It’s easy to miss Iris from its sedate, mullioned exterior on Saint Peters Street. It’s also easy to overlook the options this diminutive restaurant offers the hungry traveler. Step inside and you will find a space that looks and feels different from the soaring 19th century French and Spanish colonial architecture that dominates the Quarter. With its pale green walls and white accents, Iris feels distinctly American, tame and cottage-like. A quick look around and you’ll find the dining room’s most striking feature is the single wallpapered span of Van Gogh-like irises made by the design savvy Flavor Paper — a company who was based out of New Orleans at the time of the project (now Brooklyn), and is a choice indicative of the restaurant’s dedication to local sources.
Now make no mistake: for dinner, Iris is upscale with European and Southern-inspired main dishes running from $24-32, but worth it to try Michelin star trained Chef Ian Schnoebelen’s creations. But for those unable or unwilling to commit to reservations ahead of time, a different option exists. If you’re looking for quality cuisine in a relaxed setting, Iris offers a reasonably priced bar menu. This menu has many Asian and Latin touches and moves beyond the brown and fried. If this is more what you’re looking for, walk right in, pull up a stool to the bar and enjoy an elegant meal that reworks local ingredients into international flavors for well less than the price of the regular table menu.
Not only is the food fantastic, but cocktails shine at Iris as well. A seasonally-based and original specialty cocktail menu reveals drinks that read like entrees with multiple ingredients. At the bar, you’ll see a small farm’s worth of fresh herbs. In addition, Iris sources its fruit infusions and syrups from a local vendor. Craft cocktails run $11-12 and for those on a budget, there are moderate beer options. If you’re dining in a group you may go for this throwback: the punch bowl made with the bartender’s choice ingredients — $66 for six people.
As the weather warms up this spring, little Iris offers yet another variation: the chance to eat and drink in the gated courtyard nestled between the restaurant and the Bienville House hotel next door. It’s a pocket space just beyond the bar with a gorgeous view and a delightful place to escape.
321 North Peters St.
Phone: (504) 299-3944
Closed Tuesdays and Sundays
Bar from 5 p.m.; Dining room from 6 p.m.
Lunch Fridays only: 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.