The following is the first in a summer-column series that will cover dining in New Orleans. Over the next four weeks I’ll list my top 10 dining experiences for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and brunch in New Orleans, one of the nation’s top-three restaurant cities.
There are a few items to note: This list purely subjective. Everyone has varying tastes and preferences. This is not a ranking of overall quality from a critical/review standpoint. This is my personal list. These are my personal favorites.
According to the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, there are more than 1,400 restaurants operating in New Orleans, today. There are hundreds I have yet to visit. Though there are dozens of others in each category that I have dined in which didn’t make the list.
The primary guideline I followed while making this top-10 list was that I had to have visited the restaurant at least once in the past five months. Most restaurants that are listed involved three or more visits. There a few “musts” that are required for a perfect RSJ breakfast joint. The place should know how to properly cook eggs (you’d be amazed at the number of places that overcook eggs), the bacon needs to be high quality, the orange juice should be fresh squeezed (substitute the word coffee for those who drink it), when pertinent the breads should be skillfully baked in house
10. Gracious Bakery and Café
1000 S Jefferson Davis Pkwy #100, New Orleans, LA 70125
There are two locations, the second is in Mid City on the Jeff Davis Parkway. Looking at my notes, the counter experience was “awkward” and the interaction between the employees behind the counter and the guests was “hesitant.” But the breads were “excellent,” and if one is looking for a good egg white sandwich, this is the place to go. The freshly baked breads, alone, will bring me back, often.
9. New Orleans Cake Cafe & Bakery
2440 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70117
This little jewel is just a few blocks from our apartment. I can walk there, grab a few hot biscuits to go, and be home while they are still warm. Their homemade jams and preserves are some of the best in town. The corned beef hash, salmon and eggs, and grits dishes are all winners.
601 Gallier St, New Orleans, LA 70117
I don’t know if the chefs at Elizabeth’s are responsible for inventing praline bacon, but this is the first place I ate it. When I first heard about it, my friend, Bill Kirby and I drove down to the Bywater, sometime in the early 2000s, ate breakfast at Elizabeth’s, and then drove back to Hattiesburg.
There is almost always a line at Elizabeth’s. In my opinion, this was the first in the new wave of New Orleans breakfast joints. It’s funky and the energy level is high.
Many places serve praline bacon these days, and to be honest, I am not a huge fan of the stuff. But people dig it, and it sells well all over town.
1940 Dauphine St, New Orleans, LA 70116
This is a good, solid breakfast joint. Horn’s probably has the best neighborhood feel and vibe of any restaurant on this list. The Crabby Wife— a crab cake with fried eggs, crawfish etouffee and a biscuit— is one of my main go-tos at Horn’s. It’s hard not to feel like a local when eating in that building.
6. The Ruby Slipper Cafe
2001 Burgundy St, New Orleans, LA 70116 (3 other locations)
My favorite of the four locations is in the Marigny at 2001 Burgundy, just a block or so from Horn’s, in an old bank that Bonnie and Clyde supposedly robbed. The Canal Street and Magazine Street (in the CBD) locations are tourist hotspots, but that shouldn’t discount their offerings.
The Eggs Cochonpork debris with poached eggs and hollandaise, on a biscuit— makes me happy every time I eat it. You’ll find more authentic hollandaise in the old-line French/Creole-inspired dinner restaurants, but it works here for this stand-alone breakfast dish.
The service has always been efficient and the menu is broad and covers all of the morning staples.
5. Biscuits and Buns on Banks
4337 Banks St, New Orleans, LA 70119
If the word “biscuit” is in the name of your restaurant, then the biscuits better be extraordinary. I’ve never eaten a bun at this place, but the biscuits are as good as they come, and worthy of the top billing. It amazes me the number of places who don’t know how to properly cook eggs, a must for a great breakfast joint. These folks know how to cook eggs. The French toast is good and the staff seems genuinely happy to be there.
Note: I have only been during slow meal periods, and I would imagine that the waits get long and hot while standing around outside.
4. Surrey’s Juice Bar
1418 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130
I love this small breakfast joint on Lower Magazine. It’s tight and the wait for a table gets long (especially if you’re waiting on the hot sidewalk late in the morning). But I eat at the counter every chance I get, and it’s easy to walk right in and sit at the counter at Surrey’s. This place serves the best Bananas Foster French Toast in the city. The orange juice is excellent, the bacon is solid, and the service is very friendly and efficient. This small, funky breakfast joint is a jewel.
3. Willa Jean
611 O’Keefe Ave, New Orleans, LA 70113
It’s good that I am only a part-time New Orleanian. It’s also good that Willa Jean only bakes their pecan sticky buns on Sundays, because I would eat more than I need (and based on my current girth, I don’t need even one). It’s rare that one finds— and gets to eat— a gold-standard example of a specific food item, but any and all discussion of pecan sticky buns should begin and end at Willa Jean.
The wheat toast is among the best in the city (I always buy a loaf to take home with me for my morning avocado toast), the bacon is solid, and they serve Intelligentsia Coffee.
I always dine at the counter, and the service has consistently been fast and friendly.
2. La Boulangerie
4600 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115
I have eaten croissants and pastries all over France. That said, I can state, unequivocally, that I have never eaten a croissant in Paris— or anywhere else in France, or Europe for that matter— that was better than the ones I have eaten at La Boulangerie (and most weren’t as good). That is not hyperbole. It’s pure fact. This place is the real deal. There is a quiet, sophisticated morning refinement to the atmosphere and it is a very nice space to enjoy breakfast. I go for the quiche and a croissant, and to be honest with you they are so good that I’ve never ventured out from those two items (and don’t plan to any time soon). La Boulangerie is breakfast bakery perfection.
5433 Laurel St, New Orleans, LA 70118 and 1845 Gentilly Blvd, New Orleans, LA 70119
The smallest joint on the list is the biggest in my heart at the moment. Toast is my kind of breakfast joint and an easy choice for tops on my list. Chef Cara Benson already ranked high on my list for the breakfast sandwich and quiche (possibly the best I have ever eaten) she makes at Tartine. Toast is a cool little bakery that has the perfect morning vibe. The employees seem to love working there and it shows in their service. Seating is tight, and I usually sit at the counter at both locations.
The word “funky” as it pertains to atmosphere has popped up several times on this list. It’s probably telling that I look for a certain atmosphere in the morning. Funky is good in my book. Toast isn’t high on the funky meter, but it’s cozy (with a dining room that is just short of too tightly arranged), very casual, and one of those places that has obviously developed a tight culture among the employees. They seem to be true fans of the concept. I love that.
The restaurant’s excellent multigrain bread, toasted, with an egg-in-the-hole (simply called “Toast with Egg”) is excellent. That and an order of bacon is a perfect breakfast for me. The biscuits would make any southern grandmother proud, and the omelets are expertly prepared. If I lived within a five-block radius I might be that old dude that eats the same thing at the same table every morning at this place.
Next week— RSJ’s Top 10 New Orleans Lunches
View today’s recipe: RSJ’S Praline Bacon