Welcome to The Greats, a series on the restaurants around the country that define their cities. Here now, a guide to the New Orleans Greats.
New Orleans is a city revered for its food scene, from the humblest mom and pop cafes to the hautest of white tablecloth establishments. Restaurants are woven into the fabric of daily life in the Crescent City, beloved as traditional places to mark family milestones and come together to celebrate everything from Valentine’s Day to Mardi Gras.
Because of the centuries-old cultural gumbo that is New Orleans, the city’s gastronomy is an inimitable mix of Creole, French, Spanish, Italian, and African influences that combine in a distinctive way. It’s hard to imagine New Orleans without its iconic po-boys or muffaletta sandwiches—or the hallowed halls where oysters Rockefeller were first created in 1889. Whether you live in New Orleans or get there as often as you can, a meal at these restaurants offers a taste of what it means to call it yours.
Commander’s Palace (Garden District)
A bastion of Brennan family tradition, Commander’s Palace is an icon that delivers its own over-the-top experience. The very sight of the green and white awning is enough to get the stomach rumbling. Luminaries Emeril Lagasse and Paul Prudhomme started here, and the Brennan family has maintained a tradition of culinary excellence since 1969. The restaurant’s first female executive chef, Meg Bickford, keeps the menu relevant and the emphasis squarely on local products, seafood, and game. Commander’s weekend jazz brunch is spendy but epic, with choices such as turtle soup, shrimp and grits, and the best bread pudding souffle in town.
Dining at the restaurant: Dinner is served seven days a week in the main dining room as well as in the lush garden room. Lunch and brunch are available from Thursday through Sunday.
Takeout: Order Commander’s to-go online or by phone daily with family style meals and individual entrees for the all-day, lunch, or dinner menu available. The restaurant also ships meal kits nationwide.
Arnaud’s (French Quarter)
Founded in 1918 by French wine salesman Arnaud Cazenave, this restaurant has long occupied a beloved spot in the city’s culinary lexicon. Taking up nearly a full city block just off of Bourbon Street on Bienville in the Quarter, Arnaud’s is striking without a hint of flashiness. The tiled main dining room is justifiably legendary, with its glowing chandeliers, flickering candles, and tall leaded-glass windows. The French 75 Bar, which earned a 2017 James Beard Award for Outstanding Bar Program, is the perfect place to meet before dinner.
Dining at the restaurant: Enjoy dinner at Arnaud’s in the main dining room or one of the 14 private rooms from Wednesday through Saturday.
Experiences: A classic New Orleans Sunday jazz brunch features a three-piece jazz band that provides a soundtrack to a three-course Creole feast featuring the likes of eggs Sardou and grits and grillades.
Takeout: Pick-up is available by calling the restaurant directly.
Antoine’s (French Quarter)
A New Orleans culinary stalwart since 1840, the shadow that Antoine’s casts in the Crescent City can’t be overestimated. As the oldest continuously operating restaurant in America, Antoine’s is still run by its founding family. Antoine Alciatore, the restaurant’s namesake, is considered the father of Creole cooking, and his restaurant was where oysters Rockefeller first sizzled. At the restaurant or at its Hermes bar, don’t miss the salty crunch of its trademark souffle potatoes.
Dining at the restaurant: Lunch and dinner are served from Thursday through Monday, with jazz brunch on Sundays.
Experiences: Besides its popular jazz branch, Antoine’s offers a three-course lunch for $22 from Thursday through Monday.
Takeout: The restaurant doesn’t offer takeout or delivery.
The Bower (Lower Garden District)
Louisiana-born chef Marcus Woodham—a force who helped open other standouts such as chef John Besh’s Luke—is the powerhouse behind this sprightly newcomer in the Lower Garden District. With its menu of brilliant small plates, housemade charcuterie, and pastas, the Bower spotlights produce from Sugar Roots farm in Algiers. Must-orders include tuna tartare, given a Mediterranean spin with capers, kalamata olives, pine nuts, and sumac, along with local seafood and heritage meats—always fresh and in season.
Dining at the restaurant: Dinner is served indoors from Monday through Saturday, and there’s a large, leafy outdoor courtyard for al fresco nibbling.
Takeout: The Bower doesn’t offer takeout or delivery.
Brennan’s (French Quarter)
This dapper fine-dining spot, a 2022 James Beard Award finalist for Outstanding Restaurant, fuels New Orleans’s culinary bragging rights. Led by Ralph Brennan, a local restaurateur whose a portfolio includes the more casual Red Fish Grill and the historic Napoleon House, Brennan’s is a grande dame in the French Quarter. Open since 1946 and steeped in history, the dishes here range from seafood gumbo to eggs Hussarde, a meatier spin on eggs Benedict featuring coffee-cured Canadian bacon and tip their hats to Creole cooking traditions; the knowledgable servers are full of historical trivia, if you’re curious. Enjoy it all against an enchanting backdrop, a cluster of decadent dining rooms that border a charming fountain-clad courtyard. And save room for dessert: Brennan’s is the birthplace of bananas foster (fittingly, the Brennan family is known for bringing bananas to the South)—one of the restaurant’s most-ordered dishes.
Dining at the restaurant: Brennan’s is open for indoor dining.
Takeout: The restaurant doesn’t offer takeout or delivery.
La Petite Grocery (Uptown)
Named for the first resident of this beautifully restored Uptown building—The Central Tea, Coffee and Butter Depot—which opened in the late 1800s, La Petite Grocery is an emblem of fine French cuisine on Magazine Street. In 2004, chef Justin Devillier, the 2016 James Beard Award winner for Best Chef: South, and his wife Mia Devillier transformed the space into one of the most romantic dining experiences in town. The blue crab beignets, a sweet and tender delight, are renowned citywide.
Dining at the restaurant: Indoor and sidewalk tables are available for lunch and brunch Thursday through Sunday and for dinner every night of the week.
Takeout: Takeout is available by calling the restaurant directly; order online to have a feast delivered to your door.
Vyoone’s Restaurant (Warehouse District)
Vyoone’s (pronounced vee-ahn’s) is a hidden gem with its charming courtyard, representing a labor of love from owner Vyoone Segue Lewis, a fourth-generation New Orleanian with Afro Creole and French roots. The restaurant dishes up local seafood with a distinct French accent, resulting in intricately composed dishes such as soft shell crabs over corn maque-choux topped with crawfish cream sauce and bouillabaisse over homemade linguine.
Dining at the restaurant: Dinner is served inside and outdoors from Thursday through Saturday, and there’s brunch on Sunday. Note there is no elevator to the upstairs dining room.
Takeout: Vyoone’s menu is available by phone to pick up.
Toups Meatery (Mid-City)
Toups Meatery is a carnivore’s dream, the love child of James Beard Award-nominated chef Isaac Toups and his wife Amanda Toups. A Cajun chef schooled in French cuisine, Toups hails from Rayne, Louisiana, best known for its annual frog festival. A butcher extraordinaire with modern sensibilities, Toups is famous for his prolific meat boards, complete with house-made cracklins, all curated and cured at the restaurant.
Dining at the restaurant: Both indoor and sidewalk dining are offered for lunch from Monday through Friday; there’s brunch on the weekends and dinner every night of the week.
Takeout: Takeout is available by calling the restaurant; delivery is available through third-party apps.
Dooky Chase’s Restaurant (Treme)
A family-owned Treme landmark since 1941, Dooky Chase began as a bar room and sandwich shop, evolving into one of the country’s first African American-owned fine-dining restaurants when the late Leah Chase married into the family in 1946. A hotbed of Civil Rights meetings in the 1960s, Dooky Chase’s has fed leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Thurgood Marshall along with cultural icons like James Baldwin and Ray Charles. When President Barack Obama visited in 2008 and added hot sauce to the restaurant’s Creole gumbo, chef Chase—regarded as the queen of Creole cuisine—reportedly reprimanded him.
Dining at the restaurant: Indoor dining for lunch is available from Tuesday through Friday; dinner is served on Friday and Saturday. Reservations are only taken over the phone.
Takeout: The restaurant doesn’t offer takeout or delivery.
GW Fins (French Quarter)
GW Fins, a handsome French Quarter restaurant on Bienville, sets a high bar for sustainable and fresh seafood. Chef Michael Nelson works directly with local fisherman harvesting from the bays, inlets, and bayous that feed into the mighty Mississippi River. His daily changing menu might feature triple tail, cobia, black fin, barracuda, and tuna. And his techniques for utilizing the entire fish—fins, skin, ribs, and collars—deliver remarkable flavors without a bit of waste.
Dining at the restaurant: Dinner is served inside the dining room and around the lively bar every night of the week.
Takeout: Takeout is available Sunday – Thursday; delivery is not available.
Emeril’s Restaurant (Warehouse District)
To the rest of the world, Emeril Lagasse is a celebrity chef, cookbook author, and creator of a line of specialty seasonings. But to New Orleanians, he’s chef Emeril—the guy who wowed at Commander’s then followed up with his flagship, Emeril’s restaurant, in the Warehouse district in 1990, long before the neighborhood became fashionable. When he finally reopened in September 2021 after the long pandemic shut down, his world-famous barbecue shrimp—a spicy peppery simmer of Gulf shrimp in Worcestershire, butter, wine, and hot sauce—never tasted better.
Dining at the restaurant: Dinner is served in the large open dining room from Tuesday through Saturday.
Experiences: Splurge on a five-course chef’s tasting menu, spotlighting Lagasse’s savory signatures plus an intermezzo and dessert.
Takeout: Emeril’s doesn’t offer takeout or delivery.
Tony Mandina’s Restaurant (Gretna)
If it’s Old World Sicilian cuisine you crave, head across the Crescent City Connection Bridge to the West Bank, just 15 minutes from Canal Street. This homespun restaurant brings recipes from the family tree that date back to the 1700s in the city of Salaparuta. Try the understandably famous meatballs, any of the veal dishes, tuna melanzane, or braciolone—you can’t go wrong.
Dining at the restaurant: Lunch is served indoors from Tuesday through Friday, with dinner—and live piano music—offered on Friday and Saturday nights.
Takeout: Order takeout by calling the restaurant directly.
When Neal Bodenheimer opened Cure in 2009, it was a game changer in more ways than one. Not only did the 2018 James Beard Award-winning cocktail program literally raise the bar in a city credited for creating the cocktail, but the cool lounge was also an early adapter on Freret Street—then a rough stretch of road. Now thriving with tons of restaurants and a happening music venue, Freret owes its new look to Cure, which remains a beacon of the perfectly concocted drink and artfully arranged nibbles to match, from pate and olives to meatballs and carbonara.
Dining at the restaurant: Sip in the outside courtyard or enjoy eats and drinks in the compact restaurant, with the all-day menu served every day of the week.
Takeout: Call the restaurant directly to order for pick-up or delivery.
Michael Gulotta’s marriage bextween Vietnamese and Louisiana cuisine is playful and brilliant—take his “traditional” Monday red beans and rice, for example. Gulotta turns the dish on its head by cooking red beans with XO sauce, then pairs the legumes with crispy sticky rice cakes and cured pork belly. As one of the most innovative chefs in town, Gulotta’s hangover pho, po-mi sandwiches—po’boy and banh mi hybrids—and vermicelli and rice bowls have earned him legions of happy regulars.
Dining at the restaurant: MoPho is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.
Takeout: Order online for pick-up or delivery.
Bacchanal is a wine shop. No wait, it’s a Mediterranean restaurant. Scratch that, it’s a live music venue. Hang on, it’s an intimate backyard place to chill in Bywater. Indeed, Bacchanal is all of those things and more: a boutique wine shop up front where you can choose a bottle and pick out cheeses and meats for what might just be one of the tastiest platters in town. The tapas menu offers savory bites as well as entrees such as whole-grilled fish, confit chicken leg, and lamb meatballs.
Dining at the restaurant: Dine in the leafy courtyard or in the upstairs bar/dining room, with an all-day menu available every day but Tuesday.
Takeout: Order online for pick-up.
James Beard Award-winning chef Sue Zemanick shines in this jewel box restaurant with its menu of Mediterranean-meets-Slovak specialties—a nod to the chef’s family roots. The wild mushroom and potato pierogies are divine, as is the ora king salmon with caramelized sauerkraut and dill spaetzle. To all that, add the exceptionally warm and comforting service, and it’s no surprise why Zasu is a Crescent City standby.
Dining at the restaurant: Dinner is served in the dining room Wednesday through Saturday.
Takeout: Order through the restaurant’s website for delivery and takeout.
Crescent City Steak House (Mid-City/City Park)
New Orleanians love their beef. Although this is the city that birthed Ruth’s Chris Steak House in 1965, for many locals, the gold standard is the bacon-wrapped filet at Crescent City Steaks. Founded by Croatian immigrant John Vojkovich in 1934, the family-owned restaurant was the first to serve slabs of prime-aged beef in New Orleans. But beyond the fair prices, comfortable setting, and stellar steakhouse fare, Crescent City oozes a particular brand of hospitality that is the calling card of a true New Orleans institution.
Dining at the restaurant: The all-day menu is offered for lunch and dinner in the old-school dining room every day but Monday.
Takeout: Call the restaurant directly to order pick-up or delivery.
Miss River (Central Business District)
Set in the Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans, Miss River is James Beard Award-nominated chef Alon Shaya’s love letter to Louisiana, a spirited take on the beloved local dishes of his adopted city. His wife Emily’s award-winning red beans and rice is a side, fried chicken is presented whole to the table, then carved at a food stage in the center of the restaurant, and Gulf red snapper is presented encrusted in salt. There’s a seafood grand plateau and caviar service, among other swanky touches. Forget the budget—this is an experience to indulge.
Dining at the restaurant: Miss River is open for meals on the outside patio or inside the handsome dining room, with lunch and dinner available daily.
Takeout: Miss River doesn’t offer takeout or delivery.
Tried them all? Check out other options here.
Beth D’Addono is a food and travel writer obsessed with her favorite city, New Orleans.