It’s nearly impossible to have a bad meal in New Orleans. It’s a town that knows how to eat. Here’s a rundown of the top restaurants in NOLA, what to order when you go, plus tips for what to do between meals to burn off those delicious calories.
Where to Eat in New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is a mecca for Creole, Cajun and other fine dining. On a recent visit from Philadelphia with our two college age kids, we ate at many great places. These are a few. All are pricey but worth it, and require reservations. I’ve located the restaurants by neighborhood to make it easy to navigate.
We felt like the only out-of-towners at Clancy’s, located in a converted house in the residential Uptown neighborhood. Skip the bread to save room for elegant, Creole-inspired food and appetizers, like the best gnocchi I’ve tasted.
My husband’s smoked duck was perfect. My son’s mashed potatoes were the creamiest he’s had. He loved his filet mignon but should have taken the waiter’s advice to omit the strong blue cheese.
The table next to us, regulars at Clancy’s, enjoyed veal specials. Lemon icebox tart, a classic frozen Southern dessert, was new to me – and delicious. Clancy’s, a local favorite, is outside the tourist area and they helpfully called a taxi for our return to our French Quarter hotel.
Emeril Lagasse now is a celebrity chef and food icon. But he started in 1990 with Emeril’s New Orleans, an elegant but unpretentious converted warehouse that serves lighter versions of classic New Orleans dishes.
We munched on small rosemary biscuits and corn bread before ordering the signature barbecued shrimp, grilled rainbow trout, and salmon. I didn’t have room for dessert but my son chowed down on a deconstructed chocolate peanut butter pie. We walked to Emeril’s from the French Quarter, about a mile away.
There are a ton of great restaurants in the French Quarter, the tourist center of New Orleans. Of course, the one place you can’t skip is the legendary Cafe du Monde. Fellow TravelingMom Marina Kuperman Villatoro claims she ate there with her kids more than once a day! The beignets are THAT good! Located off of Jackson Square, Cafe du Monde has wonderful outdoor seating and a kid-friendly menu that includes hot chocolate.
As soon as we tried the delicious food at Cafe Du Monde, we started going two to three times per day. We just loved it that much! It’s located right off of Jackson Square in the French area where the coolest street performers and artists display their talents. That is also one of the reasons why we loved going there. And yet another: they have wonderful outdoor seating.
In a vacation of spectacular eating, Bayona may have been our favorite. Chef/owner Susan Spicer is inspired by Mediterranean and African flavors, and the quiet upscale atmosphere encourages conversation.
I guarantee your life will be improved by her roasted garlic soup. My daughter’s salmon with mild sauerkraut was delicious and my son’s grilled pork chop was perfection. The creative desserts were tasty, if a little precious.
It was too chilly to eat in the pretty courtyard of Court of Two Sisters, a family-owned New Orleans establishment where our waiter told us he’s been making tableside Caesar salad for 37 years. The restaurant is famous for its jazz brunch. We had a classic Louisiana dinner: shrimp and grits and corn fried catfish.
My carnivore son loved his steak at King Fish. While it was loud at Sylvains, this French Quarter restaurant had a funky vibe and good grilled fish. We were lucky to get a lunch table without a reservation at Mr. B’s Bistro, a more casual restaurant owned by the same family as the venerable Brennan’s. My husband’s rosemary chicken at Mr. B’s was moist and my grilled fish special was a delicious light lunch.
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A local tipped us off to the contemporary Creole food of Atchafalaya, a pretty, airy restaurant located in the Garden District residential neighborhood. My husband enjoyed fried chicken and biscuits, and my daughter and I both got Eggs Atchafalaya: poached eggs, fried green tomatoes, jumbo lump crab and hollandaise. Wonderful! This delicious lunch was a good way to wrap up our walking tour of the mansions and cemetery in the Garden District.
Practical tips for eating in New Orleans
Forget the diet and plunge right ahead to enjoy the pleasure of eating well in New Orleans. Enjoy, then walk it off in this lovely walkable city.
Some of our favorite ways to walk it off in NOLA? Take a walking tour of the French Quarter, an above-ground cemetery, and the voodoo history of New Orleans. Or spend a morning walking around the fascinating Whitney Plantation, which tells the story of slavery from an enslaved person’s perspective.
TravelingMom Tip: Be sure to make reservations in advance. Especially if you’re like me and won’t wait in lines.
While we were disappointed that no reservations were available at August, Couchon or the Israeli restaurant Shaya, and the line was too long for us to try Mother’s, a favorite local dive for breakfast, those are just more good reasons for us to return to New Orleans.
TravelingMom Tip: Every restaurant we visited was able to accommodate both my fish-loving daughter and my carnivore son.
New Orleans also is famous for its casual food – the fresh hot donuts called beignet, po’ boy sandwiches and muffaletta, a sandwich with olive tapenade introduced by Italian immigrants. My advice: don’t wait in line for any of those foods. They are offered by plenty of places. New Orleans is packed with too many fun distractions to spend time waiting in line.
TravelingMom Tip: New Orleans loves its air conditioning, even in winter. To avoid shivering through dinner, be sure to bring a sweater to wear inside.