New Orleans gets a lot of attention for being a town that’s all about some good eating whether it’s brunch, dinner, or late night. But I’ve noticed that not enough attention is paid to the midday meal, the fuel for afternoon office productivity, or in some cases, the epic pre-game (read: booze up) chow down before sundown.
In an effort to bring more attention to the lunch scene in NOLA, I’ve comprised a list of ten places that cover all the bases for whatever kind of “supper,” as my grandmother used to say, you’re looking for: boozy, upscale, casual, vegetarian, or budget friendly. Lunch in New Orleans is just as exciting and delicious as all of the other meals, so let’s get out there and sample some epic midday eats.
Commander’s Palace – Chances are that if you’ve visited or lived in New Orleans for any extended amount of time, you have graced this Washington Avenue restaurant with your presence… and the contents of your wallet. Luckily, Commander’s is also home to one of the best boozy lunch deals in town: the 25-cent martini. Up to 3 martinis per person are just 25 cents each with the price of any entrée.
Choose from the Classic (gin or vodka and as dirty or clean as you like it), Commander’s (a vibrant blue concoction with Curacao that matches the restaurant’s exterior), Cosmopolitan (this one gets its pink hue from cranberry, triple sec, and lime), or Ray’s Melon (one word: Midori). Go ahead, get your drink on, N’awlins-style.
Lunch is served weekdays from 11:30 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.
Domenica – Another incredible deal is the happy hour that takes place 7 days a week (!) at Domenica inside the Roosevelt Hotel in the Central Business District. (The restaurant’s more casual spinoff, Pizza Domenica, offers a slightly different happy hour; call for more details). If you’re one of those late lunch-goers, then every afternoon is yours to enjoy half-price pizzas and wines by the glass, well cocktails, and beers. I’m no mathematician, but a $7.50 smoked pork pizza with Anaheim chili and salsa verde and a $5 glass of wine sounds like a wicked deal to me.
Happy hour is offered daily at Domenica from 2:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. and Monday through Friday at Pizza Domenica from 3:00 p.m. until 5 p.m.
Herbsaint – Watch the streetcars pass by on St. Charles Avenue in the Warehouse District while enjoying beautiful dishes from chef Donald Link and chef de cuisine Rebecca Wilcomb like the gnocchi with pancetta and Parmesan broth or grilled tuna sandwich on olive bread with lemon-pickle aioli. The daytime ambience is beautiful, and al fresco dining is available if fresh air suits your fancy. Dress up and make an afternoon of it.
Lunch is served weekdays from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.
Ralph’s on the Park – Located on City Park Avenue with a gorgeous view of the park itself, this Brennan family-owned restaurant is an upscale dining gem in the Mid-City area. Enjoy classics like turtle soup au sherry and barbecue shrimp, or get adventurous with dishes like the Crawfish Changua, a Columbian milk soup with poached egg, spiced yogurt, and basil oil. Two-course lunch specials are available for under $30.
Lunch is served Tuesday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.
St. Roch Market – If you find yourself in the Marigny/Bywater area and are jonesin’ for something delicious but not quite sure what food you’re in the mood for, then the newly opened St. Roch Market is just the ticket. Choose from more than a dozen vendors selling everything from coffee and fresh-pressed juices to pulled pork sandwiches to Korean and Nigerian delicacies. The bright, white walls, open floor plan, and high ceilings make St. Roch Market feel fancy, but feel free to rock those Lululemon shorts straight from the gym.
Open daily from 9:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m.
Parkway Bakery & Tavern – Comfort food in New Orleans comes in many forms, but none are as accessible and portable as a po-boy. Parkway Tavern in Mid-City has gained a loyal following since 1929, when the “poor boy” was added to the menu and remains one of the city’s favorite places for an overstuffed fried shrimp, oyster, or roast beef with debris. There are no rules or clothing suggestions for eating a po-boy; just please don’t call it a sandwich.
Open every day except Tuesday from 11:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m.
Back to the Garden – Healthy food options in New Orleans? They exist. This Warehouse District lunch spot serves downtown workers and visitors daily their delicious salads, soups, and sandwiches. Eaters of all dietary preferences can find something to enjoy, but some popular vegetarian items are the garden delight salad with tamari dressing, an avocado and egg salad sandwich, or specials like the vegetable stir fry and veggie tacos.
Open Monday-Friday, 7:30 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. and on Saturday from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. Closed Sundays.
At Parkway Bakery & Tavern, there are no rules or clothing suggestions for eating a po-boy; just please don’t call it a sandwich.
Sneaky Pickle – Take a trip to the Bywater/9th Ward for a bite out of some of the best vegan and vegetarian food you’ll find anywhere. Chef Ben Tabor has created a space and a menu where vegans and meat eaters can break bread together while enjoying locally sourced produce and wholesome ingredients. My favorite sandwich is the multigrain burger on brioche with vegan aioli, but the flatbreads and seasonal salads are amazing as well.
Open 7 days a week from 11:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m.
Central Grocery – Many places in New Orleans claim to have the “original muffuletta sandwich,” but Central Grocery on Decatur Street is where a Sicilian immigrant originally created the sandwich in 1906. Oversized buns of locally baked sesame seed focaccia are stuffed with salami, ham, mortadella, mozzarella, and provolone and then topped with the restaurant’s famous olive salad with pickled veggies. Grab a whole sandwich for $16 and share with 2–4 people, depending on how hungry you are. Or just get a half for $9. This sandwich plus a bag of Zapp’s chips? You’ve got yourself a shareable, low-cost lunch that’s even better eaten the next day as leftovers.
Open Tuesday – Sunday from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Closed on Mondays.
The Milk Bar – I feel like sandwiches are synonymous with lunchtime, and this Aussie-owned sandwich shop in the Riverbend has awesome sandwich creations with fun names like the “Psycho Chicken” and “Shrimply the Best,” all served warm on crunchy ciabatta bread. Milk Bar also serves up some unique po-boys, like chicken Parmesan, roast lamb, and Thai chili chicken. Your wallet will thank you because all sandwiches are priced at under $10 and easy to share, but don’t miss out on the hand-dipped milkshakes for an extra $3.50! The “Go Bananas” and “Butterscotch Hop” are my personal favorites.
Open Monday – Saturday from 11:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. Closed on Sundays.