietnamese dishes. The drink program is just as eclectic as the eats, with house cocktails and spiked boba teas. The space feels modern and trendy for a strip mall spot, with a blue and orange color palette and wooden accents. On Saturdays, they roast a full pig, meaning you should probably cancel your other weekend plans.
Located in Uptown NOLA, Carrollton Market is brought to you by Chef Jason Goodenough and it doles out modern Southern fare ranging from their Andouille-Stuffed Chicken Breast to “Chicken ‘n’ Dumplins”, which is made with house-made potato gnocchi, speck, crème fraiche, and tarragon.
Ramen and pie is the speciality at this Asian fusion restaurant. The move at Noodle & Pie is to start with a few small plates (okonomiyaki fries, deep-fried Brussels sprouts, Korean fried chicken) before moving on to a bowl of shoyu chicken ramen and finally, a slice of pie -- like the spicy Thai peanut butter cup with chocolate crust -- for dessert.
The pizza at Domenica, Alan Shaya's spot in the Roosevelt Hotel, was so good that he decided to dedicate an entire restaurant to it. The Uptown pizzeria focuses on Neapolitan pizzas topped with seasonal ingredients and house-cured meats. The menu features speciality pies, like the ode-to-NOLA muffaletta pizza, plus a few salads and appetizers, like top-notch garlic knots and house-smoked chicken wings.
Marcello’s Restaurant & Wine Bar on St. Charles Avenue offers rustic Italian fare that stands out among the Creole-Italian restaurants of New Orleans. Marcello’s well-executed comfort foods find their way onto a menu of antipasti, contorni, zuppa and insalata, specialties, and entrees, with gems like the marsala pork cheek, which is slowly braised until it cuts like butter, and the tritone, a linguine dish with crabmeat, lobster, shrimp, mushrooms, and spinach, in a creamy sherry sauce. The restaurant is divided into a front dining room, dark-wood bar, and spacious back dining room lined with wine racks, which you can peruse to find the glass or bottle you’d like to indulge in during your meal.