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Diners fill the main dining room at Arnaud's Restaurant in the French Quarter.

Arnaud’s Restaurant

813 Bienville St., (504) 523-5433

In 2018, this French Quarter classic marked 100 years of history. The bigger story of Arnaud’s lately though has been its future. Winding through many rooms, set to a scale they just don’t make anymore, Arnaud’s is an evolving demonstration for how to preserve the grand French Creole approach while working in the interests and influences of the next generation. Dinner here is a dress-up occasion, a true outing that feels historic without feeling stuck in time. Take some time to soak it in, and make sure that includes a stop at its acclaimed French 75 bar. Dinner daily, brunch Sun. $$$$$


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Brennan's Restaurant has been a dining destination in the French Quarter for generations. The courtyard is a centerpiece.

Brennan’s Restaurant

417 Royal St., (504) 525-9711

See full listing in 10 restaurants to define New Orleans dining today.


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Lightly seared tuna anchors a special at Commander's Palace, where the menu is both traditional and ever changing.

Commander’s Palace

1403 Washington Ave., (504) 899-8221

Commander’s Palace is one of the largest restaurants in town, whether measured by size, volume or simply reputation. And yet for the scale and the bustle, Commander’s also embodies the ideal of the family-run restaurant. The passing of its great matriarch Ella Brennan in 2018 underscored how much family ties stitch this landmark restaurant together, and how often they extend to the clientele. Chef Tory McPhail’s kitchen upholds Commander’s many in-house traditions (turtle soup, bread pudding soufflé) while constantly pushing that story forward with inventive new dishes, techniques and ingredients. Like the best kind of family affair, it always feels like a party in there. Dinner daily, lunch Mon.-Fri., brunch Sat., Sun. $$$$$


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Sommelier Taylor Terrebonne of Emeril's New Orleans sabers a bottle of Champagne.

Emeril’s Restaurant

800 Tchoupitoulas St., (504) 528-9393

Time and again, Emeril Lagasse’s first restaurant delivers on the promise of modern fine dining that this place itself helped codify. That’s because meals here are as fun as they are refined. The restaurant has a legacy by now, but also the room sparks with fresh energy. You can reconnect with modern classics – Emeril’s barbecue shrimp, andouille-crusted fish, of course, the banana cream pie — or see what chef de cuisine Doug Braselman is cooking next — like those crawfish-stuffed clams or the lamb schnitzel. It’s always robust, multifaceted and makes an impression. Lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner daily. $$$$$


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At Galatoire's Restaurant, long-time waiter John Fontenot (left) talks to Phillip L. Lopez, the new chef, in the dining room of the French Quarter destination.

Galatoire’s Restaurant

205 Bourbon St., (504) 535-2021

Each time I get the chance to step into Galatoire‘s dining room when it’s empty, I have the same reaction: I barely recognize the place. That’s because this restaurant is so much about the way its customers interact with it and each other between its mirrored walls and under those slowly turning fans. Its menu of great fish, classic sauces and crabmeat galore tells a story of Old World cuisine in a verdant Gulf Coast setting. Its history is long and its staff is composed of true pros. But the personality that makes Galatoire’s so special, the energy and spirit so ingrained here, is fed by its clientele. Lunch and dinner Tue.-Sun. $$$$$ (full disclosure: John Georges, owner of the Advocate, is an owner of Galatoire’s).


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Octopus carpaccio, red snapper and a Jack Rose cocktail share a colorful table at Jack Rose, the restaurant in the historic Pontchartrain Hotel.

Jack Rose

2031 St. Charles Ave., (504) 323-1500

Once home to the buttoned-up Caribbean Room, Jack Rose is grand restaurant recast for the next generation, drawing on the character of old dining traditions and infusing a fresh vibrancy. Modern Creole dishes arrive with flair and playfulness, and also with local context, like shrimp piquant with muddy waters sauce, fried chicken parm on the bone, pompano en papillote with a dash of saffron. The hotel’s rooftop Hot Tin Bar is a requisite part of a dinner outing here. The bubbly-fueled brunch is a flat-out ball. Dinner Wed.-Sun., lunch Fri., brunch Sun. $$$$$


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Tableau is a French Creole brasserie holding down an important corner by Jackson Square in the French Quarter.

Tableau

616 St. Peter St., (504) 934-3463

There’s nothing small about Tableau, including the stakes. Holding down one corner of the Jackson Square, Dickie Brennan’s Creole brasserie is a grand-scale validation that visiting the French Quarter can revolve around taste and heritage. Attached to Le Petit Theatre, with rambling rooms, wraparound gallery and a courtyard within, it is a showplace when its many doors are open, drawing curious eyes from the busy street. The kitchen has gradually tightened its approach, with a menu of French Creole classics that leaves no doubt you’re in the center of New Orleans but also in the 21st century. The first-rate oyster bar is a clutch addition. Lunch and dinner daily, brunch Sat., Sun. $$$$



Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.