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 restaurants. Its best 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 muffuletta 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. Read on for a guide to the city’s 18 best spots to book now.
Miss River (Central Business District)
Miss River is James Beard Award-nominated chef Alon Shaya’s love letter to Louisiana in the Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans. The menu features his wife Emily Shaya’s award-winning red beans and rice and fried chicken is presented whole to the table, then carved at a food stage in the center of the restaurant. There’s a seafood grand plateau and caviar service, among other swanky touches.
Commander’s Palace (Garden District)
Commander’s Palace is a bastion of Brennan family tradition that delivers its own over-the-top experience. The very sight of the teal 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, pecan-crusted Gulf fish, and the best bread pudding souffle in town.
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.
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. Don’t miss the salty crunch of its trademark souffle potatoes at the restaurant or at its Hermes bar. Go on weekends for a swinging jazz brunch.
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 the cured Ora king salmon with wasabi cream potato salad and smoked trout roe along with local seafood and heritage meats—always fresh and in season.
Brennan’s (French Quarter)
This dapper fine-dining spot is a 2022 James Beard Award finalist for Outstanding Restaurant and fuels New Orleans’s culinary bragging rights. Led by Ralph Brennan, a local restaurateur whose portfolio includes the more casual Red Fish Grill and the historic Napoleon House, Brennan’s is a grande dame in the French Quarter that has been in business since 1946. Dishes range from seafood gumbo to eggs Hussarde, a meatier spin on eggs Benedict featuring coffee-cured Canadian bacon. Executive chef Ryan Hacker mines Creole cooking traditions in the storied Breakfast at Brennan’s, a feast for the ages featuring everything from turtle soup to bread pudding.Enjoy it all against an enchanting backdrop, a cluster of decadent dining rooms that border a charming fountain-clad courtyard. Dessert is practically mandatory: 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.
La Petite Grocery (Uptown)
The Uptown building that houses this restaurant has enjoyed a past life as a coffee and tea depot, butcher shop, florist’s studio, and a grocery store, which explains its name. La Petite Grocery is an emblem of fine French cuisine. 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.
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 intricate dishes such as crab cakes fried and topped with crawfish cream sauce and bouillabaisse over homemade linguine.
Mr. B’s (French Quarter)
Expect to be greeted and treated like kin at this warm Brennan family restaurant in the heart of the French Quarter. The menu has a decidedly Louisiana accent, from the barbecued shrimp to locally sourced Creole-seasoned sheepshead with sauteed Louisiana crawfish tails and bacon wrapped shrimp and grits. Don’t skip the famous bread pudding with Irish whiskey sauce for dessert.
Dooky Chase’s Restaurant (Treme)
Dooky Chase began as a family-owned bar room and sandwich shop in 1941 and evolved 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 including 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.
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. Most recently he started dry aging whole fish yielding a remarkable concentration of umami.
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 eponymous flagship in the Warehouse district in 1990, long before the neighborhood became fashionable. When he finally reopened in September 2021 after the long pandemic shutdown, his world-famous barbecue shrimp—a spicy peppery simmer of Gulf shrimp in Worcestershire, butter, wine, and hot sauce—never tasted better. Emeril’s son E.J. now commands the kitchen, serving the more casual bar area with an a la carte menu and a seasonal three- and seven-course feast in the dining room.
Although he recently opened Tavi in Covington, Lebanon-born chef Fariz Choumali still oversees Shaya with his signature attention to detail. Expect Israeli staples with Southern flavors and modern techniques, a balance between innovation and tradition. The menu includes hummus with fried chicken and falafel with green tahini on housemade pita. Lassoing influences from all across the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and North Africa, Shaya brings global flavors and textures to the table. The dining room’s wood-fire oven is central to both the menu and the dining experience.
Jewel of the South (French Quarter)
Chris Hannah directs a brilliant craft cocktail program at this lush space in a Creole cottage in the French Quarter. London-born chef Phil Whitmarsh serves inspired plates including a caviar tasting with all the fixings and steak tartare with a bone marrow custard. The kitchen is as fetching as the cocktail menu with distinct, rustic flavors that pair beautifully with the green surroundings. Plan for drinks before—and maybe even after—dinner: Jewel was named Best Restaurant Bar in America in 2022 at Tales of the Cocktail.
Michael Gulotta’s marriage between 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 (it’s not always on the menu, but it’s always available on Mondays). As one of the most innovative chefs in town, Gulotta’s hangover pho, steam buns, and vermicelli and rice bowls have earned him legions of happy regulars.
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 in New Orleans to serve slabs of prime-aged beef sizzling with butter. 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.
Luke (French Quarter)
This bustling brasserie pays homage to the grand old Franco-German restaurants that once reigned in New Orleans. The handsome space oozes New Orleans swagger and is defined by a beautiful carved-wood bar. Luke’s seasonal menu might include seared duck with dauphinoise potatoes, shrimp and grits, and an impressive seafood tower. Chef Erick Loos is at the helm and occasionally offers Alsatian dishes such as pork schnitzel with mushroom sauce that are especially memorable.
Chef Donald Link pays homage to all things swine at this inspired Cajun restaurant. Link channels his German Acadian roots with dishes such as fried boudin with pickled peppers, pork and black-eyed pea gumbo, and delectable fried chicken livers with pepper-jelly toast. Link and chef/co-owner Stephen Stryjewski work with local producers to feature heritage pork, fresh produce, and seafood, with the emphasis on the authentic flavors of Cajun country. And don’t miss the char-grilled oysters: Cochon’s wood-burning oven turns out some of the best in town, topped with compound chile butter.
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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.