Where to Eat in New Orleans Right Now

Superlative sandwiches, red hot omakase dens, hotel dining debuts, and more.

Saint Vincent Hotel new orleans
Saint Vincent Hotel | Photo by Matt Harrington
Saint Vincent Hotel | Photo by Matt Harrington

New Orleans knows a thing or two about what it means to come out on the other side of a long struggle and somehow feel more creative and more joyful for having made it. And that is exactly what’s happening with the city’s restaurant scene. With wary eyes toward local officials’ plans for the upcoming, weeks-long Mardi Gras festivities and the festival season that follows shortly after, you can practically smell a sense of cautious optimism in the air after the COVID-19 pandemic wrought havoc on our beloved hospitality industry.

While some treasured restaurants sadly fell victim to the pandemic’s disastrous effects, many more survived and even thrived. Get back to enjoying the transition from lazy afternoon cocktails to a boisterous dinner surrounded by vaccinated (and boosted, and tested) friends, and maybe even try a few new places that managed to get their doors open for the first time in spite of it all. Here’s where to eat in New Orleans right now. Just don’t forget—all diners are required to show proof of a recent negative COVID test or official vaccination card upon entry.

Nagomi

Bywater
$$$$

The gist: New Orleans’ first omakase sushi bar opened prior to March, 2020 for a brief shining moment, and it finally made its triumphant return in recent months. One thing clearly hasn’t changed: It’s still difficult as ever to snag a reservation (required, by the way) inside this lovely little slip of a restaurant.
The food: The whole operation—and thus the changing nightly dishes—are devised by just two people, Chef Kazuyuki "Kaz" Ishikawa and Elijah Ramos, so you can expect expertly crafted sushi and a careful selection of sake to wash it all down. There are no choices here, and as is the case with omakase, there’s no menu and no special requests. Trust you’re in good hands.

Available for Reservations
Mister Mao
Mister Mao | Photo by paprika studios

Mister Mao

Uptown
$$$$

The gist: When this pandemic-delayed restaurant from chef Sophina Uong and her husband and partner William “Wildcat” Greenwell finally debuted in Uptown, the inside was like a quirky riot of color. Grab a table in either of the two dining areas, or get a front-row seat at the chef’s bar. Either way, you’ll find yourself marveling over the creativity of each dish that passes by your table.
The food: The menu, which changes with the chef’s inclinations and ingredient availability, is concocted with a global sensibility. A recent night offered a take on Beef Wellington, Charred Octopus, and Korean Beef Bulgogi. Dishes are separated into “drinking snacks,” shareables, and those that “bring us joy & hellfire heartburn.” Consider who you’re eating with, and choose accordingly, but be prepared to send your fork diving into every last plate.

Available for Reservations

Lengua Madre

Lower Garden District
$$$$

The gist: Chef Ana Castro took over the space vacated by the brief pop-up Here Today and Thalia, where she was co-sous chef, to create something entirely her own: A Mexican restaurant featuring a nightly tasting menu that serves as an exploration of the people and places that fueled her passion for cooking.
The food: Expect a five-course tasting spread with an optional wine pairing. There are no menus in sight, but each dish arrives with a story detailing its origin. On a recent night, the meal began with a small clay vessel of Shrimp Caldito, a briney broth imbued with an unexpected kick of spice, and cheese-filled Tetelas that left us wondering if we could buy them by the dozen.

Available for Reservations
Elizabeth Street Cafe
Saint Vincent Hotel | Photo by Matt Harrington

Elizabeth Street Cafe

Lower Garden District
$$$$

The gist: The Austin outpost from McGuire Moorman Hospitality gets a New Orleans location inside the hip Saint Vincent Hotel. The property is also home to the high-end coastal Italian restaurant San Lorenzo, but try giving Elizabeth Street Cafe a spin for a night of no frills, drop-in fun.
The food: The vibe here is neighborhood French-Vietnamese bakery. Expect Vermicelli Spring Rolls stuffed with poached shrimp, and Banh Mi with fried egg and crispy pork belly, all complemented by an array of natural wines and inventive cocktails.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or call 504-350-2435 for take-out.

Miss River

Central Business District
$$$$

The gist: Alon Shaya gets a second New Orleans restaurant inside the newly-opened Four Seasons New Orleans at the bottom of Canal Street. While his Uptown spot is all about Israeli flavors, here, Shaya focuses on the foods and flavors of south Louisiana.
The food: Look for a taste of the Bayou in dishes like the Louisiana Shrimp, Oyster Patty, and Eggplant Pirogue. Shaya’s wife, Emily, also makes an appearance in the form of some unbelievable Red Beans and Rice.

Available for Reservations

Birdy's

Lower Garden District
$$$$

The gist: This funky, fun brunch and breakfast joint took over a former Satsuma space and immediately expanded the restaurant’s footprint. The result is deeply Instagrammable, complete with touches of Millennial pink and festive wallpaper—oh, and the food’s great, too.
The food: An assortment of breakfast pastries, toasts, lunch, and brunch options await. Think beautiful Huevos Rancheros, house-made tater tots, and a Bubble Waffle that’ll have you smearing whipped cream over every single bite.

Available for Reservations

Cafe Sbisa

French Quarter
$$$$

The gist: The restaurant has been around since 1899, but chef and co-owner Alfred Singleton has breathed new life into Cafe Sbisa’s Creole menu after partnering with local businessman, Craig Napoli.
The food: Dig into New Orleans classics like Crawfish Beignets, Crab Cakes, Shrimp and Grits, Barbecue Shrimp, and delectable Trout Eugene. They recently reopened after a pandemic-fueled hibernation, so swing by ASAP for dinner or Sunday brunch.

Available for Reservations

NOLA Pizza Co.

Lower Garden District
$$$$

The gist: Tucked inside NOLA Brewing, NOLA Pizza Co. throws down the city’s most authentic New York-style pizza—seriously, they went so far as to reverse-engineer the exact composition of New York water. Is it all a little ridiculous? Absolutely. But is the pizza incredibly good? Without a doubt.
The food: Start by picking your pie—red sauce, white sauce, or square-cut—then add on a few hero sandwiches and salads for good measure. Toppings are a little inventive without getting weird, like the perfect sausage, sage, and Pecorino combo or roasted mushrooms with cream and lemon.
How to book: Stop by for counter service or order take-out via Toast.

Cho Thai

Irish Channel
$$$$

The gist: Banana Blossom’s Jimmy Cho partnered with BRG to take over what once was Warbucks, which means you no longer have to go to the West Bank to taste Cho’s Thai creations.
The food: Cho looks to both his native Thailand as well as his own mother’s cooking for inspiration, which finds its way to the table as Crispy Calamari, Fried Chicken with garlic and Thai chili, Green Curry Soft Shells, and Louisiana Crab Fried Rice.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Available for Reservations

Val’s

Freret Street
$$$$

The gist: The team behind Cure Co. headed down Freret Street to open Vals, a taco stand with pitch-perfect mezcal margaritas and a big, gorgeous patio, making it a great pick for those who aren’t yet ready to dine indoors. If you do, however, you’ll be greeted by an expansive bar and cozy nooks inviting you to post up and stay awhile.
The food: You’ve got “not tacos” (elotes, pinto beans, chips, various salsas) and tacos (crispy beef belly, sweet potato, chicken in green mole, fried fish, and pork shoulder). Make sure to start with the Queso Fundido with chorizo, which lands in a sizzling cast iron pan alongside a few warm corn tortillas you’ll happily slather in crispy cheese.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out via UpServe.

The Anchor

Madisonville
$$$$

The gist: When Chef Michael Gottlieb planned to open a two-part dining concept right on the Tchefuncte River on the North Shore, he kicked things off with the Anchor. The compound also includes Tchefuncte’s, a fine dining destination upstairs.
The food: Most ingredients are sourced within about 25 miles, which means local Fish and Chips plus smoked meats and Oyster and Shrimp Po-boys.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or call 985-323-4800 for take-out.

Dian Xin

French Quarter
$$$$

The gist: The family behind Kenner’s Little Chinatown have returned after selling the restaurant and traveling the country. And Dian Xin—itself another name for dim sum—is exactly what locals have been waiting for.
The food: The menu runs the gamut from small plates like Xiao Long Bao clear through heartier entrees. Not a single dish on the menu misses, be it the Jianbing, Salt and Pepper Squid, or good old-fashioned General Tso’s Chicken.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating

Available for Delivery/Takeout

Costera

Uptown
$$$$

The gist: Chef Brian Burns and co-owner Reno De Ranieri evoke the spirit of Spanish dining courtesy of a wide-ranging menu at this Mediterranean-inflected hotspot.
The food: Prime yourself for everything from small shareables like Citrus- and Vermouth-marinated Olives to a show-stopping, single-batch Paella. Burns shines when he blends local fare with traditional Spanish dishes, as with the Gulf Whiting a la Plancha, but also excels with imported standouts like the Jamón Ibérico.

Available for Reservations
Bar MariLou
Bar Marilou

The gist: You could just as easily stop by this sexy little gem inside the Atelier Ace’s Maison de la Luz hotel for a nightcap as you could a full meal, but make sure you do the latter. The cocktail program, which has been expanded to include around-the-world tastes, is also not to be missed.
The food: Get an order of the Pommes Marilou, topped with a bit of creme fraiche and bowfin caviar, for a salty foil to whatever cocktail you have the bartender shake up. There’s also a damn fine burger, if you’re feeling more peckish.
How to book: Reserve via SevenRooms.

Palm&Pine

French Quarter
$$$$

The gist: Situated at the top of the French Quarter, it’d be easy to walk right past Palm&Pine, but you’d be making a grave mistake. Stop in for the fusion of Louisiana and Caribbean, Mexican, and Central American flavors, and stay for the smoky, game-changing Paloma.
The food: Dig into hot Sausage-stuffed Yuca Fritters and the Oaxacan Mole, but don’t forget dessert: You’ll want a slice of the Cane Syrup Pie accompanied by preserved lemon ice cream.

Available for Reservations

The gist: For much of the pandemic, chef Nina Compton’s first New Orleans restaurant, Compere Lapin, has remained closed. It has since reopened, but the long-term laser-focus on Compton’s second location means the already-great restaurant never lost a beat.
The food: Compton’s St. Lucian roots mingle with New Orleans neighborhood vibes in dishes like the Snapper, which is served with okra and lima beans, and the vibrant Curried Rabbit.

Available for Reservations

The gist: While this petite pastel café serving pastries, meat pies, coffee, and espresso drinks has yet to reopen its dine-in space, the porch is open and offers both spacious seating and excellent neighborhood people watching. 
The food: The sweet and savory pastries are baked from scratch daily. Expect cakes topped with buttercream and cream cheese frosting alongside vegan oatmeal cookies, kolache, meat hand pies, and sausage rolls. The owner’s favorite is a beautiful kouign amann, which has been described as “the fattiest pastry in all of Europe.” 
The cost: Sweets and sandwiches ~$8, full cakes, quiches, and pie prices vary. 
How to book: Stop by for counter service or order catering online.

Blue Oak BBQ

Mid-City
$$$$

The gist: Blue Oak BBQ went from pop-up to brick-and-mortar to smoked meat champion, taking home the top prize at the Hogs for the Cause cook-off competition in 2018. These days, it’s got an expansive covered patio, so you can appropriately socially distance while gorging yourself on saucy goodness.
The food: Daily specials are featured on Instagram to keep things interesting, plus Blue Oak finally added its fan-favorite Spicy Chicken Sandwich to the regular rotation. You also can’t go wrong with the classics, including the Pulled Chicken Sandwich, Doobin Loobin, and pretty much any meat plate. Just don’t forget to ask for a side of Roasted Garlic Mac and Cheese.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out via Toast.

Turkey and the Wolf

Irish Channel
$$$$

The gist: This inventive sandwich shop acts as chef Mason Hereford’s own culinary playground—and it’s received a boatload of national accolades for a reason. Though dining is limited to outdoor seating and take-out, the non-stop party is as fun and inviting as ever.
The food: Curious additions like “Dorito dust” and fried bologna are scattered through the menu, which also includes similarly curious non-sandwich offerings like Fried Chicken Pot Pie and a Wedge Salad sprinkled with everything bagel seasoning. Don’t miss the Collard Green Melt, the Tacos Inautenticos, or the Cabbage Salad, which surprises the senses with a spicy zing and a smattering of pig ear cracklins.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out via UpServe.

Pizza Delicious

Bywater
$$$$

The gist: What started as a weekly pop-up is now a Bywater institution. There are few things as comforting as pizza, which means you, too, can wrap yourself in a warm cocoon of floppy, New York-style slices and pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist. (Oh, just me?)
The food: Giant foldable slices, perfectly greasy garlic knots, tangy Caesar salads, and housemade pastas round out the ever-reliable offerings.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Chelsea Brasted is a contributor for Thrillist.