One of the best ways to experience the eclectic international tapestry that makes up New Orleans is at the tables of its restaurants. And nowhere like the French Quarter serves the region’s cuisine with the same gusto, infused with French, Caribbean, Spanish and American sensibilities and flavors.
New Orleans is vastly different to most American settlements. It is one of the oldest places in the southern United States, founded in 1718, thanks to its strategic location on the muddy Mississippi. This attracted many traders and settlers, and since its founding the influences of the French, Spanish and Caribbean natives who flocked to the city can be discovered in the French Quarter’s dining scene.
Therefore, just as unique as the city itself is the cuisine, with fusions of American, French, African and Spanish culminating in creole and Cajun dishes; the soul food the south is best known for. Here are some of the finest restaurants in New Orleans’ French Quarter to try the local specialties.
Café Du Monde
Since 1862 this quaint French café has been serving café au lait, a half coffee half hot milk mix, with beignets, on the edge of the lively French Market alongside the chocolate-colored Mississippi river. The distinctive green and white striped pavilion lures customers 24 hours a day for the café’s traditional blend which includes chicory, the root of endive plants, and the deep fired dough covered in lashings of powdered sugar, for their caffeine and sweet fix. Coffee can also be served black or cold, and chocolate milk, freshly squeezed orange juice, and other soft drinks are also available.
800 Decatur Street
A well-deserved queue often forms out the front of the otherwise unremarkable entrance to this southern-style diner, which is not only open 24 hours a day, but also serves an extensive breakfast menu throughout. Cajun, creole and New Orleans specials are all available, such as a variety of Po’ boys, including with alligator sausage, Cajun shrimp and fried green tomato. Gumbo, crawfish etouffee and blackened fish grace the mains while breakfast classics include everything from French toast to eggs with biscuits and gravy. The signature order is the bottomless bloody Mary, complete with a juicy shrimp, celery, olives and citrus fruits.
121 Chartres Street
Royal House Oyster Bar
Tables line the narrow pavements outside this prominently located cafe on the corner of Royal and St Louis streets. Full length glass French doors remain open through service so the street ambience drifts in to the rustic chic interior where colorful fruity cocktails are served from a long bar, along with elaborately creamed coffees, and crisp white wines. They are the perfect accompaniment to any dish from the oyster bar which offers the opulent shellfish, on or off the shell, in numerous ways. The vast main menu focuses on seafood-based French creole cuisine such as crawfish etouffee, French onion soup, and jambalaya, as well as vegetarian options, various po’ boys, salads and some meaty mains.
441 Royal Street
Located right on Bourbon Street, this airy, spacious restaurant specializes in locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. Fried seafood platters, po’ boys, salads, steaks, oysters and shrimp are all on the menu, as well as selected fish dishes. The gulf influence is continued in the breakfast menu with creole hash browns, buttermilk biscuits and andouille sausage all prominent features. Lighter choices include old fashioned oat meal and yogurt parfait. The sleek glass and metal bar, which complements the rest of the modern America décor, serves a specialty frozen bourbon milk punch which should not be missed.
144 Bourbon Street
The Court of Two Sisters
A leafy courtyard is the perfect place to relax in the warmth of the New Orleans sun while listening to live jazz and tasting the delights from the creole and Cajun buffet. Wisteria grows over the black wrought iron trellis protruding from the restaurant forming a roof over the courtyard which, in turn, is dappled with the perfect balance of shade and sunshine. Air plants grow in hangers gracing the simple red brick and white walls which enclose the courtyard, and an elaborate fountain creates the centerpiece in this idyllic spot. The buffet starts at breakfast with omelets, eggs benedict, sausages, bacon and grits available. From lunch time the buffet changes to classic local dishes including jambalaya, catfish roulade, and BBQ pork ribs. Dinner is a la carte with all the usual suspects including vegetarian options.
613 Royal Street
One of the best places for breakfast in the French Quarter, the large open interior is decorated with European garden chic, sporting pastel green wall trellis with pops of pastel pink fabrics. The elegant color theme is continued outside in the al fresco dining area; green, and red-and-white striped parasols shade pale-green wrought iron tables hemmed in by a garden of palms. Breakfast and lunch consists of a variety of egg dishes (egg yolk carpaccio being one of the more unusual), salads, French toast, quiche, steak Diane, a vegetable oat bowl, and rabbit rushing (fried rabbit, eggs and greens). Fresh juices, punch and strong coffee create refreshing accompaniments to any meal.
417 Royal Street
Made up of a number of themed dining rooms, this fine dining French creole restaurant serves an array of classics from escargots appetizers to veal chop accompanied by duck foie gras mousse and red wine truffle sauce. The traditional French décor complements the well-presented food with its crisp white table cloths, graceful chandeliers and paneled walls, punctuated with large decorative windows gracing the main dining hall. A Sunday jazz brunch is also served. Other rooms include Antoine’s Annex, a classic French patisserie serving fresh pastries and coffee, and the Hermes Bar, complete with dark wood and mirrored furnishings, where opulent cocktails are mixed.
713 St Louis Street
Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant
Located on the outskirts of the French Quarter, this pub specializes in American brewed German beers, mostly served on tap, with a menu designed to complement the brews. Traditional comfort foods from across the globe are on offer, with a predominantly German influence such as the Bavarian pretzel and sausage, Caribbean coconut shrimp, Märzen BBQ burger, Cajun pasta and chicken schnitzel; all of which are mouth-watering options. The pub-style interior is dominated by the bar where patrons can eat while watching sports on one of the many TV screens lining the walls. Alternatively, there are many traditional, large wooden tables.
200 Poydras Street
K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen
Hearty American dishes with a creole twist are served in the modern industrial interior of this establishment. The exposed brick interior is warmed by wooden paneling and mellow lighting, creating a romantic yet relaxed ambience. The creole twist extends to the cocktail menu which is extensive. Specialties include the creole Marie, Cajun martini, K-Paul’s cosmopolitan and the Decatur mule. Any cocktail can be perfectly paired with the food; choices consist of turtle soup, shrimp enchilada and fried oysters for starters, and blackened Louisiana drum, flounder and shrimp jambalaya and twin beef tenders for main.
416 Chartres Street
Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse
Low lighting sets the tone in this classic American steak restaurant. The large area, spread over two levels, is spit into smaller sections, adding to the intimate impression created by the dark wood paneling and brown leather soft furnishings. Indulgent starters such as bone marrow beef pie, foie gras, and surf and turf are served in large proportions, as are the mains which come complete with vegetables and potato options. Lobster, chateaubriand, gulf fish, and pork chop are among the choices. Steak cuts are served solo with options to add sauce and select from the extensive assortment of sides. Desserts change regularly but crème brûlée and pecan pie are often top picks.
716 Iberville Street