New Orleans’s restaurants are the beating heart of this festive city, and to say they’ve had a tough few years would be putting it mildly. The good news is that hospitality is calling again, and nobody does it better than the restaurateurs, chefs, servers, and bartenders that call the Big Easy home. Superior service continues to set New Orleans’s restaurant scene apart. Among the standouts, there’s a brand-new izakaya helmed by a meticulous executive chef who spent time in Japan and a Mid-City tapas bar that churns out a one-of-its-kind, afterhours brunch for the midnight munchies. Book one, book all, and be warmly welcomed at these six new restaurants, representing the best of New Orleans right now.
Tableau (French Quarter)
Dickie Brennan’s stellar restaurant Tableau is known for chef Gustar Martin’s exceptional tributes to fine, French Creole cuisine and its prime location on Jackson Square. It got even better in May with the completion of a $500,000 renovation to its wraparound, ornamental iron balcony overlooking the square. Beyond just reversing the beating the balcony took from 60 years of New Orleans sun, the facelift added fans and a much-needed roof for shade. The new-and-improved perch is perfect for enjoying Martin’s menu, which shines with contemporary dishes such as pasta bouillabaisse, brimming with shrimp, squid, littleneck clams, and herbs in a rich seafood broth that tops ruffles of house-made squid ink mafaldine pasta. While the classics like the Creole onion soup and truffle crab claws remain, the chef added a host of new dishes this year, including the oyster pan roast, a combo of poached and fried oysters, melted brie and a decadent cream sauce spiked with anise-flavored liqueur. Add in the million-dollar balcony view, and Tableau is downright alluring.
Ciao NOLA (Mid-City)
If there’s one thing Ciao NOLA owner Nick Reed doesn’t do, it’s sit still. The entrepreneurial restaurateur opened the outdoor bar and event spot Culture Park on Franklin Avenue early in the pandemic, around the same time he closed his Mid-City Bar Culture. He took the downtime to reimagine the space, transforming it from a neighborhood dive bar serving fried seafood plates to a polished lounge with an impressive shareable menu. The vibe is equal parts refined and relaxed here, with comfy velvet couches, a neon-lit bar, and an outside patio for sipping cocktails. Chef Chris Malachi, whose track record includes private cheffing for high profile athletes, is behind the tapas-style fare. The menu tempts with dishes including Thai chile wings, shrimp scampi flatbread, and seafood deviled eggs. For midnight munchers, there’s a late brunch offered on Friday nights from 10 pm into the wee hours, banishing hanger with chicken and waffles, salmon or shrimp and grits, and roasted potatoes with andouille sausage.
Margot’s (St. Claude/Marigny)
Opened in April, Margot’s is a bar and pizzeria just two blocks across St. Claude Avenue on Frenchmen Street. Chef Adrian Chelette leads the kitchen, making eight kinds of wood-fired pizza that bubbles and crisps in just two minutes at 850 degrees. The menu is succinct—besides the pie, there’s a choice of two salads. The pizza flavors begin with a straightforward margherita, which can be spruced up with toppings such as shaved garlic, pork sausage, and mozzarella. Then there are combos like the supremo, fashioned with ricotta, strips of pepperoni, sausage, peperoncino, shaved red onion and Pecorino Romano. The inverno is a popular veggie option, an umami-forward blend of roasted sweet potato with mascarpone cheese, honey, chili flake and black olives. Wash your slices down with one of the many drinks: Margot’s owner is cocktail vet Brad Goocher (who last worked at Cane and Table). Goocher created a beverage lineup that’s longer than the food menu with spritzes, an espresso martini with cold brew, and five types of negronis. An array of food friendly wines showcases small, family-owned producers. Family matters here—Goocher, his wife, and daughter live just upstairs.
The Grill Room at the Windsor Court Hotel (Central Business District)
Long the culinary jewel at the upscale Windsor Court Hotel, the Grill Room has hosted countless locals for family celebrations and milestone events. Come mid-September, after being on an abbreviated schedule since the beginning of the pandemic, the elegant dining room will resume inviting guests in for dinner, every night of the week. Executive chef Vlad Kogan joins forces with culinary director Igor Krichmar and pastry chef Matt Serkes to present modern American cuisine with the focus on quality, seasonal ingredients, innovative techniques, and presentation. Steak lovers will swoon over the array of dry-aged beef—the crown jewel is the wagyu, cooked on binchotan charcoal. Entrees are rounded out by grilled Loch Etive steelhead trout with morels, a kurobuta heritage pork tomahawk with a sage chutney, and South Carolina quail with farro. Before or after dinner, a cocktail in the Polo Club Lounge is practically mandatory.
Common ingredients and techniques are not in Jacqueline Blanchard’s culinary vocabulary. At her new Japanese izakaya on Oak Street, the chef and owner exerts a laser-focused mindfulness in everything from sourcing the penultimate ingredients to what isn’t on the menu—a side of spicy mayo or a poke bowl for starters. Blanchard, a seasoned chef who spent time in some of America’s finest kitchens including The French Laundry, experienced authentic izakayas in Japan while traveling to source knives for her artisanal knife business, Coutelier. Sukeban’s menu is a study in simplicity, where pristine ingredients are allowed to shine. Hand rolls, wrapped in seaweed that originates from Japan’s Ariake Sea, are a specialty. In one popular roll, Blanchard pairs uni, known for its creamy brininess, with the shiny pop of salmon roe. Bar snacks, the calling card of true Japanese izakayas, include potato salad flavored with ginger and dashi, plus a scattering of dried baby sardines that lend it a distinctive crunch. The 16 seats at the bar are first come first served, but the table for six is offered for seating at 4, 6, and 8 pm.
Ginger Roux (Central Business District)
Chinese cuisine shakes hands with Creole fare at Ginger Roux, the restaurant in the newly opened Hilton Canopy Hotel on Tulane Avenue. With executive chef Jonathan Hostetler presiding, the restaurant’s menu pays homage to the small Chinatown that once occupied this neighborhood. Hostetler creates a new genre with dishes such as gumbo potstickers, tender squares of dough filled with traditional Creole gumbo fixings like andouille, chicken, and the holy trinity, served floating in a bowl of actual gumbo. The handsome dining room, which has a side patio for outside seating, offers comfortable booth seating and a minimalist chic décor. For lunch, local shrimp flavored with five-spice arrive blackened with a side of veggies in a citrus ginger vinaigrette. Even the desserts have an East Asian accent, such as the orange chile glaze that is the ideal sweet-and-spicy dip for sweet potato pie spring rolls topped with five-spice whipped cream.
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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