Culinary — 01 May 2015
Arrive hungry.

By Chris Chamberlain

To prepare this second installment in my series about travel and leisure opportunities for adults planning a trip to New Orleans, Louisiana, I have spent the month since returning from my latest sojourn to the Big Easy digesting (literally) the myriad options for dining and drinking in that great culinary city.

Hopefully, this list of suggestions will be worth the wait.

What To Eat…

When it comes to dining in New Orleans, the latest theme is “everything old is new again” as two longtime stalwarts have reinvented themselves with relatively new chefs manning their venerable kitchens. For decades, Brennan’s and Galatoire’s have been favorite dining locations for locals and tourists alike, and with good reason. Both establishments have been instrumental in the progression of New Orleans cuisine for combining native ingredients, Cajun and Creole flavors and classic French techniques to create timeless menus that belong in museums, but are still utterly of the moment.

New OrleansBrennan’s has gone through a tough patch over the past few years, actually shuttering for a year and a half before reopening in November 2014 under the ownership of Terry White and Ralph Brennan, a cousin of the previous branch of the family that founded the restaurant in 1946. The new ownership has completed an extensive remodeling of the space, opening up walls and adding bright paint schemes and colors that have created an utterly inviting and comfortable atmosphere to enjoy an extended mealtime. They also hired Chef Slade Rushing, who was nominated for a prestigious James Beard award after only a few months in his new kitchen.

Whether you dine in one of the more formal rooms up front or upstairs, or in the glamourous airy space overlooking the traditional New Orleans patio setting, Brennan’s is the sort of place that will make you want to linger over your meal. From the famous Turtle Soup to a creative list of Creole classics concluding with the famous flaming Bananas Foster, the menu at Brennan’s is meant to be explored over the course of multiple visits. Especially popular is the breakfast and brunch menu, filled with decadent egg dishes like an Escargot Omelette or creamy Eggs Sardou. Accompanied by a flute of bracing Brandy Milk Punch, “Breakfast at Brennan’s” is a national treasure.

While the morning meal may be the best choice at Brennan’s, at Galatoire’s on Bourbon Street, it’s lunch that regulars line up (sometimes for hours) to grab a spot at the table. Utterly old school with a dress code requiring jackets for gentlemen after 5 p.m., white tablecloths on bistro tables, high ceilings with slow-turning paddle fans, black and white tiled floors and waiters who wear tuxedos and know the names of all the grandchildren of their regular patrons, Galatoire’s is a lovely slice of the true old New Orleans. Still operated by the fifth generation of the Galatoire family, the restaurant has operated in the same location in the 200 block of Bourbon Street since 1905.

Since the restaurant won’t take reservations for the main dining room downstairs, waiting in line is part of the experience at Galatoire’s, and regulars pass the time sharing stories and cocktails while they wait for “their” table to open up so that they can visit with their favorite server. Especially on Fridays, lunch can stretch all the way to the evening meal as patrons linger for hours enjoying drinks prepared by bartenders known for their heavy-handed pours.

Chef Michael Sichel helms the kitchen, and I asked him what is was like to watch over a menu of staid classic dishes that generations of diners have been eating since before he was even born. He replied that his urge for creativity is stimulated by finding ways to make these dishes exactly the right way every time. Rather than futz about with coming up with a bunch of new menu items for every season or every week, the kitchen staff at Galatoire’s prides itself for making sure that Souffle Potatoes are perfectly light and fluffy and the Poisson Meunière Amandine tastes like it did when your father ordered it thirty years ago.

New OrleansChef Sichel does have the opportunity to experiment a little bit more in the relatively new Galatoire’s 33 Steak and Bar right next store. With a great bar stocked with plenty of high-end spirits and a menu of expertly-prepared steaks, 33 is a 10 when it comes to a steakhouse experience. But the original is definitely worth the effort to get in. Expect to enjoy about two or three Sazeracs while you’re waiting.

For more casual options in the French Quarter, Desire is a classic oyster bar in the Royal Sonesta Hotel. Recently remodeled, Desire is a cozy spot to enjoy dozens of raw oysters within seconds of being freed from their shells by the expert shuckers on staff. Or try Sylvain, a comfy gastropub offering an oasis from the party crowd at Pat O’Brien’s. Just around the corner from the famous home of the Hurricane, Sylvain serves French bistro dishes prepared simply but expertly alongside a fine selection of fine drinks and beers.

New OrleansNew Orleans

Ex-Sylvain Chef Alex Harrell has recently moved down Chartres Street to open Angeline in the Hotel Provincial, and he has already earned acclaim for his Southern touches on classic Italian and Spanish cuisine. The space previously housed another local favorite named Stella, but with dishes such as an oyster pan roast, Gulf shrimp with creamed rice and linguini with Louisiana blue crab, locals are quickly making the switch to a new favorite lady.

Alon Shaya is best known as part of John Besh’s talented crew of chefs from his work at Domenica, but Shaya has now come into his own as the head chef at his own namesake restaurant in the shopping district of Magazine Street. Shaya features modern Israeli cuisine, much of it cooked in a wood-fired oven. There are also North African, Bulgarian and Polish influences on the menu, and it’s a dining experience that is probably quite novel for most visitors.

New OrleansGrab a streetcar to Mid-City to enjoy a carnivore’s paradise at Toups Meatery. Educated under the tutelage of Emeril Lagasse, Isaac Toups is a fan of whole animal cooking, so expect plenty of delicious sausages and pates on the ever-changing menu. Unfussy and convivial, the atmosphere at Toups encourages diners to experiment with small plates and larger meat platters paired with expertly-crafted cocktails. For those who aren’t in an experimentative mood, Chef Toups also makes an outrageous cheeseburger at lunch and his spicy pork cracklings are completely addictive. For comfortable contemporary Cajun cuisine with a side of alliteration, Toups Meatery is a sure bet!

What To Drink…

Even in New Orleans, man cannot live by bread alone, so you have to think about drinks when visiting the Big Easy. Known as the legendary birthplace of the cocktail, New Orleans is still full of excellent mixologists practicing their craft. Popular spots like Bar Tonique, Cure, Arnauld’s French 75 and the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone attract cocktail enthusiasts from around the world to enjoy the artistry of their bartenders.

But there are plenty of other drinking options a little more off the beaten track where cocktails cost a lot less than at the more popular spots. One of my favorites is Twelve Mile Limit, an ultra-casual lounge with a sign out front that simply reads “Open-Food, Booze.” And that’s the focus at Twelve Mile where the menu of craft cocktails are prepared by dedicated bartenders who are more interested in serving their patrons a fine drink at a fair price rather than giving them a shaker show with complicated preparations. Food options are simple, revolving around some excellent smoked barbecue and chicken wings with cupcakes for dessert. What more could you want? Well, maybe some entertainment in the form of one of the best jukeboxes in town. It’s their secret weapon.

New OrleansMy favorite dive bar is a hideaway just steps from Bourbon Street, although it feels miles away from the party people. Erin Rose is a dark convivial pub where the emphasis is on volume, both in the form of jolly singalongs with the stereo blasting crowd favorites and in the shape of volume drinks poured by the shot or the pint. Prices are cheap and the patrons are friendly. As a bonus, you can spend an entire evening just examining the years worth of memorabilia and pictures decorating the walls.

A newer craft cocktail destination is Soubou, for South of Bourbon, so you can find it pretty easily. Sleek and modern, the drinks are still served without attitude, and you can purchase “pour-your-own” wine and beer from automated machines if you aren’t into any interaction at all. But I suggest making friends with the staff so they can recommend your next new favorite cocktail.

If you want to take a virtual trip to the islands, New Orleans has some excellent tiki bar options for you. Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 is a relative newcomer to the scene, but Jeff Berry has spent a lifetime getting ready to open his dream bar. He has long been acknowledged as one of the world’s expert on tiki culture and drinks, and his restaurant/bar is a Polynesian dream.

Tiki Tolteca is perched atop Felipe’s Taqueria in the Quarter and is famous for their preparation of classic umbrella drinks plus plenty of new iterations of famous rum drinks and punches. The bamboo canopy bar is the perfect spot for a lesson in island life.

Finally, everybody needs an “end of the night” bar in New Orleans. My favorite is the Port of Call on Esplanade at the far edge of the Quarter. Delightfully tacky with its tired tiki theme, this bar is most crowded after midnight when drinking and drunk patrons order up one of their famous “Hubcap Burgers” to soak up the residual booze. These patties are literally big enough to cook under a hubcap on the griddle in the ancient kitchen. To accompany that last supper, order a Monsoon, a powerful punch that issues a powerful punch. One is perfect to take the edge off an evening and send you to a blissful slumber dreaming of your next trip to New Orleans. Fair warning, though: If you drink two Monsoons, you may not like how the evening ends up….

More Information…

Angeline
1032 Chartres St.
New Orleans, LA 70116
504-308-3106
Angeline on Urbanspoon

Arnauld’s French 75
813 Bienville St.
New Orleans, LA 70112
504-523-5433
Arnaud's on Urbanspoon

Bar Tonique
820 N Rampart St.
New Orleans, LA 70116
504-324-6045
Bar Tonique on Urbanspoon

Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29
321 N Peters St.
New Orleans, LA 70130
504-609-3811
Latitude 29 on Urbanspoon

Brennan’s
417 Royal St.
New Orleans, LA 70130
504-525-9711
Brennan's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

New OrleansCarousel Bar
214 Royal St.
New Orleans, LA 70130
504-523-3341
The Carousel Bar and Lounge on Urbanspoon

Cure
4905 Freret St.
New Orleans, LA 70115
504-302-2357
Cure on Urbanspoon

Desire Oyster Bar
300 Bourbon St.
New Orleans, LA 70130
504-586-0300
Desire Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

Erin Rose
811 Conti St.
New Orleans, LA 70112
504-522-3573
Erin Rose Bar on Urbanspoon

Galatoire’s
209 Bourbon St.
New Orleans, LA 70130
504-525-2021
Galatoire's Restaurant on Urbanspoon
Galatoire's 33 Bar & Steak on Urbanspoon

Port of Call
838 Esplanade Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70116
504-523-0120
Port of Call on Urbanspoon

Shaya
4213 Magazine St.
New Orleans, LA 70115
504-891-4213
Shaya on Urbanspoon

Soubou
310 Chartres St.
New Orleans, LA 70130
504-552-4095
SoBou on Urbanspoon

Sylvain
625 Chartres St.
New Orleans, LA 70130
504-265-8123
Sylvain on Urbanspoon

Tiki Tolteca
301 N Peters St.
New Orleans, LA
504-288-8226
Tiki Tolteca on Urbanspoon

Toups Meatery
845 N Carrollton Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70119
504-252-4999
Toups' Meatery on Urbanspoon

Twelve Mile Limit
500 S Telemachus St.
New Orleans, LA 70119
504-488-8114
Twelve Mile Limit on Urbanspoon

Special thanks to the the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau for assistance in setting up this “Eat-inerary.”

Louisiana Travel

– Photos by Chris Chamberlain

Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.

Chris ChamberlainChris Chamberlain is a food, drink, wine, spirits, travel and personal interest writer based in Nashville, Tennessee, where he has lived his entire life except for four years in California where he studied liberal arts at Stanford University and learned how to manipulate chopsticks. He is a regular writer for the Nashville Scene and its “Bites” food blog as well as Nashville Lifestyles magazine. He is the Southern correspondent for FoodRepublic.com. He has also contributed to the Nashville City Paper, Her Nashville, Relish, Julep, Local Palate, The Bourbon Review, 2001 Edgehill, the SFA’s Gravy newsletter, Thrillist.com, and as a kitchen gadget reviewer at geardiary.com. He has published three books: The Southern Foodie: 100 Places to Eat before You Die and The Recipes That Made Them Famous, The Southern Foodie’s Guide to the Pig, and Nashville Beer: A Heady History of Music City Brewing.

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