The culinary scene in the Big Easy is going off like a neutron bomb right now, with the old restaurants being invigorated and the new ones bringing flavors and textures that one wouldn’t think possible a decade ago. But who's responsible for this? Who's bringing their kitchen game? Which new Orleans chefs should everyone know about? Well, we're glad you asked...
Restaurants: Herbsaint, Cochon, Cochon Butcher, and Peche Seafood Grill
While he may have cut his chops in California, Chef Link trained under Susan Spicer at Bayona (see below), and eventually made his way back to New Orleans to open Herbsaint and a few other amazing restaurants you may have heard of. Also, his catering vehicle is a classic rock-style band van known as “Pig Slayer.” Get the fried rabbit livers with pepper jelly at Cochon. Or the muffaletta at Butcher. Or pretty much anything that comes out of any of his kitchens.
When the “old pink lady” reopened after a brief and semi-scandalous hiatus, Chef Rushing was tapped to help the gal’s kitchen. And thank goodness for that: Rushing is doing a masterful tightrope walk of keeping to heralded traditions (bananas Foster, anyone?), while also cultivating a more modern culinary approach.
Restaurants: Bayona and Mondo
If you've ever watched the New Orleans-based HBO series Treme, you might like to know that the character of Chef Janette Desautel was loosely based on Chef Spicer, whose importance to the NOLA culinary scene can never be overstated (she also appeared on the show as herself, which was pretty cool, not to mention training several of the actors in kitchen skills). The pizza at Mondo in Lakeview is divine, but don’t miss her hallmark garlic soup and fried sweetbreads at Bayona, based in a 200-year-old French Quarter cottage and now celebrating 25 years in business.
Restaurants: Domenica, PIZZA Domenica, and Shaya
An Israeli-born, Philly-bred chef cooking Italian and Jewish food in New Orleans? It seems too fantastical to be true, but such is the story of Alon Shaya, who trained under John Besh only to open up the much-lauded Domenica, then PIZZA Domenica, and now the insanely popular -- and insanely good -- modern Israeli restaurant, Shaya. Go there, but only if you want the best pita bread, hummus, and lamb you’ve ever had in your life.
The newly reopened Meauxbar wouldn’t be as fantastic as it is without the ever-inspiring cuisine of Chef Essig, who incorporates everything from escargots with Herbsaint and bone marrow, a killer goat cheese tart, spaetzle with meaty bolognese, and an unstoppable French onion grilled cheese into her menu. Go there, but be warned: you will definitely want -- drumroll please -- “meaux.”
Sometimes, it takes a New Orleans native to truly understand our indigenous cuisine. Chef Brian Landry at Borgne, does exactly that, and more. This menu isn’t just chockablock with amazing oyster, shrimp, crab, and fish dishes (all local, fresh and in season, naturally), but he ups the ante with crowd pleasers like bacon jalapeño duck poppers, smoked pork empanadas, and crab-boiled turkey necks.
Another native New Orleanian who trained under Susan Spicer, Chef Burgau made some serious waves with his menu at Patois, and those waves continue to ripple. It’s difficult to go wrong with Burgau’s classic French cuisine with a decidedly local twist. Seriously: who wouldn’t want boudin-stuffed fried chicken wrapped in crispy chicken skin and served with braised greens and chicken gravy? No one, that’s who.
Raised in NOLA and trained under John Besh (seeing some similarities here), Michael Stoltzfus killed it out of the gate when he opened Coquette, based in a gloriously elegant Garden District building. Chef Soltzfus regards his kitchen as a “culinary playground,” and it’s certainly one you’ll want to play on. Duck with smoked peanuts and Mexican Coke? We’ll play with that one any day.
Michael David Gulotta
It’s hard to believe that it took this long for an intrepid New Orleans chef to mash up Louisiana cuisine with Vietnamese, but Michael Gulotta did exactly that when he left a tony position as chef de cuisine at John Besh’s restaurant August in order to open MoPho, which debuted to almost instant acclaim. Look for the crispy P&J oysters with pickled bleu cheese and “MoPho mayo,” and don’t forget to check out its cochon de lait, from a whole pig it roasts every Saturday.
“You must be crazy to open up a fish restaurant in New Orleans!” one might think. Well, one might be thinking correctly, but not so when it comes to Gautreau’s, especially at the hands of star chef Sue Zemanick, who could likely go toe-to-toe with heavy hitters like Eric Ripert when it comes to the fruits of the sea. If you want an absolutely perfect plate of gulf seafood, Gautreau’s is the place to beat.
Restaurant: Peche Seafood Grill
Here’s a concept: study live-fire cooking all around the world for several years, then open up a restaurant with a giant, wood-fired hearth as the centerpiece of the kitchen, on which you’ll cook everything. Donald Link (see above) and Ryan Prewitt nailed that one with Peche, which has been receiving raves and awards since seemingly day one, including Beard awards for Best Chef: South and Best New Restaurant. The commitment to fire and locally sourced seafood is impressive, as you’ll be able to tell in the whole grilled fish, the raw bar, and the unbelievable deep-water Royal Red shrimp.
Before opening the pan-Southern restaurant Purloo in the glorious new Southern Food and Beverage Museum, Chef Hughes operated it as a weekly pop-up, designing a new menu each week, sourcing the ingredients, and cooking with a skeleton crew for delighted local diners. That’s dedication. Luckily, it all payed off with Purloo’s new permanent location, which is definitely worth seeking out, if only for the “Lowcountry boil w/ shrimp, clams, blue crab, baby potatoes, Conecuh sausage, lemon and cayenne broth."
If it wasn’t for Chef Harrell’s work at French Quarter staple Sylvain, there wouldn’t be the most marvelous chicken sandwich this side of creation, the ambitious “Chick-Syl-vain.” Harrell’s recent departure from Sylvain and his opening of the new restaurant Angeline turned more than a few heads, and for good reason. His simple, but layered Southern cuisine is some of the best in town.
Restaurant: Toups’ Meatery
For the carnivorously inclined, you can’t go wrong with Mid-City’s Toups’ Meatery, an emporium of all things meaty and delicious, with an upscale Cajun bent. Chef Toups, who runs the restaurant with his wife, Amanda, lovingly refers to their business as being about “foie gras and flip flops,” daringly skirting the line between comfort and sophistication. The meat board is out of control, as is the bone marrow with escargots, which offer the option of using the marrow bone as a whiskey luge. Naturally, it’s a glorious place.
Restaurant: Maurepas Foods
It wasn’t easy for Chef Michael Doyle to convince a bank that his concept for a “low-cost, laid-back, fine dining-quality” restaurant in the 9th Ward was a winner, but thank goodness he did, because Maurepas Foods is a knockout. With excellent flavors and always seasonal ingredients at wallet-friendly prices, there’s little not to love there. Especially the goat tacos. Mmmmmm... tacos.
Named after the Cajun practice of killing, butchering, and cooking a whole pig in a single day, Boucherie takes South Louisiana cuisine to elegant heights, while still staying rooted to the flavors of the region. We have Chef Nathanial Zimet to thank for that. Boucherie, which has its roots as a “K&B purple” food truck, delivers on all levels.
Restaurants: La Petite Grocery and Balise
You might recognize Chef Justin Devillier from food programs like Top Chef, but you would be better off knowing him for his food, which deservedly wins consistent raves. La Petite Grocery never fails to satisfy with its blue crab beignets and turtle bolognese with soft-boiled, fried egg, and the newly opened Balise, a more masculine counterpart to LPG’s softer side, that promises similarly enjoyable delights.
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1. Herbsaint Bar and Restaurant701 Saint Charles Ave, New Orleans
2. Cochon Restaurant930 Tchoupitoulas St, New Orleans
3. Cochon Butcher930 Tchoupitoulas St, New Orleans
4. Brennan's417 Royal St, New Orleans
5. Bayona430 Dauphine St, New Orleans
6. Mondo900 Harrison Ave, New Orleans
7. Domenica123 Baronne St, New Orleans
8. PIZZA domenica4933 Magazine St, New Orleans
9. Shaya4213 Magazine St, New Orleans
10. Meauxbar942 N Rampart St, New Orleans
11. Borgne601 Loyola Ave, New Orleans
12. Patois6078 Laurel St, New Orleans
13. Coquette2800 Magazine St, New Orleans
14. MoPho514 City Park Ave, New Orleans
15. Gautreau's1728 Soniat St, New Orleans
16. Peche Seafood Grill800 Magazine St, New Orleans
17. Purloo1504 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd, New Orleans
18. Angeline1032 Chartres St, New Orleans
19. Toups' Meatery845 N. Carrollton, New Orleans
20. Maurepas Foods3200 Burgundy St, New Orleans
21. Boucherie8115 Jeannette St, New Orleans
22. La Petite Grocery4238 Magazine St, New Orleans
23. Balise640 Carondelet St, New Orleans
James Beard award-winning Herbsaint is the flagship restaurant of Chef Donald Link, who gained notoriety for some of his other restaurants such as Cochon Butcher and Pêche. This fine-dining establishment located in the Warehouse district mixes French and Italian flavors into its Southern dishes. Its selection of small plates create the perfect opportunity for sharing, and the elegant atmosphere paired with the impeccable service will have you coming back to try the whole menu.
Cochon is French for "oinker," meaning you should pig out on all things pork at this rustic-chic warehouse, such as an oyster bacon sandwich and fried boudin with pickled peppers. Situated on the corner of Tchoupitoulas and Andrew Higgins, Cochon has James Beard Award-winner Donald Link at the helm, who serves up traditional Cajun dishes from his childhood with an upscale twist using fresh local pork, produce, and seafood. Though pig is the name of the game here, some plates do stray from the pork-centricity, like rabbit livers with pepper jelly.
Cochon's generalist meat offshoot, Cochon Butcher, is a hybrid butcher shop, deli counter, and wine bar in the same warehouse building as its pork-centric sibling. There are house-cured meats, sausages, and terrines to take home, but you're really here for the sandwiches, precisely the Muffuletta, stacked with nearly an inch of pink-hued, salty meats (pastrami, mortadella, Genoa salami), creamy provolone, and olive salad. You can order it to-go, but if you're staying, make sure to pair with a side of pancetta mac & cheese.
Located in the French Quarter, Brennan's is without a doubt one of the most important and iconic eateries in the city. Dubbed the “old pink lady” due to its fanciful pink and green decor, the menu boasts cajun classics that meet a modern interpretation. On the menu, you can expect to find "Brennan's Classics" which include the Jackson salad (quail eggs, bacon, housemade blue cheese & French dressings) and the Lamb Rack Mirabeau, which comes with glazed root vegetables, braised endive, pearl onions, and lamb fat béarnaise.
The flagship restaurant of Chef Susan Spicer is a French Quarter mainstay, drawing inspiration from various countries and flavor profiles to create a robust menu of high-end items like veal sweetbreads with lemon-caper, grilled escarole with golden beets, and fennel sausage-stuffed rabbit. Diners can pair their dinners with a white tablecloth setting, or opt for the popular outdoor courtyard, which eschews folded corners for casual metal tables and a breezy, leafy atmosphere.
Started by locally and nationally renown chef Susan Spicier, Lakeside's Mondo might seem standard -- unassuming facade and blank warm wood interior and all. It's the menu of thoughtfully prepared and globally inspired dishes that seems to maintain its regular evening crowds: apart from the traditional wood fired pizzas and burgers, consider items like the chicken liver whipped into a paté, and a Thai grilled Hanger steak served with snap pea rice. It's the kind of restaurant that's designed for the people, but also for the chef, whose eclectic predilections also seem to benefit the former crowd.
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.
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.
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.
This French Quarter resto/bar is an excellent place to dine AND drink, with a sophisticated cocktail program including their fan favorites Laurel Collins, Basil Smash, or a classic Vieux Carre.
Named after a lake on the coast of Louisiana, Borgne serves up inspired seafood that does not disappoint. Stop by during happy hour (3-6pm) for half-price beer, wines by the glass, and bar food specials.
At Patois, Chef Aaron Burgau plates traditional French fare with a local twist. You'll find boudin-stuffed Mississippi rabbit, sweet tea-brined short rib with Worcestershire sauce, and a changing roster of seasonal salads and soups on the menu. The space is airy and elegant with a Parisian bistro feel, and shows off an elegant bar area lit up like a vanity.
Situated inside an 1880s Garden District building, Coquette serves a daily changing menu of innovative, locally sourced Southern cuisine alongside an extensive selection of wine, New Orleans-inspired cocktails, and craft beer. The refined bistro's dishes are consistently farm-driven, and there's a mix of small and large plates, as well an option for a five-course "blind" tasting based on the chef's daily ingredients.
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.
This popular French/American bistro dished up a hearty menu, where you'll find seared pork chop with mustard jus, black Angus filet smothered in bordelaise sauce, and Baileys ice cream for dessert.
At PSG, East Coast flavors meet Southern hospitality in the form of Cajun inspired charcoal grilled seafood delicacies, raw bar options, and oysters on the half. This Warehouse District space features a rustic, wood-lacquered dining room that's spacious and yet intimate; the perfect place to catch up with a group over a seafood tower "for the table."
Purloo has been about roots long before transitioning from pop-up shop to restaurant. Chef Ryan Hughes' revamped Southern dishes like fried catfish pistolette and She-crab soup celebrate the history of Southern regional cuisine.
Chef Alex Harrell is behind this stately restaurant in the French Quarter, where he serves Southern plates inspired by Northern Mediterranean cooking. Combining Gulf Coast ingredients with French and Italian culinary techniques, he prepares elegant dishes that change with the seasons, such as Mississippi rabbit milanese, Gulf shrimp & country ham, and smoked lamb shoulder. The service exemplifies true Southern hospitality, so don't hesitate to ask the polished waitstaff for recommendations when it comes to the expertly curated wine and cocktail lists.
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.
Maurepas plates fine American cuisine, whether it's soups, salads, sandwiches, hot plates or desserts. And if you care for an adult beverage, their house "Intoxicologist" can arrange it to your liking.
This Crescent City butcher and bistro serves up savory mains like smoked Wagyu beef brisket with Garlicky Parmesan fries and St. Louis-style Niman Ranch ribs with spicy boiled peanuts & crispy fried shallots.
Converted from a historic grocery store, this bistro and bar features plates crafted by James Beard Award-winning chef Justin Devillier. The menu includes all-time hits like blue crab beignets, turtle Bolognese, and a gruyere cheeseburger. La Petite Grocery is true Louisiana, as evidenced by its 19th century Creole architecture and craft cocktails like the double rye whiskey Bee Hive.
Balise celebrates the history of New Orleans as a port city with Creole and Cajun seafood dishes, including blue crab cocktail and fried flounder, as well as a variety of meaty meals to satisfy proud carnivores.