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.
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.
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.
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.
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.