New Orleans might bring to mind crawfish, biscuits and beignets, but the city has much more to offer than what can be found on Bourbon Street. NOLA has just about every type of cuisine you could imagine – whether you want to enjoy all those old school southern classics like red beans and rice or try the buzziest place in town, there’s truly something for everyone.
If you’re planning a trip to the Louisiana city and want to make sure to venture to the newest hot spots along with historic standbys, there are plenty of restaurants to add to your agenda all across the city.
Below, read on to discover the must-book restaurants, from classic Italian with a trendy twist to elegant French Creole favorites.
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209 Bourbon St., New Orleans, LA 70130
There’s a reason this fine dining establishment has stood the test of time. Since opening in 1905, the French Creole restaurant has welcomed the city’s finest, including politicians and celebrities, and you’ll feel like you’re stepping back in time when you walk into the lavish dining room, which is one of the country’s oldest. Tennessee Williams was a regular, and even included the restaurant in a scene in A Streetcar Named Desire. More recently, the iconic locale also got a shout out on American Horror Story: Apocalypse.
As for the menu? Make sure to order the soufflé potatoes—you’ll be thinking about them long after the meal is over. Pair the potatoes with a classic New Orleans cocktail (perhaps a Sazerac or the house specialty concoction) and sample the fresh Gulf Coast seafood. The shrimp remoulade and oysters en brochette (fried oysters with bacon) are two of their most famous appetizers.
Come prepared, though, because the timeless decor and elegant ambiance come with a strict dress code, so if you’re planning a trip to the restaurant, make sure to bring a jacket despite the heat, as collared shirts are required for gentlemen, with jackets a necessity in the evening. The tuxedoed waiters have been there for years and know the regulars by name. While buzzy restaurants emerge monthly in a city known for its hospitality scene, Galatoire’s remains the ultimate place to see and be seen.
123 Baronne St., New Orleans, LA 70112
Domenica is an Italian favorite for visitors and locals alike, housed inside the historic Roosevelt Hotel. This Central Business District dining room is perfect for happy hour cocktails with plates of pasta or private events in its hidden room, The Cellar, which is only accessible through the kitchen.
Originally helmed by Chef Alon Shaya (who later branched out to create the menu at Shaya, followed by Saba and Miss River), the menu truly has something for everyone. The vibes are immaculate—think crystal chandeliers and colorful modern art. Food photogs, beware, though, as it’s definitely not an Instagram restaurant. Instead, the lights are low, making it perfect for romantic dinner dates.
Order up a few of the pastas for the table to try, and while the pizza is delicious, it’s even better at the more casual Magazine Street counterpart Pizza Domenica. Make sure to try the burrata, which changes seasonally, or the fried tuscan kale, which is a must-order. Domenica also offers one of the best desserts in the city, and in a city full of pastry chefs, that’s really saying something. The Gianduja Budino, made with chocolate hazelnut pudding and chunks of chocolate bark, tastes like the childhood pudding your mom made, but with an adult twist and heaps of Nutella.
1403 Washington Ave., New Orleans, LA 70130
It’s not a trip to New Orleans without a stop in the Lower Garden District for the famous jazz brunch at Commander’s Palace…and, of course, a picture underneath the blue and white awning. This Creole restaurant has been a local landmark since 1893, and has won a whopping seven James Beard Foundation Awards.
The food here isn’t quite as creative as newer restaurants, but a reservation is more than worth it for the experience alone, as well as the cocktails. During lunch, Commander’s famously offers 25 cent martinis, so you can feel like you’re having a true Mad Men moment. Warning: the food is on the heavier side, so go hungry and prepare to indulge.
5757 Magazine St., New Orleans, LA 70115
If you’re a hummus aficionado, you’ll want to add this uptown Magazine Street restaurant to your must-visit New Orleans dining list. Saba has some of the best Israeli food in the country—seriously, it’s up there with Michael Solomonov’s spots in New York and Philadelphia.
After Alon Shaya left the Besh Group, he opened Saba, known for its puffy pita fresh out of the oven, salatim (the Hebrew word for salad) and selections of hummus with inventive ingredients. Go with friends so you can split the small plates; the labneh is unbeatable. You’ll also want to order a selection of hummus because one just isn’t enough. The Louisiana blue crab is a stand out, as well as the brussels sprouts with black garlic, which will convert even the most adamant of sprouts haters. The cocktails are equally exciting, mixing NOLA traditions with an Israeli influence.
Make a reservation in advance, as this spot fills up with locals fast, but pro tip: If you can’t get a reservation here, you can always check out the chef’s former restaurant, Shaya, which might have space available. The menus are rather similar, although the chef is still behind Saba, which means the menu is even more creative and innovative.
1245 Constance St., New Orleans, LA 70130
This modern Mexican restaurant in the Lower Garden District has been attracting attention since it opened in summer 2021. Lengua Madre is a true dining experience, and reservations are required for chef Ana Castro’s famous five-course tasting menu.
While Lengua Madre does accommodate allergies and dietary restrictions, don’t expect to see the menu beforehand. The restaurant’s website explains, “The element of unknown, immersion, and trust is part of the Lengua Madre experience.” That unknown element also seems to have helped Lengua Madre land on the New York Times 2021 restaurant list.
3637 Magazine St., New Orleans, LA 70115
Lilette is classic New Orleans but with an updated twist. Lunch at this uptown Magazine Street destination will make you feel like you’re dining in Europe in the best possible way, as the menu is inspired by both French and Italian cuisine. Lilette’s chef, John Harris, was named Best Chef by New Orleans Magazine and has been a James Beard finalist for the Best Chef South four times.
It’s romantic enough to take a date, but will also impress any relatives you bring along during lunchtime. If you can’t get a seat in the restaurant, the bar is also quite cozy. There are a few similar restaurants on Magazine Street if you’re searching for a tasteful but laid-back feel, but try Coquette or La Petite Grocery for an equally upscale vibe.
Turkey and the Wolf
739 Jackson Ave., New Orleans, LA 70130
Turkey and the Wolf will probably remind you of your go-to dive bar from back in the day. It’s still one of the city’s buzziest restaurants after opening in 2017 with a single sandwich; Chef Mason Hereford is famous for his twists on childhood comfort meals, which means there’s always a line out the door—and sometimes wrapping around the block.
The Lower Garden District hot spot sits on a residential street and serves up sandwiches, but they definitely aren’t boring lunch box classics. Instead, Hereford reimagines everyday ingredients. He’s famous for his Collard Green Melt, made with slow cooked collards, Swiss cheese and pickled peppers, in addition to his Fried Bologna and his reimagined Wedge Salad, made with everything bagel seasoning as a topping. End your meal with ice cream topped with potato chips.
Turkey and the Wolf won big with Bon Appetit in 2017, with the food magazine declaring, “The Best New Restaurant in America is a Sandwich Shop.” It also topped Food and Wine’s list as “Restaurant of the Year” and was nominated for a James Beard Award for best new restaurant. If you can’t make it (or don’t feel like waiting in line) there’s also a Turkey and the Wolf cookbook.