Two years ago, I spent several months eating my way through New Orleans to compile a four-part series of my top ten New Orleans breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and brunches. Those original lists can be found here ( Top 10 Breakfast | Top 10 Brunch | Top 10 Lunch | Top 10 Dinner). Over the past couple of years, I’ve visited close to 100 additional New Orleans restaurants— not with the intentions to modify the original list, because the list is organic and ever-changing, but— because it’s what I do.
I am only a part-time New Orleanian. We have an apartment in the Marigny, and we get down as often as we can (yet not as often as I’d like). Though I have spent the past five decades eating my way through that city and have always felt blessed— as a restaurateur who sleeps, eats, and breathes restaurants— to live only 90 minutes away from what is arguably the number two restaurant city in the country. I love New Orleans.
I receive a lot of calls and emails from friends and readers of this column for restaurant recommendations. The most frequently requested cities are Florence, Rome, Barcelona, and Milan in Italy, and Chicago, San Francisco, New York, and New Orleans stateside. Instead of compiling four new top-ten lists for New Orleans, I decided to just compile a random list of my current favorites around town, with no rhyme, reason, or theme.
This is NOT a best-of list. This is NOT a list for best-rated food, best-rated service, best-rated atmosphere, or a list proclaiming which restaurants are most popular with the locals. I am not a local. I am a part-timer who has had a 57-year love affair with New Orleans’ music, architecture, culture, and food. This is simply an at-this-moment compilation of my favorite places in my favorite food city in the world.
I never miss breakfast, and if I am in town, I am usually eating breakfast in this bakery. The croissants are as good as any I have had in France. Seriously, any. The ham and cheese croissants are a family favorite, and the English muffins— though not in the pastry case, but excellent toasted with butter and their house-made jam— are also the finest I have ever eaten. I usually take a few portions of quiche home for later.
Others Breakfast Joints I Frequent:
Toast 5433 Laurel Street, New Orleans, LA 70115 There are three locations, and I have eaten at all of them. But I prefer the Uptown location at 5433 Laurel Street over the Fairgrounds or French Quarter outposts. This place is home to my favorite avocado toast on the planet.
New Orleans Cake Café & Bakery 2440 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70117 This is my neighborhood spot, one block away from our apartment. When I am in New York, I often travel down to SoHo just to eat breakfast at Balthazar because— even though it’s a French brasserie— it “feels” like New York to me. New Orleans Cake Café & Bakery “feels” like the Marigny.
We eat at Paladar a lot, not because it is in our building, but because it is an excellent restaurant. It was a well-kept secret for a short while. Business grew steadily for several years, though in the past few years it’s truly blossomed. After Paladar made Brett Anderson’s top-10 list, the reservation books got tight (deservedly so). My go-to at brunch is the Huevos Rancheros (the best in town), but I also order the lemon-blueberry pancakes for the middle of the table for all to share. My go-tos at dinner are the Waygu Hanger Steak and the Lamb Tortellini in Brodo, which is an interesting take the classic dish from Bologna.
Other Brunches I Frequent:
Brennan’s 417 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130 When we have out of town guests or friends over from Italy, we bring them here for a quintessential New Orleans French Quarter brunch. I had written this restaurant off years ago. Though since Ralph Brennan bought it and spent a mint refurbishing it to its former glory, it is the place I use to explain to people who have never visited this city the origins of the food scene and cuisine here. Gumbo, egg dishes, and Bananas Foster are typical players, but are executed perfectly here. We also hit Commander’s Palace on occasion, and I love Sunday afternoons at Café Degas.
This has been my favorite New Orleans restaurant for over three decades. If Frank Brigtsen served breakfast, lunch, and brunch then this would be a very short column. Brigtsen opened one year before I opened my first restaurant, and I have admired the work he has done in that simple little shotgun house from day one. There are other chefs in town with more celebrity and notoriety, but I’ll bet that if you polled them as to which New Orleans chef they admire most, the majority would choose Frank Brigtsen. He is real. He is humble. He is talented and knowledgeable, and you won’t find a nicer guy who has been manning the stove at his own restaurant since the mid 1980s. His pedigree is as good as it gets— Prudhomme at K-Paul’s, and Prudhomme and Ella Brennan at Commander’s Palace. The food is pure and uncomplicated, and if you’ve eaten there in the past 33 years, Brigtsen has likely cooked your meal. No other restaurant in New Orleans can guarantee that your meal will be prepared by hands with such experience and knowledge. You can easily find restaurants in town with more formal settings and more exotic preparations and ingredients, but you won’t find Frank, his wife Marna, and a service staff that is more dedicated than the ones at Brigtsen’s.
I love the fried shrimp and roast beef po-boys there. I like Parkway, too. But I find myself at Domilise’s more often.
The Sam is Pastrami, Swiss, Russian dressing, and Coleslaw on seeded rye. I have driven from my house in Hattiesburg to Stein’s to eat this sandwich and immediately gotten back in my car and driven back home (more than once). True story.
Within a half of a block on the edge of the French Quarter, I can eat— what is in my opinion— the finest examples of cuisine from three continents just a few doors down from each other.
The Italian Barrel 1240 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116 I spend two months a year leading food and art tours in Italy. This place is legit.
Dian Xin 1218 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116 At Dian Xin I have eaten the best Chinese I have tasted outside of San Francisco or New York.
El Gato Negro 81 French Market Pl, New Orleans, LA 70116 My family loves Mexican and Tex-Mex food. This tiny little spot (I have had so-so experiences at the other two locations) is our go-to.
Not enough column inches to go into detail, but they are all excellent and I feel that they are each as good as most other restaurants in almost any other American city.
Carrolton Market 8132 Hampson St, New Orleans, LA 70118
La Petit Grocery 4238 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115
Gautreau’s 1728 Soniat St, New Orleans, LA 70115
Bywater American Bistro 2900 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70117
Though if you’re one of the many Port of Call disciples, it’s better to go to Snug Harbor at night and skip the line at Port of Call. Same burger.
The only reason I go there is for half-shell oysters. I go to Casamento’s for fried oysters.
I love that interior.
Upperline, Gris Gris, Horn’s, Red’s Chinese, Willa Jean (pecan sticky bun on Sunday), Ming’s (shrimp toast), Tartine (quiche), Juan’s Flying Burrito, Mr. John’s Steakhouse, Herbsaint, Bayona, and Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse.
Bacchanal, Avenue Pub, and Bayou Beer Garden
N7, the Gabrielle redux, Station 6, Saint Germaine, Patois, Barracuda, and dozens more.