Editor’s Note: While many restaurants, bars, and hotels have reopened in New Orleans since Hurricane Ida made landfall over the summer, please be sure to contact any of the businesses below for adjusted hours of operation.
New Orleans is a place with an outsized but well-deserved reputation for hospitality, which shows best when you’re sitting down for a roast beef po’ boy that demands a hand full of napkins, pulling up a chair at one of the city’s classic fine dining restaurants, or spending the night at one of several new, locally-owned hotels.
And the city is ready to welcome you. In 2020, the pandemic cut short what was to be a busy stretch of spring festivals and events, hamstringing New Orleans’ service industry as the ongoing health crisis catalyzed into a too-long slow season. Then, in summer 2021, it was all punctuated by Hurricane Ida slamming into south Louisiana’s shores. But this is a place that’s been rebirthing itself for 300 years, and it’s impossible to find anywhere more suited to finding beauty in chaos.
With this guide, you’ll be steered toward all of the things that make New Orleans a place to return to over and over, regardless of what the future holds.
Just steps away from one of the best views in the city at Crescent Park, Bywater American Bistro explores the ties between Cajun, Caribbean, Creole, and Southern cooking. While you can’t go wrong with sitting inside the industrial-meets-cozy dining room, the best option is to grab a spot at the high-top just outside the front door. From there, you can watch the world pass by while you explore the menu with everything from roasted octopus and curried rabbit with coconut rice, to roasted snapper served with shishito peppers. As the younger sister restaurant to equally popular, but a little fancier, Compere Lapin, this place regularly fills up with both visitors from around the world and neighbors from down the block - all of whom will happily give you their personal recs of where to grab a drink (or four) after dinner.
If you’ve got to feed a crowd, Paladar 511 is where you head to make sure everyone’s happy. As the night wears on, this place truly comes alive as the chatter from every table inside this lofty Italian restaurant is fueled by great cocktails and one of our favorite wine lists around. Just down the way from Bywater American Bistro - a more intimate option for a date - here the menu is all about pizza, pastas, and hearty sauces, but make sure the squid ink spaghetti is on your table. With its perfectly cooked shrimp, you’ll end up fighting over who gets the last one, which come swimming in a Calabrian chili butter we’d happily buy by the jar. For pizza, order the Farm Egg, which also comes topped with bacon and collard greens and is worth every messy bite. Save room for dessert too, because the dark chocolate budino is one of the best sweet finishes in the city.
Don’t let the outdated Sugar Park neon sign out front fool you: You can find this fun wine bar inside a small house on St. Claude in the Bywater. Here it’s all about natural wines and a reservations-only, five-course tasting menu full of surprising dishes, especially during “Vegetarian Week,” which begins the third Thursday of every month and shows off the kitchen’s creativity. The menu is always rotating, but think fermenting, braising, smoking, poaching - anything that can be done to get the most out of seasonal, local produce (a recent favorite featured spot prawn served with lovage and fermented tomato). If you fail to make reservations, stop by anyway and dip into the bar snacks, like the table salad or the pate de campagne.
There’s maybe no restaurant in New Orleans that’s received as much national attention over the past few years as Turkey and the Wolf, which makes sense since their wild sandwiches are all truly excellent. But while it’s no longer the newest kid on the block - they’ve since opened breakfast spot Molly’s Rise And Shine as well - the food is still some of the best in the city. Take a quick glance at this sandwich shop’s menu, with its fried bologna, a deep-fried chicken-pot-pie-turned-hand-pie, and a double-patty burger called “Mama Tried,” and you might think you’re getting punked. But what the team here has built is no joke. Their collard green melt might just be the best thing - it’s served as a double-decker on rye with enough melted Swiss cheese and Russian dressing to keep you thinking about it even after you’ve gone home.
Stand outside of Luvi on the busy Tchoupitoulas Street corner and it could be hard to believe just how calm the tidy little restaurant is beyond the cottage’s muted blue door. More cool blues with greens and bright florals surround the intimate space, where chefs prepare dishes from Shanghai and Japan just beyond the L-shaped counter. This is the sort of place where you’ll happily lose count as you order plate after plate, many of which are small but easily shared. Delicate cuts of seared tuna and salmon come from the raw bar, but be sure to dip your chopsticks into orders of the spicy dan dan noodles, which come swimming in housemade bone broth and get their heat from a touch of ghost chili oil.
What started as a semi-secret pop-up between two college friends from New York looking for pies that tasted like home in the years after Hurricane Katrina is now a local mainstay, and makes some of the best pizza in the city. The crust has that nice little snap when you fold it, and the toppings never overwhelm the simple beauty of the red sauce. Also, you can order by the slice, but if you do, you’ll miss out on the excellent margherita, which only comes as a whole pie. Look for a rotating list of specials, too, like the roasted cauliflower, hot coppa with caramelized onions, or rosemary potato with spicy bechamel. And don’t forget to pick up a salted chocolate chip cookie for dessert.
Parkway Tavern has been serving po’ boys for more than 100 years, so it’s fair to say they’ve learned a thing or two about one of the most quintessential dishes of New Orleans. The counter-service and expansive patio are great for groups, but grab a table at the bar inside if there’s a spot available so you can chat with the locals who come through daily. The options span from sliced turkey to deep-fried shrimp and oysters or go for the classic roast beef, which is served dripping in gravy. Ask for it “dressed,” and it’ll be served with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayo exactly as it should be.
Located just on the edge of the Marigny, Morrow’s is home to one of the most interesting hybrid menus around - a mix of South Louisiana and Korea. The product of a mother-son duo, this place serves classic New Orleans dishes like grilled redfish, which comes topped with crabmeat, and perfectly buttery chargrilled oysters alongside sweet-savory Korean barbecue short ribs. Stop by on Sundays for a busy brunch service, when, if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to experience the seasonal soft shell crab benedict in all its glory.
If you’ve come to New Orleans looking for an all-caps CLASSIC restaurant, head to Commander’s Palace in the Garden District, where every table is treated like Carnival royalty. This is the sort of place where regulars know to call a full year in advance to snag tables for certain days, like the Friday before Mardi Gras when members of local parading krewes will greet friends and toss beads from table to table. On a more typical afternoon, make a reservation here for the sort of long, lazy lunch that involves many, many courses (and drinks). Make sure you order the turtle soup (and yes, you do want the sherry to top it off) and ask for the bread pudding, which takes a little extra time, at the start of your meal. Oh, and don’t forget about one of the greatest lunch specials ever - the 25 cent martinis.
There are many New Orleans restaurants with storied histories, but none quite like Dooky Chase’s, which was home to organizing meetings during the Civil Rights Movement, fed A.P. Tureaud and Thurgood Marshall, and even served its famous fried chicken to President Obama. Get a plate of that chicken for yourself while you scan the walls for works by Black artists - the restaurant was also the first gallery for Black creators here. If you happen by on Holy Thursday (the last before Easter Sunday), try to get a bowl of the gumbo z’herbes, a traditional preparation of the local dish made with nearly a dozen greens.
Hotel Peter And Paul
This former Catholic school compound once encompassed a church, schoolhouse, rectory, and a convent, but today it’s home to the Hotel Peter and Paul. Despite its history, here you’ll find cozy corners and the airy charm of a countryside estate, with plenty of gingham curtains to match. Guest rooms are divided between the schoolhouse, rectory, and convent, each with its own fun details, including clawfoot tubs and canopy beds. Guests and visitors alike also have access to Sundae Best ice cream parlor and Elysian Bar, the perfect place for a spritz while you toast your arrival to New Orleans. Book your stay here.
Hitch a ride on one of the rumbling streetcars out of the French Quarter and along St. Charles Avenue, and you can get right off at The Chloe. The mansion-turned-hotel has just 14 rooms, but a wealth of lavish entertainment at your doorstep with a tiny little pool deck on the back porch and a restaurant with options for cocktail hour that turns into dinner. Inside the rooms, you’ll find local art and an armoire, which offers entry to a bathroom or a cozy corner to enjoy all to yourself. Book your stay here.
Hotel Saint Vincent
Though this property in the Lower Garden District has a history dating back to the 1860s when it opened as an orphanage, it was recently reborn as a luxe hotel, complete with the Italian San Lorenzo & Paradise Lounge, a new outpost for the Austin-based Elizabeth Street Cafe, and a pool bar. Hotel guests also have access to their own cocktail bar, the Chapel Club. Swing by the small boutique on the property, ByGeorge, to find gifts from luxury brands like Missoni and Cartier. Book your stay here.