- New Orleans’ Cajun and Creole-influenced cuisine is world-famous: We asked local chefs to reveal their favorite restaurants in the Big Easy.
- Brennan’s is known for its multi-course breakfasts.
- For a fantastic burger in a venerable French Quarter restaurant, head to Port of Call.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
Rightfully famous for its incredible Cajun and Creole-influenced cuisine, its vibrant drinking culture, its outdoor festivals and its general joie de vivre, New Orleans tops many a foodie’s list of must-see American cities.
But while the Big Easy boasts a plethora of highly-rated restaurants, oyster bars, and street-food vendors, it’s also unfortunately easy to stumble across some mediocre eats, especially in the areas most popular with tourists. That’s why it helps to receive some restaurant recs from the folks most likely to know their stuff: local chefs. We gathered intel from chefs currently based in New Orleans or native to the area and came up with this list of 11 NOLA eateries well worth a trip.
Brennan’s is a classic French Quarter restaurant that dates back to the 1940s and is famous for its impressive multi-course breakfasts.
- Yelp/Adrienne H.
A New Orleans culinary destination since the mid 1940s, Brennan’s offers traditional Creole fare on a picturesque street in the heart of the French Quarter. It’s particularly famous for its indulgent breakfast spreads, which chef-owner of Bayou Bakery in Arlington, Virginia, host of Travel Channel’s “American Grilled”, and New Orleans native David Guas considers the best morning repast in town.
“If you go to New Orleans and you don’t do ‘Breakfast at Brennan’s,’ then you haven’t been to New Orleans. This institution in the heart of the French Quarter opened in 1946, and later moved to its current home on Royal Street. The morning meal became a signature in 1948, with classics like Eggs Sardou and Bananas Foster. The restaurant recently underwent an extensive restoration, but the traditional cuisine and old-world elegance have endured,” Guas told INSIDER.
An upscale hotel restaurant located in the Garden District, Jack Rose puts an inventive spin on Cajun-Creole dishes.
- Yelp/Qed I.
According to Chef Stuart Reb Donald of “Sip & Chew with Mike and Stu,” Jack Rose in the Pontchartrain Hotel in the Garden District served “the best meal I have had in many years.” Jack Rose prides itself on Italian, French, and Spanish-influenced versions of classic New Orleans dishes, and specialties like Duck & Andouille Gumbo, Fried Chicken Parmesan, and Lamb Shank with risotto and mint gremolata keep this restaurant in high estimation among local gourmands.
French bistro vibes meet Louisiana ingredients and techniques at Patois.
Patois, a charming restaurant in the peaceful Uptown district of New Orleans, calls its menu “Louisiana cuisine with a French accent.” Dishes like Moules Frites with a chorizo-fennel sofrito, Pecan-Crusted Sweetbreads with grits and a country-ham reduction, and Gulf Fish Almondine with potato galette and buttered green beans clearly indicate Patois’ commitment to marrying Gallic influences and regional NOLA favorites.
Chef/owner Brian Landry of Jack Rose claimed that “one my favorite quintessential neighborhood restaurants, nestled Uptown near Aububon Park, is Patois. The menu truly represents modern Creole cuisine, presented in a well-executed but unpretentious way. It’s one of my favorite spots to suggest to people for Sunday brunch.”
Casual eatery Marjie’s Grill offers daring, globally-influenced dishes in an approachable way.
- Yelp/Sunday S.
Only open since 2017, Marjie’s Grill in Mid-City has already managed to rack up plenty of accolades from New Orleans chefs and diners, thanks to its clever merging of Southeast Asian flavors, Gulf Coast ingredients, and a relaxed counter-service dining model. It’s a favorite of “Top Chef” alum Isaac Toups of Toups South and Toups Meatery in New Orleans, who told us that “”I love Marjie’s Grill. Chef Marcus is crushing it! Go and get the Crispy Pig Knuckles and Honey Butter Yardbird with a side of BBQ braised collard greens. Or just order the whole menu, I won’t judge you. It’s really that good.”
For a fantastic burger in a venerable French Quarter restaurant, head to Port of Call.
- Yelp/Ismary I.
Holding court in the French Quarter since the 1960s, Port of Call has become a local institution for its highly-regarded, freshly-ground half-pound burgers and its tiki-inspired cocktail menu.
Chef Justin Koslowsky of Seaworthy at the Ace Hotel New Orleans counts himself among Port of Call’s devoted fans, explaining that “it’s a French Quarter legend that’s been open for 50 or so years. They serve one of the best burgers in the city, so get that along with the baked potato on the side. Wash it all down with a Neptune’s Monsoon cocktail.”
Mandina’s Restaurant serves up Italian red-sauce staples with Gulf Coast flair.
Mandina’s Restaurant in Mid-City offers heaping plates of locally-sourced seafood, craveable Italian-American faves like Chicken Parmesan and Spaghetti & Meatballs, and Creole fundamentals like Turtle Soup and Seafood Gumbo. This restaurant’s convivial dining room has welcomed visitors and locals alike for over eight decades, and executive chef Chris Borges of Josephine Estelle in the Ace Hotel New Orleans highly recommends it to anyone looking for a real-deal taste of New Orleans.
“This place has been on Canal Street for almost 100 years, and it hasn’t changed a bit during that time. Besides the great classic homestyle Italian and seafood cooking, Mandina’s might be my favorite place for people watching. Every night, it’s full of real locals who really add to the overall ambiance and spirit of the dining room. It reminds me that we New Orleanians aren’t necessarily products of the times, but instead are products of the place we call home. I always order the Gulf Fish Meuniere and the Turtle Soup. I think Mandina’s makes the best turtle soup in the city,” Borges said.
A defining presence in New Orleans’ fine-dining scene, Clancy’s provides both old-school vibes and modern interpretations of NOLA menu staples.
- Yelp/Marielle S.
A major player in the Uptown New Orleans restaurant landscape, Clancy’s claims many desirable characteristics. Its servers wear tuxedos but are still warm and congenial with guests, its wine list is among the city’s most celebrated, and its menu changes on a seasonal basis, but always includes updated versions of dishes anchored in classic Creole traditions.
Chef Adam Biderman of The Company Burger in New Orleans loves Clancy’s, stating that “Clancy’s is the ultimate New Orleans French Creole/Italian experience. It is tucked away in a neighborhood with a fantastic wine and spirits list. The servers know your name and you feel at home at Clancy’s.”
Bywater American Bistro effectively uses carefully-sourced ingredients, a super-trendy location, and a welcoming atmosphere to attract guests.
- Yelp/G G
The border between the Marigny and Bywater regions of New Orleans is rapidly becoming the hippest area in town… but for chef-owner (and “Top Chef” vet) Nina Compton and the team behind Bywater American Bistro, maintaining pleasant neighborhood vibes and delivering a menu of seasonal and expertly-prepared dishes prove more important than a focus on trend-setting.
“I would recommend Bywater American Bistro from Chef Nina Compton,” chef de cuisine Amy Mehrtens of Copper Vine in New Orleans told INSIDER. “The vibe is cozy and unassuming. The kitchen is open and clean. The service is personal. The staff always seems genuinely proud of their product and the food lights up my senses. It is fantastic!”
Fresh pastas, brick-oven pizzas, and hyper-local Gulf seafood await at Paladar 511.
- Yelp/Paladar 511
A definite industry favorite among New Orleans chefs, Paladar 511 in Marigny brings local produce and catches-of-the-day to their lively (and seasonally-evolving) Italian-Creole menu. Executive chef Kyle Coppinger of Sylvain in the French Quarter said that Paladar 511 “consistently [offers] one of the best meals available in the city. The kitchen [has] a bunch of bad-ass cooks from across the best restaurant groups, and the [front-of-house staff] is the same – great people doing what they love, but, most importantly, doing it together for each other.”
A gas station in the Irish Channel neighborhood houses one of the city’s top spots for halal eats: Shawarma On The Go.
- Yelp/Brandon S.
You may not expect to find expertly-prepared Middle Eastern wraps and platters inside a Jetgo gas station, but that’s exactly where Shawarma On The Go calls home. Executive chef Nathan Richard of Cavan in the Irish Channel ardently recommended this quick-service eatery, insisting: “Don’t let the location fool you: Yes, [Shawarma On The Go is] in a gas station inside a convenience store, but these guys are making phenomenal food. This restaurant serves traditional Middle Eastern [dishes] on Magazine St. Highlights include their shawarma and gyros. The family that owns the place are the most amazing people I’ve ever known. They care about their customers and make sure to serve quality food. Everything is made from scratch.”
Down-home comfort food is always on the menu at Willie Mae’s Scotch House.
- Yelp/Dean C.
For executive chef John Bel of Meauxbar in the French Quarter, soul-food destination Willie Mae’s Scotch House in the historic Treme neighborhood is a must-see (and must-taste) dining experience in the Big Easy. “I think it’s a classic neighborhood place in Treme. The menu is simple and small, but for good reason: they do a few things exceptionally well. Amazing fried chicken and great simple sides. The red beans are great, but I always get the Lima beans and rice,” Bel told us.
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