5831 Magazine St.
Amid a flurry of changes in the Uptown restaurant scene, chef Anton Schulte’s quietly excellent bistro remains as reliable as ever. From the tiny bar up front, the restaurant expands into a series of chambers that are open to each other but still foster their own intimacy. Chicken, roasted with a dusting of porcini mushrooms, is a best-in-class rendition reaching back at least to the chef’s time at Peristyle. The daisy salad with its “petals” of mozzarella and roasted pepper, the individual baked Alaska and even accommodating touches like carafes of house wine are more particular to this charismatic restaurant where the aim is high and the hype is low.
Dinner Tue.-Sat. $$$$
1506 S. Carrollton Ave.
Chef Nathaniel Zimet and crew recently relocated to a new, larger address just around the corner, bringing the same menu that won Boucherie so many fans and made the move necessary in the first place. The spirit of the place made the move intact, too. Boucherie remains a refreshingly midrange, resolutely casual bistro with an inventive combination of brawny Southern flavors (smoked Wagyu brisket, boudin balls, Krispy Kreme bread pudding) and more wide-ranging influences (Peking duck sausage with moo shu pancakes, sashimi with kimchi). Nothing on the regular menu tops $18.
Lunch and dinner Tue.-Sat. $$$
8132 Hampson St.
Professional and polished but not uptight, chef Jason Goodenough’s small Riverbend bistro marks its first anniversary as a shining example of the promise in modern Southern cuisine. More broadly based than Creole, more specifically regional than modern American, it takes local flavors in different directions. Smoked drum, stirred into a creamy, herb-strung salad, is finished with pepper-spiked choupique caviar, for instance, and Creole cream cheese gives cavatelli pasta a light tang between musky truffle and heady mushrooms. The wine list is very short, the cocktails are excellent. If you can stand the heat, sit at the dining bar for a cooking show view into the open kitchen, or get a table in back for a more intimate dinner.
Dinner Tue.-Sat. $$$$
8312 Oak St.
As sushi has become a common grocery store staple or a point of fusion cuisine departure, Chiba goes in a different direction. This is a restaurant that can feed your curiosity and perhaps refresh some of the mystique of Japanese flavors with an approach that mixes invention and precision in equal measure. The sushi bar makes prolific use of fruit (try the satsuma strawberry roll or the voodoo roll with raw bass, crunchy apple and very spicy roe) and the tiradito platters of elaborately dressed sashimi have become a new specialty. Late hours (especially on weekends) recommend it for afterhours snacks of rolls and tempura instead of another round of burgers and fries.
Lunch Wed.-Sat., dinner and late night Mon.-Sat. $$$
6100 Annunciation St.
The dining room is understated and elegant, the waiters wear tuxedos but are loose with the regulars, and the only thing more impressive than the wine list is the amount of crabmeat this kitchen dispatches. Clancy’s is too young for the “grand dame” mantle, but it shares their DNA and trades some of their grandeur and history for a slightly more modern read on Creole cuisine. A menu of fried oysters with melting cubes of Brie, smoked-then-fried soft shell crab and paneed veal judiciously finds room too for lobster risotto, scallops in brown butter and a simple but essential lemon icebox pie. Taking out-of-towners here is a double treat: they get the satisfaction of discovering one the locals keep for themselves and you get an excuse to revisit.
Lunch Thu. and Fri., dinner Mon.-Sat. $$$$
The Company Burger
4600 Freret St.
It’s easy to overthink the burger as restaurants vie to outdo each other. But the Company Burger keeps a focused approach and rational perspective — make a great burger, serve it fast and surround it with just a few well-wrought extras. Order the namesake burger and you get a tight package well-engineered to show the prime appeal of slim griddled patties, gooey cheese, rapidly softening onions and a bun with character. Add fries and a trip to the mayo bar or an honest-to-goodness market salad, throw in a Vietnamese coffee milkshake or one of the straightforward cocktails for good measure. It’s easy, it’s fun, it’s a few bucks more than the better-burger franchises and it’s worth it. Look for a second location in the CBD later this spring.
Lunch and dinner Wed.-Mon. $
736 Dante St.
This bistro stays rock solid by changing constantly. Yes, some of the house specialties like the redfish on the half shell and chicken under a brick are as familiar by now as the restaurant’s progression of colorful small rooms and verdant patio. But chef E-Man Loubier was an early adopter of prominent farm-to-table sourcing, and the menus are always resplendent with dishes forged from the current harvest. Though it sits at the elbow of the Riverbend in a very busy part of the city, the cottage setting, the rustic menu and even the occasional sounds of trains and ships in motion nearby give it all the feel of a country excursion.
Dinner Wed.-Mon., brunch Sat. and Sun. $$$$
Del Fuego Taqueria
4518 Magazine St.
Detach Mexican cooking from the familiar Tex-Mex template and you have Del Fuego Taqueria, the most consistent and balanced of the new tide of Mexican restaurants to arrive recently. The menu can answer some baseline cravings with fat burritos and bubbly cheese and chorizo dips and tacos built on house-made tortillas. From here you can delve deeper into regional Mexican flavors, like duck enchiladas under mole or ribs bundled in banana leaf. Don’t skip dessert, which offers beautiful creations stretching far beyond standard taqueria finales. While the narrow dining room can get raucous, the outdoor patios (front and back) are prime seating in nice weather.
Lunch and dinner Mon.-Sat. $$
Frankie & Johnny’s Restaurant
321 Arabella St.
Boiled seafood is usually a communal affair, and so too are visits to Frankie & Johnny’s. The big tables, the long room, the trays of crawfish in spring and boiled shrimp practically year-round, the fried chicken and fried green pepper rings all invite a group effort. This 1940s-vintage restaurant has seen some upheaval of late, with two changes in ownership shifting through in the past two years alone. But it still fulfills the same essential role as the boiled seafood spot nestled in the heart of Uptown. In fact, the most recent changes at the helm have given a noticeable bump in quality and variety on the plate, with some interesting oyster dishes in play this season.
Lunch and dinner daily. $$
1728 Soniat St.
Gautreau’s has a knack for attracting national culinary accolades while remaining the epitome of low-key, upscale dining. In fact, newcomers might wonder if they have the right address when arriving at its unmarked façade down a leafy side street. That’s part of the appeal. Sumptuous and smooth in its décor, its service and its bearing, this is a restaurant to connect with the finer points of fine dining, and chef Sue Zemanick demonstrates the power of confident understatement on her French-based, modern-looking menu. Foie gras with candied grape gelee, scallops with pickled chanterelles, and sweetbreads paired with crabmeat are some recent examples. And after a few decades on the menu, the roasted chicken is still among the best renditions going.
Dinner Mon.-Sat. $$$$$
5229 Magazine St.
Guy’s is the classic po-boy shop before the acclaim of being considered a classic has a chance to catch up with it. Standards are beyond reproach, even the normally underrated ham po-boy stacked with very thin slices of good quality product, and there are specialties of distinctive flair, especially in the realm of grilled catfish and grilled shrimp and the countless individualized custom orders they have spawned. The setting is stark, with few creature comforts and less elbowroom. Roll with it now, and down the road, when Guy’s passes into the category of true classic, you can tell people stories about the old days here.
Lunch Mon.-Sat. $
High Hat Café
4500 Freret St.
This café dials right in to the appeal of the old New Orleans neighborhood restaurants you know by heart — reasonably priced, ready for families and loaded with local flavor. What makes High Hat really stand out, however, is that you don’t necessarily know this menu by heart. There’s a lighter edge to dishes like the grilled fish with spicy shrimp and potato hash alongside the full-bodied flavor of the smoky dark gumbo. Instead of onion rings, you might start with Delta-style tamales or a platter of pimento cheese, deviled eggs and pickles, while the bar is stocked with local drafts and house-made cocktail fixings. It all makes this the standard bearer for the modern New Orleans neighborhood restaurant.
Lunch and dinner daily. $$
La Crepe Nanou
1410 Robert St.
Leave it to the French to make pots of bubbling cheese, heaps of crisp, salty fries and pancakes napped with braised beef feel like sophisticated fare instead of guilty pleasures. But it’s not just French tradition that makes the prospect of fondue, frites and crepes Bourguigon at La Crepe Nanou so irresistible. The casually gorgeous Art Nouveau setting of sinuous curves and stained glass, the candle-wattage lighting, the busy bar and distinct, compartmentalized dining areas all cast a spell here and stir a debonair feel. With no reservations taken and a wait practically a given on weekends, it’s a better spot for casual, drop-in meals than special event dinners, and the mid-range prices (including on the down-to-earth wine list) fits that mode too.
Dinner daily, brunch Sun. $$$
4800 Magazine St.
Barbecue spots can be as predictable as a steakhouse — and that’s usually a good thing. But whenever I go to McClure’s I seem to get something different. Maybe smoked meat gumbo from the specials board or a brisket cheesesteak with barbecue jambalaya on the regular menu. The common denominator is pit master Neil McClure’s hand on the smoker. From there, the meats are worked into straightforward platters but also his increasingly inventive array of specials. It’s another exhibit in the case for New Orleans’ rising stock as a barbecue town. Look for McClure’s to expand later this spring with a smokehouse and restaurant at NOLA Brewing’s nearby taproom.
Lunch and dinner daily, brunch Sun. $
Noodle & Pie
741 State St.
The various renditions of good old American pie are always tempting but it’s the noodle part of the equation that speaks more directly to Noodle & Pie’s identity. Based on a one-time pop-up from the crew at Dante’s Kitchen, it’s a showcase for Japanese soup and pan-Asian street food that’s as inventive as it is casual and cool. The many different ramen soups are made with all the obsessive layering of flavors of a good pho, and the menu presents plates of Korean fried chicken, fries topped with the maritime savor of shaved bonito and spicy papaya salad as single or double portions. It’s fast, inexpensive and offbeat.
Dinner nightly, lunch Tue.-Sun. $
6078 Laurel St.
Tucked snugly into its neighborhood by Audubon Park, Patois is a restaurant for meals that are fine, upscale and modern but still easy-going. Its rustic underpinnings are expressed in ways both subtle (wild flowers on the tables, a clean-lined decor) and not so subtle (lamb ribs smoked on the huge trailer rig parked outside). Chef Aaron Burgau’s menus are exuberant, often unpredictable but regionally based and grounded by familiar touchstones. That goes for the boudin-stuffed rabbit wrapped in fried chicken skin as well as frog legs that share elements of Cajun courtbouillon and Vietnamese caramelized clay pot stew.
Lunch Fri., dinner
Wed.-Sat., brunch Sun. $$$$
4933 Magazine St.
These are great times to be a pizza lover in New Orleans, and Pizza Dominica is another example to prove it. Based on the Besh Restaurant Group’s more ambitious Domenica — and with chef Alon Shaya again at the helm — it’s a distillation of that downtown restaurant that is more casual, more family-friendly and, with its Uptown location, more accessible when downtown is besieged by events. The pizzas are the same, gloriously so, with the puffy, chewy, bubble-pocked, char-marked characteristics of good wood-oven pies. The long marble bar is a good perch for a drink and a snack from the antipasti menu. The format is now table service, and the happy hour drink deals (2-5 p.m.) remain generous. Remember this after an outing in nearby Audubon Park.
Lunch and dinner daily, late night Fri. and Sat., brunch Sun. $$
7708 Maple St.
The creative, no-holds-barred spirit of the annual Oak Street Po-boy Festival is bottled as the business-as-usual concept for the Sammich. Po-boys with duck and Brie, fried lobster with mango hot sauce and grilled vegetables with tofu remoulade are the starting points here, and the Sammich takes equal glee in concocting side dishes and bar snacks, like “nachos” made from fried chicken skin. More than just offbeat, the flavors are well-wrought and the approach remains as fun and casual as any po-boy joint. There’s an oyster bar, lots of beer and a surprisingly deep wine list.
Lunch and dinner daily. $
5433 Laurel St.
This side street café is small, but breakfast here is huge. That goes for its popularity, along with some of the actual portions. An offshoot of the nearby French bakery Tartine, the menu starts with excellent breads and pastries and builds a roster of easy-to-love breakfast favorites with high quality and a few distinctive touches. A crisp, simple side salad completes a hearty croque madame with greens, the steak and eggs is made with a bistro-worthy hanger with tarragon aioli and crepes cover the sweet to savory range. Come early and watch this place fill up fast or be prepared for a bit of a wait.
Breakfast and lunch Tue.-Sun. $
1413 Upperline St.
Dinner at Upperline can be an enveloping experience, from the artwork that surrounds you in the progression of small, busy dining rooms to the familiar flavors of a menu that’s stayed more or less the same for many years. Specials are gently contemporary, and they can be excellent, like a recent slab of dazzling red tuna with charred bok choy and fresh herbs. Mostly, though, Upperline serves three-course prix fixe suppers built around the notion of “modern” contemporary Creole that was codified a generation ago. Straightforward signatures like roasted duck with peach sauce and drum with “hot and hot shrimp” carry an accent from country Louisiana. Proprietress JoAnn Clevenger is up for national recognition as a finalist for the James Beard award for outstanding restaurateur; locally her many regulars conferred that title long ago.
Dinner Wed.-Sun. $$$$
4510 Freret St.
This multifaceted eatery has the soul of an Italian deli and adds elements of an upscale tavern and wine bar. The kitchen has an engagingly creative touch that plays across the main menu of sandwiches (try the “knuckle” for an altogether different take on roast beef) and on the daily changing roster of meat pies, arancini and bruschetta, recently layered with country ham, confit tomatoes and beet hummus. It’s handy for an offbeat lunch and roomy and comfortable enough to spend some time catching up with friends over a salumi plate and the lengthy drinks list. A recent switch from counter service to full table service makes it a better fit for these types of visits too.
Lunch and dinner daily. $
Ye Olde College Inn
3000 S. Carrollton Ave.
The dining room walls are thick with memorabilia from old New Orleans, but these days the menu at Ye Old College Inn is much less about nostalgia and much more in tune with modern tastes and trends. There’s still comfort food (a deeply restorative gumbo, definitive onion rings), though now they run alongside griddled boudin cakes, oyster po-boys with havarti and bacon, a side dish of andouille slaw and grilled redfish with maque choux and greens grown on the restaurant’s own farm next door. There’s a bar full of characters, tables full of families and the boisterous feel of a thriving New Orleans neighborhood restaurant, one keeping pace with the city itself.
Dinner Tue.-Sat. $$$