The Big Easy is famous for the French Quarter and live jazz, Mardi Gras and beads, Voodoo and ghost tours, Sazeracs and milk punch and its charming gas lantern-lined cobblestone streets, but above all else it's known for its cuisine.
[Photo Credit: History.com]
It's entirely possible to plan every day from start to finish around food in this city. From classic Creole-inspired restaurants to international gems and everything in between, here's where to make all the reservations on your next trip.
The Caribbean Room
Imagine going to dinner in a Nola time capsule and this is where you'll end up. The Caribbean Room is the newest brainchild of Chef John Besh with partner Chef Chris Lusk and it's hands down a must-visit thanks to its quirky decor (think rattan furniture, drapes à la your grandma's house and an art wall complete with a sparkly-toothed Lil Wayne portrait). Order the Crab Remick, short rib ravioli, seafood gumbo and Pompano en Papillote, but absolutely do not leave without sampling Wayne's favorite dessert, "Mile High Ice Cream Pie," which is literally the tallest slice of pie with chocolate sauce served tableside. Wayne's mother was a housekeeper at the Pontchartrain Hotel where TCR is located and she used to sneak it to him on her breaks. Now I understand the addiction.
Pro tip: Enjoy libations before dinner or a casual lunch at Bayou Bar also located in the Pontchartrain Hotel. They have some of the best craft cocktails around (both Sinatra and Capote loved the place) and a killer burger stuffed with bone marrow.
The Pontchartrain Hotel; 2031 St Charles Ave
Cafe Du Monde
Of course no trip to Nola is complete without late-night (or early am) beignets and frozen cafe au lait. The original French market coffee stand dates back to 1862 and I'm serious when I say these are the beignets to beat all beignets. Light, fluffy, slightly fried, warm, covered in powdered sugar — they're the best sweet treat in the city, which is why virtually every celeb on the planet has swung by for a plate of them.
Pro tip: If you’re looking for a boozy caffeine fix, Molly’s at the Market serves frozen Irish coffee a few blocks away.
800 Decatur Street; http://www.cafedumonde.com/
1107 Decatur St; http://www.mollysatthemarket.net/
La Thai Uptown
Even in the heart of fried chicken, grits and gravy land, sometimes a girl just wants some Thai and that's when you head to La Thai Uptown. Every dish at this Thai-Creole locally loved spot is packed with delicious flavor that will make choosing only a couple items from the menu pretty hard. Start with the skewer-less chicken sate and Tom Kar Gai soup, then move on to the Chilean sea bass with jumbo lump crabmeat and veggies in a spicy coconut green curry sauce or the duck delight of duck confit cubes, asparagus and mushrooms in Mama’s sauce. Basically you won't be disappointed with anything you order and the space is super cute.
Pro tip: Swing into St. James Cheese Company earlier in the day if you're shopping uptown before dinner. It's right next to La Thai and has a major selection of fromage. You know, just in case you haven't consumed enough dairy at that point.
4938 Prytania St; http://lathaiuptown.com/
5004 Prytania St; https://www.stjamescheese.com/
When you're in the mood for oysters and champagne, head straight to Seaworthy in the Ace Hotel. Arguably one of the the best raw bars in town and seriously the most adorable (get ready for some major Insta pics here), it's the perfect date choice, or ideal for happy hour with your girlfriends. As for ordering, you can't go wrong with a dozen local oysters, a caviar plate or the blue crab claws with a chili-corn relish.
Pro tip: You can book an intimate private party for up to 20 guests on the roof of this 19th century cottage or just stroll on up the stairs for a drink on a warm Nola night.
630 Carondelet St; http://www.seaworthynola.com/
After a few days of heavy eating involving copious amounts of shellfish and cream sauces, Bar Francis is a smart choice for lighter, yet extremely well-executed fare. Staples like pork rillettes and chicken liver mousse make appearances on the menu, but the soups, salads and small plates are spot on, as is the wine list.
Pro tip: Head over to Commander's Palace for 25-cent martinis Monday-Friday. It's close by and a New Orleans landmark.
4525 Freret St; http://barfrances.com/
1403 Washington Ave; http://www.commanderspalace.com/
Best brunch in the Big Easy? Willa Jean for sure. Whether it's the first place you hit or the last on your way home, it's 100% where you want to be for eggs, pastries and damn good biscuits. The bakery restaurant hybrid also has Frosé and Creamsicle slushie machines in house. Now that's how you brunch. Crowd pleasers include: artichoke dip with cheese business and crostini, avocado toast with tomatoes and poached eggs and Huevos Rancheros.
Pro tip: Make a reservation. This place is always packed and there's a good chance you'll be waiting for a while before being seated if you're going the walk-in route.
611 O'Keefe Ave; http://www.willajean.com/
Chef and Nola Legend Josh Besh's protégé Alon Shaya opened his Modern Israeli restaurant a few short years ago, but it remains my ultimate "best meal ever" pick for New Orleans. Insanely good pita, mouthwateringly perfect hummus (get the curried fried cauliflower one with caramelized onions) and wood-roasted cabbage with muhammara, tahini and hazelnuts that I can't stop dreaming about are only a few of the highlights here. Ask to sit in the romantic outside terrace for the ultimate ambiance and plan to stay awhile since you'll never want to leave.
Pro tip: Book a room at the nearby Henry Howard hotel for your stay. A restored 1860s mansion located in the garden district, this boutique jewel only has a few rooms, but each is unique in its own right with a blend of modern-meets-vintage furnishings.
4213 Magazine St; http://www.shayarestaurant.com/
2041 Prytania St; http://henryhowardhotel.com/
You might have to walk through a dive bar to get to the ordering counter, but you won't regret ordering any of the nine signature po’ boys with yummy sides. So good.
Pro tip: Pop into the Monteleone Hotel Carousel Bar for drinks when in the French Quarter. They have live jazz at night and the bar is actually a real carousel that spins. Just try beating that.
219 Dauphine St; http://www.killerpoboys.com/