Best of New Orleans
I just booked a trip to New Orleans in a couple weeks, but kind of lost with what to eat. There seems to be so many great places. It's my first time there and want to experience the best of New Orleans. If you were to pick the best places that really define the cuisine and character of the Big Easy what would it be? Restaurants and lounge/bar recommendation? So far I think August is a definite for a really nice dinner. Thoughts?
Restaurants - (in no particular order) Brigstens, Herbsaint, Upperline, Gautreau's, Cochon
Bars - (in no particular order) St. Joe's, Carousel Bar @ Hotel Monteleone, Bombay Club (Prince Conti Hotel - live Jazz - not the fake Bourbon Street stuff), Apple Barrel Bar, Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, R Bar........
Too many things to list, and not sure what you're looking for...have fun!
August is a wonderful restaurant, but it could be in any city in America.
If it's your desire to experience the restaurants that have defined the character and cuisine of this city, I would direct you to the iconic French Quarter places, if for no other reason than to be able to say that you've been.
Since this will be your first time here, go to Antoine's, where you will experience history and "Old School" New Orleans hospitality. At Arnaud's, the same thing. At Galatoire's, you'll experience a lot of "old money" locals having a great time partying with friends and bantering with "their waiter."
And no first trip to New Orleans would be complete without a meal at the ultra-iconic K-Paul's.
Just keep in mind that, at these places, you may not receive the best food or service that's available in the city, but at least you will get a sense of our culinary history, where it began, how it's evolved and where it is now...IF that's what you're after.
IMO, Antoine's is not very good at all. Gal's seems to be the only old name restaurant in the quarter that keeps the traditional fare alive while executing the food and service quite well. I highly recommend doing Gal's. Arnaud's is a distant second. Antoine's has rested on their name for far too long.
If you want to do brunch, do Commander's. Far and away better than Antoine's.
Mandina's is another good option. Cochon will give you an idea of what cajun food is like. Geegee's restaurant recs are all good. Mrs.Fury has a good call with Bon Ton.
I agree, Antoine's is not good and I've had even less to say about Arnaud's. Avoid them both, along with anything related to Emeril.
If you must stay in the quarter you need to go to Galatoire's. Mr. B's is pretty good also. A bit off since Katrina, but was definitely better my last visit...brunch there is very good. GW Fins is excellent.
Outside the quarter my favorites are August, Brigtsen's, Clancy's, Upperline, and Cuchon.
If you're looking for the ultimate New Orleans experience I'd suggest Commanders Palace.
hi, i want to jump in here and thread-jack a bit...we're going to nola soon also, and it's my husband's first time, although i've been there before. like the op, we want to go to a place that 'defines the cuisine and culture' of the place, but my hubby is seriously picky about his food...if we go to antoine's or arnaud's, are we risking less-than-stellar food? he definitely wants creole/'local' cuisine, and we'd prefer a great food hole-in-the-wall to a fancy bad-food experience...i was leaning towards antoine's, but don't want him to be disappointed.
Definitely Antoines, I have never tasted a single item there that was not authentic New Orleans nor that wasn't prepared perfectly. Make sure you get the puffed potato appetizer (not sure of the name), oyster's foche, escargots bourgignon, crabmeat ravigat, shrimp remoulade, salade combinaison with roquefort dressing, pompano ponchartrain, and order ahead the baked alaska! You will LOVE it!
If your read though some of the threads on this message board, you'll soon realize that you always stand the risk of a disappointment at any restaurant you choose. Two people can go to the same restaurant on the same night and have completely different experiences.
My favorite restaurant with what I think is the best food is Rio Mar, but I would not recommend that the original poster go there because it's not one of the restaurants that put New Orleans cuisine on the map.
For first timers, go do the icons; see where it all began, but go with realistic expectations.
re: Absinthe Minded
You have made a point worth noting. I did Restaurant August and reviewed it in very favorable terms. Seems that another CH'er was there that same night, sitting not far from me and had a really poor experience.
Same thing happened when a CH'er reviewed Stella! and another was in the same room on the same night, and had a horrible experience.
Kinda' like my good review of Brennan's for Sat. Brunch. I expected to have to apologize to my wife, for making the reservations. What WAS I thinking? We both knew Brennan's from years before. Still, our meal and the service were excellent and worth the $. Others have taken me to task, but MY experiences were in the review. Do not know if any of the detractors were there that day, but obviously, they have had opposite experiences.
I wish that one could ALWAYS count on our favorite restaurants to be 100%, especially if we've just given them a glowing rec. Still, that is all that we can base our reviews and recs. on - OUR experiences.
This is in light of both your post, and that of the OP.
Though I no longer live in NOLA, my wife, a native, has a large extended family there, so we visit often. Factor in a couple of business trips, and we’re in town quite a bit. I’ve done New Orleans dining for almost 5 decades. Most of this was fine-dining. In the ten years, that I did live there, we did everything. We’ve been fortunate to work in three post-K trips, and have dined around, as much as was possible. Again, most of this was fine-dining, with a few exceptions.
Now, the recs for the ultimate NO experience for one, who has never been. Some of these will ruffle a few feathers, but so be it. I’m giving you MY preferences. The order is how they come to my keyboard.
The Original Coffee Pot
Ralph’s on the Park
Brennan’s (this will light a fire, but it is based on our last trip - review online CH)
This does not cover any of the wonderful smaller, more casual or neighborhood spots that are out of this world.
Most of all, enjoy your stays.
Commander's' (preferably lunch in the garden room). Brigtsen's, Herbsaint, K-Paul's and Galatoire's will give you a taste of local flavors. IMO,Cochon is overrated. If you must go, have an all appetizer meal. I find their entrees disappointing. Pick up a muff from CG to take home.