photo credit: Commander's Palace
The Best Classic Bars And Restaurants In New Orleans
Our guide to the 21 places that made eating and drinking in New Orleans what it is today.
If it’s your first trip to New Orleans - or if you didn’t leave Bourbon Street last time - there are certain classic bars and restaurants that you should check out. They’re the kinds of places where lunch cocktails and dress codes are encouraged, and just like taking a tour of a cemetery or joining an impromptu second line, they need to be experienced when you visit. These aren’t the coolest restaurants and bars in New Orleans, but they are 21 of the most classic.
Check out our complete list of New Orleans restaurants and bars here.
La Petite Grocery
One of the best free things you can do in New Orleans is walk through the Garden District on Magazine Street. The whole stretch is lined with restaurants, bars, and shops, so you can snack and drink as you go. But one place you’ll want to save room for is La Petite Grocery. It’s a modern take on Creole fine dining and while the whole menu is excellent, we’re especially big fans of the blue crab beignets and pasta with turtle ragu. If you make it in for brunch instead, make sure to get a Bloody Mary, which comes topped with shrimp, crab, and pickled vegetables, and is basically a meal by itself.
Willie Mae's Scotch House
Beignets, oysters, and gumbo are all on the Mt. Rushmore of New Orleans’ greatest dishes. The fourth spot is reserved for the fried chicken at Willie Mae’s Scotch House. Located in the Treme, this place is vintage NOLA at its very best and feels more like you’re eating in someone’s house than an actual restaurant. It closes at 5pm daily and waits can be upwards of two hours during the lunch rush, so we recommend going for a late afternoon snack around 4pm.
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Commander’s Palace opened in the 1890s and is the quintessential New Orleans restaurant. This Garden District landmark serves all of the local staples, like turtle soup, gumbo, and barbecue shrimp, and it’s a great option for when getting a little dressed up sounds fun. If you want to drink 25 cent martinis while doing so though, head to Commander’s for lunch, when you can get two courses for under $25 and a few cocktails that will collectively cost you less than a dollar. Depending on how you feel afterward, check out the historic Lafayette Cemetery across the street, since pregaming a trip to a cemetery completely makes sense here.
Central Grocery Co.
The po’boy might be the most famous sandwich in New Orleans, but the muffuletta - a giant Italian sandwich that can easily feed four people - is a close second. You can find it across the city, but it was invented at Central Grocery in the French Quarter and that’s where you should go for one. This Italian specialties shop looks like it’s from another century, which makes sense since it opened in 1906. There’s always a lunch crowd, but the muffulettas are constantly being made so the line moves quick.
If you only have brunch once in New Orleans, it should be at Brennan’s. This place opened more than 70 years ago and is known for both its excellent service and classic food, like eggs Benedict, gumbo, and a crawfish omelette. Make sure to try the brandy milk punch as well, if morning drinking is in your future. If you don’t feel like battling the plethora of bachelorette parties that flock to Brennan’s earlier in the day, then come for dinner instead. Make sure to save room for the Bananas Foster, though, which is set aflame table-side and you should not try to make in your kitchen at home.
Toups Meatery in Mid-City serves modern Creole food with a strong focus on all things meat. Foie gras, wagyu steaks, and chicken confit are all on the menu, along with local staples like boudin balls and plenty of Gulf seafood. If you’re with a group and want to do it right though, start with one of their cocktail pitchers and the Meatery Board, which includes a variety of house-made fresh and cured meats.
photo credit: Erwin Kuhn
Casamento’s started serving oysters on Magazine Street more than 90 years ago and has barely changed at all along the way. This is a situation where you should really stick to the bivalves, especially the fried oyster loaf sandwich, but make sure to get some soft shell crab if it’s in season, too. As a forewarning, Casamento’s closes when Gulf Oysters are out of season - from the end of May to the beginning of September - so plan your trip accordingly.
Friday lunch at Galatoire’s is a New Orleans right of passage. To do it right, you need to sit in the downstairs dining room, which requires getting in line on Bourbon Street before it opens at 11:30am. Once you’re in though, it’s basically an upscale party where the servers wear tuxes, drinking is definitely encouraged, and you can eat old school classics like shrimp remoulade and gumbo. If you’re looking for a proper “Yes, I’m definitely in New Orleans” way to kick off your weekend here, start at Galatoire’s.
There are certain things you have to do in New Orleans, like hear a brass band, walk down Bourbon Street, and get at least one beer or cocktail to-go. Eating the wood-fired oysters with chili garlic butter at Cochon is also on that list. This spot in the Warehouse District opened more than a decade ago and serves great modern cajun food, like fried boudin and a massive pork shank topped with chicharron, but really it’s all about the oysters. Order enough that you don’t have to share, along with a few small plates if you need something else. Or just more oysters.
Located next door to the restaurant, Cochon Butcher is the more laidback, sandwich-centric version of its sister spot. Here you can enjoy things like one of the city’s best muffulettas, a grilled cheese bacon melt, and something called Le Pig Mac, which is basically a double decker pork burger with special sauce. If you’re making a list of lunch options for your visit, make sure to include Cochon Butcher towards the top.
Eating at this legendary Uptown spot is as much a party as it is an actual meal. The waits are long and it’s only open for dinner, but Jacques-Imo’s is an essential experience that you should have at least once in your life. By the time you get a table, you’ll be good and buzzed, and very ready to try out the alligator sausage cheesecake and some shrimp etouffee. If you’re only eating with one other person, ask for the table in the back of the pickup truck parked out front, because when else is that ever going to be an option?
Pêche is a seafood place run by the same team as Cochon and it takes just as high quality of an approach to fish as its sibling does to pork. The large, open space, along with the seafood platters and whole grilled fish, makes this spot in the Warehouse District ideal for big groups (take note bachelor and bachelorette parties). However, you can also come solo or with a date and just grab drinks and oysters at the bar.
Cafe Du Monde
Whether you need a mid-afternoon pick-me-up or a post-bar snack at 3am, Cafe Du Monde is always open. This place has been serving coffee and beignets in the same location on Jackson Square since 1862. It’s about as vintage New Orleans as you can get, and while it’s one of the most touristy spots in the city, the coffee and beignets - which are available 24/7, everyday except Christmas - are worth showing up in the background of people’s vacation photos.
photo credit: Erwin Kuhn
Superior Seafood And Oyster Bar
When you want to sit down for a long lunch and really try to eat your body weight in oysters, hop on the St. Charles streetcar and take it to Superior Seafood in the Garden District. With lots of exposed wood and tie-clad servers, this place has a kind of high-end throwback feel, but is still casual enough to just walk into when you pass by and find yourself craving seafood. Besides oysters, the barbecue shrimp and blackened fish Napoleon topped with crawfish etouffee are both great for sharing with whoever else joins you on your mid-day binge.
Parkway Bakery & Tavern
Po’boy shops in New Orleans are as common as the discarded beads you find post-Mardi Gras. There are endless options, but if you want the best, head to Parkway Bakery in Mid-City. This corner sandwich shop is more than a century old and has been feeding everyone from local musicians to presidents since they first opened. Seriously, Obama ate here during his last visit. The two standout sandwiches are the fried oysters - which is only available Mondays and Wednesdays - and the roast beef with gravy, but the surf and turf with fried shrimp and roast beef is a good compromise if you want a taste of both.
At the far end of the Bywater, you’ll find Bacchanal, a weird little wine shop that evolved into a wine garden utopia and one of the coolest places you can spend a night in New Orleans. After you pick out a bottle, head outside to the big backyard where you can drink, order cheese and charcuterie, and catch live music every night of the week. There’s also a semi-secret cocktail and wine bar upstairs, which is the perfect place to take in the scene and survey the backyard for available seats.
The Carousel Bar & Lounge
Yes, this bar is built into an actual moving carousel inside the Hotel Monteleone and also yes, it’s a little gimmicky. That said, it’s still a fun place to grab a drink. At all hours of the day, you’ll find a mix of tourists draped in beads and hotel guests pre and post-gaming weddings, all of whom are enamored with the bar that spins slowly enough to barely notice until you’re actually seated on one of the stools.
In the very center of the French Quarter is Pat O’Brien’s, a bar famous for three things: inventing the Hurricane, late-night dueling pianos, and a flaming fountain. While it gets packed at night, it’s an ideal spot to grab a few afternoon drinks, and theorize about why someone thought, “You know what that fountain needs? Flames.” Even when you’re trying to keep things low-key, Pat O’Brien’s is a classic and somewhere you should still check out for a drink or two.
There’s no shortage of places to see a show in New Orleans. Seriously, just walk to Frenchmen Street, close your eyes, and point. But Tipitina’s in Uptown is an institution and one of the best places to go for music in the whole city. Stand wherever you feel like, but we suggest the balcony, which has a great view and easy access to a bar. National acts regularly play here, but look for a night with a local brass band instead.
Located in the lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel, the Sazerac Bar has barely changed since it opened in the 1930s. No, the namesake drink wasn’t invented here, but they do make great cocktails and it’s a bar that feels like it’s seen a lot, partially because of the bullet hole in the wall from an attempted hit gone wrong. This place is regularly filled with everyone from local politicians to bachelorette parties, and it’s a great spot to start a night before taking the inevitable walk down Bourbon Street.
Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop
There are roughly 582 bars on Bourbon Street, and most of them aren’t worth your time, unless your goal is to end up on stage with an AC/DC cover band. Rather than give your friends the pleasure of watching you do that, head to Lafitte’s instead. It’s one of the oldest bars in America, and their frozen daiquiris provide all the energy you’ll need to bob and weave through the mix of bachelor parties, college kids, and tourists that clog the street each night.