New Orleans' Top 10 Classic Restaurants
With a restaurant scene dating back 300 years, New Orleans has more celebrated, still-relevant institutions than some of the South’s major cities combined. From the turquoise mansion known as Commander’s Palace to old-school oyster joint Casamento’s and one of the most important restaurants in African-American history, here are the ten classics you need to visit to understand the food of New Orleans.
Brought to prominence by one of the country’s first woman restaurateurs, Ella Brennan, who famously said she didn’t want to run a restaurant where a jazz band couldn’t come marching through. Commander’s Palace continues under her daughter, Ti Martin, and niece, Lally Brennan, and so do their famous jazz brunches with 25 cent martinis. Chef Tory McPhail has committed his staff to sourcing as much of the menu as possible from Louisiana and regional purveyors.
The city’s most treasured hostess, JoAnn Clevenger recently turned 80-years-old, which belies the energy inside her restaurant. Inside an old house in the Garden District, now filled with her art collection, Upperline remains one of the best places to eat the city’s original Creole dishes. Clevenger’s iconic dish, fried green tomatoes with shrimp remoulade, is a must-order, but so is the spicy shrimp with cornbread and aioli and the pecan bread pudding, an homage to her childhood spent on a pecan grove in North Louisiana.
Dooky Chase Restaurant
New Orleans legend Leah Chase passed away earlier this year at the age of 96, but her restaurant Dooky Chase’s lives on. Originally the only white-tablecloth restaurant where African Americans could dine in the city during Jim Crow, Dooky Chase’s was a hub for hungry Freedom Riders and also saw heros of the movement like Thurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King Jr.. It had also become a crowded gallery for African-American art and eventually one of the best collections in the country. Although the restaurant flooded during Hurricane Katrina, Chase and other chefs worked to rebuild it.
Trying to determine where definitely has the best oysters in New Orleans is a fool’s errand. And don’t even start to ask a group of locals. Instead, head to Casamento’s, which has been serving Gulf oysters raw, fried, and otherwise since 1919 in their beautifully tiled shoebox on Magazine Street.
For over 30 years, Chef Frank Brigsten and his wife Marna has served the city’s most iconic dishes rom BBQ shrimp with rice fritters to panéed rabbit with Creole mustard sauce in this uptown gem. They have been nominated multiple times for a James Beard Award in outstanding service.
The birthplace of Bananas Foster, the famous French Quarter restaurant recently underwent an opulent renovation. With Carribbean and European influences, Brennan’s dining rooms each have their own personality. One of the most iconic is the Trellis Room inspired by the look of a French orangerie with large pistachio-colored half-crescent banquettes and murals depicting Mardis Gras scenes.
Although the original Gabrielle location closed due to heavy flooding from Hurricane Katrina, the newly opened reincarnation on Orleans Avenue still serves the Creole-Cajun classics locals loved before like smoked quail gumbo and BBQ shrimp pie.
New Orleans may not be as well known for its Italian influence, but Sicilian immigrants helped create the city’s Creole-Itlalian food culture. One of the best places to see those dishes is Mosca’s, just a short drive over to New Orleans’ West Bank.
Few restaurants can claim to have been in operation for almost 200 years, but Antoine’s has endured to become an indelible part of French Quarter history.
You won’t find a modicum of trendiness at Clancy’s, and that’s what locals continue to patronize this efficiently elegant uptown bistro that errs on the side of abundance. Saving room for the lemon icebox pie presents a challenge, but one worth taking up.