Essential food and wine experiences: New Orleans
This article represents the personal favourites of Foodtourist’s editors Sue Dyson and Roger McShane. These are the places they haunt on their regular visits to New Orleans.
You can eat very well in New Orleans, but perhaps not as well as the publicity suggests.
In fact, the first survey of restaurants carried out by Foodtourist in New Orleans was something of a disappointment. It took repeated visits and month-long stays to really scout out the best food on offer there.
Part of the problem is that many of the famous restaurants have become 'tourist' restaurants - the locals don't eat there any more. A clear exception to this observation is the enigmatic Galatoire's. This establishment boasts of diners who have eaten there every night for fifty years! The food here is classical Creole cuisine cooked to the same recipes ever since it opened. Nothing here will surprise you - it is traditional food cooked in the traditional way.
We do, however, quite like Commanders Palace, which seems to float on the edge of tourist trap and fine restaurant.
We also have to admit to not being excited about the food served in restaurants owned by big name chefs such as Emeril Lagasse and Paul Prudhomme. Nothing we have been served in any of those establishments has interested us.
Rather we like to turn to the newer breed of chefs that include Susan Spicer at her charming cottage housing the Bayona restaurant where we have tried many satisfying meals (with her scallops served with a carrot cream and an Indian bahji being a stand-out dish).
Another chef of substance is Donald Link who has two restaurants, the laid-back Herbsaint and the newer Cochon. Both have interesting food that is true to tradition but cooked in a precise, modern way. We have enjoyed many relaxed evenings at Herbsaint which was just round the corner from the apartment we had when we were working in New Orleans.
Another restaurant well worth a visit is GW Fins which serves great, fresh seafood in a modern, convivial atmosphere. Another favourite is tiny Lilette on Magazine St which serves lovely dishes with a French and Italian influence. Another quiet achiever is Rio Mar which serves fresh, interesting food with Latin influences.
For Japanese food our favourite is Horinoya that we always visit whenever we are in town. In fact when we were there for month long work commitments we would have lunch at this restaurant every day before venturing to a local restaurant for dinner. There is also a Vietnamese restaurant serving excellent pho over the river at Gretna called Pho Tau Bay if you are missing Asian flavours while you are visiting New Orleans.
More than anything you should avoid the tourist traps here. There are places that are regarded as icons which provide the most horrible food experiences. We won't bother to name them, but their exclusion from the above list should be enough of a hint.
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