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:
Hooters Is Opening a New Restaurant Chain That's Hiring Guys
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.
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.
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) Mid-City 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.
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.
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 New Orleans 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.
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 New Orleans 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) Treme 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