Eat Your Way Through the Best Restaurants in New Orleans
Creole classics, buzzy West African fare, and more.
Widely acknowledged as one of the world’s great culinary cities, New Orleans offers up an edible feast for both locals and visitors. Or to put it another way: if you know what you’re doing, it’s truly hard to have a bad meal in NOLA. Maybe you’re drawn to authentic Creole fare, the kind of legendary dishes that are served the world over but often lack the local flavor that can only be found in the 504. Or if you’re inspired to taste the world without leaving town, you’re in luck; a growing number of impassioned chefs are planting roots in the Crescent City, serving their spin on authentic Mexican, Caribbean, and West African fare.
For the ultimate night in NOLA, follow-up a first-rate dinner with drinks at one of the best bars in the city, then catch a hot local act at a legendary live music venue. Some of these dining destinations are tried-and-true favorites, while others are buzzy newcomers riding a well-deserved wave of national recognition—how many of the best restaurants in New Orleans have you been to?
Steeped in history, Brennan’s has been a French Quarter institution since 1946. From its signature pink facade to the legendary inner courtyard—turtles and all—the restaurant offers a feast for the senses, not to mention elegant service and an extensive beverage program that’s perfect for celebratory groups. Led by executive chef Ryan Hacker, the kitchen produces a mix of classics like seafood gumbo, shrimp remoulade, Gulf fish amandine and gussied-up crowd pleasers like satsuma-lacquered duck or buttermilk-roasted chicken with rice dressing. This might just be the most famous place in town for a fanciful breakfast or blow-out brunch, but no matter when you visit, you can’t leave without an order of Bananas Foster, which was invented here and still gets flambeed tableside.
When Meg Bickford took charge of the kitchen of Commander's Palace in October 2020, she became the first female executive chef in the long and storied history of this Garden District icon, which is celebrating its 130th anniversary with special events and offerings throughout the year. Bickford has evolved the restaurant's signature “Haute Creole” cuisine, adding inventive touches to longtime favorites and debuting new creations. The kitchen aims to source 90% of its ingredients from within 100 miles of its back door, an approach that yields hyperlocal standout dishes like Breaux Bridge crawfish strudel, cast iron-seared wild Gulf shrimp with creamy saffron risotto, and a 48-hour, tasso-brined, double-cut pork chop with Mississippi blueberry pecan barbecue jus. In addition to the cuisine, Commander’s has long been famous for its exceptionally convivial atmosphere—expect to see balloons tied to chair after chair, with both locals and visitors celebrating birthdays and special occasions—and whimsical Louisiana charm, as evidenced by its famous blue-and-white striped exterior.
How to book: Via Tock
As one of the best and brightest chefs to appear on the NOLA dining scene over the past decade, Nina Compton continues to delight diners at her debut restaurant. Mixing the Caribbean flavors of her native Saint Lucia with classic New Orleans cuisine, Compton has introduced countless locals to goat via her delicious curry preparation served atop sweet potato gnocchi. Other favorites include the blackened pig ears, marinated crab claws, and one of the city’s standout fried chicken dishes; drizzled with jerk honey butter, the juicy bird is served with coconut grits and peanuts. With its exposed brick and wooden beams, the dining space is perfect for a date night, as is the buzzy bar area. Also worth visiting is Compton’s follow-up to Compere Lapin, Bywater American Bistro, as well as her newest offering, Nina’s Creole Cottage at Harrah’s.
As the chef and visionary behind this one-of-a-kind experience, Serigne Mbaye has seen his labor of love—which started as a pop-up around town—evolve into a 30-seat, tasting menu-only restaurant on Magazine Street. Honoring the cultural connection between the two coastal cities from which it takes its name, Dakar Nola offers a pescatarian menu highlighting local seafood and produce, with dishes inspired by Mbaye’s most cherished memories of his childhood in Senegal, where he learned to cook at his mother’s knee. Diners fill communal tables Thursdays through Saturdays to enjoy an intimate, seven-course menu, with some dishes served family style. On Wednesdays, the restaurants offers a three-course, family-style menu offered at a fraction of the cost. The charming interior, which features a collection of African masks, encourages cultural exploration, as does the ever-changing array of Senegalese-accented dishes such as shrimp in a tamarind sauce and thiakry (millet) pie with pecans and mint tea ice cream.
How to book: Via Tock
Dooky Chase Restaurant
The spirit of Leah Chase, known as the Queen of Creole Cuisine, looms large over Dooky Chase, the late legend’s fine dining establishment that continues to draw crowds. Beyond her groundbreaking culinary contributions, the local luminary played a major role in the Civil Rights Movement, whose leaders often gathered at her restaurant. Today, the Chase Family’s younger generation is working to innovate the guest experience while upholding more than 80 years of tradition, much of which can be observed simply by studying the history-packed dining areas. The Treme institution continues to nourish with gumbo z’herbes, shrimp Clemenceau, and award-winning fried chicken; for an edible education, stop by for the always-generous lunch buffet and try a bite of everything.
After chef and co-owner Charly Pierre moved to New Orleans in 2015, he went on to open a stall selling dishes from his native Haiti at the St. Roch Market. Now his cooking can be found in the Treme at his warm and welcoming restaurant. Pierre and his team whip up creations that explore the culinary connections between New Orleans and Haiti; vividly flavored standouts include spicy mango chicken wings, baked crab mac ‘n cheese, and coco-lime sweet plantains served with avocado dip. The restaurant’s namesake sandwich features a choice of pulled pork, chicken, or vegan mushroom tofu positioned between two fried plantains with avocado, mango sauce and pikliz (spicy relish). A tempting assortment of tropical drinks keeps the casual, upbeat space buzzing.
Chef and owner Eric Cook brings a laser-like focus and intensity to his cooking at Gris-Gris, which elevates New Orleans favorites with crowd-pleasing panache. Neighborhood regulars pack the large bar area to devour plates of shrimp and grits or chicken and dumplings (a recipe Cook borrows from his mother), while folks sit at the kitchen counter and chat with the culinary team while nibbling on chicken gizzard grillades, oyster pie, and a whole, Creole-fried redfish Courtbouillon. There’s plenty of outdoor seating too, both on the street level and second floor balcony.
In a city renowned for its seafood, NOLA’s fish-focused fine dining destinations shine. Especially at GW Fins, which has lured a mix of locals and out-of-towners to its classy French Quarter home for more than 20 years. Under the direction of chef Michael Nelson, the kitchen works wonders with freshly caught fish; much like the finest steakhouses have been doing for years, Nelson and his team utilize dry-aging to produce house favorites like swordfish tomahawk chops and tuna ribeyes, which are usually the first items to sell out. In an effort to reduce food waste, Nelson has pioneered a technique to butcher fish that yields 60% more meat, using swordfish and tuna to make what he calls “seacuterie” (andouille, kielbasa, pepperoni and more). The menu, which is printed daily, features a constantly changing assortment of both local fish and international species sourced from Japan, the Mediterranean, and elsewhere.
Jewel Of The South
Although legendary bartender Chris Hannah’s name is usually the one that’s attached to Jewel of the South, to limit your understanding of this top-of-the-quarter restaurant to its (albeit excellent) bar program is to shortchange the efforts of general manager Paul Greagoff and chef Philip Whitmarsh. Since the outpost opened, this team has steadily turned it into a can’t-miss item on your French Quarter list. The menu changes regularly, but look for a curated caviar program alongside comforting mains like buttermilk-fried sweet breads, wagyu beef, and roasted pork belly. And whatever you do, don’t miss the seasonal cocktail list.
La Petite Grocery
This restaurant’s name pays homage to the storied history of its home, a century-old building that has served as a cornerstone of its community throughout the years as a coffee and tea depot, grocery store, butcher shop, florist’s studio, and now as a cozy neighborhood restaurant. At La Petite Grocery, chef Justin Devillier puts his creative spin on traditional New Orleans cuisine. Longtime loyal customers would revolt if signature offerings like turtle Bolognese or blue crab beignets ever left the menu. Ditto the house cheeseburger, which features house-made pickles, onion marmalade, aioli, and gruyere on a brioche bun. The intimate bar area provides a perfect perch for people-watching on Magazine Street, and if you’re looking for more of a scene, check out Justine, Devillier’s stunning French Quarter brasserie.
For a first-rate eating city, NOLA has long punched below its weight when it comes to upscale Mexican fare. Fortunately, Ana Castro has changed that with her unique and inspired approach, in which nightly five-course tasting menus reimagine traditional Mexican cuisine through the lens of the chef’s upbringing and travels. After passing through the neon pink-lit hallway, an eclectic mix of diners pack the minimalist dining room and gaze into the open kitchen, watching the chefs and service team work in tandem. Each plate arrives with a story detailing its origin; dishes like cobia al pastor and mole blanco cauliflower with brown butter are not only delicious, but nourishing to the soul as well. Similarly thoughtful are the Mexican-accented bar program and curated wine list, which is built around vineyards from Spanish-speaking countries.
Hidden away in a quiet corner of the Quarter, this charming restaurant—which explores the food and drink of Louisiana, the South, and “South of that” (the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America)—feels like an exciting discovery to most first-time visitors. The husband-and-wife team of Jordan and Amarys Herndon have engaged locals and service industry workers with a colorful assortment of engaging programming, from late-night burlesque shows and Vietnamese crawfish boils to annual holiday gatherings. But it’s the everyday offerings, with an emphasis on local produce and big flavors, that keep regulars coming back for more. Emblematic of the kitchen's playful approach are dishes such as corn "babies" (buttermilk cornbread with charred ramp butter), "corner store" yellowfin crudo (made with pineapple Big Shot soda and nựớc chấm), and hot sausage-stuffed yuca fritters served with saffron mojo mayo and dill pickle relish. The welcoming bar area specializes in classic and original cocktails revolving around agave and cane spirits.
Donald Link’s culinary imprint looms large over the NOLA dining scene, and while you can’t go wrong at any of his establishments—most notably Chemin à la Mer, Cochon, Gianna, and Herbsaint—Peche just might be the one to prioritize, as evidenced by the hungry crowds often seen waiting outside for a table in the lively, cacophonous dining room. Chef Ryan Prewitt and his team prepare fresh, local seafood with gusto; repeat patrons swear by anything that comes off the wood-fired grill. Groups get started with orders of smoked tuna dip and Urban South beer-battered fish sticks, before moving on to the signature whole grilled fish. The large, lively bar area is one of the best spots in the CBD for grabbing well-made cocktails and fresh oysters.
Alon Shaya’s flagship restaurant—which translates to “grandfather” in Hebrew—pays homage to his birthplace of Israel and its rich culinary landscape. The lengthy menu is packed with influences from throughout the Middle East, Europe, and North Africa. Crowd favorites include exceptionally creamy hummus topped with blue crab and harissa roasted chicken with caramelized lemons, and no order is complete without the famous wood-fired pita, baked steps from the table and served piping hot every time. Celebratory groups share family-style platters of locally sourced seafood, meat, and produce cooked over hot coals, while smaller parties can sneak away to the airy bar area or separate lounge space. For a splashier Shaya experience, seek out Miss River, his self-proclaimed "love letter to Louisiana" that serves as the signature lobby-level restaurant of Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans.
With their Magazine Street restaurant, the Vilkhu family have delighted local gourmands who for years had pined for an upscale Indian restaurant to call their own. The modern, buzzy space pulses with energy as eager diners await the arrival of regional classics enhanced by local ingredients and flavors; the curried seafood gumbo blends cultures with intriguing results, while the oyster bed roast features caramelized onions and curry leaf and comes served with fresh warm naan. Other highlights include crawfish lentil pancakes and spice-crusted grilled shrimp curry. The well-chosen wine list offers plenty of food-friendly selections, and the culinary-focused cocktail menu is a sight to behold—where else can you try a cosmo or Old Fashioned made with chutney, or a Sazerac that features garam masala?
There’s no need to drive out to Cajun country when you can enjoy 300 years of chef Isaac Toups’ Cajun family traditions in the heart of Mid-City. Meat lovers find themselves in heaven, as the lengthy menu includes a dizzying array of carnivorous fare alongside impressive lists of full-bodied reds, bourbons, whiskeys, and other meat-friendly libations. Hailing from the town of Rayne in the heart of Acadiana, Toups is well-versed in Cajun classics, and his fine dining training adds sophistication to rustic fare such as crispy turkey necks, boudin balls, cracklins, and chicken liver mousse. The welcoming, convivial environment is perfect for groups, as are large-format offerings like the signature meatery board—a selection of house-made fresh and cured meats and condiments—and a show-stopping, slow-cooked lamb neck that’s served with sweet pea risotto and lemon zest.
Turkey and the Wolf
For those who subscribe to the thinking that food should be fun, there’s no more enjoyable eatery in NOLA than this inventive sandwich shop. Chef Mason Hereford’s culinary playground delights diners who fill the funky environs, complete with mismatched chairs, to reconnect with their youth while nibbling on chef-crafted bologna sandwiches and collard green melts. Seemingly simple dishes such as a taco (filled with hog's head cheese) and a fried hand pie (slow cooked chicken and vegetables, served with tarragon-buttermilk ranch) surprise diners with edible thrills. For more of the Hereford experience, make a whole day of it with breakfast at Molly’s Rise and Shine and dinner at the ‘80s-inspired Hungry Eyes.