2015 was a big year for NOLA. We’ve seen serious political shakeups, killer chicken sandwiches, and some out-of-sight Israeli cuisine all take the city by storm this year... and that's just for starters. To fully appreciate the huge amount of cool new stuff in the city, we're awarding our annual honors across a satisfyingly wide range of categories. So without further ado, here's the best new everything of 2015:
Best new bakery
Willa JeanAddress and Info
Well, this is really a no brainer: two of the best pastry chefs in NOLA teaming up to open a bakery and cafe in the CBD just screams for attention, and it’s well-earned. Kelly Fields and Lisa Marie White are totally killing it there. You had us at your hot, buttery biscuits and warm chocolate pudding, and we’ve been hooked since.
Best new popup
Little BirdAddress and Info
Lower Garden District
Not content to keep things fresh at Meauxbar and a big new plan to open the long-awaited Cavan on Magazine St, Kristen Essig and her fellow chef/partner/etc Michael Stoltzfus opened a fried chicken pop-up at a bourbon bar that’s just plain fantastic. The decision to keep their fried chicken sandwich on the cool side was a masterstroke.
Best new restaurant
ShayaAddress and Info
Since opening, Shaya’s modern-Israeli outpost on Magazine has been soaking up acclaim on a national level (including from our own country-wide best-of list) -- in fact, the man behind the operation, Alon Shaya, has just scored a James Beard for Best Chef South. If you haven’t been yet, you’re missing out. Keep the pita coming, try the lamb, and thank us later.
Best new thing to do
City Putt (address and info)
At some point, someone asked the very thoughtful and serious question, “Why is there no decent mini golf in New Orleans?” The solution is City Putt, which might not be as glorious as the Putt-Putt on Vets in our youth, but then again, few things in your life ever will be.
Best new ramen joint
KinAddress and Info
Granted, New Orleans has been at a serious disadvantage in the ramen game for many years now, but that’s all changing, with a very small restaurant that pays a lot attention to detail, especially when it comes to the noodles on their lunch menu. Better still is the dinner menu, which is redefining Southern-American fusion, even though the space is about as big as a phone booth.
Best new bar
Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29Address and Info
For a city with such a strong drinking culture, great new bars in New Orleans are a strangely rare sight. And great new tiki dives are even rarer. So it’s a damned shame that it took this long for someone to take those reins and fly away in good, hard spirit, as did Jeff “Beachbum” Berry with Latitude 29, which is likely to become a NOLA institution very soon. If it hasn’t already. They have our vote, obviously. Mahalo!
Best public outpouring of love
Allen Toussaint’s funeral
If you weren’t streaming the live WWOZ cast of this very sadly departed musician, producer, and local legend, you should give up your NOLA cred and go back to St. Louis or Santa Barbara or wherever. Our celebrations of the dearly departed are famously epic in NOLA, and that was surely the case with Mister Toussaint, rest his soul. Everyone who is or has been anyone in New Orleans music played that gig, and it was absolutely righteous. I’m sure the man himself, smiling from somewhere above, would agree.
Best new encroachment of Metairie onto Orleans Parish
Bevi Seafood CoAddress and Info
Not content to provide the humble residents of Jefferson Parish with some of the best seafood in town (and we say that with dire conviction), Bevi just moved into Mid-City. It’s a good move for everyone involved. Well, maybe not for the oysters, but for everyone else, a really good move!
Best move by lawmakers
Finally approving Uber
NOLA’s governing body was painfully slow to give in to this now-famous technological marvel that has other cities swooning, mostly because of the local taxi and limo lobby and their notoriously flawed, and always very loud, arguments. But everyone in New Orleans (including, it seems, the people in charge) knows that the hacks here famously flat-out refuse to drive you anywhere but the French Quarter, and simply finding a local cab on a busy night is a nightmare. Now, at last, that’s changed. It might have taken them a while, but at least they got there.
Best new public space
Lafitte Greenway (address and info)
Seriously, what’s not to love here. Bike lessons, a community garden, a tree inventory (!!!). They plan big, and we hope it all pans out, because this is the kind of thing that’s going to make New Orleans a city to be reckoned with. Also, a protected bike path from the Treme to Lakeview? SHUT UP AND TAKE OUR MONEY.
Best new BBQ
TIE between Black Label Icehouse (address and info) and McClure’s at NOLA Brewing Tap Room (address and info)
Garden District and Irish Channel
New Orleans has always been known best for its indigenous cuisine, but that’s not stopping our BBQ game from being fierce. These places are tearing it up -- literally -- when it comes to pork shoulders and similar fare (see what we did there?). The wafts of hardwood smoke emanating from Central City is a boon to the neighborhood, thanks to the Ice House, and McClure’s, are selling their dynamite BBQ at NOLA Brewing’s handsome outpost on Tchoup. Because beer and barbecue are always a good idea, right?
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Scott Gold is a writer from New Orleans who had a decade-long fling with New York, then thought better of it and moved back home, where you can get a decent po-boy. Follow or rage at him on Twitter @scottgold
1. Willa Jean Bakery611 O'Keefe Ave, New Orleans
2. Little Bird1201 Magazine St, New Orleans
3. Shaya4213 Magazine St, New Orleans
4. Kin4600 Washington Ave, New Orleans
5. Beachbum Berry's Latitude 29321 N Peters St, New Orleans
6. Bevi Seafood Co.4701 Airline Dr, Metairie
7. Black Label Icehouse3000 Dryades St, New Orleans
8. NOLA Brewing Tap Room3000 Tchoupitoulas, New Orleans
This Central Business District bakery is run by the dream team of Kelly Fields and Lisa White, who design all the baked goods for John Besh's restaurant empire. Expect Southern-style baked goods, as well as a host of eats for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Willa Jean serves up Intelligentsia Coffee, and the varied cocktail menu will have you frequenting this sleek, sophisticated bakery for more than just its food.
Anything that comes at the hands of NOLA power-couple chefs Kristen Essig and Michael Stoltzfus is going to be a wonderful surprise, as they’ve demonstrated in the past with their wonder-twins talent. That their newest venture is a fried chicken pop-up in a bourbon bar might be a noodle-scratcher, but don’t be fooled: the food is seriously good, particularly the cold fried chicken sandwich -- just trust us on this one.
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.
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.
Latitude 29 in the French Quarter is a Tiki lover's paradise. Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s shrine to all things Tiki has proven itself to be a refreshing and enlightened pillar of the NOLA drinks scene due to its large menu of deliciously concocted cocktails. Check out the bar's take on classics like Mai Tai and Zombies, and for something a bit more inventive, go for the Davy Jones' Lager, which is a mix of Antigua gold rum, Japanese beer Curacao, and spiced cane syrup.
Part seafood market and part restaurant, bare-bones, family-run Bevi features, well, a bevy of locally sourced seafood that focuses on four seasonal New Orleans specialties: crawfish, crab, shrimp, and oysters. In addition to these boiled Gulf Coast treats that reign supreme in NOLA, there's exceptional hot food, like from-scratch po-boys with fresh, homemade ingredients like smoked ham and slow-roasted beef (the fried shrimp with brown gravy and cheese is a favorite too), as well as platters of BBQ gulf shrimp, gumbo, and fried green tomatoes.
Central City already has its fair share of corner bars, so we weren’t worried when this one turned into a temple of smoked swine from the pop-up experts at Black Label BBQ. Possibly even better than its low-and-slow meat are its events like “Metal Monday,” a weekly show featuring local bands that satisfies (and divulges) all your headbanging needs.
At New Orleans Lager and Ale (NOLA) Brewing Company in Irish Channel, you can either post up inside its warehouse-chic taproom or at its twinkle-lit rooftop bar, where you'll not only have 32 top-notch craft brews at your fingertips, but also a full menu of Pitmaster Neil McClure's practically sinful BBQ ribs, pulled pork, brisket, sausage, and chicken. Order yourself a malty, well-balanced NOLA Blonde Ale and some Alabama-style chicken with a tangy and peppery white sauce for a truly bracing combination. The brewery's weekly guided tours give you a chance to sample an abundance of its flagship and seasonal concoctions, too.