A Tourist Trap-Free Restaurant Guide to New Orleans
Before any trip to New Orleans, friends and relatives will bombard you with lists of places you have to go. Think bead tossing on Bourbon Street, hurricanes in the French Quarter and chicory at Café du Monde. As much as we appreciate those who quite literally came before us, there’s far more to New Orleans than the tourist-thronged usual suspects.
Although it’s steeped in history and culture, the Crescent City is constantly evolving. Before Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, the city was home to 800 restaurants. Now, there are 1,400. Here are eight delectable choices for your next trip.
For oysters on the half shell, try Restaurant R’evolution, a sophisticated French Quarter spot that feels worlds away from the crowds, despite its perch in the lobby of a hotel. The oysters are served with a cucumber-lemon granita and tangerine salsa, a dressing so light and delectable the bivalves can’t help but shine.
Photo: Courtesy of Cavan
Try the daily gumbo, made with popcorn rice, inside this beautifully salvaged 1880s mansion on charming Magazine Street. Rich, spicy and flavorful, it's a star among stars. Everything else on Cavan’s menu is just as perfectly executed, from the duck confit mac 'n' cheese to the hush puppies.
Housed in the Old. No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery, one of NOLA’s coolest lodgings, Compère Lapin serves some of the best food in the otherwise-yawn-inducing Central Business District. In a city full of adventurous fare, like chef Nina Compton’s magnificent curried goat with sweet potato gnocchi, why settle for even above-average pasta? Wash it down with a Paris Between the Wars cocktail, a perfect blend of Scotch, lemon, honey, cider and bitters.
Sure, Café du Monde’s sweet beignets are legendary and truly delicious, but after you’ve stood in line for them once, you can expand your repertoire. At Trinity, where marble tables and countertops provide a crisp, chic alternative to the city’s oft-gaudy decor, the crawfish and fontina beignets, served with tarragon aioli, will keep your palate entertained. So will the grilled Wagyu strip loin and The Pearl, a killer cocktail made with Fortaleza reposado tequila, dry sherry, pear liqueur and cardamom ginger.
Red beans and rice is a hearty New Orleans tradition, but you can only eat so much of it. Explore NOLA's other neighborhoods at Meauxbar, which sits along a cool row of establishments on North Rampart Street, across from Louis Armstrong Park and on the edge of the Quarter. The shrimp and chickpea salad provides a nice, light contrast to the deep-fried fare the city’s so famous for. Equally refreshing is the way Meauxbar’s cocktails are named: Gin, Vodka, Tequila and Rye are all far more complex than their simple monikers suggest.
Photo: Graham Blackall
After you get your fill of Commander’s Palace's famous pecan-crusted gulf fish, head to renowned chef John Besh's Borgne for the black drum a la plancha. The black drum is soaked in brown butter and topped with pecans and lump crabmeat, giving the fish a dessert-style flavor and sushi-style top.
Drink enough sugary hurricanes out of plastic cups, and you’ll be sick to your stomach and hightailing it to the dentist. At The Franklin, a Marigny neighborhood spot, cocktails are made with small-batch spirits and botanicals. The Tropical Ruin is a light and refreshing blend of vodka, hibiscus, muddled raw sugar and limes. If you’re hungry, nosh on the excellent hamachi crudo.
Photo: Denny Culbert
Even the staunchest brunch skeptics would happily spend the rest of their Saturday afternoons at this darling little resto in the French Quarter. And whatever you order at Angeline, you really can’t go wrong; the fried chicken and biscuits, brioche French toast and perfectly prepared boudin with Coosa Valley grits are all terrific.
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