Deciding where to eat and drink in New Orleans can prove to be a challenge since now there are more choices than ever before. From the big names in local cuisine, to craft cocktails, to the common “where should I grab breakfast?” question, we’ve got your to-taste list of all the New Orleans food and drinks you have to have in 2014.
New Orleans Food and Drinks for 2014
1. Classic Cocktails – There’s always a time and place for a classic New Orleans cocktail. Breakfast calls for a Bloody Mary, and Commander’s Palace’s table-side version with ice block vodka scores high on both presentation and taste. The bartenders at the Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel and Bar Tonique on Rampart are masters at turning the Ramos Gin Fizz – a cold, smooth mixture of egg white, citrus juice, simple syrup, orange flower water shaken with cream – into works of art that simply must be seen (and sipped!) to believe. Enjoy a Sazerac at French 75 or sip on a French 75 while riding the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone.
2. Craft Cocktails – Just as a chef strives to combine unique flavors with food, bartenders are releasing their creativity upon us in the form of craft cocktails. Cure on Freret Street pioneered the movement here in New Orleans, where their ever-evolving menu has a drink to suit anyone’s fancy. Bellocq in the Hotel Modern is popular for their crushed ice cobblers with fresh fruit and herbs, and Cane and Table serves up rum-focused potions inside hollowed-out pineapples.
3. New Restaurants – The Bywater neighborhood has two more great reasons to visit – the contemporary Italian fare at Mariza and International cuisine inspired by street food at Booty’s. Both offer eloquently designed spaces, modern menus and a taste of something unexpected. Tableau in Jackson Square hits a little closer to home with French and Creole dishes like oyster en brochette, shrimp and grits, and a shining version of eggs Sardou. Get a taste of the Gulf at Peche in the Warehouse District where raw oysters, whole grilled fish with chimichurri, seafood gumbo, and curried mussels with fried potatoes are all on the menu.
4. Coming Soon/Spankin’ New Restaurants – Israel’s own Doris Metropolitan has opened its doors on Chartres Street in the French Quarter, specializing in rare cuts of beef and other premier meats. Marti’s on Dumaine gives new meaning to cozying up at the bar – here you can sip glasses of French sparkling wine and nosh on roast oysters with pimento butter. The Uptown neighborhood welcomes Ivy, Chef Sue Zemanick’s take on tapas-style dining and Pizza Domenica will be bringing their beloved pizzas to Magazine Street in early spring. Also, just opened is Chef Michael Gulotta’s Vietnamese-inspired MoPho, where he’ll be pushing the envelope with dishes like pho with duck sausage and chicken dumplings, crispy beef cheek vermicelli bowls, and crispy rice cake wrapped with lardo.
5. Big Names – The culinary Godfathers of Louisiana. Chef John Besh, with his impressive list of restaurants, three best-selling cookbooks, and non-profit foundation, it’s fair to say that Besh is as acclaimed a chef as he is businessman and philanthropist. Chef Donald Link and his team continue to preserve the skill of South Louisiana-style cooking at Herbsaint, Cochon, Cochon Butcher, and Peche. The Brennan family name continues to thrive with newcomers SoBou from the Commander’s Palace restaurant family and Tableau from the Dickie Brennan Restaurant Group. And Chef Susan Spicer’s award-winning Bayona continues to be a restaurant worthy of celebrating special occasions, while Mondo, her more casual Lakeview hot spot, celebrates everyday cuisine from around the world. And, needless to say, the man who needs no introduction: Emeril Lagasse.
6. Breakfast/Brunch – The best meal of the day just got even better. Rivista on Magazine Street offers French pastries, egg dishes incorporating market fresh produce, seasonal pancakes, and the best gluten-free pumpkin muffin you’ve ever had in your life. New to Mid-City is Biscuits & Buns on Banks, a tiny breakfast and lunch spot specializing in (you guessed it!) biscuits. Except here they come smothered in Andouille and chorizo gravy. Check out five more of the newer breakfast offerings in New Orleans where we go to start our day.
7. Beignets – We all know the name Café du Monde, and for good reason. Don’t let the long lines deter you from experiencing the pillow-soft, sugary beignets and chicory coffee that are unique to this century old café. But if you happen to find yourself in City Park, Morning Call is a more than adequate substitution. In fact, you may not know this, but there are two kinds of people in this world: Café du Monders and Morning Callers – which one are you?
8. “New Wave” Coffee – Like the cocktail, coffee has gone and gotten itself all fancy. Tasty, too. Try the nitrate-brewed blend at District Donuts Sliders Brew, the pour-over methods at Church Alley and HiVolt, and the brew on wheels from Brigade and French Truck Coffee.
9. Classic Dishes – You simply can’t visit or live in New Orleans without trying a few of the dishes that make this city famous. Get your gumbo on at Restaurant R’evolution, eat your red beans and rice on Monday at Willie Mae’s Scotch House, enjoy spicy crawfish etouffee at Muriel’s, and share a Central Grocery muffaletta with someone you love.
10. International Food – Our ethnic options here in New Orleans are some of my favorites. Vietnamese food has an increasingly strong presence, and places like Ba Chi Canteen on Maple Street serve up some excellent pho (pronounced “fuh”), bun bowls (pronounced “boon”) and a little creation called “bacos” that consist of pillow-soft steamed rice buns stuffed with various meats, seafood, or tofu. Love banh mi poboys? Dong Phuong Bakery in New Orleans East has the absolute best. Carmo on Julia Street serves up some eclectic food with flavors inspired by Brazilian and Southeast Asian cuisine and a delicious list of cocktails, to boot. Filipino food has also made a recent arrival to the International New Orleans culinary scene with MilkFish on Fulton Street. I am eager to try the Kare-Kare, a dish of oxtail stewed in peanut butter with eggplant and bok choy, served with rice and traditional Bagoong (aka: fish) sauce.
11. Street Food – It can be difficult to choose a dining option in New Orleans, but sometimes the food comes to you. Often parked outside of Kingpin Bar on Upperline is Taceaux Loceaux, the locally loved and Anthony Bourdain approved taco truck, with creations like “Messin’ With Texas” – slow-cooked brisket combined with crunchy radishes, cabbages, and cilantro. Frencheeze is dedicated to all things grilled cheese and La Cocinita serves up warm arepas and bean bowls to hungry bar-goers on Magazine Street. The ever-growing list of food trucks is too long to post here but follow MyHouseNola for information on upcoming food truck roundups or visit www.NolaFoodTrucks.com.
12. Fest Food – Jazz Fest will be here before we know it! Show that hangover whose boss with Miss Linda’s YaKaMein – a rich beef noodle soup topped with hard-boiled egg. Another favorite is the crawfish bread from Panaroma Foods, Alligator Sauce Piquant from Fireman Mike’s Kitchen, WWOZ’s Mango Freeze, and of course, Love at First Bite’s Cochon de Lait Poboy. Memorial Day weekend, right after Jazz Fest, means it’s time for Greek Fest in City Park! Sample all kinds of traditional Greek food, including gyros, feta fries, baklava sundaes and much, much more. And lest we forget the greatest festival of all – Mardi Gras! Only weeks away now, so make sure to stock up on plenty of king cakes, jambalaya, and Popeye’s Fried Chicken!
13. Classic Spins – Putting a spin on familiar New Orleans favorites is a fun way to approach modern dining while giving a nod to tradition. MiLa in the Pere Marquette serves up their “deconstructed” rendition of Oysters Rockefeller with bacon chips, spinach, and licorice root. Red beans and rice becomes even more decadent at Capdeville, where it’s fried and served with a green onion aioli and reduced hot sauce. At La Petite Grocery, people can’t get enough of Top Chef-testant Justin Devillier’s blue crab beignets with malt vinegar aioli, and Chef Nathaniel Zimet at Boucherie gilds the lily by making his bread pudding with Krispie Kreme donuts.
14. Farmers Markets – Louisiana is home to exceptional locally grown produce. Sample and purchase the best of what’s to offer at weekly New Orleans farmers markets. The Crescent City Farmers Market takes place three times a week in different locations for your buying convenience: Tuesdays from 9am to 1pm in the Uptown Square parking lot off River Road, Thursdays from 3pm to 7pm on Orleans Avenue in Mid-City, and Downtown on Saturdays from 8am to noon. No time to shop? Have Hollygrove Market and Farm deliver boxes of seasonally selected produce right to your front door via the Good Eggs platform.