It’s a new year, with a new chance to try some of New Orleans’ best dishes - 22 to be exact. So we polled our editorial, social, and communications departments to see what were some of the best dishes they ate all year. We’re talking the types of food that you dream about long after you’ve left the restaurant–the things you tell visitors coming to the city that they absolutely cannot leave without trying.
The resulting list was huge and almost impossible to cut down, but the result is a roster of bites ranging from high end to ultra casual and old classics to new kids on the block. We’ve got breakfast, brunch, dinner, and dessert, and even a few vegan options. Here you’ll find creamy, dreamy fettuccine with local butternut squash, catfish smothered in a lemon-butter crab sauce, and a whole buttermilk fried chicken–and that’s just the start. Make it your New Year’s resolution to try the 22 dishes below.
If the name of the dish wasn’t enticing enough, the description will be. Picture this: a whole chicken, fried to glorious perfection, carved in front of your very eyes on the “food stage,” and served to you on a bed of rosemary with three dipping sauces: chili crunch, pesto, and honey. It’s crispy, it’s crunchy, it’s moist, and it’s full of flavor. Located on the first floor of the beautiful Four Seasons Hotel, you’ll feel like a king dining at Miss River.
Emeril’s banana cream pie is a dish almost too pretty to eat. A graham cracker crust serves as the stalwart base of the dish, followed by a thick custard pudding, and topped with a glassy layer of thinly sliced bananas. A ribbon of whipped cream, dark chocolate leaves, and a dollop of dulce de leche put the finishing touches on this dish. We’ll just say - save room for dessert.
This brand new egg dish takes brunch decadence to an entirely new level. The Eggs deux Façons includes brandade, poached eggs, Cajun Caviar, and a brown butter cream sauce. We recommend requesting a table on the wraparound balcony overlooking Jackson Square for a brunch experience that is *chef's kiss*.
Alma is the quintessential neighborhood restaurant–whether you’ve got a date with your inbox and a strong cup of coffee, or you’re meeting your liveliest group of friends for brunch, Alma checks all the boxes. Chef Melissa Araujo describes the spot as a modern Honduran eatery, so the menu is full of nods to her home country with a number of other influences woven in, including her use of fresh Gulf seafood and local produce. One of our favorite things to order is the Charlotte Bowl, which features house-made yogurt topped with granola, roasted carrots, fresh berries and a seasonal citrus marmalade. It’s then finished off with a dusting of rose petals, making it almost too beautiful to eat.
There’s only one thing more satisfying than the alliteration of that title, and it’s the items on the brunch board from Birdy’s. Picture a large charcuterie board, but instead of simple meats and cheeses, it’s stocked with brunch favorites. Donuts, granola, slab bacon, hot coppa, bubble waffles, fruit, seasonal jam, mini cookies, mini pancakes, hot syrup, triple cream cheese, and soft boil eggs all make the cut. Share with friends or order it all for yourself - we won’t tell anyone.
Fans of Top Chef will recognize Chef Nina Compton from the New Orleans season back in 2013, but it was shortly after filming that the St. Lucia native (and James Beard winner) made the move from being a beloved contestant on the Bravo reality show to becoming a full-fledged New Orleanian. She opened Compere Lapin in 2015, followed by Bywater American Bistro in 2018. Her menu at Compere Lapin has changed around a bit over the years, but one constant has been the Curried Goat over Sweet Potato Gnocchi. It’s warm and spicy, brimming with flavors from the Caribbean, and made even more decadent with the addition of gnocchi. One bite, and you’ll instantly know why it’s a staple for the restaurant.
Crafting the perfect beignet is no easy feat, especially in this city, but Antoine’s may take the cake on this one. Crispy on the outside but soft and pillowy on the inside, the twist comes in with the smooth glaze at the finish. Hot and heavenly, it’s worth the drive out to Metairie to give Antoine’s a try.
We’re big fans of Chef Eric Cook’s Lower Garden District restaurant Gris Gris, so we were beyond excited to hear that he was opening a second restaurant along the lower Decatur corridor in the French Quarter. Cook describes the food at Saint John as “haute Creole,” which means you can find Creole classics with slightly modern twists. Our pick here is the Seared Gulf Fish Court-Bouillon, which features a hearty piece of Gulf fish surrounded by lump crab and succulent shrimp in a velvety tomato broth. It’s served with Louisiana popcorn rice and griddled bread, perfect for sopping up all that irresistible brothy goodness.
The intimate setting and warm, laid-back atmosphere of LUVI are only enhanced by its food. Owner and Head Chef Hao Gong, a semi-finalist for the James Beard Best Chef South award, mixes the familiar flavors of his culinary roots in Hong Kong with the fresh ingredients you can only find in New Orleans to create dishes that make you nostalgic for your favorite home-cooked meal. The Golden Nugget in particular – a fried Louisiana shrimp ball crusted in crouton – is guaranteed to put a warm smile on your face and an even warmer feeling in your belly.
Dooky Chase Restaurant has served presidents and dignitaries, but we love them for their warm hospitality and dining room in the heart of Tremé. Among their most signature dishes is the stuffed shrimp. These jumbo-sized bad boys are stuffed with crabmeat dressing, then battered and fried - almost resembling a corn dog, but with a shrimp tail handle perfect for dunking again and again. Packed with Creole flavor, you can’t pass these up while dining at Dooky Chase.
Sometimes there’s truly nothing better than a good fried rice, and this one from Cho Thai puts a uniquely Louisiana spin on it. Here you’ll find hearty flecks of local blue crab scattered throughout the rice, which is then complimented with fresh bites of green onions and fresh cucumber on the side. It comes with garlic-chili fish sauce, which gives the whole dish a perfect salty-spicy punch.
Walking into the Hotel Saint Vincent is like stepping into a Wes Anderson movie. It feels rich, over-the-top, and insanely cool, and their on-site restaurant, San Lorenzo, is no exception. This dish feels like luxury in a bowl-chunks of lobster atop a pile of fresh bucatini bathed in a silky, spicy tomato sauce. It’s beautiful and extravagant, not unlike its surroundings.
Placing a whole tasting menu on a list of individual dishes feels a bit like cheating, but when an entire meal feels like a beautiful, cohesive experience, we make exceptions. Chef Ana Castro (formerly of Coquette) blends modern Mexican cuisine with elements of her family’s past and utilizes locally sourced ingredients to tell a story through her five-course dinners. It’s a blind tasting menu, which means you won’t know what you’re in for until you sit down, but that just adds to the fun. One thing you can count on is the tiny shooters of shrimp broth with lime and arbol chile that she begins each meal with. From there, Chef Ana takes the wheel, and we can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Bakery Bar may be well known for their creative takes on doberge cakes (not to mention, for being the type of heavenly establishment where you can pair craft cocktails with baked goods), but it’s their twist on beignets that really caught our eye. It’s like getting a bite of piping hot cookie dough that has been deep fried and dusted with powdered sugar. It’s decadent and truly magnificent. We paired ours with a glass of milk, but it would be equally divine alongside a nice Irish Coffee, or with one of their dessert-centric seasonal cocktails.
Whoever thinks vegan cheese can’t be good hasn’t tried the fettuccine from Pizza Delicious. This seasonal dish may be ever-changing, but you can count on it always being delicious. You can expect something like fresh noodles, crispy mushrooms, creamy “cheese,” squash sauce, rosemary, and breadcrumbs in this rotating special. It may be tempting to order a slice of ‘za from this Bywater pizza joint, but do not be deterred in ordering this dish.
Chef Charly Pierre knows that dining out is about so much more than just the food; at Fritai, you’ll get an experience. The ambiance of the restaurant is perfect for unwinding, lounging around with friends or a low-key date night. Specializing in Haitian cuisine, our pick is the whole fish: the catch of the day, marinated in epis and dusted in flour and roasted. The dish is served with rice and beans, green or sweet plantains, and sauce Creole. Pro tip: you might want to share.
Craving soul food without the meat? I-tal Garden offers plant based alternatives to all your favorite New Orleans foods, and their vegan fried oysters have made our list. Oyster mushrooms, that is, are chickpea battered and fried to a crisp with your choice of dipping sauce. Getting your vegetables in has never been easier.
Available on Fridays only, you’ll want to get in line early for the Catfish Jourdain at Lil’ Dizzy’s. The restaurant has been around for years - 74 to be exact. Set to close for good in 2020, the restaurant was saved by the next generation of Baquets, maintaining its status as a family favorite. Savor the dish, which features fried catfish topped with shrimp and crabmeat in a lemon butter sauce. Take one bite and it’ll be gone before you know it.
For something familiar but not too familiar, you can’t beat the Swamp Fries from Katie’s. The fries still retain the right amount of crispiness, even after they’ve been smothered in gooey mozzarella and cheddar cheese. What makes this plate (and yes, we mean a full-sized dinner plate) of cheese fries uniquely New Orleans is the generous pour of debris—a gravy commonly made from the savory leftover juices rendered from making roast beef. Debris may mean “trash” on any other day, but on these fries, it’s definitely closer to treasure.
Cheesy, buttery, hot, and steamy - yes, this is the dish of your dreams. You don’t have to be able to spell, or even say “Tchoupitoulas” to get this omelet - just point to the menu, lock eyes with your waiter, and smile and nod. Shrimp, crawfish, green peppers, onions, and a crab meat cream sauce make this dish unequivocally delectable. Who said an omelet had to be boring?
French fries are perhaps one of the most beloved snacks/side items on the planet, but soufflé potatoes take crispy spuds to a whole new level. These twice-fried potatoes are perfectly crunchy on the outside, puffed, airy and soft on the inside, and paired perfectly with a bernaise sauce for dipping. You can get them in the main dining room, or just grab a plate to go alongside cocktails in the French 75 Bar.
Finding a good po-boy in New Orleans is a lot like shooting fish in a barrel–you don’t have to look far to secure a keeper. But there are a few places and specific po-boys that are even more notorious for being some of the best in the biz, and the roast beef from Parkway definitely falls into that category. Think tender, melt-in-your-mouth piles of house-made roast beef smothered in a rich, deeply savory gravy. Get it dressed so that you can add mayo to that mix (and keep your judgements to yourself–we all know it’s delicious), and you’ve got one for the record books.