As a city, New Orleans is less of a melting pot than a gumbo, with almost every kind of person and tradition thickening the stew like filé powder. But when it comes to cuisine, there can only be one “best” in every style, and we did the difficult (and exceptionally tasty) job of deciding which spots in the 504 are the very best when it comes to their style of food.
What you’re getting: Roasted cauliflower; formaggi; stracci with oxtail ragu and fried chicken livers
Boy, this was a tough one, given all the killer Italian options in the Big Easy. But before Alon Shaya played from the heart with his crazy-popular and award-winning namesake restaurant, he headed up the best Italian in town. From the wood-fired pizzas to the handmade pastas and lovingly aged salumi, you simply can’t go wrong here.
French: La Crêpe Nanou
What you’re getting: Moules marinière with pommes frites; pan-seared veal sweetbreads with lemon caper beurre blanc; crêpe aux Écrevisses
It sounds weird to say it, but there aren’t a lot of really French French restaurants in New Orleans. Plenty of old-school French Creole, but not necessarily straight-up continental. Crêpe Nanou goes there. And you should go there, too.
Mexican: Casa Borrega
What you’re getting: Oaxacan-style tamales; tacos cochinita pibil
Finding a decent dark mole in NOLA used to be something of a real challenge (plenty of Tex-Mex, very little Mex-Mex), which is what makes makes Borrega so special. It's only a few months old, and already the finest Mexican joint in town.
Thai: Banana Blossom
What you’re getting: Pineapple curry; tom yum soup
For the very best in Thai, you need to get your butt in the car and head to the West Bank, because Banana Blossom is just killing it.
French Creole: Commander’s Palace
What you’re getting: Shrimp Henican; turtle soup
Again, this is a difficult one, especially since the Grand Dames of NOLA cuisine have been around for a century and longer, serving our wonderful, indigenous cuisine. But Commander’s stands out for its supreme service, its history of cultivating remarkable local chefs (Paul Prudhomme, Emeril Lagasse, Frank Brigtsen, Greg Sonnier), and current chef Tory McPhail’s fantastic tightrope walk between classical and modern creations. Just don’t wear shorts.
Chinese: Bao & Noodle
What you're getting: Cumin-braised lamb with hand-pulled blang blang noodles; fried steamed buns; "strange flavor peanuts"
For ages, it seemed the only Chinese game in town was Five Happiness. And it's still a solid choice for all your kung pao, lo mein, and moo shu needs, as are venues like Jung's Golden Dragon and Chinese Kitchen (portions!). And while Red's Chinese does a fantastic job at "modern Chinese," we have to give this one to the recently opened Bao & Noodle, which takes humble Chinese fare to the next level, while still remaining casual, wallet-friendly, simple, and incredibly delicious.
What you’re getting: Sushi a la carte, including ankimo (monkfish liver) and chutoro (fatty tuna belly)
This was a terribly tough call, but if you’re looking for the best sushi New Orleans has to offer (and you’re not headed to Kanno in Metairie), look no further than Horinoya. The quality of the fish and extreme attention to traditional detail reveal the mastery of Chef Komei Horimoto.
Ethiopian: Cafe Abyssinia
What you’re getting: Yebeg Tibs; doro wat; veggie combo
Well, there are basically only two choices in town when it comes to Ethiopian, but we think Cafe Abyssinia has a slight edge on Nile Cafe. The portions are outstanding, the spices just right (not for the weak!), and of course there’s more injera than you can shake a stick at. Not that you’d do such a silly thing, but still.
Cajun: Toups’ Meatery
What you’re getting: The Meatery Board; crawfish boulettes; BBQ goat
It’s a strange thing that New Orleans doesn’t have a whole ton of Cajun restaurants, but sticks more to Creole (similar, but distinctly different). But if you want the real deal and more, get thee to Toups' in Mid-City for some fried boudin balls, cracklins, a killer meat board, and the best lamb’s neck in town.
Argentinian: La Boca
What you’re getting: Steak, obviously. Also, the chorizo de la casa.
There are plenty of classic steakhouses in NOLA, but La Boca does Argentine beef like nobody’s business. From outside skirt cooked with the “skin,” to T-bones and ribeyes, you can’t go wrong with carnivorous pleasures at this palace of bovine decadence.
Mediterranean/Middle Eastern: Shaya
What you’re getting: Hummus with seared scallops; ikra; shakshouka; slow-cooked lamb with whipped feta, walnut, and cherry tabouleh
This one is an absolute no-brainer, and not just because Alon Shaya and his love song to Israeli cuisine recently walked away with a well-deserved James Beard Award. You really need to eat his hummus and pita (and then literally everything else on the menu) to see why it’s the hardest-to-snag reservation in town.
What you’re getting: Wild mushroom flatbread; paella; cochon frites
Like Mexican, there aren’t a bevy of options in NOLA when it comes to authentic Spanish food and tapas, but Salú does the job admirably. Plus, the combination of paella and live music (on Thursdays) is a decidedly pleasurable one.
Korean: Little Korea
What you’re getting: Bulgogi; kimchi; fresh pineapple soju
Also known to longtime residents as the “Korean Taco Bell,” it’s a great thing that we now have a solid Korean option Uptown and not another fast-food joint. It might not be fancy, but there’s a reason you’ll see Korean visitors and expats alike headed there for an authentic taste of home. And the friendly service doesn’t hurt, either.
What you’re getting: Sisig; lumpia; lechon kawali; halo-halo
Okay, so it’s the only game in town. Sadly, NOLA doesn’t have the biggest Filipino population in the country. And we say “sadly,” because that fact will make you cry when you experience what Chef Cristina Quackenbush turns out of her kitchen, from authentic lumpia to cool halo-halo. Try the pork face. You’ll be glad you did.
Food truck: La Cocinita
What you’re getting: Carne asada “burri-tacos” with added avocado & fried egg and a Mexican Coke
Okay, this one is a seriously tough call. We love Crêpes à la Cart, Foodie Call, Frencheeze, and all our other homegrown food truck options here, but if put into the ring in a Battle Royale, we’ll put our money on (and in) that fantastic red taco wagon. It’s exactly what you want out of a food truck: fast, cheap, easy, and delicious, and also often conveniently located outside of popular bars.
What you’re getting: 12oz broiled prime Delmonico steak; 40oz ribeye for two
La Boca might win when it comes to Argentine steaks, but for a classic steakhouse experience, it’s difficult to choose one (and we tried), but we’re going with the Chophouse. From the Florida stone crabs to the prime-grade Delmonico steak, you won’t leave unhappy. Or hungry.
Bywater and Riverbend/Black Pearl
What you’re getting: Green breakfast sandwich; roasted pear and Brie melt; coffee
This Bywater coffee & juice joint (with a Riverbend location) is a longtime favorite with the herbivore set, and while it has oodles of veggie options, it has meat on the menu as well (even bacon!), which makes it our favorite kind of vegetarian restaurant.
Vietnamese: Pho Ga Quang Minh
What you’re getting: Pho ga; pho tai
Oh man... how do you choose the best Vietnamese in a city just loaded to the gills with Vietnamese restaurants? Answer: it ain’t easy. But the deeply satisfying chicken broth (pho ga) at this Marrero joint gets our vote not just for its outstanding menu and complexity of flavors, but also because there are roasted ducks hanging up for all to see, which is always a good sign when you’re headed out for Viet cuisine.
Burger joint (TIE): The Company Burger and Port of Call
What you’re getting: Hamburgers (what else?)
This was just too difficult, so we’re calling it a draw between old and new. As far as simple, quality burgers go, Company Burger is unstoppable (it’s basically the Shake Shack or In-N-Out of NOLA), but sometimes you want to go old-school with a double fist-sized monster from Port of Call, dripping cheese and sauteed onions up your elbows and paired with a baked potato the size of your head. We love both.
Diner: Ted’s Frostop
What you’re getting: Roast beef and grits; double Lot-O-Burger with cheese and bacon; waffle fries; draft root beer
New Orleans doesn’t have a bounty of classic diners, and where we do, you’ll often hear of Camellia Grill. But the grill’s reputation has been slipping in recent days (an ownership change and lawsuit don't hurt), and though places like Slim Goodies Diner do fantastic breakfast specials, Ted’s Frostop is a damned New Orleans institution, and we’re calling it tops.
Po-boys (TIE): Domilise’s and R & O’s
Uptown and Metairie/Bucktown
What you’re getting: Shrimp/oyster combo po-boy; roast beef po-boy (respectively)
Oh, you thought Parkway or Mother’s would take the blue ribbon here, didn’t you? Well, think again. Dom’s gets a top vote for battering and frying every single piece of fresh (not frozen) seafood to order, and the roast beef at R & O is simply the best the city has to offer, hands down. But if this could be a three-way tie, the seafood muffaletta at Parran’s in Metairie would definitely be in contention as well.
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1. Domenica123 Baronne St, New Orleans
2. La Crepe Nanou1410 Robert St, New Orleans
3. Casa Borrega1719 Oretha C. Haley Blvd, New Orleans
4. Banana Blossom Thai Cafe2112 Belle Chasse Hwy, Gretna
5. Commander's Palace1403 Washington Ave, New Orleans
6. Bao & Noodle2700 Chartres St, New Orleans
7. Horinoya920 Poydras St, New Orleans
8. Café Abyssinia3511 Magazine St, New Orleans
9. Toups' Meatery845 N. Carrollton, New Orleans
10. La Boca Steaks870 Tchoupitoulas St, New Orleans
11. Shaya4213 Magazine St, New Orleans
12. Salú3226 Magazine St, New Orleans
13. Little Korea BBQ2240 Magazine St, New Orleans
14. Milkfish125 N Carrollton Ave, New Orleans
15. La Cocinita Food Truck, New Orleans
16. Chophouse New Orleans322 Magazine St, New Orleans
17. Pho Ga Quang Minh2651 Barataria Blvd, Marrero
18. The Company Burger4600 Freret St, New Orleans
19. Port of Call838 Esplanade Ave, New Orleans
20. Ted's Frostop3100 Calhoun St, New Orleans
21. Domilise's Po-Boys5240 Annunciation St, New Orleans
22. R & O's216 Metairie Hammond Hwy, Metairie
Named after the Italian word for 'Sunday,' this spot in the CBD's Roosevelt Hotel is meant to evoke feelings of dinner at your nonna's casa. The menu takes simple, rustic fare to the next level. The thick crusted pies here are the show-stoppers, especially the Tutto Carne with bacon, salami, and sausage, all topped with a farm egg.
This place is straight-up, old-school, French. No creole-y fusion or flavors, just escargots, cheese plates, and Filet Mignon with pommes frites.
This is one of the best spots in the city for authentic Mexican fare. They serve up traditional, handmade tortillas with a dark mole sauce that can't be beat, as well as a massive tequila/mezcal list.
The curry, rice, and noodles at this casual cafe are worth the short trip, because this spot is the real deal for Thai food.
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.
This Marigny joint doles out traditional Chinese fare at friendly prices, featuring classics like beef chow fun and scallion pancakes and more.
Traditional Japanese fare including sushi, sashimi, noodles, and tempura.
This family-run restaurant on Magazine St is one of the (very) few Ethiopian restaurants in New Orleans. The menu includes lamb, beef, poultry, seafood, and vegetarian dishes, which should be eaten the right way: with your hands. All spectrums of spicy are represented on the menu, so brave the wat at your own risk.
Helmed by James Beard Award-winning chef Isaac Toups, this Mid-City spot serves a carnivore-centric menu with bold Cajun flavor. Large entrees like the grilled Georgia quail with farm-fresh seasonal vegetables and saba satiate and surprise; light bites range from addictive cracklins and deviled eggs with smoked trout roe. Minimalist metal chairs and refurbished wood surfaces give Toups a cabin-like feel that enhances the relaxed, convivial vibe.
Everything restaurateur and Cher Adolfo Garcia does at his Argentinian-style restaurant, La Boca, is simple, traditional, and memorable. From the pisco sours to the expertly prepared cuts of beef such as flank, "outside skirt," and hanger steaks, all the dishes are exceptional. The decor is rustic with exposed beams, the ambiance is intimate, and the dress code veers towards the fancier side at this little slice of Argentina right here in New Orleans.
This Uptown spot doles out "modern Israeli cuisine," and is run by the same man behind the ever-popular Domenica and PIZZA Domenica, and there's just as much fanfare. A massive, custom, wood-fire pita oven dominates the kitchen, which cooks up modern versions of Mediterranean fare like hummus, tabouli, baba ganoush, and stuffed grape leaves, not to mention a pomegranate-lacquered, fall-off-the-bone lamb dish that will blow your mind.
An authentic Spanish restaurant isn't the easiest to find in Nola, but this spot definitely is. Check out Thursday nights for live music and paella specials.
Formerly known as Korean Taco Bell (its previous location on Claiborne Ave. was once a Taco Bell), Little Korea serves up large platters of Korean BBQ, as well as a variety of hot soups (the kimchi and tofu stew is a hit) and bibimbap. The Magazine St. location is larger than the original, and many tables are outfitted with grills for tableside barbecuing.
After years of popping up around town, this resto now has a permanent Mid-City location, while still serving up modern riffs on Filipino classics. Its namesake, the Milkfish, is grilled then topped w/ coconut milk curry and a spicy kimchee-esque red cabbage slaw.
La Cocinita, or "The Little Kitchen," serves authentic, fresh, Latin street food from a food truck. It moves around, but check their twitter (@LaCocinita) for where they might be!
Chophouse takes beautiful cuts of USDA prime beef seriously, promising that all the beef filets are “barrel-cut only,” and that the porterhouse “is a true porterhouse with both filet and strip sides. We don’t call a T-bone a porterhouse or serve a 16oz strip steak with 13 ounces of steak and three ounces of fat." The dining room at Chophouse has an upscale ambiance, with an exposed brick interior, and nightly live local music.
"Pho ga" is basically a term for Vietnamese chicken-noodle soup, and since this place has that in its name, there's a good chance they do it particularly well. The only thing left to decide is do you go for lunch or dinner?
The Company Burger takes its burgers very seriously. Translation: the pickles and mayo are homemade, and the twin patties in the house burger weigh a grand total of 6.5oz. You'll leave feeling full and satisfied, after washing it all down with one of Company's American brews on tap, of course.
First things first: Port of Call is famous for its burger. When the French Quarter restaurant opened in the 60s, it was primarily a steakhouse known for its filet mignon and ribeye, and the burger was an afterthought made from the entrees' scraps. The current iteration -- considered the original New Orleans-style burger, is reminiscent of the dive's steakhouse days: the huge patty is topped with shredded cold cheddar cheese and served with a hot potato on the side. Port of Call still serves steaks and chops, as well as beer and strong cocktails, but everyone is there for the burger. It's a must on any NOLA food tour.
This retro diner has been serving burgers, milkshakes, po' boys, and breakfast specials since the 50s. Everything about Ted's is a total throwback, from the window-serve and picnic tables to the prices (example: all you can eat pancakes for less than $10 is a steal). The classic move is to get the Loto Burger dressed with mayonnaise, mustard, and the usual fixins, and a root beer float. Trust us: the fried and griddled goods from Ted's is better than what you'll get at any generic fast-food joint.
No one does po-boys like Domilise's. The Uptown spot has been owned by the same family for over 100 years, which accounts for the consistently good eats and veritable Southern hospitality that has brings regulars back time and time again. While you really can't go wrong with anything on the menu, we suggest you stick to the seafood and opt for a fried oyster or catfish po-boy. If the handpainted sign overhead isn't enough of an indication that you've arrived at this cozy, yellow house on the corner, the steady line of regulars waiting for a table likely will.