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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.

RSJ’s New Orleans Restaurant Recommendations 2023

September 6, 2023

NEW ORLEANS— In a poll of national food critics I believe New Orleans would be listed among the top three food cities in America. To my taste— and I’ve eaten extensively in most of America’s top restaurant cities— New Orleans is number one. Period. No question. End of discussion.

I consider myself fortunate to have grown up 90 minutes away from this culinary mecca. As a restaurateur and part-time New Orleanian, I’m blessed to have spent over six decades eating my way through the city, typically logging in more than 120 New Orleans restaurant meals annually.

For the past couple of decades, I’ve kept a journal of my restaurant visits in New Orleans. I also keep a to-do list of new restaurants I have yet to visit, and a separate list of restaurants I plan to re-visit. I typically field hundreds of requests for restaurant recommendations in New Orleans each year. There are a few dozen restaurants that aren’t on any to-do or re-visit list because they are places that I frequent on a regular basis. The following is that list.

MY FAVORITE BREAKFAST SPOT

LA BOULANGERIE

4600 Magazine St #1518, New Orleans, LA 70115
Most mornings I drive from the Marigny to Uptown Magazine just west of Napoleon, because the croissants made at Donald Link’s bakery are worth the drive.

OTHER BREAKFAST JOINTS I FREQUENT:
Toast
1845 Gentilly Blvd, New Orleans, LA 70119
I bounce between the Uptown location and the one near the fairgrounds. Toast is 100% local New Orleans in the morning.  They also have a location in the Quarter called French Toast at 1035 Decatur St.

MY FAVORITE LUNCH SPOT

Meril

424 Girod Street
I am a frequent lunch guest here, love the food and the interior murals are spectacular. The Lagasses know how to prepare fish, it’s in their blood.

MY FAVORITE BRUNCH SPOT

PALADAR 511

511 Marigny St, New Orleans, LA 70117
This is the place I eat brunch most often, and not just because it’s in our building. The huevos rancheros and the lemon-ricotta blueberry pancakes are stellar. I can never choose between the two, so I always order both. The Eggs Benedict is unique and loaded with corn and crabmeat. They offer a great dinner menu as well.

OTHER BRUNCH SPOTS I FREQUENT:
Brennan’s
417 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130
Of the four old-line French Quarter institutions— Galitoire’s, Arnaud’s Antoine’s, and Brennan’s— I eat at the latter most often, and almost always for brunch. Ralph Brennan did the city a huge favor when he took over the reins several years back.

Commander’s Palace
1403 Washington Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130
The old blue lady in the Garden District never disappoints and has been the launching pad for some of the nation’s most legendary chefs. Meg Bickford is currently under the toque and carrying that flame.

Gris Gris
1800 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130
Eric Cook is a hard-working, dedicated chef who has excellent touch when it comes to food and a keen eye in knowing what his guests want. The brunch is great, but so are lunch and dinner. It’s a great Monday spot, too. Cook also owns Saint John in the French Quarter, definitely worth a visit.

MY FAVORITE DINNER SPOT

BRIGTSEN’S

723 Dante St, New Orleans, LA 70118
This restaurant and this chef have been at the top of my list for more than three decades. Frank Brigtsen is the heir apparent to his longtime mentor, Paul Prudhomme. The Butternut Shrimp Bisque is one of the best soups I have ever tasted (second only to Paul Bocuse’s mushroom soup in Lyon). The seafood platter makes use of Warren LeRuth’s baked oyster recipe. I could seriously make a meal of the crawfish cornbread, and mashed potatoes, and often do. This is real New Orleans. Long live Frank Brigtsen.

OTHER DINNER SPOTS I FREQUENT:

La Petit Grocery
4238 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115
The birthplace of the Blue Crab Beignet. Chef Justin Devillier is certainly one of the city’s best.

Lilette
3637 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115
Also a perfect spot for lunch.

Bywater American Bistro
2900 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70117
Nina Compton runs my wife’s favorite New Orleans restaurant.

MY FAVORITE PLACE FOR FINE DININGRESTAURANT AUGUST

301 Tchoupitoulas St, New Orleans, LA 70130
I love the room, the service is always impeccable, and it keeps getting better. The meal I enjoyed there two nights ago was the best— of many— I’ve ever eaten in that establishment.

OTHER FINE DINING I FREQUENT:
Saint Germain
3054 St Claude Ave, New Orleans, LA 70117
It’s not about the atmosphere, it’s about the food. The chefs at Saint Germaine have excellent “touch.” It’s a tough reservation to get. Partially because there are only 12 seats inside, but also because it is so good.

Emeril’s
800 Tchoupitoulas Street
The last meal I had there was just before it closed for a total makeover. It was the best meal I have ever enjoyed there in the past three decades (and I’ve had a lot of great meals there over the past three decades). Can’t wait to see what Emeril and E.J. have in store this fall.

MY FAVORITE STEAKHOUSE

DORIS METROPOLITAN

620 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70130
Their aged prime beef is excellent. Never misses.

OTHER STEAKHOUSES I FREQUENT:
Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse
716 Iberville St, New Orleans, LA 70130
Great steaks with Brennan family service. No matter which branch of the family one eats with, the service is stellar. It’s in their genes.

MY FAVORITE PO-BOY SHOP

DOMILISE’S

5240 Annunciation St, New Orleans, LA 70115
My go-to for po-boys for over 30 years.

OTHER PO-BOY SHOPS I FREQUENT:
Parkway Bakery and Tavern

538 Hagan Ave, New Orleans, LA 70119
There’s always a line so schedule accordingly.

R&O Restaurant and Catering
216 Metairie-Hammond Hwy, Metairie, LA 70005
A great roast beef po-boy, and excellent fried seafood.

If there’s no line out of the door (rare) at the Acme in the Quarter dash in, be seated, order the best roast beef po-boy in town, and a dozen on the half shell with the hottest horseradish known to man. Excellent. I wrote it off as a tourist trap years ago, but it’s still legit.

MY FAVORITE SANDWICH

THE SAM AT STEIN’S DELI

2207 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130
In years past I have driven from Hattiesburg, ordered this sandwich, eaten it, and driven home.

OTHER AWESOME AND ORIGINAL SANDWICHES:
Turkey & the Wolf
739 Jackson Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130
Mason Herford—my favorite Instagram follow—turned the sandwich world upside down, in the most beautiful and hilarious way. The Collard Green Melt and Fried Bologna Sandwiches are, on one hand, everyman’s food, and on the other hand, brilliantly inspired.

The Deli Deluxe at Martin’s Wine Cellar is a close cousin to the Sam at Stein’s

MY FAVORITE APPETIZER

OYSTER BLT, GRIS GRIS
1800 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130
Perfection on a plate. Smoked pork belly, tomato jam, crispy fried oysters, and sugarcane vinegar with a touch of heat.

OTHER FAVORITE APPETIZERS:
Shrimp and Tasso with Five-Pepper Jelly, Commander’s Palace
1403 Washington Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130
The first time I ate it I immediately ordered another before my entrée arrived.

MY FAVORITE ITALIAN

I spend 12 weeks a year working in Italy. When I’m home I typically don’t eat much Italian— not because I’m a Italophile or food snob about it, not at all— it’s just that I get my fill over there and want to enjoy other cuisines when I’m home. These three are all can’t-miss options.

Gianna
700 Magazine St #101, New Orleans, LA 70130

Domenica
123 Baronne St, New Orleans, LA 70112

The Italian Barrel
1240 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116

MY FAVORITE MEXICAN CUISINE

El Gato Negro

French Quarter, Lakeview, and Gretna
Get the wet-aged skirt steak any way they prepare it.

MY FAVORITE PIZZA

PIZZA DELICIOUS

617 Piety, New Orleans, LA 70117
Excellent pies.

MY FAVORITE BURGER

COMPANY BURGER

4600 Freret St, New Orleans, LA 70115
Everything I want in a burger joint.

(Note: Those who wait in line at Port of Call can get the same burger at Snug Harbor a few blocks away, without the wait)

MY FAVORITE THAI RESTAURANT

SUKHO THAI

2200 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70117
My family eats a fair amount of Thai food. This place is always spot on.

MY FAVORITE CHINESE

 

MISS SHIRLEY’S

3009 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115
I hate when I ask a server, “What’s good?” and the reply is, “It’s all good.” So, it pains me to say, with this recommendation, and in reference to their menu, it’s all good. It’s true.

MY FAVORITE OYSTER BAR

PASCAL’S MANALE

1838 Napoleon Ave, New Orleans, LA 70115
It’s an old-school stand-up oyster bar. The oysters are always cold and salty. My son and I go there for the raw oysters and always eat dinner somewhere else. He would probably tell you that Casamento’s is his favorite.

I also like eating oysters at Cooter Brown’s at the Riverbend (oysters always taste better in a dive bar).

MY FAVORITE ATMOSPHERE

SEAWORTHY

630 Carondelet St, New Orleans, LA 70130
The designers did such a great job on all aspects of this interior. Nothing formal. I love it. Killer oyster selection, too.

MY OFF-THE-BEATEN-PATH FAVORITE

ROSEDALE

801 Rosedale Drive New Orleans, LA 70124
You have to be going there to get there, but this Susan Spicer restaurant almost feels as if it were 100% tailor made for me— very casual, comfortable, with great service and excellent food. The barbeque shrimp served there should be the gold standard for all others. The fried chicken thighs ARE perfect.

MY FAVORITE TACOS

GALAXIE TACOS

 3060 St Claude Ave, New Orleans, LA 70117
The barbacoa tacos here are spot on. The converted gas station vibe is perfect, and there’s almost always a place to park on the neutral ground of St. Claude.

OTHER TACO JOINTS:
Val’s
4632 Freret St, New Orleans, LA 70115
there must be something about tacos served in a converted gas station that appeals to me.

MY FAVORITE GUMBO

GRIS GRIS

1800 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130
Eric Cook is quickly becoming one of my top-five favorite chefs in the city. His gumbo is so good it’s where I take out-of-town guests who have never eaten that particular dish before.

OTHER GUMBOS I LIKE:
Herbsaint
701 St Charles Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130

Station 6
105 Metairie-Hammond Hwy, Metairie, LA 70005

MY FAVORITE SOUP

SHRIMP AND SQUASH BISQUE: BRIGTSEN’S

723 Dante St, New Orleans, LA 70118
So good it’s worth mentioning twice in this list. I get a pint and take it home.

MY OFTEN-RECOMMENDED NOT-IN-ANOTHER-CATEGORY FAVORITES (the Link trifecta).

All are solid and never disappoint.

Herbsaint
701 St Charles Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130

Cochon
930 Tchoupitoulas St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Peche
800 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130

THE RESTAURANTS I TAKE MY VISITING EUROPEAN FRIENDS WHO HAVE NEVER BEEN TO NEW ORLEANS:

BRENNAN’S

417 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130
To me this is the quintessential New Orleans dining experience. Galitoire’s, Arnaud’s Antoine’s certainly all represent the city well, but Ralph Brennan is one of the country’s great restaurateurs. Best to leave my guest’s restaurant fate in his hands.

OTHER RANDOM FAVORITES

Mandina’s
3800 Canal St, New Orleans, LA 70119
the best red gravy in town. Also, the best spot for Monday lunch—Red Beans and Rice.

N7
1117 Montegut St, New Orleans, LA 70117
cool outdoor area. Solid French-inspired cuisine.

Horn’s
2440 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70117
another great locals-only breakfast spot.

Red’s Chinese
3048 St Claude Ave, New Orleans, LA 70117
three words: Kung Pao Pastrami.

Mosca’s
4137 US-90 West, Westwego, LA 70094
No need to make decisions, get the Spaghetti Bordelaise and the Oysters Mosca and eat them together.

 

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