Tim Leffel, author of four travel books, including The World’s Cheapest Destination is bringing you his complete list of “Can’t-Miss” restaurants for foodies around the French Quarter of New Orleans. There’s no doubt that New Orleans is one of the world’s great food capitals, a place that can makes people agonize over which restaurants are the best for them to visit in their limited number of meal slots. It’s a city where the first item on the agenda is dining, then the rest of the trip is planned around that.
In New Orleans, any “best of” list is going to inspire a flood of arguments, but there are some restaurants that most will agree are a sure thing. If the budget is ample and you want a meal to be remembered, here are nine higher-end dining options that will be a memorable experience for your date, anniversary dinner, or big family outing. They are also all within walking distance from any hotel in or near the French Quarter whether you’re looking for somewhere cool to stay or somewhere your kids will remember forever.
713 ST. LOUIS STREET
Antoine’s continues serving tourists and locals alike. Photos courtesy of Antoine’s Facebook page.
Opened in 1840 and billed as the oldest continuously running family restaurant in the USA, Antoine’s is an institution with celebrity photos on the wall that include heads of state going back to Herbert Hoover and through the years of Roosevelt, Carter, and Pope John Paul II. The place where Oysters Rockefeller originated, the 14 rooms of Antoine’s now serve tourists, local power brokers, and visiting movie stars alike. Expect rich food that’s a mix of traditional French and Creole styles.
2. Palace Café
605 CANAL STREET
Fresh and local, right on Canal Street. Photo courtesy of the Palace Cafe Facebook Page.
One of four restaurants run by one branch of the Brennan family tree—a 13-cousin restaurant rainmaker clan—Palace Café is a visually stunning two-level space with a wall of windows facing Canal Street. The inspired menu focuses on what’s local and fresh, with 70 percent of the ingredients coming from within 100 miles—including caviar. Expect expertly prepared meat and seafood dishes bursting with flavor, from soup through dessert.
3. Cafe Adelaide
300 POYDRAS STREET
Conveniently located in the family-friendly Loews New Orleans, Cafe Adelaide is named after Adelaide Brennan, who personified the good life of New Orleans in the 1950s and ‘60s. This upscale dining spot is another Brennan offshoot, with decadent “playful modern Creole” dishes and desserts like shrimp and tasso “corndogs” and white chocolate biscuit pudding (pictured above) with Abita root beer sauce and pecans.
4. The Court of Two Sisters
613 ROYAL STREET
Best known for its daily jazz brunch—not just on Sundays—this is a good choice for buffet dining in a gorgeous setting. Housed in a building dating back from the 18th century that’s been modified to let one dining room look out on the courtyard, Two Sisters has been operating as a restaurant for more than 50 years. Many of the staffers have decades of experience and the unpretentious atmosphere draws a lot of local fans to its menu filled with Louisiana specialties.
813 BIENVILLE AVENUE
Gumbo and shrump specialties from Arnaud’s. Photos courtesy of Arnaud’s Facebook page.
Established in 1918, Arnaud’s is a local institution that has won more accolades than it can count for its varied oyster dishes, Creole crab cakes, and fish varieties. The varied menu also includes meat and vegetarian dishes and when it comes to desserts and cocktails, the traditional favorites shine.
6. Drago’s Seafood Restaurant
2 POYDRAS STREET
When I attended the annual Louisiana Seafood Festival in New Orleans, the Drago’s tent had the longest line all day long, people lined up 30 deep to sample its famous smoked oysters. That one dish will make previous diners salivate when you mention it, but Drago’s—established in 1969—will also serve you a lobster tail, shrimp po-boy sandwich, alligator nuggets, gumbo, or some catfish if you’d like. The restaurant is located in the lovely Hilton New Orleans Riverside.
209 BOURBON STREET
Established in 1905 and now in its fifth generation of ownership, Galatoire’s is a traditional restaurant that doesn’t mess with what’s working. With a mix of French and New Orleans standards, dishes here don’t need to come with a long explanation. The menu is wide-ranging enough to please any picky eater and only varies by seasonal availability.
8. GW Fins
808 BIENVILLE STREET
With a focus on the freshest Gulf seafood and the best fish and lobster from elsewhere around the world, a new menu is printed daily depending on what came in from the fish monger. Often hailed in magazines as one of the best seafood restaurants in town, executive chef and co-founder Tenney Flynn is a New Orleans standout. GW Fins is one of the premier restaurants for foodies around the French Quarter.
777 BIENVILLE STREET
Without a long pedigree to tout, R’evolution instead takes tradition and gives it a new twist in its home at the Royal Sonesta Hotel New Orleans. Led by well-known chefs Rick Tramonto and John Folse, R’evolution opened with a bang in 2012 and has racked up an impressive list of “best new restaurant” awards locally and nationally. With dishes like Death by Gumbo and Crawfish-stuffed Flounder Napoleon, this is not one for light appetites.