Mama always said never to judge a book by its cover and, unless we’re on the topic of online dating, she was right. Often, the best things in life come in the form of hidden gems: those unassuming places (or people) that surprise you in the best of ways. We all know that New Orleans has great, well-known restaurants that splatter the covers of city guides and billboards or have earned prestigious culinary awards. But what about those that are slightly under the radar yet dishing out food that’s equally as amazing in flavor and technique? Here are ten hidden gem restaurants that you need to add to your to-eat list, and pronto:
Hidden Gems: Under-the-Radar NEW ORLEANS RESTAURANTS
1040 Elysian Fields Ave.
Get the real N’awlins experience at this unassuming po-boy and breakfast shop where popular menu items include chicken wings, hot sausage and cheese po-boys, and Philly cheesesteaks. And don’t miss their daily specials throughout the week like red beans and rice on Mondays, stewed chicken on Thursdays, and stuffed bell peppers on Saturdays. Just look for the pink building on Elysian Fields Avenue with the sign that reads OPEN 24 HRS.
3048 St. Claude Ave.
Tobias Womack and Amy Mosberger must have heard our desperate cry for some “think outside the box” Chinese food in New Orleans where you won’t find egg drop soup or moo goo gai pan on the menu. What you will find, however, is their version of General Tso’s chicken with bourbon soy, smoked peanuts, and cilantro along with fried rice flavored with pickled pineapple, egg, and bacon. Put this St. Claude Avenue restaurant on your list — but you’ll have to wait until after Aug. 25, as they are currently closed for summer break.
2700 Chartres St.
Szechuan-style Chinese food (finally!) makes its way to the Bywater on Chartres Street. Everything is made in-house, and it’s one of the only places you’ll find dan dan noodles, made with spicy pork and tea-smoked duck breast. The food they’re dishing out is unique enough to captivate and delicious enough to bring you back for more.
2533 Constance St.
Tucked away in the Irish Channel, this is the gathering spot for St. Patrick’s Day and home to one of the best roast beef po-boys in town. Stop in for a beer and a bite, and you’ll inevitably leave having learned something new about the city and made new friends. This is a dive bar at its finest, and the regulars are ready to break bread and clink beers with like-minded folks.
1201 Royal St.
Are you simultaneously craving meatloaf, country fried steak, veggie omelette, a grilled tuna salad, BLT, crab cakes, and a fried shrimp po-boy? Or is it just me…? No worries. I’ll just head on over to Verti Marte on Royal Street in the French Quarter where the options are more or less limitless and available 24/7. The caveat? Cash only. Good thing nothing on the menu is over 14 bucks.
900 Bourbon St.
Sometimes, there’s just nothing better than a diner-style cheeseburger and fries or a late-night syrup- and butter-drenched waffle. In the French Quarter if you don’t want to wait in the line for Camellia Grill, you should know that Clover Grill is just as nostalgic, delicious, and famously featured in the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. You can get a 24-hour breakfast for under $5 and a half-pound burger with chili and cheese for under $10. Just walk straight down Bourbon Street towards Esplanade Avenue, and look to your right.
4017 St. Claude Ave.
I’ve said it here (and here), and I’ll say it again: this little vegan restaurant on St. Claude is some of the best food you’ll find anywhere. The outside might not look like much, but the inside is inviting and smells heavenly. Each week the menu changes to reflect seasonal ingredients, but I stand true to the multi-grain patty sandwich and seasonal side salad with white balsamic dressing. Plus, “Sneaky Pickle” is just super fun to say.
7446 Garfield St.
If it’s Saturday and you find yourself in the Riverbend, starving, then you should try this Vietnamese convenience store/restaurant. They only prepare their pho, egg rolls, vermicelli noodle bowls, and banh mi on Saturdays, and I hope you don’t mind the Miami Dolphins, as the owner is a bit of a fan. And by a bit, I mean he’s their number one fan of all time.
1117 Montegut St.
This one’s a lot French, a little bit Japanese, and also serves hard-to-find imported canned goods, like lobster rillettes. It’s perhaps no surprise then that the restaurant itself is also a bit difficult to find, located on Montegut Street near Junction Bar and Grill, Red’s Chinese, and Sugar Park Pizza on St. Claude Avenue. The restaurant is quite small, but if you’re open minded to the menu, prepare to broaden your horizons.
3141 Ponce de Leon St. #1
Good things sometimes come in small packages, and such is the case for this Mid-City Mediterranean restaurant on Ponce de Leon. I went crazy for their hummus with toum, a dip of raw garlic blended with salt, oil, and lemon juice. The falafel is crispy, and all the vegetables are bright and fresh. Not a meat-heavy menu, but they always have a daily preparation of lamb, which is excellent.