Dine Like a Local in New Orleans: Top Picks for the Best Eats in the Big Easy

A visit to New Orleans should be on everyone’s culinary bucket list. There are regional specialties galore and more storied restaurants that you possibly fit in one trip. But once you’ve had beignets, bananas Foster, red beans and rice, jambalaya and crawfish étouffée at iconic restaurants like Arnaud’s, Galatoire’s and Brennan’s, it’s time to branch out. Here are some more of the places that are ideal for when you want to dine like a local in New Orleans.

Shaya is one of the current darlings of the New Orleans food scene. An anomaly in the area, the focus is modern Israeli cuisine with influences from North Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Turkey, and Greece. But many of the products are locally sourced and add a unique spin to classics. The dinner menu is designed for sharing; try a selection of the “for the table” dishes, such as paddlefish caviar spread with shallots or wood-roasted okra with tahini, tomatoes, and duqqa. Dishes like the roasted cabbage served with muhammara, tahini, and hazelnuts are a riot of flavors and textures but combined in such a way that the result is much more than the sum of its parts. Make a reservation at Shaya.

Dine Like a Local in New Orleans

Compère Lapin
This newish restaurant from Top Chef contestant Nina Compton is located in the hip warehouse arts district in a space adjoining a cool boutique hotel. Her food sometimes shows hints of her Caribbean background, but mostly it’s her excitingly fresh approach to New Orleans ingredients and vegetable-forward cuisine that tantalizes. Because Compton previously worked at Scarpetta in Miami, her pastas are noteworthy. But even simple dishes like the beet salad is a revelation. It’s composed or both cooked and raw beets, pesto, tender baby beet greens, candied pistachios and ciabatta croutons. Make a reservation at Compère Lapin.

Dine Like a Local in New Orleans

La Petite Grocery
La Petite Grocery is set in a historic building which was once the Central Tea, Coffee and Butter Depot, across the street from the bustling Jefferson Market. Over a hundred years later, it positively oozes with charm. Award-winning chef Justin Devillier has been in New Orleans for more than 10 years and has worked at some of the best restaurants in town, at which he absorbed the local techniques and approaches to food. His creative dishes include fried green tomatoes with burrata, arugula, country ham, and herb oil, and blue crab beignets. The restaurant is located on Magazine Street in a part of Uptown on the edge of the Garden District that is well worth exploring. Make a reservation at La Petite Grocery.

Dine Like a Local in New Orleans

Willa Jean
It’s no surprise that this new spot is a combination of a Southern bakery and a café; the flaky biscuits here are already being hailed as some of the city’s best. While technically a John Besh restaurant, it’s really all about pastry chefs-bakers Kelly Fields and Lisa White. Super popular at lunch, locals rave about the meatloaf sandwich and the avocado toast with poached egg, olive oil, tomato and sea salt. A pure nostalgia dessert is the “cookies and milk” — chocolate chip cookies are served with a glass of Tahitian vanilla milk alongside a beater full of fresh cookie dough. Make a reservation at Willa Jean.

Dine Like a Local in New Orleans

GW Fins
The French Quarter may be filled with tourists, but locals head there, too, for live music and cool drinks. They also make a beeline to what’s often regarded the best fine dining seafood restaurant in town. In business for more than a decade, it has a fresh and modern dining room. Signature dishes from chef and co-owner Tenney Flynn include the Lobster Dumplings with fennel, tomato concassé, and lobster butter and Scalibut, a combination of halibut encrusted with sea scallops, served with lobster risotto, snow peas, and pea shoot butter. If you’re lucky, you could find lionfish as a special. Make a reservation at GW Fins.

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Six Super Satisfying Soul Foods to Celebrate Soul Food Month

Though the term ‘soul food’ wasn’t introduced until the 1960’s, this heritage cuisine has roots extending back to African slaves in the 14th century. Its original dishes were forged out of the off-cuts and leftovers they were given by their owners, supplemented with whatever produce they could grow or forage and the wild game they hunted. Over time, it evolved to include a broader variety of ingredients and has become the backbone of what most people consider Southern cuisine. Traditionally, this comforting cooking was served mainly below the Mason-Dixon line, though now you can easily find it to the north in New York City and beyond. To honor Soul Food month, we’ve assembled six super satisfying soul foods that will stick to your belly and give you a little taste of history.

Blujeen, Harlem, New York
Chef-owner Lance Knowling is a master of elevating rootsy cuisines to new heights. A perfect example is his smothered pork tenderloin, which comes spangled with sweet potato succotash and a dappling of pan drippings. No wonder Chelsea Clinton hired him to cater her wedding.

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Café B, New Orleans, Louisiana
Mac ‘n’ cheese may well be the ultimate comfort food. This winning rendition is made with Irish white cheddar, Gruyere, and Parmigiano-Reggiano – plus a Parmesan topping. Gloriously gooey and über-rich, it’s the perfect kickoff to a meal or a satisfying side.

Cafe B MacNCheese blog copy

Macon Bistro & Larder, Washington, D.C. 
There are few more satisfying sides than a basketful of warm biscuits. These butter-rich rounds are flaky, fluffy, and filling. Split one open to spread on your choice of sweet honey butter or piquant pepper jelly.

Paschal’s Restaurant, Atlanta, Georgia
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dizzy Gillespie, and Aretha Franklin have all made pilgrimages to this soul food mecca. They came for the restaurant’s blue ribbon fried chicken, which has been made with the same recipe since 1947. Each order comes with a breast, leg, and wing, plus your choice of a side (go for the collard greens or black-eyed peas).Continue Reading

Trending on Restaurant Reviews: Gumbo

gumbo-blogHappy Fat Tuesday, foodies! It’s the most delicious day of the year in New Orleans — and anywhere that embraces the spirit of Mardi Gras. Naturally, we’ve got NOLA’s best-known dishes on our minds, from crawfish étouffée and jambalaya to beignets and king cakes — and, of course, gumbo. Gumbo is one of those dishes about which everyone and their Cajun or Creole grandmother seems to have a strong (and often differing) opinion. This iconic stew takes its name from kingombo, the African word for okra, a once-paramount ingredient in gumbo. The foundation of a great gumbo is its roux, a blend of fat and flour that is cooked to a smoky, rich brown. Seafood, andouille, duck, and chicken are common ingredients used to round out this deeply satisfying dish. Find out what diners are saying about the gumbo they’ve been sampling at OpenTable restaurants recently. You may be surprised to find that you don’t need to travel to the Big Easy to experience authenticity. 

Atchafalaya, New Orleans, Louisiana: “We were very tired. And hungry. Three parades in one day is probably too much for people travelling with infant twins and another child. We were sans kids for the first time in about a week just for dinner. The staff was very kind to us and rushed us some complimentary gumbo. It was about the best dark roux gumbo I have ever had and really hit the spot.”

Cajun Pacific, San Francisco, California: “I am of Cajun descent, so I am picky and know what gumbo is. I had a bowl of the chicken and andouille version and was not disappointed. The wine list is short but well chosen and reasonable. Having passed the gumbo test (Most places don’t even know the difference between a gumbo and a creole dish), I will be back for something more substantial.”

* Cedar Creek, Glen Cove, New York: “Finding a good Cajun entree on the north shore is harder that finding an actual Cajun! Wasn’t expecting amazing gumbo, but that’s what I got!”

* The Chew Chew, Riverside, Illinois: “One of the many nice things about the Chew Chew is the special menu and theme party offered during Mardi Gras. The restaurant is bedecked with beads, the staff dons masks, and on certain nights a costumed fortune teller visits patrons’ tables. We sip a Sazerac and wander through a small tasting plate of oysters, a cup of spicy (yet beautifully balanced) gumbo, a delightfully moist blackened redfish, and a trio of warm beignets dusted with powdered sugar and artfully poised in a swirl of raspberry coulis.”

Devon Seafood Grill, Hershey, Pennsylvania: “My husband always orders the gumbo, which he says is as good as down south.”

Hammocks Trading Company, Sandy Springs, Georgia: “My order was six delicious, filling grilled oysters stuffed with crab, cheese, and jalapeno. Oh my! Followed this with fried green tomatoes and their fabulous seafood gumbo with the thickest, darkest roux, six nicely sized shrimp plus crabmeat you could see and taste — my favorite dish.”

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Trending on OpenTable Restaurant Reviews: Fried Green Tomatoes

The fried green tomatoes at Zingerman’s Roadhouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan, would surely make Miss Flagg proud.

Fried green tomatoes are a longtime southern specialty, but this Yankee didn’t learn of their simple delights until seeing the movie Fried Green Tomatoes and, later, researching that recipe within Fannie Flagg’s book Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. There are several schools of thought on their preferred preparation. Some folks dunk ’em in buttermilk before dredging them in flour; others favor cracker meal or panko or a combination of all of these. At my home, we grow a variety of tomato called Fried Green Tomato that is made just for this very dish. We pluck ’em off the vines, and, adhering closely to Miss Flagg’s original recipe, slice them, weep them with kosher salt, season with pepper and coat them in corn meal seasoned with a touch of cayenne. They are fried to golden goodness in Flying Pigs Farm bacon fat, drained, and served with Crystal Hot Sauce and Duke’s Mayonnaise. It’s high season for fried green tomatoes, and restaurants on OpenTable are creating their own versions to infuse their dishes with a seasonal southern accent. Find out what diners are saying.

Atchafalaya Restaurant, New Orleans: “I will never miss another opportunity to dine here when I visit this city known for great food. The fried green tomatoes were absolutely to die for.”

* Bayou on Penn, Washington, D.C.: “We arrived at Bayou and were greeted like royalty. Our service was great, but the outstanding part was the Grand Marshall brunch: eggs benedict with fried green tomato, tasso ham, fried oyster, and English muffin! WOW.”

The Blue Fish, Jacksonville, Florida: “The fried green tomato was done to perfection, and the addition of the goat cheese made it very special.”

Georgia Brown’s, Washington, D.C.: “I went to Georgia Brown’s with friends during restaurant week and had one of the best meals I’ve had in DC. Fried green tomatoes, gumbo, and peach cobbler — several of which were recommended by our patient, attentive server.”

The Granary ‘Cue and Brew, San Antonio, Texas: “This place likes to challenge your taste buds. First time I tried ranch ice cream with my fried green tomatoes! I enjoyed everything I ate.”

Hungry Mother, Cambridge, Massachusetts: “The pimento cheese and fried green tomatoes appetizer is a knockout highlight, as is the beef tongue with au jus, and the pork belly app has all the flavor you expect from HM.”

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