The population of New Orleans is as diverse and interesting as its many restaurants, and you can tell a lot about a person by which eatery is their absolute favorite. From Uptown pukes to Bywater vegans and Mid-City lifers, and from molecular gastronomy to neighborhood joints and po-boy shops, cuisine and personality go hand in hand in the Big Easy...
Part of you really hates the decline of “fine-dining” restaurants in New Orleans in favor of “upscale-casual.” The wine list always goes to you for inspection, and you often have questions for the sommelier. You make sure to wear a jacket when you’re going out to dinner (if not a suit), or a cocktail dress if you’re a lady. You adore foie gras, and think ordering a cut of meat anything above medium rare is criminal. You genuinely appreciate and expect good service. You don’t understand what the big deal is with Bywater.
You are no older than 20, and likely a student at Delgado. A little shabbiness doesn’t bother you, so long as the price is right. You have dreams about hickory sauce and shredded cheddar cheese.
You’re definitely a native, likely one who went to a Catholic school like Jesuit or Ursuline, and then college at UNO or LSU (definitely NOT Alabama). When you visit other cities, you don’t know why the pizza places don’t also sell po-boys. You “make groceries at da Rouse,” or at Dorignac’s. You think what they’re charging for rent in Orleans Parish is scandalous, and find no plausible reason why anyone wouldn’t want to live in Metry.
There is no way you are under the age of 45. If you’re a woman, you own several large, elaborate hats and at least two strands of pearls. If you’re a man, you still wear your college ring and never wear seersucker or white linen out of season. You adore local history. Your family is probably part of it.
You are perpetually hungry. Seriously, why does every other restaurant skimp on the portions? And do you see what these new “fancy” Chinese places are charging for weird interpretations of General Tso’s chicken? It’s a crime! Two more egg rolls, please.
Either you are on a date, buying sweets for your date, or drowning yourself in gelato because you had a really bad date. You wish every course of every meal could be dessert, and that tiramisu was recognized by the USDA as a bona fide food group. You love coffee and red wine.
You are a restaurant junkie, always looking for the hot new reservation. You read restaurant reviews and websites like you’re looking for clues to the secret of the universe, and you never forget to hashtag #instafood and #nolafood. You know a good thing when you find it, and you totally found it. You know the chef as just “Alon.” You may have written this list.
Lower Garden District
You work hard, probably at a job that involves physical labor, but also uses some brainpower as well, like a lighting or sound engineer on a TV/film set. A plate of tacos, some queso and chips, and a couple of cold Tecates are like manna from heaven for you. You have the bartender pour an extra shot of tequila in your frozen margarita, because you earned it. You have cool tattoos.
You are a dude. Possibly a bro. You love craft beer and think salads are for the weak. You keep a running list of the best sandwiches in town, of which Butcher’s Le Pig Mac is way up there, but not quite as good as its muffaletta, which is your favorite. You have two jars of olive salad in your fridge, and enough meat and cheese to choke a buffalo. You’re secretly terrified to see your doctor.
When it comes to pizza, you have a strong opinion and are quick to share it (at length). You’ve visited or lived in New York City. The words “deep dish” make you want to punch things. You don’t want other people to find out that the pasta dishes at Pizza D are an amazing deal.
You moved to Bywater six months ago to work in the film industry, before which you lived in Portland, Silver Lake, or Williamsburg. You have a yen for worldly fare, because you backpacked through Europe the year after you graduated college. You know it’s the only place in town you can find Stumptown coffee. You’re always looking at your phone.
People think you’re fantastic, and really, you are. You always have a hilarious story to tell (or a great dirty joke), and you keep good company. When you go out for dinner, your table is usually the one howling with laughter. You drink Old Fashioneds and like them sweet. You’re either a NOLA native, or you’ve been here a long time.
You are wearing Mardi Gras beads, and it’s September. You just bought a taxidermied alligator head. You can’t tell if you’re hungover or still buzzing. You think if you lived here, the city would probably kill you, and you’d be right.
Either you grew up in Cajun country and you’re looking for a taste of home (in the form of boudin balls, cracklins, and dirty rice), or you’re an avowed carnivore with an adventurous appetite. You have eaten almost every part of a cow and/or pig at some point. You’re fond of bourbon.
Lower Garden District
You own an immersion circulator, a Cryovac, and a gold Grey Kunz spoon. You worship Ferran Adria. When you cook at someone else’s house, you bring your own knife, which is made of hand-forged Damascus steel. When you cook for people at home, you plate courses with a pair of tweezers. You still can’t believe that WD-50 closed. You definitely work in tech.
You are scarily infatuated with Drew Brees. Or you ARE Drew Brees.
You’re a lawyer, finance person, or doctor, or you’re a retired lawyer, finance person, or doctor. Perhaps you’re a local politician. You call in advance to see if they have the smoked, fried soft-shell crabs, because they’re really that good. You order Jeroboam-sized bottles of wine like it’s nothing. There’s a good chance you know at least half the people in the dining room. You probably grew up Uptown.
You’re generally bored of the wacky “rolls” in local sushi restaurants. You know your otoro from your chutoro, you never put wasabi in your soy sauce, you eat nigiri with your hands, and you would indulge in monkfish liver in a heartbeat. There’s a good chance you’ve actually been to Japan.
You just vomited a Huge Ass Beer on your shoes, and now you need something to put in your stomach. You actually shout the phrase, “Show me your tits!” You’re in town for a bachelor party. The locals hate you.
You drink Swiss chard smoothies and spend half your paycheck on things like chia seeds, farro, and textured vegetable protein molded to look like chicken wings. You don’t eat meat, but you adore vodka and smoke like a chimney. You are really sick of people asking how you could be a vegan in New Orleans.
You think this is the best restaurant in town because there’s always a line out the door, and also because it has tacos and tropical drinks. You love Dave Matthews Band. You never miss a happy hour. You are dating one of the servers.
You know that there are always going to be tourists there, but that doesn’t matter to you so long as you get your turtle soup and Shrimp Henican. You make sure to end your meal with Cafe Brulot or Cafe Pierre, because you know that coffee is better when filled with booze and set on fire. You miss the Emeril days, but love what Tory is doing with the place. You might not be a native, but you have likely lived in New Orleans for a long time.
“My mama’s house”
You were born in New Orleans, have lived here your entire life, and when you die here there will be a second line. You can make a dark roux with your eyes closed, and your fingers perpetually smell like garlic. There is a good chance you own a turkey fryer, a smoker, and possibly a Cajun Microwave. You think that people who buy pre-chopped trinity at the grocery store are committing a mortal sin. You “know what it means.”
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1. Restaurant August301 Tchoupitoulas St, New Orleans
2. Bud's Broiler500 City Park Ave, New Orleans
3. R & O's216 Metairie Hammond Hwy, Metairie
4. Antoine's Restaurant713 Saint Louis St, New Orleans
5. Chinese Kitchen3327 S Carrollton Ave, New Orleans
6. Shaya4213 Magazine St, New Orleans
7. Juan's Flying Burrito2018 Magazine St, New Orleans
8. Cochon Butcher930 Tchoupitoulas St, New Orleans
9. Pizza Delicious617 Piety St, New Orleans
10. Booty's Street Food800 Louisa St, New Orleans
11. Mandina's Restaurant3800 Canal St, New Orleans
12. Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.429 Decatur St, New Orleans
13. Toups' Meatery845 N. Carrollton, New Orleans
14. Square Root1800 Magazine St, New Orleans
15. Clancy's6100 Annunciation St, New Orleans
16. Horinoya920 Poydras St, New Orleans
17. Sneaky Pickle4017 Saint Claude Ave, New Orleans
18. The Rum House3128 Magazine St, New Orleans
19. Commander's Palace1403 Washington Ave, New Orleans
Grab your nicest suit or cocktail dress and head to this Central Business District establishment for an elegant night out for fine dining. Chef Josh Besh gained national fame from his appearances on Food Network and Bravo, but this flagship restaurant put him on the culinary map in New Orleans. Try the famed gnocchi with blue crab and black truffles, but only after you pick the perfect glass or bottle from the restaurant's extensive wine list. If you want the most complete (and expensive) culinary experience, opt for the prix fixe degustation meal.
Though Bud's has a number of locations around the New Orleans area, the shabby Mid-City joint is the only one that doles out the classic burgers, fries, and shakes that fans have come to adore 24/7. The burgers are a cut above what you're used to -- the meat is broiled on an open-flame charcoal grill -- and their prices are a cut below. Along with the standard fixings like lettuce, tomato, and pickle, be sure to top yours with Bud's original hickory smoke sauce. There are a handful of hot dogs and specialty sandwiches, too. Finish off your meal with something sweet, particularly Bud's fried hand pies that come in apple, peach, and cherry.
R & O's plates a variety of Creole/Cajun dishes, but they're best known for their po' boys and other tasty sammies.
Opened in 1840, this elegant St. Louis Street spot is the oldest French-Creole fine dining restaurant in New Orleans. In its fifth generation of family ownership, Antoine’s Restaurant offers a menu nothing short of old-fashioned, with Oysters Rockefeller served with Antoine’s original Rockefeller sauce created in 1889, creamed spinach, potatoes au gratin, and gulf fish served grilled, fried, poached, and sautéed. The Baked Alaska is not to be missed, and while you’re awaiting its arrival, promenade around the 14 dining rooms, each decorated to the nines with rich oak paneling, gilded accents, and portraits of the centuries of illustrious figures who once dined in the very spot in which you’re currently stuffing your face with pound cake and flambéed egg white meringue.
This Gert Town Chinese restaurant offers all the gargantuan portioned General Tso's, egg rolls, and mandarin chicken you could want. Pro Tip: Get your fix before 5pm to take advantage of lunch specials, which come with rice & egg rolls.
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.
Juan's Flying Burrito serves up Tex-Mex fare with a Creole twist, and there's plenty of Mexican and domestic beer available. If tequila's more your speed, have no fear: it's got more than 15 different varieties available, as well as a selection of top-shelf margaritas.
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 on Bywater's Piety Street, this New York-style slice shop was started by two Long Island guys who, surprisingly, had never made pizza before. The menu incorporates local produce and features daily pizza specials like an Italian sausage pie with caramelized onions and peppers.
Booty's serves up affordable street food from around the globe, concocts a variety of specialty cocktails, and brews Stumptown Coffee in a pleasant ambiance.
This Canal St destination for Italian fare and creole seafood is renowned for its pink building as much as it is for its turtle soup and fried trout. The brick- and wood-accented space enforces a family-friendly atmosphere, and on any given night, you'll see tables packed with multiple generations of cajun lovers indulging on signature oversize portions of fried fish.
This French-Quarter outpost of the family friendly chain has the standard fishing-boat decorations and Southern flavored, seafood heavy, menu.
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.
Run by Executive Chef and Owner Phillip Lopez, Square Root is the sequel to the outstanding and innovative resto Root, and it centers on a modern kitchen design, where contemporary culinary techniques are the main attraction and an eclectic menu will keep surprising you as you try more and more of it.
This former po-boy joint plays host to a classed up crowd eager to dine on cajun favorites like gumbo, crab salad, and turtle soup, in a white tablecloth setting. The crowd can veer toward the ritzy, but rest assured that sticky favorites like lemon icebox pie and peppermint ice cream -- served year round -- will make a child out of everyone.
Traditional Japanese fare including sushi, sashimi, noodles, and tempura.
Chef-Owner Ben Tabor opened this spot to provide people with healthy, affordable food that they could feel good about buying and eating. The menu is locally sourced, so it changes frequently but is always vegan & vegetarian friendly -- a rarity in NOLA.
This spot serves tacos and island inspired grub with their almost too-ridiculously-long rum list. Happy Hour is called Island time, and features $2, $3, $4, & $5 drink specials from 3pm - 6:30pm weekdays.
This notable New Orleans spot offers refined Creole fare in a historic setting. The Garden District landmark has been around since 1893 and has since won six James Beard Foundation awards, in part due to its seamless execution of its "dirt to plate within 100 miles" policy, which strives for 90% of ingredients to come from within 100 miles of the back door. Come in for inspired (and environmentally-friendly!) offerings like cypress smoked Muscovy duck and shrimp and pork belly carbonara.