Beyond the Beignet: Our Favorite New Orleans Restaurants

Traditional New Orleans Cuisine

Food is religion in New Orleans. And if you’ve been there, you’ll know why it’s such a food lovers’ paradise. If you haven’t well…you need to. What makes New Orleans (aka the Big Easy) such a culinary heaven begins with its colorful history, a melding of Creole, Cajun, and African-American cultures. Traditional New Orleans cuisine stems from this unique mix of cuisines.

New Orleans Poster

A plethora of famous chefs have come out of New Orleans to become household names. Emeril Lagasse, John Besh and Leah Chase to name a few. Whether dining at an upscale tuxedo-waitered white linen locale or a funky neighborhood joint, it’s all about the quality of the food. After spending a week in this sultry, fun, cultural melting pot, we frequented some pretty amazing places.

Sampling some popular foods totally synonymous with traditional New Orleans cuisine was the best treat of all. These are our current favorite New Orleans restaurants. Some familiar and some excitingly new places that absolutely just knocked our socks off!

Our Seven Favorite New Orleans Restaurants

Café du Monde- Café au Lait and Beignets
Cafe du Monde's famous Beignets Traditional New Orleans Food

Let’s face it. You cannot go to New Orleans and not visit this landmark café. Think traditional New Orleans food and many people think beignet. Since 1862, the iconic Café du Monde has been selling its chicory café au laits and world-famous beignets in historic Jackson Square.

The beignet (pronounced ben-yay) is a square French doughnut served steaming-hot and covered in loads of powdered sugar-did I say loads? Part of the experience is also having your clothes covered in powdered sugar. It’s ok; people will understand and know where you’ve been. Oh, and you may not want to wear black.

Acme Oyster House- Po-Boys and Charbroiled Oysters
Charbroiled Oysters at Acme Oyster House

“Is it worth the wait”? That is the question often asked about the oldest oyster bar in the French Quarter. And the answer is a definite yes. However, if you’re a savvy traveler, you can get there a little before the crowds build up. What makes this seafood joint so incredible is their really fresh oysters. Watch them being shucked as ordered right behind the bar as you wait. The succulent raw oysters are must-do’s here- it is an oyster house after all. But if raw isn’t your thing, try the immensely popular garlicky charbroiled oysters. The restaurant claims they will “change your life”. Never had them before but we loved them!

Po Boy at Acme Oyster House Traditional New Orleans Cuisine

And no visit to New Orleans is complete without trying a famous Po-Boy. The shrimp po-boy is lightly fried, dressed with lettuce, tomato, pickles and a classic “Naw’lins” remoulade served in a crunchy French roll.

Central Grocery- Muffuletta

Located on Decatur Street in the middle of New Orleans French Quarter, Central Grocery is a third generation, old-fashioned grocery store founded in 1906 by Salvatore Lupo. This Sicilian immigrant famously created the muffuletta. The muffuletta is just after the beignet when you think traditional New Orleans food. The scrumptious deli sandwich is served on round Italian bread with sesame seeds. The bread is spread with a delicious olive salad then filled with meats and cheeses like ham, capicola, salami, mortadella, mozzarella, and provolone. Trust me, there’s nothing like it anywhere else.

Louisiana Bistro- “Feed Me” Menu
Louisiana Bistro Crispy Duck Breast

This contemporary Creole French Quarter restaurant is famous for its innovative on the fly “Feed Me” tasting menu, a freestyle menu featuring the freshest ingredients and the chef’s own unique creations. Consequently, the five-course dinner can change nightly depending on what’s freshest and in-season. Tops on our list was the mouth-watering Crispy Duck Breast with a tasso and sweet potato hash and fig whisky glaze.

We’ve never before had a dessert the likes of the chef’s Creole cheesecake-flavored ice cream topped with fresh berries and finished with a balsamic reduction. As one patron at a table nearby proclaimed “Last time I was in New Orleans, I couldn’t get in here. This time we did and it’s been phenomenal”. We couldn’t agree more!

Trinity New Orleans- Crispy Pork Belly

Just opened in May, 2016, the sleek, modern but comfy restaurant overlooking the Ursuline Convent in French Quarter New Orleans. Trinity provides a new twist for the New Orleans restaurant scene and has totally revitalized the Lower French Quarter. Though the restaurant utilizes locally familiar ingredients, Chef Michael Isolani creates unfamiliar and imaginative dishes with those fresh ingredients and menus change seasonally.

Trinity's Crispy Pork Belly Favorite New Orleans Restaurants

Our four-course dinner was nothing short of exquisite. But the two highlights of the evening had to be the succulent Crispy Pork Belly served with a caramel sauce and pickled red onions. Also delectable, the tender melt-in-your mouth Duck Confit with a red wine reduction served over a potato salad and chicory greens.

Antoine’s Restaurant-Shrimp Remoulade and Oysters Rockefeller

The oldest French Creole fine-dining restaurant in New Orleans still owned and operated by fifth generation relatives of the original founder. Antoine Alciatore has been serving guests for an unbelievable 176 years.

Tuxedoed waiters deliver mouthwatering Creole favorites like Shrimp Roumalade- Louisiana shrimp served cold in Antoine’s special remoulade dressing. The creation of Oysters Rockefeller in 1889, so aptly named for the richness of the sauce, made Antoine’s famous. Truly a mainstay of the New Orleans culinary scene, Antoine’s is also known for the restaurants 14 unique, historical dining rooms, each with a fascinating story to tell.

Grand Isle Restaurant-Smoked Fried Oysters and Alligator Wings
Grand Isle's Chef Haigler Favorite New Orleans Restaurants

If fresh seafood inspired by coastal Louisiana fish camps sounds great like it did for us, don’t miss the experience of Grand Isle located within a bricked courtyard near the Convention Center. Chef Ryan Haigler knows his seafood.

Grand Isle Restaurant-Smoked Fried Oysters

And that seafood is locally sourced from none other than Louisiana’s Grand Isle. This remote oasis barrier island boasts miles of beaches, boundless wildlife and world-class fishing. Nothing on the menu we tasted was anything less than spectacular. But we have to give huge kudos to the creamy, flavorful Smoked Fish Chowder brimming with smoked gulf fish, roasted corn and red pepper. A specialty of the restaurant, the Smoked Fried Oysters are lightly fried and served with a roasted jalapeno garlic aioli. So good you can’t stop eating.

Though not an “off the hook” entrée, we just had to try the Alligator Wings, tender alligator morsels prepared with a sweet hot citrus glaze and a whipped bleu cheese dipping sauce. Chef Haigler’s explanation of the entrée was succinct. “Since it behaves like a chicken wing, we treat it like a chicken wing.”

New Orleans Grand Isle's Alligator Wings

So be it dives to haute creole palaces, there really is nowhere else in the world where the food tastes so divine. Mark Twain once said that “New Orleans food is as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin”. And we all know how wise Mark Twain was.

Noreen L. Kompanik
Noreen L. Kompanik

Noreen L. Kompanik is a registered nurse and freelance writer and photographer based in San Diego, California. Fortunate to have lived overseas as a Naval Officer’s wife, she has traveled extensively and her many Italian and other European adventures have sparked her passion for cooking and wine tasting.

A member of the International Travel Writers and Photographers Association, Noreen is a frequent contributor to several online and print publications. She shares her latest adventures, photos, and published stories on her What’s In Your Suitcase? Facebook page. Her stories reflect her love for travel, history, adventure and family.

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