Last week I made a huge list of the world’s greatest food cities.
I was dutifully and rightfully called out by friends and fans alike for omitting one of the world’s best and one of my personal favorites: New Orleans, Louisiana.
I’ve spent one day in NoLa during the last two years and it was to MC an event for the Emeril Lagasse Foundation… I didn’t even get to squeeze in a meal! I was heartbroken.
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Anyway, as a way to make amends for a tragic error, here are some of my fave NoLa restaurants. I am sure I missed some and will get dutifully called out for that as well. Comes with the territory.
Best thing I ever said about NoLa and I believe it now more than ever:
When you say the words NEW ORLEANS and close your eyes, you can taste it.
Not many places you say that about. Probably the only place in America that qualifies.
My Favorite Places to Eat in New Orleans
Nina Compton in full effect, at the top of her game, incredible range of gulf and island flavors. A ‘don’t miss’ restaurant.
My friend Don Link took me here for the first time and I haven’t stopped returning. The ultimate Louisiana ‘diner’ with an amazing remoulade, incredible seafood, pristine frying and a beef po-boy to rival any place in town.
The one and only. If you go to NoLa and don’t make a pilgrimage here you are missing an essential part of the city’s culinary history, and the food is superb. A classic.
That incredible ‘only in NoLa’ vibe of Italian cuisine unique to that city, with the Southern vibe also fully on display. Family run and you feel GREAT in that place. Italian sausage and shells is one day’s special, the next its butter beans and rice.
One of the best places for po-boys in town. Love everything about it.
Because you need to stand here and eat a muffuletta, that’s why.
Café Du Monde
I go there once a day for chicory coffee and beignets. Nothing better. And that’s all that’s on the menu by the way.
Another of the best places in town for po-boys. I love this place too. And in NoLa you should have more than one po-boy place, more than one chicken place and so on.
Cochon and Cochon Butcher
Don Link started it. Steven Stryjewski became his partner and a legend was born. Maybe my fave place to eat in that town. Everything is that good.
One of several superb Vietnamese restaurants in NoLa which boasts many. I lean heavy on the seafood items here but there are no items I’ve eaten here over the years that aren’t delicious. Frog legs for sure, clay pot catfish also… heck, order one of everything.
Don Link again. Seafood heaven. No exaggeration.
Alon Shaya, one of America’s greatest chefs, has proven several times that he is a great restauranteur as well. Wood fired cookery honoring all the foods of the Levant and more. I cant say enough about this place. From farm, sea and field, then over the hot coals and out to your table is one of their mottos… its true.
Incredible seafood served for over a hundred years. Slurp oysters until you can’t bear to eat one more and then ask for some spaghetti and meat balls for dessert.
La Petite Grocery
Justin Devillier’s home base…menu changes all the time. Three words: blue crab beignets. Another personal style of cuisine from a chef who really gets it. Turtle Bolognese is out of this world, rabbit, shrimp and grits with tasso…yes please
Willie Mae’s Scotch House
My favorite place for fried chicken, but the butter beans are without peer throughout the south. I can’t say enough about the magic in this kitchen. A must.
A true NoLa classic from a legendary chef who was Paul Prudhomme’s protégé decades ago. All the classics are here and of course the seafood is the star.
A small French bistro, mostly outdoor seating, and at night the place looks like a jewel box. Romantic and of course firmly rooted in the city of NoLa… so crawfish ravioli or mussels with fennel sits right next to a classic cassoulet.
The place that has everything, and has for generations, since the 1930’s. The carving boards, the roasted meats, the Ferdi special, the beef debris… you don’t go here because it’s the best in town, you go because it’s an “only” experience
Creole food, elegance galore, the place that Banana’s Foster was invented and is still served tableside. One of the best wine lists in America. A true American and NoLa classic.
Open since 1905. Red fish or trout with crab meat and hollandaise, pommes souffles, sweetbreads, turtle soup in an elegant room with the kind of service long since disappeared. I love this place.
80 years old. THE place to eat for generations. The home that Dooky and Leah Chase birthed, the stopping place for presidents and paupers for generations. It’s not just a restaurant, it’s church. A MUST!
Don Link’s flagship restaurant and still one of the best in America. It’s French, it’s southern, it’s Italian, its phenomenal. The menu changes all the time, just go, its intimate and one of those great restaurants that’s literally humble and perfect at the same time.
Fried fish, fried catfish specifically. Born in 1943 and now moved locations. I have often stopped on way in or out of the airport, it’s that good.
Classic creole cuisine. Like Galatoire’s the place is over 100 years old and DOES require collars and jackets for men. BUT, the vibe is one of a kind and the food is simple and superb.
Sue Zemaick’s flagship restaurant. One of the most under rated chefs in America despite the awards and accolades. She just keeps cooking amazing food in a small restaurant. Come because of her immense skill with seafood, stay for the crispy pork cheeks
Fried chicken of your dreams. Full stop. Don’t know how to choose between here and the Scotch House? Do both.
Cajun and Creole shot through Isaac Toup’s personal prism. Big food, big flavors.
What’s your favorite spot in New Orleans? Share in the comments!
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As I mentioned previously to you, my husband is from New Orleans, so we go frequently, at least pre-COVID. I agree and have been to so many places on your list and as I looked at each one, the food of course was center stage, but it was also why we were there and the people we were with that fills the richness of that memory. There's something about the food in New Orleans that is special, enhanced by the company you are with that brings it over the top. For example, when we celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary we had friends come with us to recreate our wedding weekend. Our party of 12 had lunch at Commander's Palace and it was such an experience. It was where we also spent New Year's Day 2020, with such hope and joy for the coming year, complete with roving musicians and a table of women who sang at the top of their lungs. Being New Orleans no one told then to be quiet and in fact a gentleman from another table got up and went over to dance with them. That is only something you would see in New Orleans. We know what it means to miss New Orleans.
We think it is the best food on the continent, but really quite different from every other city. We have been many times and will be there all next week. About the ones you didn't mention: We prefer Shaya to Saba (even though Alon Shaya is no longer associated with them) and we can't wait to try Alon Shaya's new place in the Four Seasons. Turkey and Wolf for their sheer audacity. The bakery Levee for their weekend morning delights. Atchafalaya for dinner or Sunday brunch. There are so very many wonderful places. I agree with Chuck Jones who writes that the Po'boy at Acme Oyster House was the best sandwich he's ever had. We got our start many years ago at K-Paul's with Paul Prudhomme - who remains our kitchen god even though he, K and the restaurant are sadly now all gone (we still grab his andouille sausages to bring home every time we go). Of course Emeril's is amazing, as is Commander's Palace. Some great places are ones that get no notoriety at all, including ones that venture to cuisines not usually associated with New Orleans (at least not nationally) and might just be sandwich joints: Mais Arepas, Banh Mi Boys.