Downtown New Orleans has more to offer than cultural history, Southern cuisine, and artistic and musical expressions / Pixabay
The largest city in Louisiana, New Orleans has a complex and culturally vibrant culinary tradition, evident in the city’s celebration of Creole cooking. These 10 restaurants represent the best of New Orleans dining.
Arnaud’s was opened in 1918 by the French wine salesman Arnaud Cazenave in the quaint French Quarter of New Orleans. In 1978 the restaurant was taken over by Archie and Jane Casbarian, who returned the impressive interior to its previous beauty. They brought culinary expertise back to the kitchen following years of decline.The restored main dining room has an Italian mosaic floor, fine crystal chandeliers, dark wood panelling and bevelled glass windows. The more casual Jazz Bistro allows guests to dine while gazing out at Bourbon Street. Enjoy the sweet sounds of The Gumbo Trio, which serenades diners each evening from 6.30pm onwards. The restaurant’s classic Creole menu includes specialities such as crab claws Provencal and chicken and andouille gumbo.
The Crystal Room is located within Le Pavillon Hotel, one of the nation’s grandest accommodations and an iconic building within the city. The columns and the crystal chandeliers in the restaurant’s ornate dining space have been carefully preserved. Meanwhile period paintings are hung from the walls and a crackling fireplace warms guests during the cooler months of the year. This restaurant is renowned for its creative take on New Orleans classic dishes and its master of recipes such as the award-winning seafood gumbo. Guests can also enjoy a Southern style breakfast with biscuits and gravy or their signature Bananas Foster Waffle Le Pavillon.
The seafood served at Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House is always fresh and locally sourced. On principle, if a fish is out of season or cannot be found in the nearby waters, it will not appear on the menu. As part of the restaurant, the premier oyster bar here is arguably the best in New Orleans. Diners can enjoy their oysters straight up or topped with champagne mignonette and Cajun caviar. True to its name, Bourbon House also offers the city’s most impressive selection of small batch and single barrel bourbons. Other specialities include alligator boudin and New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp.
First established in 1840, Antoine’s is the oldest family-run restaurant in the whole United States. The restaurant comprises a series of enchanting dining spaces, each with its own design and character. The large Annex room contains wood-beamed ceilings and antique gas light fixtures. Meanwhile private dining spaces such as the Rex room and the 1840 room are vibrantly painted and strewn with antique objects and pictures. Specializing in French-Creole cuisine, the menu here is complete with dishes such as Huitres en coquille a la Rockefeller. This is a dish comprising baked oysters topped with Antoine’s original Rockefeller sauce, and Bisque d’ecrevisses, a thickened Louisiana Crawfish soup.
The lunch menu at Muriel’s Bistro in Jackson Square features a selection of the city’s classic dishes like the Po’ Boy sandwich and the shrimp and andouille omelet. Likewise, evening options include items such as turtle soup or seafood bayoubaisse with Gulf shrimp, fish, and Louisiana crab. The atmosphere here is just as exceptional, as cherry hardwood floors, brick walls supporting 100-year-old photographs and vines draping down from the ceiling create a true New Orleans ambience. After a meal, guests can retire to the Séance bar, where seductive, plush red furniture and drapery channel Muriel’s history as a renowned New Orleans bordello.
As the second oldest restaurant in the city, Tujagues was opened in 1856 by Guillaume and Marie Abadie Tujague. Tujagues has served its loyal French Quarter patrons for more than 150 years. All the while it has maintained its reputation for culinary excellence even through years of civil war, depression, fire and plague. In the early years of operation, the restaurant built its reputation on two dishes: shrimp with spicy remoulade sauce, and beef brisket boiled with flavorful vegetables. Both of these appear on the menu today. The restaurant’s interior is simple yet timeless. Dark wooden chairs are set against a palette of serene white walls, floors and linens. Meanwhile vitrines displaying antique bottles run the perimeter above diners’ heads.
Housed in an almost 140-year-old Garden District building, Coquette opened in 2008. It offers creative Southern cuisine, an international beer and wine list and inventive New Orleans cocktails. James Beard-nominated chef Michael Stoltzfus views the restaurant, his first entrepreneurial endeavor, as a playground for experimentation. He succeeds tremendously at creating personalized tasting menus for guests, and producing a different menu each day with a focus on local produce. Coquette shines by combining gastronomic innovation with a celebration of the glorious New Orleans past.
La Petite Grocery takes its name from the history of the building that it is housed within. Between the late 1800s and the early 1980s the location was the site of a small grocery store before it was converted into a flower shop. Finally, it became the restaurant that it is today. The building maintains the quaint grocery design both on its exterior and interior. Photographs of the previous proprietors line the walls. Executive chef Justin Devillier, who co-owns the restaurant with his wife Mia, came to his chosen profession from a beach town upbringing in California. There he spent summers fishing for tuna and winters diving for lobsters. His passion for seafood fits perfectly into the culinary climate of New Orleans. House specialities include items such as crab beignets, Gulf shrimp and grits, and Gulf shrimp salad.
Having undergone classical training both in New Orleans and in Europe, Chef John Besh merges contemporary French and Southern Louisiana influences for a carefully curated menu. Restaurant August is housed within a stunning 19th-century, French-Creole building in the city’s central business district. Rich architectural and decorative details such as hardwood floors, mahogany panelling, fluted columns and crystal chandeliers have all been carefully preserved. They awaken one’s imagination to the near 100 years of history that has passed under this roof. Among the expertly prepared dishes on offer are the hot buttered crab with warm burrata and corn bread, crispy fried P&J oysters and blue crab potato gnocchi.
Oysters at Restaurant R'evolution | courtesy of Restaurant R'evolution.
Chefs John Folse and Rick Tramonto present fresh interpretations of Louisiana classics. They do this in a menu that takes advantage of the various swamp dwellers and multicultural influences that have come to define the state’s culinary identity. The playfully named ‘A Tale of Three Fishes’ merges elements from the seafood stews of three of the seven countries that settled Louisiana. This includes French bouillabaisse, Spanishzarzuela and Italiancacciucco. The decor of Restaurant Revolution combines standout contemporary features with traditional, timeless design. This echoes the ethos of this restaurant, which seeks to pay homage to tradition while constantly reimagining the possibilities of Southern cooking.