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Top Places to Eat, Stay and Play in 2018

New Orleans, LA-Named the #1 place to visit in 2018 by The New York Times, New Orleans is a destination unlike any other.  This year the Crescent City will celebrate its 300th anniversary with a series of festivals, events, parades and more; making this year in New Orleans the perfect time for a getaway.

The city also commemorates 300 years of New Orleans cuisine: From Food & Wine Best Chef Nina Compton’s new restaurant Bywater American Bistro to touring the iconic Southern Food & Beverage Museum, below is a list of top spots in New Orleans to celebrate the Tricentennial through culinary adventure. 

Compére Lapin
Situated in the Warehouse Arts District, on the lobby of the funky boutique hotel Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery (named one of the top 15 city hotels by Travel and Leisure) is award-winning restaurant Compére Lapin helmed by acclaimed Chef Nina Compton. A finalist for James Beard Awards “Best Chef South,” and one of Food & Wine magazine’s "Best New Chefs 2017", Compton creates robust dishes that meld the flavors of her Caribbean upbringing and love for French and Italian cuisine, while highlighting the Gulf and Louisiana’s beautiful indigenous ingredients. Standout dishes range from Cold Smoked Tuna Tartare and Curried Goat with Gnocchi, to Hot Fire Chicken and Roasted Banana Zeppole. With a beverage program overseen by cocktail maven Abigail Gullo, Compère Lapin is one of the hottest restaurants in NOLA.  www.comperelapin.com

Bywater American Bistro (BABs)
Over in New Orleans’ "Sliver by the River" neighborhood, foodies can head to Compton’s newest venture – Bywater American Bistro (BABs). The brand-new locale features fresh and approachable dishes that honor ingredients, smart sourcing, bold flavor combinations, and authentic hospitality. As a nod to the restaurant’s home in the Rice Mills Loft building, grains and legumes play a substantial role in various dishes. Guests can also look forward to assortments of fresh pasta made in-house, French-inspired charcuterie and thoughtfully prepared libations. www.bywateramericanbistro.com

DTB
A streetcar ride to historic Oak Street in Uptown New Orleans’ Carrolton neighborhood is a burgeoning culinary and entertainment destination. Here, patrons can relish in a one-of-a-kind dining experience at the acclaimed modern Coastal Cajun eatery, DTB – which stands for Down the Bayou. Chef/Owner Carl Schaubhut, who was named New Orleans’ Eater Awards "2017 Chef of the Year" presents a menu inspired by his Cajun roots featuring modern interpretations of Southern Louisiana’s coastal cuisine. He and Chef de Cuisine Jacob Hammel – Nola.com "2018 Chef to Watch" – breakdown some of the region’s antiquated dishes and recreate them with a refined technique and a lighter, more creative twist. Culinary delights at DTB include Mushroom Boudin Balls – which happen to be a vegan doppelganger of the classic – utilizing three types of mushrooms, charred eggplant, and Louisiana jasmine rice, served with a smoked tofu mayo; Tomahawk Pork Chop with smothered fall roots, endive, roasted apple; and Crispy Duck Confit made with charred cabbage, citrus, sweet potato, and pecan vinaigrette. www.dtbnola.com

Southern Food & Beverage Museum (SoFAB)
Once a thriving mecca for New Orleans’ Jewish and African-American communities, Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard (OCH), formerly known as Dryades Street, is home to the Southern Food & Beverage Museum (SoFAB) – a non-profit shrine to the food, drink and culture of the South – which examines and celebrates all the diverse cultures that have come together through the centuries to create the South’s unique culinary philosophy. Named as one of "11 of the World’s Top Food Museums" by CNN and one of the "12 Best Museums Around the World" by Elle Decor, SoFAB also hosts special exhibits, demonstrations, lectures and tastings that showcase New Orleans’ heritage. Visitors can enjoy a variety of hands-on cooking demonstrations; tour the Museum of the American Cocktail and learn about Absinthe and all things boozy; or dine in the living exhibit of Toups South – Chef Isaac Toups’ southern open-kitchen restaurant where diners can take in the action.  www.natfab.org/southern-food-and-beverage

Sac-a-Lait
In December 2017, “Cajun Aces” premiered on Food Network starring Louisiana’s very own culinary couple, Chefs Cody and Samantha “Sam” Carroll – the stars behind the scenes at Sac-a-Lait restaurant. Set in an old cotton mill in the middle of the Warehouse District, Sac-a-lait showcases refined southern Louisiana dishes. The husband-and-wife team present a bold cuisine set in an atmosphere that's inspired by the fishing, farming, and hunting culture they grew up in. The menu, which features modern takes on Acadian and Cajun cuisine, includes Deviled Crab with whipped egg yolk, marinated cucumber and sabayon; Alligator & Mirliton with honey powder, white remoulade and pickled mustard seeds; and Wild Boar’s Heart – a bell pepper risotto-stuffed heart with maple sherry Brussels and shaved beet. The cocktail program, under the direction of Beverage Director Norton Christopher (formerly of Kenton’s) focuses on vine-to-glass creations utilizing the unique produce and herbs from the restaurant’s on-site garden.  At Sac-a-Lait, the Chefs and their families designed and built the entire restaurant, including all of the wood and ironwork. From reclaiming the 140-year-old pine out of a neighboring Broom Factory, to the hand-crushed oyster shells that make up the bar, every detail of Sac-a-Lait is handcrafted. www.sac-a-laitrestaurant.com

Toups South
Separated by only a curtain inside of the SoFAB museum is what is considered a live exhibit and restaurant, Toups South, helmed by James Beard Awards “Best Chef South” Finalist and Bravo TV’s “Top Chef” season 13 “Fan Favorite,” Chef Isaac Toups. A native of Rayne, Louisiana – the heart of Cajun country – Chef Toups is known for his “born and braised” culinary style. Toups South features a cuisine which highlights the best of southern fare, including a signature Fried Bone-In Pork Chop Stack, which is appropriately speared with a butcher’s knife and accompanied by a stack of white bread and rich, coffee aioli; and Toups’ infamous pork-belly Cracklins. Brunch aficionados are also welcomed to enjoy an unrivaled Sunday brunch – featuring dishes such as the Farm Eggs in Purgatory and homemade Sourdough Biscuits served with crab fat butter – making for a perfect Sunday Funday in NOLA! www.toupssouth.com

Toups’ Meatery
Executive Chef/Owner Isaac Toups and wife/co-owner Amanda Toups opened Toups’ Meatery in Mid-City New Orleans in April 2012. His first restaurant is a glimpse into “Isaac’s Id” – the Cajun rustic cookery he grew up knowing, with his unique updated, sophisticated approach.  Representing the guard of Cajun chefs, the cuisine at Toups’ Meatery highlights deep, rustic flavors such as slow cooked Lamb Neck with black eye pea ragout and fennel; Confit Chicken Thighs, ham braised greens, Dijon cream and lardons; and Gulf Seafood Couvillion. Additional menu staples include the Meatery Board, offering a wonderful selection of house cured meats and accompaniments; authentic Cracklins, which have been called “equal to Christendom’s finest”; along with other robust dishes highlighting Chef’s refined approach to his deeply-rooted Louisiana family traditions. www.toupsmeatery.com

While the French Quarter is and always will be an iconic New Orleans destination – home to Café du Monde, quintessential New Orleans restaurant K Paul’s, and a slew of other culinary institutions – modern foodies would be remiss by not exploring flourishing new neighborhoods and the top-tier talent they showcase.