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First Time in NO - Recommendations Welcome

A little background:

My wife and I will be in New Orleans for six nights later this year. We are from Phoenix and have a place to stay in the Garden District. We like all types of food. This will be a no-reservations, casual and budget-conscious trip. The target price is $20 or less per person, not counting beverages.

Below are some options we are considering. If you like a place, please share why and what your favorite thing to get there is. If not, why not, and what is a better option in the same type of cuisine? Do any of these places require reservations (practically or otherwise)?

Cafe Amelie
Acme Oyster House
Johnny's Po-Boys
Napoleon House
Liuzza's by the Track
Parkway Bakery & Tavern
Cochon Butcher
Jacques-Imo's Cafe
Camellia Grill
Joey K's
Please-U Restaurant
Slice Pizzeria
Freret Street Po-Boy and Donut Shop
Babylon Cafe

What other places should a first time visitor go to, and what makes them special?

I appreciate the feedback.

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  1. It’s kind of hard to get under your price point (aside from our exceptional lunch deals). What you might want to do is fine dining for lunch and sandwich/po boy type places for dinners. You can also take advantage of some happy hour specials at places like Domenica and Luke. I like Jacques Imos a lot, but it gets varying opinions on this board. Cochon Butcher is a great deal with some fantastic sandwiches. If you’re not adverse to bar dives with good food, you should check out Coop’s. Joey K’s is another good family restaurant in your price point. Definitely splurge for a lunch at August or Coquette with the 3-course specials. You may want to call ahead to find out what they’re serving because the options are limited and what they are serving that day may not be to your liking. Reservations are a good idea at Domenica and (Maybe?) Boucherie. Don’t think many of the others take reservations. I wasn’t crazy about High Hat, but it definitely falls within your budget and serve a wide array of New Orleans-style favorites.

    2 Replies
    1. re: shanefink

      You're dead on when you recommend rezzies for Boucherie ... it's not a big space and they're always hopping. Great choice of restaurant and worth the minimal effort to give them a call.

      1. re: montuori

        I made a reservation for Boucherie based on this advice. The restaurant sounds similar to a place in Phoenix that my wife really likes called Tuck Shop, so it should be a good choice for us. If we could make reservations there with a small party, we would, so I'm glad Boucherie allows it.

    2. Most of the places you mention (and in that price range0 are no reservation places. Of your list, I'm partial to johnny's and Tartine. Not on your list Felix (as a substitute for Acme), Grand Isle and Verte Mart. What makes them special is reasonable quality local food at a reasonable price.

      4 Replies
      1. re: collardman

        I really liked Felix (mostly 'cause the line-up at Acme was down the block), but I read they closed. Don't know if this is still the case.
        But, you gotta try grilled oysters while there. I hear Dragos does 'em good too.

        1. re: porker

          Felix did not close. It was wrongly reported as closed on certain inferior travel websites, This happened because the news that Felix's filed for protection from creditors while reorganizing led some people to the wrong conclusion (that bankruptcy court means out of business).

          Last anyone knew, they were not serving alcohol, but while working on getting back their liquor license, they are serving up everything else on the menu, just like always. Help them out and throw them some business when you're in town, and bring along a go cup from somewhere else if you want alcohol with your oysters.

          1. re: Gizmo56

            Yeah, and enjoy the oysters (ya gotta try grilled) while watching the line-up across the street.

        2. re: collardman

          Definitely substitute Felix for Acme.

          1. re: redfish62

            I second this. Twenty bucks per person and martinis for a quarter each. Reservations probably required, but worth the effort.

            1. re: Big Easy

              They did specify casual. Not sure exactly what the dress code is at Commander’s these days.

              1. re: shanefink

                I think I wore long pants and a collared shirt there but for lunch it was casual.

                1. re: redfish62

                  Napoleon house for a half a muffuletta is a great deal and good.

          2. As a "now" PHX CH, I think that you have some good spots there.

            It might be doable, but think that Dominica will be above your listed price-point. The rest should fit.

            Now, with Bianco Pizzeria in PHX, I am not sure that I would waste too many meals on NOLA pizza - there are just too many great seafood restaurants to pass by.

            I would definitely add one "splurge" meal in NOLA, and maybe shoot for Galatoire's.

            The great food in NOLA covers the full spectrum, but really shines with a few higher-end restaurants. Actually, I would skip many of those, just for one night at Galatoire's (Parkway Bakery and Camillia Grill would be "safe," but would consider dropping some others).

            Travel safely, and enjoy!


            13 Replies
            1. re: Bill Hunt

              I added Felix's Restaurant as a possibility.

              Commander's Palace for lunch is still pretty expensive. That may be something we try our next time in the city.

              The pizzas at Domenica are $13, so I'm not seeing how we would go over $20 per person, even with an appetizer or dessert. Also, they have a great happy hour that we can take advantage of.

              Pizzeria Bianco is just okay to me. I much prefer La Grande Orange for gourmet pizza. Nello's, Old Chicago, and Organ Stop Pizza are other favorites of mine in the Valley. I love pizza, and I'm always up for trying new places. We will definitely be getting some good seafood in New Orleans, but since my wife is not a fan of it, we won't overdo the seafood-centric restaurants, and any place we go should offer other great options, too.

              A splurge meal is probably not in the cards for us this time around. Fine dining can be a great experience, but as first-timers, we would rather spend the extra time and money seeing other places in the city. An appetizer at lunchtime or happy hour is something we would consider. Something like Fleming's happy hour in Phoenix would be pretty cool.

              Thanks for all of the suggestions so far, everybody.

              1. re: bharbeke

                Just a heads up: if you love pizza, skip Slice ... it's downright terrible (unless you enjoy soggy; they do soggy just fine). The place getting all the love these days is Pizza Delicious in the Bywater -- apparently they're open in their new location now, I haven't been yet. Perhaps someone else can weigh in.

                1. re: montuori

                  I agree on Pizza Delicious but I absolutely love Slice too. We swear by it -- we go probably once every two weeks and living in NYC for 6 years made me pretty picky about pizza. Maybe give it another shot? The meat-lovers pizza, in particular, is great!

                  1. re: JBride

                    As a transplanted New Yorker, I agree on Slce. Definitely the best Uptown pizza, but they do have consistency issues. I’ve had burnt crust on more than one occassion.

                    1. re: shanefink

                      I'm a Slice fan too. Went last night, in fact, to the Magazine location. I don't think I've ever had a soggy pizza from there out of probably 30 to 40 visits over the years.

                2. re: bharbeke

                  As I always include wine with every meal, after breakfast, and then sometimes a sparkler WITH breakfast, my frame of reference is probably skewed upward.

                  Most of all, enjoy!


                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    Replace wine with bloody mary @ breakfast.

                    1. re: porker

                      That works too, though I have been known to break out a "little breakfast Chardonnay... "


                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        I liked the novelty (to me) of some bars in the FQ with happy hour 7:00am to 9:00am - $2 bloody marys - drink in-house or to-go cup, choice is yours.
                        I think Anita Bryant might have changed her "A day without orange juice" tune to tomato juice & vodka had she spent mornings in the quarter...

                        1. re: porker

                          I seldom make not of HH, but then, what do I know?

                          BTW, who is the photo of?


                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                            Just that in my neck of the woods, bars are not open at 7:00am - a *happy hour* at 7:00am seems fantastical.
                            The photo? just a weak attempt of bolstering the apparent failed humour of my post - its Anita Bryant during her "a day without orange juice is like a day without sunshine" heyday....

                            1. re: porker

                              Completely got the joke and picture gave me quite a chuckle. I distincly remember all of the hubbub surrounding Ms. Bryant.

                              1. re: porker

                                Now, "Happy Hour" is when you find it - regardless... [Grin]

                                Was not sure about the photo, but that DOES look like my wife's "parade wave," but that was NOT her tierra.


                3. I always recommend Mandina's as a great example of the quitessential New Orleans neighborhood joint. It's better than Joey K's by a lot. Definitely start with the gumbo - best in town in my opinion.

                  happy hour at Luke for 50 cent raw oysters is a must as is the pizza happy hour at Domenica which is in the Roosevelt Hotel - a fun destination on its own.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: lawstudent

                    I would recommend Mandina's as budget friendly and a nice ride up Canal on the streetcar.
                    Large potions, the fried chicken would easily feed 2.

                  2. oh and do lunch at August or Commander's Palace one day. The food is best at August but the atmosphere may be better at Commander's. Have fun!!

                    1. Okay there's a list of fine restaurants but not much in the way of dishes recommended.

                      If you've never been to NO there are cuisines that you absolutely will not find in Phoenix and need to try. I mean you could go to a Po' Boy place and order a pastrami sandwich, which kinda misses the point.

                      It would be difficult to find an Oyster Po' Boy or Muffuletta sandwhich in Phoenix, and it is difficult to find genuine Jambalaya or Gumbo anywhere.

                      Part of visiting NO is the tourist experience. Beignets and coffee. Even if you hate Zydeco music, you've still got to visit one of those bars in the french quarter.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: GraydonCarter

                        Dishes are a rather personal thing. If I poured over the menu for Galatoire's, I would be commenting on MY tastes, and those might not be what the OP wanted. Same for Commander's Palace, or anywhere.

                        It is akin to asking "what wine should I order?" without mentioning one's preferences, or the dishes ordered. No way to do it.


                      2. I have gotten so many fantastic ideas from Chowhound over the years and I post very infrequently. I hope this makes up for it! I am a native New Orleanian but I moved away to NY and London for 8 years. I am back now and this is my latest and greatest list I send to friends visiting. (Let me know if you need hotel or culture recs too):


                        With the pressure of being a known destination for gastronomes there is a lot of competition among visitors to New Orleans to eat at the REAL New Orleans restaurants. This is where the locals eat….and where they take their out-of-town cousins. Some of these recommendations are expensive - so maybe not for this trip but for another.

                        Emeril’s Delmonico steakhouse - in a beautiful old house, great steaks, nice atmosphere. Not too masculine. (expensive)

                        Real Cajun / creole / southern food by James Beard award winning chef, Donald Link.

                        The Butcher
                        Sandwich shop owned by award winning chef, Donald Link.

                        Restaurant R’evolution - new, high end, run by two great chefs: John Folse & Rick Tramanto (expensive)

                        Toups Meatery

                        The Company Burger

                        High end farm-to-table creole cuisine by local favorite, Chef John Besh, in a gorgeous setting. (expensive)

                        Same chef as above. More casual setting. In the Hyatt.

                        The graffiti on the outside of the building includes important information, like opening hours.

                        Dong Phuong Bakery, New Orleans East

                        Satsuma in the Bywater

                        Modern Vietnamese noodle and banh mi shop.

                        The Italian Barrel
                        New Orleans has a lock on poorly named restaurants. This one is no exception. Tiny and exceedingly fresh. Outstanding Italian food with ingredients flown in from Italy daily. (Kind of expensive)

                        Terrible name. Great restaurant. In a dilapidated old New Orleans building bordering the Marigny and The Bywater neighborhoods.

                        St James cheese
                        You can’t eat creole food every day. Go here for a gourmet ploughman’s platter.

                        Maurepas Foods

                        Bon Ton Café
                        The Crawfish Bisque. Say no more.

                        Commander’s Palace
                        The Grand Dame of New Orleans Cuisine. Great for big groups or romantic dinners. (expensive)

                        Juan’s Flying Burritto
                        Super casual “Mexican” food with a long list of margaritas. Kid friendly!


                        Not just great coffee (Illy) and great menu…but also a great place for wine and beer after a hard day of work. Or sighseeing.

                        A specialty cocktail bar with small plates of food. Great way to start or end your evening.

                        Over 80 wines by the glass and a host of wine classes

                        Bohemian wine shop in the Bywater

                        A proper cocktail lounge from the experts at Cure. In The Hotel Modern at Lee Circle

                        Finn McCool’s Irish Pub
                        Where all the expats are at y’all.

                        King Pin
                        Dive bar with darts, shuffleboard and the best Taco Truck in the city on Wednesday nights.

                        Maple Leaf
                        Great music for night owls.

                        Chickie Wah Wah

                        1. Its not my favorite, but its a uniquely NO place that you won't see in Phoenix or any place else. Cassemento's on Magazine. The oysters are always good, and the pan bread is unique and many rave about it. It also fits your budget and is very casual.