10 must-try neighborhood restaurants in New Orleans

A selection of housemade fresh and cured meats and condiments at Toups Meatery, known for Louisiana-inspired charcuterie, in Mid-City. | Credit: Denny Culbert

While many New Orleans restaurants depend on visitors for their bread and butter, it’s the regulars that consistently return. As to what makes a Crescent City restaurant a local’s go-to, that recipe for success is layered.

Decades-old Southern Italian recipes draw repeat diners to a family-run, fine-dining favorite in Gretna. A City Park steakhouse is beloved for its bacon-wrapped filets. A mother-and-son duo steer a spot that’s known for superb Korean specialties (there’s almost always a line out the door) in the Marigny.

At these New Orleans restaurants, the food delivers beyond all expectations, hospitality is warm and graceful, and a sense of place, whether it’s humble or haute, is loud and clear. Read on to book a table at one of these 10 places now.

Morrow’s (Marigny)

Morrow’s pasta Lenora, featuring Gulf shrimp sautéed in a rich alfredo sauce over linguini. | Credit: Morrow’s

Opened by Larry Morrow and his mother Lenora Chong in 2018, Morrow’s still earns plenty of buzz. Expect a line out the door, thanks to chef Lenora’s creative take on Korean and New Orleans specialties. The flavors here sing, best exemplified by plates such as freshly shucked oysters on the half-shell, char-grilled and topped with crabmeat. Chong’s heritage shines in dishes including bulgogi made with marinated ribeye and Korean lettuce wraps. With its always- lively setting, it’s no surprise locals love Morrow’s for both planned and spontaneous celebrations.

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Pascal’s Manale (Uptown)

There are five generations of family history behind this Uptown favorite, one of the oldest family-owned restaurants in New Orleans. Grounded in Sicilian traditions, Pascal’s Manale offers dishes such as eggplant Dryades spiked with shrimp in a creamy tomato vodka sauce, turtle soup, and frutta del mare pasta swimming with local Gulf seafood. Take a seat in one of the homey dining rooms and feel like you’re breaking bread with family. This iconic spot is a neighborhood hub that welcomes a steady stream of politicians, celebrities, tourists, and locals.

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Toups Meatery (Mid-City)

Chef-owner Isaac Toups grabs Cajun cuisine by the ears, snout, and tail at this intimate and appropriately named Mid-City restaurant. The menu is packed with Louisiana-inspired charcuterie (including to-die-for cracklins) and specialty cuts of meat such as lamb and turkey necks. Seafood lovers are also well taken care of here, thanks to options including crab Niçoise salad and roasted shrimp. Regulars know about Toups’s hugely popular happy hour, and that its burger is one of the best in town—but take note, it’s only served at lunch. Cocktails are amazing, too: the house Manhattan replaces traditional cherries with nubs of candied pork belly. A romantically lit outside patio offers a change of scenery.

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Parish Line Bistro Bar (Metairie)

Wagyu sashimi at Parish Line Bistro. | Credit: Parish Line Bistro

This new spot in Old Metairie has plenty of devotees, thanks to chef Chris Wilson’s umami-accented global menu. Details matter here, such as the grating of fresh wasabi root atop tuna ceviche, luscious with citrus, fresh jalapeño, and ginger. Wagyu beef is sliced paper thin as sashimi, then draped over blistered cherry tomatoes on rafts of Gracious Bakery sourdough.
The sleek, inviting bistro is steps away from the train tracks, and locomotion is a theme, from the wall of train tickets papering the bar to the iron train rails that serve as footrests. Locals also flock here for a rooftop bar that is climate-controlled for year-round dining.

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MeMe’s Bar & Grille (Chalmette)

MeMe’s slogan is “Eat. Drink. Repeat.” And there’s a pile of local regulars who do exactly that, frequenting the casual neighborhood spot known for friendly service and terrific American fare. Crowd favorites include fried Gulf seafood, a rich and savory French onion soup gooey with Gruyère, hand-cut garlic fries, and char-grilled oysters. MeMe’s wears its vintage sensibilities on its sleeve: booths are always popular, the steaks are hand cut and martinis are served—as heaven intended—shaken and ice cold.

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Junior’s on Harrison (Lakeview)

Billed as “your strangely familiar neighborhood joint,” Junior’s stands out on Harrison, Lakeview’s hopping dining avenue. Chef Brett Monteleone’s casual yet contemporary American and global fare includes winners such as chicken tortilla soup fragrant with herbs, cacio e pepe with fresh pasta, and blackened redfish with crispy potatoes and garlic asparagus. The bar features all kinds of playful cocktails, including “It’s Gonna Be Me”, a bracing combo of gin, hibiscus simple syrup, passionfruit, and citrus. Between its soothing, blue-hued interiors, family-friendly menu, and a kid-free zone upstairs, Junior’s is a certified crowd pleaser that area residents return to, time and time again.

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Crescent City Steak House (Mid-City/City Park)

A spread at Crescent City Steaks, which has served some of the city’s most beloved beef dishes since 1934. | Credit: Crescent City Steaks

New Orleanians love their beef. For many locals, the bacon-wrapped filet sizzled in butter at Crescent City Steaks is the gold standard. 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. Beyond the fair prices, comfortable setting, and stellar steakhouse and seafood fare, Crescent City exudes the brand of hospitality that is the calling card of a true New Orleans institution. Those here for an intimate occasion know to ask for a table along “lover’s lane” in one of the snug, six-seat tables, surrounded by drapes for the ultimate privacy. The dining room is always buzzing, which makes reservations a must.

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Irene’s (French Quarter)

Despite its understated elegance, Irene’s conjures the warmth of Italian family suppers. The popular French-meets-Creole Italian restaurant has fed locals since 1993, now in larger digs in the heart of the French Quarter. Enjoy the likes of oysters Irene, baked with pancetta, pimento, and a dusting of pecorino Romano, housemade pastas, and the wonderful duck St. Phillip lacquered with a raspberry-pancetta demi-glace. Service is exceptional, as is the wine list with its emphasis on Italian producers. The walls are covered with photos of local celebs who have dined here over the years.

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Maypop (Central Business District)

Despite a pandemic-induced pause, Maypop returned to the CBD in 2021, much to the delight of locals who had missed chef Michael Gulotta’s creative Southeast Asian plates. Happily, the restaurant came back better than ever, with a new emphasis on Italian fusion and New Orleans accents thrown in for good measure. Come for platters of housemade dumplings, housemade pasta, and house-cured meats; the Vietnamese coffee budino makes for an especially sweet ending. Regulars also return for its eye-popping interiors—meats are artfully displayed in glass cases in the dining room, and an arresting map traces the route between New Orleans and various Southeast Asian countries.

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Tony Mandina’s Restaurant (Gretna)

Grace and Tony Mandina opened their fine-dining restaurant in 1982, and although they’re often dining at “their” table (number 41), their daughter Kolette and granddaughter Lindsey took over in 2020. Because of its location, across the Mississippi from New Orleans on the West Bank, locals have managed to (almost) keep Tony Mandina’s to themselves. But plenty of fans make the short trip across the Crescent City Connection bridge to taste the restaurant’s Southern Italian specialties. The menu stays true to its Italian roots with dishes including cream of artichoke soup, veal piccata with linguine in a citrus-forward wine sauce, and savory specialties named for family members, such as eggplant Dominic Jude and shrimp Julia Grace.

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Beth D’Addono is a food and travel writer based in New Orleans. Her latest book is 100 Things to Do in New Orleans Before You Die.

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