As the old saying goes, when God closes a restaurant in New Orleans... someone else opens a restaurant in New Orleans. Or at least that’s the gist. Either way, the city is just awash in aspiring and ambitious new eateries this year, and there are a bunch you might want to check out if you’re in the Big Easy this summer...

Compère Lapin

Warehouse District
You might recognize Chef Nina Compton from her stint on the New Orleans season of Top Chef, and it seems like the city must’ve made its mark on Compton, since she chose it as the location for her new eatery. From an early look, the space is a stunner, and fits in perfectly with the neighborhood, and the Caribbean-meets-Louisiana-Creole cuisine is thoughtful and refined, but not fussy. Add to that a killer bar program (they managed to poach notable NOLA barkeep Abigail Gullo from SoBou), and this one has all the earmarks of a winner.

Sam Hanna

Avo

Uptown
We were sad to see Martinique Bistro close its doors on Magazine, but happy that Nick Lama, a NOLA native and fourth-generation Sicilian, decided to open a gorgeous new Italian spot in its place. The initial menu isn’t huge, but it doesn’t have to be. We trust Lama with everything from his grilled artichokes to (oddly enough) chicken wings with radishes, watermelon, and pepper jelly, four simple pastas, and mains like pork Milanese with red wine-braised turnips, Swiss chard, and salsa verde.

Kin/Ardent Studio

Kin

Mid-City
While Kin brands itself as “New American,” the fare, at the hands of NOLA native Chef Hieu Than (who trained in both New York under Tom Colicchio and in New Orleans under Sue Zemanick, so... pedigree), seems to be slightly more eclectic. Yes, there’s the “eclectic, local, light and healthy” fare, but there’s also the newly announced ramen lunch menu, which is a more-than-welcome addition to a city with few stellar ramen options.

Sac-a-lait

Sac-a-Lait

Warehouse District
Compère Lapin isn’t the only new addition to the restaurant-rich Warehouse District; Sac-a-Lait (which is an alternative name for a fish known as “crappie” -- good call) brings some intriguing Cajun flavors to the neighborhood. The menu sports turtle boudin, frog leg gumbo with alligator sausage, fried backstrap of venison, duck chaudin, and other refined swamp fare.

Brown Butter/Dayne Womax

Brown Butter

Mid-City
How can you not love a restaurant called “Brown Butter”? This is “contemporary Southern fare” done in fine style, in a cozy wood-paneled room. It features hearty takes on country favorites like rabbit and dumplings, fried pickles, and chicken-fried quail salad, as well as meaty entrees like smoked pork ribs and an aged duck breast. You’re going to want a decent appetite when you go here, for certain.

Ursa Major

Ursa Major

South Market District
Leave it up to the team behind Booty’s Street Food to create an elegant, trippy, globe-hopping restaurant with an astronomy theme. Located in the Paramount in the new South Market District, Ursa offers up everything from a bedouin leg of lamb to Moroccan fish and eggplant pakoras, not to mention an ambitious cocktail program. Early reports have been, well, starry-eyed at the experience.

Paladar 511

Paladar 511

Marigny
California pizza and more comes to the Marigny with the arrival of Paladar 511, but don’t think that this is your average slice joint. In true New Orleans fashion, the menu sports raw oysters and other local products, as well as more refined fare like Gulf tuna with avocado and Louisiana oranges, as well as a “braised pork shoulder with turnips, cabbage, poached egg, and mustard cream.” If this is the Gulf Coast by way of the West Coast, we like the look of it. Also: pizza.

Rebellion Bar & Urban Kitchen

Rebellion Bar & Urban Kitchen

Central Business District
The menu is all about Asian fusion at Rebellion, and while that’s not exactly a novel concept, that doesn’t mean it’s always a bad one. A Chinese oyster mushroom salad shares the bill with spicy Korean kimchi stew, Vietnamese spring rolls, mushroom pho, and similar fare, as well as (oddly enough) empanadas and shrimp & grits. We’ll take one of everything, please.

Bourrée at Boucherie/Jesus Brazon

Bourrée at Boucherie

Uptown/Carrollton
If it’s got Nathanial Zimet’s name on it, New Orleanians are going to want to go there. Especially because the newly opened Bourrée, in the spot that formerly housed Boucherie, focuses on frozen daiquiris and chicken wings. Yup, you heard that right. But, this being Zimet, expect craft versions of both, which sounds mighty fine to us, especially since the word “bourrée” is Cajun slang for being snookered.

The Big Cheezy

The Big Cheezy

Mid-City
Did New Orleans really need a dedicated grilled cheese restaurant? Why, yes. Yes, it did. What city doesn’t? Here, variations on the classic sandwich include mac & cheese grilled cheese (cheese-ception!), goat cheese and Jack with bacon and peppers, cheddar and pepper Jack with alligator sausage, and still more combinations than even your “herb-friendly” college roommate could come up with during a long, smoky night.

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1. Compère Lapin 535 Tchoupitoulas St, New Orleans, LA 70130 (Warehouse District)

Lead by Top Chef contestant Nina Compton, Compére Lapin is Caribbean-meets-Louisiana-Creole cuisine that is thoughtful and refined, but not fussy. Add a killer bar program (headed by NOLA barkeep Abigail Gullo from SoBou), and you've got yourself your next Friday night dinner reservation. Located in the Warehouse District, the space is a stunner, with exposed brick walls, wood finishes and a mosaic tile floor.

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2. Avo 5908 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115 (Uptown)

Chef Nick Lama is a NOLA native, third-generation Sicilian and grew up working in a seafood market his family owned. His authentic Italian and New Orleans background shines in inventive ways at his Uptown restaurant in both his pastas and entrees. The candle-lit courtyard provides a romantic and intimate atmosphere, and it holds their happy hour on Monday through Thursday. Don't forget to leave room for the decadent Italian desserts. Gelato, anyone?

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3. Kin 4600 Washington Ave, New Orleans, LA 70125 (Mid City)

In the hands of NOLA native Chef Hieu Than (who trained in both New York under Tom Colicchio and in New Orleans under Sue Zemanick, so...pedigree) Kin brands itself as “New American,” although its menu, particularly its stellar ramen, makes it seem slightly more eclectic. There are options for everyone, from oxtail ramen to vegan versions, and there's an ever-changing list of small plates made with unique ingredients. Kin doesn't take reservations, so you may have to wait a bit: the space is no bigger than a phone booth.

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4. Sac-A-Lait 1051 Annunciation St, New Orleans, LA 70130 (Warehouse District)

Sac-a-lait (which is an alternative name for a fish known as “crappie” -- good call) brings some intriguing Cajun flavors to the Warehouse District. The menu sports turtle boudin, frog leg gumbo with alligator sausage, fried backstrap of venison, duck chaudin, and other refined swamp fare.

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5. Brown Butter Southern Kitchen & Bar 231 North Carrollton Ave Suite C, New Orleans, LA 70119 (Mid City)

Brown Butter's take on Southern comfort foods, including the truffled egg salad sandwich and sweet potato chips, are sure to become your new go-to dishes.

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6. Ursa Major 611 O'Keefe Ave, New Orleans, LA 70113

This astronomy-themed restaurant can be found in the Paramount and offers a global menu. It serves up everything from Moroccan Fish to Black Honey Glazed Beef. Dinner is great but the cocktail menu is also exceptional.

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7. Paladar 511 511 Marigny St, New Orleans, LA 70117

Paladar 511 isn't your average pizza joint. Located in Marigny, the restaurant serves slices for the adventurous and sophisticated with toppings including braised artichoke, roasted asparagus, and yogurt. The restaurant's warehouse-like decor nicely compliments its seasonal menu.

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8. Rebellion Bar & Urban Kitchen 748 Camp St, New Orleans, LA 70130 (Central Business District)

Reflecting the mixed heritage of part owner Seung Hong, this Warehouse District restaurant offers a fusion menu of classics like pho, springs, and kimchi stew, as well as southern specialties like shrimp and grits. As with the innovative food, the space is also trendy yet casually elevated with hanging lights, exposed brick walls, and stark black chairs both inside, and outside on the patio.

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9. Bourrée at Boucherie 1510 South Carrollton Ave, New Orleans, LA 70118 (Uptown)

Wings and Daiquiris go together like cookies and milk. Really. That’s what inspired Bourree’s chef and business partner to open a restaurant that could play with the infinite flavor combinations of boozes and fruits and spices and sauces. The food is “rooted in Louisiana tradition but inspired by flavors from around the world” (bourreenola.com). Sides on the menu include fresh cut french fries, spicy boiled peanuts and meat pies.

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10. The Big Cheezy 422 S Broad St, New Orleans, LA 70119 (Mid City)

New Orleans needed a dedicated grilled cheese restaurant and so came The Big Cheezy. Variations on the classic sandwich include fillings like mac & cheese, goat cheese with bacon, and alligator sausage. Because nothing goes with grilled cheese better than tomato soup, there's an option to order a cuppa on the side.

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