The humidity drops, Casamento’s re-opens (yay, oysters!) … it’s fall in New Orleans. Take note as restaurant menus around town begin the subtle shift to dishes with a little more heft – richer, deeper, tweaked to include what’s new at farmers’ markets – yet not overwhelmingly heavy. This is the time to be like a tree and leave…room to check out these newer spots feeling fall and all.
1913 Royal St.; (504) 948-6670
The ramen thing is real. Usuke, chef-owner of the Little Tokyo franchise (there are several in the New Orleans metro area), has created a noodle-house focal point with a list of brothy, flavorful ramen bowls to slurp. Choose a base, throw in some additional toppings, and feast. This combo is a favorite: start with the Pork Rib Tonkotsu Ramen, then add curry, fried garlic, egg, and seaweed. The Tako Yaki – octopus fritters – are outstanding with a slight seafood brininess and wisps of bonito flakes.
231 N. Carrollton Ave.; (504) 609-3871
Tucked neatly into a strip center on Carrollton (steps from the Canal streetcar line), there is homey comfort found in the Toasted Pimento Cheese sandwich with sliced apples and apple-pecan chutney; Truffled Egg Salad on a buttery croissant; or Vinegar-Braised Beef Short Ribs over creamy grits at Brown Butter. Do not miss the fried Brussels sprouts with Lemon Salt, and for dessert, the silky, rich (and perfect) crème brulee in a jar.
611 O’Keefe Ave, Unit C7; (504) 309-9422
Chef-owner Adam Biderman’s newest cheeseburger haven is in the new SoMa (South Market) District. Conveniently positioned near sports arenas, it’s just the spot to grab a straight-up delicious cheeseburger with house-made pickles, and onions — add the bacon for smoke and warmth. Drag sweet potato waffle fries through their basil mayo, or get some fluffy fried pork rinds and pimento cheese for scooping. Best part: a seat at the bar means full service (no need to stand in line!) and great cocktails or beers to go with your food.
1200 Carondelet Street; (504) 523-6247
Hiding in plain sight, Mais Arepas is a block off St. Charles Avenue at Clio (affectionately called “C-L-10”) and Carondolet. Colombian-style appetizers and arepas (think cornmeal-based pita), split and stuffed with meats, cheese, avocado, and sweet plantains are a mainstay, but on cool or cloudy sweater-weather days, it’s all about the Ajiaco, a creamy-herby, Andean potato stew with shredded chicken and avocado and rice on the side: the food version of a cozy blanket. Yep, there’s a killer dessert here too — passion fruit flan.
5 Press Street; (504) 249-5622
This restaurant is a project of The NOCCA Institute, the fund-raising arm for the arts-academics high school on the cusp of the Marigny/Bywater neighborhoods. Chef James Cullen oversees the menu and restaurant operations for students taking the school’s culinary course. The food is smart, straightforward, and thoughtful to seasonality and simplicity with salads, sandwiches, and brunch-y things. The BBQ Moules Frites are a stunner, perfect for a chilly day. The mussels are first steamed in garlic, thyme, white wine, and butter, then tossed into a big bowl and served warm with a drape of savory New Orleans-style “BBQ” sauce (meaning more butter, lemon, pepper, Worcestershire) and a lot of love. Crisp, hand-cut fries come alongside. Ask for a spoon to get… Every. Single. Drop. Of. Sauce.
715 St. Charles Ave.; (504) 581-6333
Italian food in New Orleans is a breed all its own – the red sauce leans toward the sweeter side. At Marcello’s, there is middle ground and lots of lovely home-style dishes. The pastas are tender (there’s even a gluten-free option); salads, soups, and mains are nicely portioned. Go for pork cheeks slow braised and sauced with Marsala and demi-glace go over soft, Parmesan polenta; lasagna; or the Chicken Cacciatore, with that tangy, slightly sweet red sauce and seasonal root vegetables. Check out the wine market, and order an Espresso Martini (vanilla vodka, espresso, and RumChata) for dessert.
4213 Magazine Street; (504) 891-4213
A lot has been written on Chef Alon Shaya’s Mediterranean Mecca on Magazine Street, for good reason. Shaya is new, fun, and the food is knock-out at lunch or dinner (reservations required for dinner with two-weeks advance recommended). Of course, their wood-fired pita bread is glorious, and so, too, is a collection of small dishes filled with dips or composed vegetable “salads.” Order one of the hummus options (they’re all delicious) and the ridiculously decadent Roasted Cabbage with Muhammara. For tartare fans, the Kibbeh Nayah is this side of heaven when scooped with torn pieces of the buttery, flaky Yemenite flatbread. Share the Slow-Cooked Lamb, and then collapse over a hot Halva cappuccino.