No comprehensive look at New Orleans restaurants would be complete without covering the charismatic uber-chef’s namesake restaurant, which catapulted New Orleans cuisine back into the national spotlight just as a new age of food-obsessed television dawned some 20 years ago. Emeril’s is the heavyweight of contemporary New Orleans restaurants. The dishes are unapologetically big and bold, from the powerful twang of Worcestershire in a creamy vision of barbecued shrimp to the towering banana cream pie that elicits gasps and pointing from nearby tables. It is not a restaurant for the salad-eating fainthearted.
The uninitiated would do well enough zeroing in on menu fixtures like andouille-crusted Gulf fish and Flintstonian double-cut pork chops with caramelized sweet potatoes, all of which offer a glimpse into the brash style of cooking that made Emeril Lagasse a household name. Seasonal and daily specials show off more of the restaurant’s signature, ambitious cuisine. Pan-fried veal is served with crispy sweetbreads, cubes of buttery Brabant potatoes and lemon-crab butter. Ribeye comes topped with what is essentially a blue cheese side salad scattered with chewy lardon and thick-cut fried onion wheels. The meal-in-itself short rib shepherd’s pie accompanies a skillet-roasted filet of beef. Even the salads pack more pork than a bacon-phile’s average daily allowance.
Exposed brick walls, soaring, woven wood ceiling panels and industrial steel beams fit the restaurant’s warehouse district surroundings. Sit in the lively main dining room and bar for the best view of the restaurant’s gleaming, open kitchen. If you have a choice, avoid the side room and bar, which can feel removed and second-rate unless you’re dining in the wine room.
Twenty years and counting, Emeril’s has become part of the encyclopedia of eating in New Orleans. Out-of-towners looking for an as-seen-on-TV New Orleans experience regularly fill the restaurant and get exactly what they came for: Some flash, some substance and a modern taste of the Big Easy.
Uber-chef Emeril Lagasse's flagship New Orleans restaurant offers a taste of contemporary Louisiana cuisine in an industrial chic building in the Warehouse District.