Each year, our Essential 100 dining guides takes the measure of New Orleans restaurants, showcasing the homegrown flavors, new influences, rejuvenation and continuity that makes dining out in this city so fulfilling.
New Orleans restaurants will always get people talking, and the topic is a pretty sure way to get people arguing too.
Lists like the one below break down the 100 picks in the overall guide to more specific recommendations I often field.
You can find more here, and the complete Essential 100 here.
The character of New Orleans comes through in its restaurants. This dining guide pulls together a story of that character and puts 100 recomme…
This is not your standard Top 10 restaurant list.
Casual brunch without the brunch lines
Why: Bagel platters and breakfast plates
Echo’s shows how a great pizzeria can really be a bakery with a particular focus. The wood-fire oven turns out wonderful, one-sized, bubble pocked pies with crust that’s the equal of the artisan loaves also produced within it. The whole menu of salads and sides is about good food stripped down to the basics of a few ingredients. The cocktails and wine list are well-tuned to the style here. Check out the breakfast/brunch menu for bagel platters and sandwiches. Breakfast and dinner, Wed.-Sun., brunch Sat. and Sun. $$
Why: Huevos galore on a traditional Mexican menu
Many Mexican restaurants go big, with plaza-sized dining rooms, huge drinks, endless chips and the ensuing big crowds. El Pavo Real gives a small, closer, more intimate experience and leaves big to the flavors. The shrimp cooked down with coconut milk and chipotle, the chicken soup bobbing with vegetables and stained with mellow chiles and the taut ceviche are all examples. Of course, there's still a taco Tuesday. But eating here feels like having a meal in someone’s home, when that someone happens to be a skilled and generous cook at that. Breakfast, lunch and dinner Tue.-Sat., brunch Sun. $$
Why: Café style brunch, with artisan bakery goodness
Gracious has been doing some heavy lifting to restore the idea of the neighborhood bakery in New Orleans. Its four locations each have their own niche while drawing from a common platform of great bread and bagels, satisfying sandwiches built on them, easy brunch and quick snacks from both the savory and sweet sides of the pastry case. The new downtown location, dubbed NOCHI Cafe by Gracious, adds chef Michael Doyle‘s menu of approachable, Mediterranean dishes for quick lunches that can be light and are always roundly flavorful. Breakfast and lunch daily (downtown closed Sun.)$
Why: A modern neighborhood joint for Old Jefferson
The colorful mural over the clapboard exterior isn’t the only bright splash Hippie Kitchen has brought to this stretch of Old Jefferson. Chef Harveen Khera has created a neighborhood restaurant that feels both comfortably funky and refreshingly in step with modern tastes, melding original ideas with seasonal menus and good, old-fashioned scratch cooking. This plays out breakfast through dinner, with healthy dishes like crispy cracker cups filled with sprouts and vegan spring rolls, and in downright hearty plates of hanger steak or a breakfast pizza topped with bacon and eggs. Breakfast, lunch and dinner Tue.-Sat., brunch Sun., Mon. $$
Why: Dim sum brunch, adventurous and accessible
Always lushly imaginative, Maypop these days is running with a tighter focus, one that more fully articulates chef Michael Gulotta's southeast Asian-to-southeast Louisiana inspiration. Sop roasted bone marrow with oysters off the plate, twirl paprika-tinged noodles around lemon grass chicken meatballs, taste the essence of crab and coconut and brown butter washing over the crisp-skinned redfish and you have an upscale dining experience you won’t find anywhere else. The setting — modern, busy, open, stylish but still easygoing — fits right in with a rapidly changing downtown New Orleans. Dim sum brunch is a bargain. Lunch and dinner daily, Sat., Sun. $$$$