New Orleans restaurants and bars
The Little Jewel of New Orleans channels the South with a lively deli and marketplace in Chinatown, selling shrimp and oyster po'boys, muffulettas and fried catfish platters, which customers dig into at tables just steps away from the counter. The market section of Little Jewel carries essential Southern spices, sauces and regional beans; look for brands like Slap Ya Mama! and Bayou Magic. Wondering why that jambalaya tastes so good? All of Little Jewel's sausages and cooking meats are made in-house.
Harold & Belle's has been around since 1969. The white tableclothed restaurant in an otherwise casual, paper-plate neighborhood offers New Orleans-style cooking with a side of jazz. After an extensive renovation, the Creole eatery will open in mid-February—just in time for Mardi Gras!—with a new event space and an updated bar. Expect savory (but not explosively hot) gumbo, catfish po'boys, Southern fried chicken and étouffée, then finish with some of the best Louisiana bread pudding in town.
Restaurants with a split personality are often seen as suffering from an identity crisis, but at Downtown's Preux & Proper, that split is evident on purpose. Downtairs, Preux is the lively gentleman, with a bar drenched in beads and slinging frozen daiquiris from machines on the wall. Upstairs, Proper is the Southern belle, featuring an oyster bar and white, hand-carved wood walls. The menu is steadfast in its purpose—while the goal is to incorporate Southern California ingredients into traditional New Orleans dishes (think: avocado slices in a lobster po’boy), they really stick to their roots. Here you'll find gulf shrimp and crab cakes, crispy frog legs and fried oyster po’boys, along with an insanely delicious plate of shrimp beignets. Don't want a full meal? Stick to the downstairs bar and slurp on a frozen daiquiri or moonshine-based cocktail.
Despite being situated in the middle of Hollywood, it’s easy to imagine Tennessee Williams as a regular at Sassafras. Walk past what looks like a patio on the Bayou—weeds creep out of the ceiling above the wicker chairs—to the long bar framed by odd family heirlooms and dangling bottles of barrel-aged cocktails in constant rotation (literally, on an ancient dry cleaning rack). Then turn your attention to the menu, which recently revamped itself: the Rutte of all Evil (Rute celery gin, lime juice, celery-apple shrub and bergamot bitters), for instance, or the Country Lovin' (pepper butter-washed white whiskey, honey-corn syrup, Peychaud's Bitters and a whole egg). The homemade ginger beer here is phenomenal, and the live music can be just as enthralling.
Orleans & York Deli has a few locations across Los Angeles—a Downtown spot, along with a few South LA delis—but wherever you go, you'll find the same quality po'boys, gumbos and platters of fried oyster, catfish and shrimp. Though the founder, Sami Othman, is a New Yorker through and through, his love of New Orleans cuisine led him to create this Yankee/Southern hybrid. Come hungry: the po'boys here are absolutely massive, and the shrimp version has chunks of shrimp so big you'd swear they were raised in a test tube. Fried platters come with fries and coleslaw, and a variety of muffulettas range from smoked oysters to roast beef. At the Downtown location, diners can choose to sit at the inside counter or on scattered tables outside—and we highly recommend crossing the street to Grand Central Market for some ice cream afterward.
Welcome to the Little Easy, where live jazz plays in a charming French colonial courtyard dappled with chandelier light. As you sip Sazeracs between bites of catfish po’ boys, you just might forget where you are—which, by the way, is inside the basement of Downtown's century-old Alexandria Hotel. Thanks to a Disney-esque design—the centerpiece being an indoor patio complete with a fountain, wrought-iron fence and distressed shutters—the space has been transformed into an antebellum straight out of NOLA’s Garden District. All kitsch aside, authentic Cajun fare by Mississippi-born chef Brian Garrigues paired with expertly crafted libations give the Little Easy some real down-South cred. For Angelenos in need of a little hospitality and deep-fried solace, it’s just what the doctor ordered.
Redondo Beach might be the last place you go to look for Cajun food, but Ragin Cajun Cafe is serving some crazy good Southern cuisine to South Bay residents. First opened in Hermosa Beach in 1992, Ragin Cajun later moved to its Redondo location and immediately gained a fanatic following. Highlights here include the étouffée (a gumbo-like, thick soup made with roux, onions and celery), po'boys and bayou bowls, along with traditional appetizers like fried okra and oysters. If you can't make it to the restaurant, keep an eye out for the Ragin Cajun truck—they post their daily whereabouts here.
Opened in 2012, Sal's Gumbo Shack channels your mom's cooking straight from the kitchen—you know, if your mom was really, really good at making Louisiana fare. Regulars here rave about the gumbo, a hearty broth filled with chicken, sausage, shrimp and crab legs over rice, as well as the addictive jambalaya and hefty po'boys. End your meal with a slice of peach cobbler and you're golden.
Once called Five0Four, Royal is a tribute to all things New Orleans, and is described as having "Hollywood looks with Southern swagger." We have a tendency to agree—the lively bar attracts a good-looking crowd who isn't afraid to let loose (with the help of moonshine, perhaps?). Plenty of open seating and space to mill around increases the chances of meeting a fellow Saints fan, or even just scoping out what your neighbor is eating (we recommend the catfish po'boy or Royal burger with cheese). A selection of frozen daiquiris can ease you into your night before you settle on a classic French 75—or, for the less classy among us, a Drunken Watermelon made with watermelon moonshine.