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Chef Nina Compton of Compere Lapin - New Orleans, LA
Photograph: StarChefs/Compere LapinDuo of Beef, Ceci Beans, Roasted Carrots, and Foie Gras

The best restaurants in New Orleans right now

Try top versions of the classics or international fare with a local twist at the best restaurants in New Orleans

Written by
Gerrish Lopez
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With culinary influences that include African, Caribbean, French, Spanish and Italian, plus regional Cajun and Creole cuisine, the best restaurants in New Orleans serve up food you won’t find anywhere else in the country. No visit to the city is complete without trying iconic dishes like gumbo, jambalaya, or red beans and rice – and you’ll have no problem finding excellent versions of these dishes around town – but don’t miss out on some of the more modern cuisine on offer, too. From fine dining institutions to casual neighborhood joints, these restaurants will tempt your taste buds, whether you’re seeking out the classics or something more eclectic with an only-in-New-Orleans twist.

As one of the greatest cities for food, you’re sure to have a list of restaurants to try as long as your list of things to do in New Orleans. From famous restaurants to beignet spots (not to mention all the great bars), a culinary tour of New Orleans can be a whirlwind experience (don’t worry about the calories, just visit a jazz club and dance them all away). While you may not know the best season for shrimp, crab, crawfish, or creole tomatoes, you’re in good hands at these top spots. Make a reservation at one of the grande dames of Crescent City dining, like Galatoire’s or Commander’s Palace, for classics like turtle soup, oysters Rockefeller, or shrimp remoulade. Or seek out some relatively newer spots like Compère Lapin or Maypop that infuse Louisiana cuisine with other global flavors. For something more casual, nothing beats an overstuffed shrimp po-boy at institutions like Parkway Bakery & Tavern.

Wherever you choose to dine, the best restaurants in New Orleans will have you coming back for more.

Best restaurants in New Orleans

The crown jewel of the Brennan food empire, this landmark Garden District restaurant has been a beacon of fine dining since 1880. There’s no resting on laurels here, though: Chefs Paul Prudhomme, Emeril Lagasse, Jaime Shannon, Tory McPhail and now Meg Bickford have nurtured the Creole menu while making their own marks. The iconic Victorian mansion is the perfect setting for an intimate meal, large celebration or relaxed 25-cent martini lunch. Turtle soup is a must, the bread pudding soufflé provides an excellent finish and everything in between will impress.

Chef Donald Link’s restaurant group is heavy on the James Beard awards, bestowed upon loads of chefs that have passed through his flagship restaurant. This Central Business District favorite is consistently packed with a mix of the after-work business crowd, local families and tourists. Local farmers and fishermen are well represented on the seasonal menu that combines French, Southern and rustic Italian influences. Daily lunch and dinner specials always impress alongside standards like house-made spaghetti with a poached farm egg or duck confit with dirty rice, all enhanced by an eclectic wine list.

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This century-old Victorian cottage tucked away in the Riverbend is home to some of the best modern Creole fare in the city. Chef Frank Brigtsen updates classic dishes in a straightforward way with delicious results. Perfect after enjoying a stroll through the surrounding neighborhood, it’s an excellent option for sampling New Orleans cooking in an intimate, friendly setting that feels like a friend’s home. Each dish—from the rabbit gumbo and maque choux to shrimp rémoulade and trout meuniere—is made with care and full of flavor.

This Garden District gem has the vibe of a neighborhood bistro but the menu of a forward-thinking, adventurous kitchen. The small list changes regularly to reflect what’s fresh and local, as well as what creative twists chefs Kristen Essig and Michael Stoltzfus have come up with. Entrées have included black drum in vegetable sauce with fennel sausage and Mexican street corn-style okra and red snapper with butter beans. Can't decide? The five-course blind tasting option is always full of surprises.

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This bright, welcoming spot from Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski elevates the boucherie and the flavors of Cajun country with refined takes on boudin, andouille and head cheese. Pork, seafood and produce are locally sourced and prepared in-house. The cocktail list includes flights of moonshine to get you prepped for rabbit and dumplings, cochon with cracklings, “fisherman’s style” whole Gulf fish or smoked short rib with chanterelles. The setting—anchored by heavy wood tables—is rustic yet contemporary, reflective of its Warehouse District location. Stop next door at Cochon Butcher to take home a few meaty treats.

New Orleans has plenty of restaurants serving the classics, but Gris-Gris takes them to new heights, with updates that are more than just trendy twists on the original. An oyster BLT comes with smoked pork belly, tomato jam, arugula and sugar cane vinegar, while the standout duck breast—topped with local molasses and a sugarcane demi-glace—is served with a roasted sweet potato and pecan casserole. Chef Eric Cook’s mom’s recipe for chicken and dumplings is a hit as well. The setting—downstairs has an open kitchen and counter seating, upstairs has a dining room and bar as well as outdoor balcony seating with views of lower Magazine Street—has helped establish Gris-Gris as a go-to spot for neighborhood regulars as well as special occasion diners. 

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Chef Alon Shaya serves contemporary Israeli cuisine with a dedication to ingredients, technique and staff wellbeing. The bright, airy Uptown restaurant provides a warm setting in which to enjoy shareable dishes like Shaya’s grandmother’s lutenitsa, local tomato ezme, harissa roasted chicken and hummus topped with blue crab. The pita, served fresh from the wood-burning oven, is simply heavenly. Creative cocktails and a wine list that includes Slovenian and Israeli selections are perfect complements.

Chef Justin Devillier has been creatively enhancing New Orleans classics on Magazine Street for more than a decade. Refined but lively, La Petite Grocery is where to go for a bit of edge alongside the familiar: Beignets are stuffed with blue crab and finished with malt vinegar; the gumbo features tasso and chicken confit; and turtle Bolognese is served with bucatini and a fried soft boiled egg. The LPG Cheeseburger, with house-made pickles, onion marmalade, aioli and gruyere on a brioche bun, is another crowd favorite. Chef Devillier has expanded his talents, most recently with Justine, but this Uptown spot remains his signature offering.

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Fresh fish is the star at this French Quarter fine dining establishment. As an avid fisherman, chef Tenney Flynn is meticulous when it comes to choosing the freshest product from his sources, and his entrées change daily to reflect the best catch. Whatever the preparation—wood-grilled, parmesan crusted, blackened—the flavors of the fish shine through. Appetizers like lobster dumplings and New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp are constants. Try not to fill up on the delectable biscuits and cross your fingers that the “Scalibut”—a deliciously unique halibut/scallop combo—is on the menu.

Chef Nina Compton has made her mark on New Orleans since opening Compere Lapin in the Old 77 Hotel & Chandlery in 2015. Mixing the flavors of her Caribbean homeland of Saint Lucia with classic New Orleans cuisine, her menu has received consistent raves. The setting—with its exposed brick and wooden beams—is both intimate and buzzy. The excellent cocktail program kicks things off, followed by must-try conversation starters like spiced pig ears and conch croquettes. The goat curry, set atop sweet potato gnocchi, is a star entrée, and seasonal updates bring exciting new flavors to palates. Following the success of Compere Lapin, chef Compton opened Bywater American Bistro, which has also proven to be a hit.

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  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Warehouse District
  • price 3 of 4

Donald Link’s seafood-focused restaurant features fresh, local seafood (of course) much of it cooked on a wood-fired grill. Boisterous and always packed, Pêche is a great place for group dining. Small plates like smoked tuna dip and beer-battered fish sticks are shareable, as is the delicious whole grilled fish. The grill is put to good use for tuna, chicken, lamb and steak dishes. Sides and accoutrements reflect local heritage, from field peas and okra to white beans and greens. But seafood is the star, and you’ll find it fresh and delectably prepared by chef Ryan Prewitt here in the Warehouse District.

In recent years, this French Quarter stalwart underwent a change in ownership, a glamorous renovation and a chef replacement that has brought its shine back. Still an elegant, old-world fine dining experience with excellent service, the restaurant now offers a seasonally-inspired menu of classic Creole fare. Breakfast at Brennan’s is a must for both locals and tourists, and you can’t miss the Bananas Foster—invented here—that still gets flambéed tableside.

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Gabrielle was a long-time favorite for a night out amongst locals before it was wiped out by the floods that followed Katrina. Twelve years later, chefs Greg and Mary Sonnier made their triumphant return with their Cajun and Creole influences intact. The storied slow-roasted duck with orange-sherry sauce shares menu space with equally impressive dishes like a dark roux smoked quail gumbo, barbecue shrimp pie and seared Gulf fish served with jumbo crab cake. The cozy, classy dining room is welcoming and sets the stage for an experience that feels fresh yet like an old friend, even for those who didn’t know it originally.

This historic French Quarter cottage, with its lovely courtyard and intimate dining space, is a go-to spot for romantic dinners and special occasions. Opened by chef Susan Spicer in 1990, Bayona has risen to institution status alongside the city’s other grande dames. Her first—and best—restaurant features a changing menu of Mediterranean-influenced Southern dishes. Regularly appearing on the menu are signatures like veal sweetbreads, oyster gratin, sautéed redfish and peppered lamb. The creamy garlic soup—while perhaps not the best choice on date night—is also a must-try.

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The loss of chef Leah Chase left a hole in the heart of New Orleans cuisine. She was an icon, both for her culinary contributions and her role in the Civil Rights Movement, whose leaders often gathered at her restaurant. You’ll experience history while dining on some of the best Creole cuisine around here. From hearty red beans or shrimp Clemenceau to gumbo and crispy fried chicken, a meal at Dooky Chase’s fills both the belly and the soul. For a sampling of menu highlights, try the lunch buffet.

While the Quarter is home to some newer, award-winning restaurants, dining at one of New Orleans’ historic fine dining institutions is a must. Galatoire’s offers a glimpse into the city’s unique dining culture: most of the waiters, dressed in tuxedos, are locals who have worked at the restaurant for decades, and many high society folks are longtime regulars. The bright walls, black-and-white tile, and white tablecloths make for a refined but celebratory atmosphere. Dine on shrimp rémoulade, trout almondine and other New Orleans classics for a memorable experience.

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This family-owned, casual neighborhood joint is a top choice for classic, overstuffed po-boys. It has grown in popularity but the friendly staff still takes care of the locals and welcomes tourists like they’re family as well. Shrimps are fried to perfection, roast beef is sufficiently messy and the Barq's (and beer) is served icy cold. The oyster po-boy is a favorite, but only available Mondays and Wednesdays. For a non-traditional po-boy option, try the smoked alligator sausage or the Italian caprese. Grab a table outside and dig into one of the best po-boys found anywhere.

Chef Isaac Toups puts 300 years of Cajun family traditions on display at his Mid-City restaurant, and meat is his chosen platform. His fine dining training adds sophistication to rustic dishes like fried rabbit liver, pork rillettes and daily sausages. The meatery board—a selection of house-made fresh and cured meats and condiments—is a good snapshot of Toups’ skills. Entrées such as the hot fried quail with smothered green beans are as impressive as the elegant lamb neck with bucatini. Fear not, meat-averse: several small plates featuring local veggies and seafood are just as delicious and satisfying as the rest of the offerings.

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Located just off Bourbon Street, Arnaud’s has been a go-to destination for classic Creole cuisine and traditional service since 1918. The historic restaurant remains true to its traditions and courtesies, and the assortment of dining rooms draw locals and visitors alike for special occasion dining. Start with a pre-dinner cocktail at the award-winning French 75 Bar, then dive into classics like soufflé potatoes and shrimp remoulade. Be sure to finish with a flaming Café Brûlot and a visit upstairs to the free Germaine Cazenave Wells Mardi Gras Museum, which features lavish Mardi Gras costumes, vintage photographs, Carnival masks, and elaborate krewe invitations and party favors.

As strange as it may seem, chef Michael Gullotta combines Asian, Italian and New Orleans cuisines into one stunning menu. The native New Orleanian kicked off his career by melding the flavors of Vietnam and Louisiana at his restaurant MoPho; at Maypop, Gullotta goes even further. After starting with a bread course that includes coconut butter and shellfish pepper jam, things get even more interesting with options such as sweet corn Tom Yum with Gulf shrimp and Florida clams, garganelli with blue crab and Thai sausage, and lamb shank in coconut jus. The cocktails reflect Asian influences as well, many featuring ginger or lemongrass.

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Sylvain maintains its status as one of the coolest places in the city to dine. This restaurant-bar hybrid is housed in a carriage house built in the late 1700s, just a block from Jackson Square. A trendy mix of locals and out-of-towners rub shoulders while enjoying an assortment of modernized Southern fare alongside locally-inspired cocktails. After drinks from the handsome bar, go big with an order of Champagne and fries, or just stick with crowd favorites like the house burger or pan-seared gulf fish.

Straddling the line between rustic and refined, Atchafalaya is often a destination for a celebratory meal. The neighborhood restaurant offers a menu of creative Louisiana fare that includes regional classics such as duck and andouille gumbo, shrimp and grits, and stuffed quail. For good food and good times, go the brunch route and indulge in the extensive Bloody Mary bar before diving into a fried oyster Benedict or bananas Foster waffle.

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For a taste of the Creole-Italian cuisine that makes New Orleans so unique, follow the smell of garlic to Irene’s French Quarter home. The family-owned restaurant has cooked classics like house-made pasta topped with soft shell crab and a cream sauce, duck St. Philip, and lasagne Bolognese since 1992. Enjoying a drink at the piano bar before your meal is still a great way to start. To finish? Go for the bread pudding du jour.

For fresh, salty oysters served old-school style, seasonally-operated Casamento’s is the place to venture out to. The white-and-green tiled walls and formica tables are a real throwback, with legendary oyster shuckers doing their thing behind the counter. Shucked-to-order Gulf oysters are the star of the show, but the fried oyster loaf (served on thick white bread) and other fried seafood platters are excellent options as well.

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Delicately prepared sashimi does not usually come to mind when discussing New Orleans cuisine, but this tiny Uptown restaurant has created buzz and received accolades since its 2018 opening. Chef Hao Gong worked for years at the popular Sake Cafe, and he’s translated his skills into an innovative pan-Asian menu that displays Japanese and Chinese influences. Raw dishes—salmon with Asian pear, soy and basil seeds; tuna with dragon fruit and spicy soy—are super fresh and innovative, while hot dishes—tofu with shiitakes, wood ear mushrooms and lily flower; Gong’s mother’s pork-and-ginger dumplings—are creative and satisfying. All food is as photogenic as the modern, colorful decor.

Two alums of chef Donald Link’s culinary empire oversee this Uptown restaurant inspired by the cuisine of coastal Spain. Studded with Louisiana influences, the menu features plenty of seafood and bold flavors. Shareable small and large plates range from the familiar (papas bravas, gambas al ajillo) to the inventive (seared yellowfin tuna with marinated blood orange and crispy leeks, pork belly a la plancha with apple, chili and walnut). The intriguing wine list includes a good number of Iberian selections, and delightful cocktails and bar snacks are a draw for happy hour.

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There are a few decent Indian restaurants around the city, but none can top Saffron, which arrived on Magazine Street to much fanfare – quickly followed by a 'best new restaurant' nomination from the James Beard Foundation. Regional Indian classics are expertly prepared and enhanced by Louisiana ingredients and flavors: The oyster bed roast features caramelized onions and curry leaf and is served with naan; a curried seafood gumbo brings together cultures with tasty results; and Gulf fish is crusted with Indian spices and served with korma sauce and mango pickle. Finish with a chai and saffron-cardamom ice cream or mango sorbet with candied ginger.

A large Vietnamese population and a string of restaurants primarily in New Orleans East and the Westbank brings pho-lovers out of their familiar boundaries. Tan Dinh, on the Westbank, is one of the best eateries of its kind, delivering cheap eats and big flavors on a consistent basis. The extensive menu truly has something for everyone: the pho and banh mi are bright and fresh, and other Vietnamese classics are done exceptionally well. The informal, strip mall setting makes it easy to kick back and try something new, like frog legs in garlic butter, or stick to standout favorites like lemongrass chicken wings or savory short ribs. It’s definitely worth the drive.

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