Dozen And A Half Most Interesting New Orleans Restaurants, 2016.
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Dozen And A Half Most Interesting New Orleans Restaurants, 2016.

It’s time for the list of the best restaurants of the past year. Having compiled one of these every year since 1978, I long ago ran out of gimmicks by which to compare, let’s say, mirlitons with oysters. Doing that can generate a single list that purports to be the hot center of the New Orleans restaurant scene. The rationale for this one was harder than usual to compile. It may be challenging to wrap your mind around it. Your comments about the content and the format are welcome at…

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Fifty Best Restaurants With Low-Noise Dining Rooms
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Fifty Best Restaurants With Low-Noise Dining Rooms

Escaping The Noise. : One of the dirty secrets of the restaurant business is the real reason why restaurant dining rooms are so acoustically lively. The truth is that it’s hard to hear the people sharing your table, and be heard by them on purpose. Restaurant patrons who have to shout to be heard will leave the restaurant sooner than those who can talk at conversational volumes. Then the restaurant can recycle those tables to a new bunch of customers. Although the restaurant owners and managers may not be aware…

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Dozen Best Hamburgers
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Dozen Best Hamburgers

Hamburgers are without question the most popular of American meals. But while a great hamburger is very enjoyable, great hamburgers are outnumbered by terrible hamburgers by a ratio of, I’d guess, about a million to one. It is the hamburger’s misfortune to appear convenient to cook and serve. In fact, a great hamburger requires at least as much attention to detail as many more ambitious dishes. That fact has energized what is known in the food service business as the “better burger” phenomenon. All parts of the hamburger–everything from the…

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Dozen Best Restaurants With Atmosphere Issues.
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Dozen Best Restaurants With Atmosphere Issues.

A plethora of television shows about funky but good greasy-spoon restaurants around the country has surprised us Orleanians. We thought we were the only ones who had a special attachment to restaurants with great food inside low-rent surroundings. But we do indeed like that duet. So much that no small number of restaurants intentionally design down. Here is a list of the dozen most interesting of those. They are ranked according to their Funkiness Quotient. That’s the ratio of food goodness to surroundings. These restaurants all have excellent food from…

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The Eight Top-Rated Restaurants
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The Eight Top-Rated Restaurants

I don’t have a quick answer to one of the five to ten most-asked questions on my radio food show. It comes up after I say that a restaurant gets five of my ratings fleurs-de-lis. I always add that this is my top rating. And that only eight restaurants in the New Orleans area win it. Within a few minutes, I will get a call wanting to know which eight restaurants get the five fleurs de lis. I ought to have a ready answer. I don’t change the ratings especially…

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Baker’s Dozen Best Restaurants For New Orleans Style

The concept of New Orleans style came up at a table at which I was sitting a few weeks ago. I got interested when the conversation shifted–as it inevitably does–to the local style in restaurants. I reached into the back of my brain (what a mess!) and recalled a quotation that I think speaks eloquently to the matter. We ran it every week in our masthead during my years at the extinct weekly newspaper Figaro. “Localism alone leads to culture,” said the American poet William Carlos Williams. Nowhere is that…

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Dozen Best Hotel Restaurants

Hotel restaurants go in and out of vogue, and this is not an especially good time for them. Tastes in restaurants these days are in the very casual direction, while the strengths of hotel eateries focuses on atmosphere and service. Too often, corporate hotel management has no good idea of what New Orleans eating is about. The greatest hotel successes have come from partnerships between hotel operators and well-known local chefs. (The Brennans and John Besh have led the field in that regard.) When that chemistry is right, we get…

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Dozen Best Excellent But Very Small Restaurants.

Dozen Best Really Small Restaurants. JoAnn Clevenger,the owner of The Upperline, told me once that I should include in my reviews the number of seats each restaurant has. “That fact tells you a lot about a restaurant,” she said. She’s right, and one day I will collect that data and publish it. (It’s harder than it sounds.) I suspect that those looking at the figure will be in search of little restaurants. There’s something about a small cafe that makes you want to love it. Which is a good thing:…

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Dozen Best Restaurants For Mardi Gras Dining.

The worst day of the year to dine out in New Orleans, Mardi Gras presents many challenges to the would-be diner. In a league with Christmas and Thanksgiving in the universality of its celebration in southern Louisiana, Mardi Gras is a day for overindulging. It’s also a day when most people whip up their own food or eat street food. The fine points of the local cuisine are not much in evidence on Fat Tuesday. Historically, not many restaurants open on Mardi Gras. That has been changing in recent years,…

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Breakfast Restaurants–Dozen Best

CremeDeLaCremeSquare-150x150New Orleans has not been historically a great breakfast town–not the way Las Vegas, Chicago, or New York are anyway. But it can claim to be the world’s most famous breakfast house: the one in position #1, below. Beyond Brennan’s, we have so many unique breakfast dishes to play with: pain perdu, grillades and grits, calas, and all those Brennan egg creations. Here are my own favorites. I expect many arguments and suggestions of other inclusions.

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Dozen & A Half Best Roast Beef Poor Boys.

The universal sandwich of New Orleans has been for most of a century among the most cherished items on the menus of neighborhood cafes. Even though roast beef with in gravy doesn’t much resemble anything else in the Creole cuisine, a good roast beef (you can leave the words “poor boy” or even “sandwich” out) is held in as high a regard as a great gumbo, shrimp remoulade, or, really, anything else. A roast beef is poor boy is made with around a foot-long piece of a long, narrow French…

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Two Dozen Best Standard-Setting Restaurants, 2016.

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Two Dozen Best Standard-Setting Restaurants, 2016.

The word “standard” has two meanings that are sort of opposites. In this case, a standard restaurant is one whose work is so good that it inspires other restaurants of its kind. It sets a standard that comes to mind most often when a restaurant fails to get up to that level.

Standard implies a track record–sometimes a very long one. It’s the opposite of new. Although freshly-opened eateries get much attention and almost all the media coverage, the long-established restaurants get most of the business. They are consistent, unlike the new places. (Which have the ultimate inconsistency of not having been there at all a year or two ago.)

Standard-setting restaurants also tend to be atmospheric and tend to the higher price categories. For that reason, we’ll have another list of the casual standard-setters as we continues this survey of the New Orleans restaurant scene, and yet another for the North Shore. (What a problem: too many good restaurants.)

I think new and standard restaurants should be ranked separately, and that is what I am about to do.

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15 Best Red Beans And Rice.

Near the top of any list of famous New Orleans dishes, red beans and rice is served by hundreds of New Orleans restaurants. I’ve personally sampled some two to three of those hundreds. My status as a walking New Orleans cliche (born on Mardi Gras, etc.) all but requires me to eat red beans every Monday–as I did until I left home at nineteen. (My mother cooked her “good old red beans and rice” every week without fail until there was nobody left in the house to eat them.) Even…

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Barbecue Joints–Dozen Best

CremeDeLaCremeSquare-150x150A decade ago, New Orleans was not a great barbecue town. Ten years before that, we weren’t even a good barbecue place. The torch (made of hickory wood, of course) had been carried by Harold’s Texas Bar B Q from the 1950s, which lasted until 2011. Then Corky’s came along with real slow-smoked barbecue. Twenty years later, a new breed of barbecue places joined in a new, nationwide mania for barbecue, and finally we had enough places to make a top-dozen list without including anything mediocre. Now, nothing will get you into an argument faster than claiming to know what constitutes “real barbecue.”

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Dozen Best Ground Beef Dishes (Not Hamburgers Or Meatballs)

CremeDeLaCremeSquare-150x150The king of beef dishes is not steak. Or the roast, stew, paillard, or stir-fry. Far and away the most popular shape of beef (and most other red meats, too) is ground. As in hamburger, the world’s most popular meat dish. The reason for this is clear. A steak needs to be a large, beautiful cut with little. . .

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the remainder of the list
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Muffulettas–Dozen Best

CremeDeLaCremeSquare-150x150The well-made muffuletta is not only an essential New Orleans eat, but one of the world’s best sandwiches. Although it’s obviously Italian, you won’t find anything quite like it in Italy. In fact, even its name is little known in Sicily, from which its New Orleans-bound inventors came. To them, “muffuletta” was a dialect word for a round, thick loaf of bread.

One of these immigrants (there is dispute over who he was) used the bread to make a new kind of panino in the early 1900s. Enclosed inside are ham, salami (neither the hard kind nor the very soft, but somewhere in between), mozzarella and Swiss cheese (at least), plus mortadella and provolone (perhaps). The unique touch that gives a muffuletta its character is its chunky salad of olives, peppers, garlic, and various marinated vegetables. A muffuletta is essentially an antipasto sandwich. More to come. . .

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Fried Catfish: Dozen Best

CremeDeLaCremeSquare-150x150Restaurateurs looking around New Orleans for a niche they might fill profitably would do well to consider the old-style country catfish house. The concept is simple, but much misunderstood. All you have to do is latch down a source of wild-caught catfish (and I know that at least one major seafood wholesaler is looking for customers). Coat it with seasoned cornmeal and corn flour. Then fry the catfish to order (no batching) in fresh, hot oil, while paying close attention. The all-time greats of the catfish cookery in New Orleans never did much more than that. More to come. . .

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Dozen Most Underrated Restaurants

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Rated by whom? That’s a problem. Very few real critics are out there giving ratings of New Orleans restaurants. Most ratings now come from readers, each of whom have a different system, so that three stars can mean anything from very good to terrible.

So maybe we’d better rename this endeavor The Dozen Most Under-Appreciated Restaurants. The meaning is clear. These are the eateries whose cooking, service, wine and other indexes of excellence are much better than their reputations or volume might imply.
More to come. . .

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15 Best Sunday Brunches

1. Brennan’s. French Quarter: 417 Royal. 504-525-9711. After closing for a year and a half, a restoration costing well into eight figures, and a new (but still Brennan) management, Brennan’s is more beautiful than ever, with most of its groundbreaking brunch dishes along with at least as many new dishes. You can get the grandest brunch in town any day but Monday. 2. Arnaud’s. French Quarter: 813 Bienville. 504-523-5433. Not only does Arnaud’s match the menu riches and antique genuineness of the premises that Brennan’s offers, it it less well…

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15 Best Sunday Brunches

CremeDeLaCremeSquare-150x150The meal at which the least business is done is Sunday brunch. It’s a time for families, friends, and other away-from-work folks. The free-flowing “Champagne” (the sparkling wine that pours at Sunday brunch is almost never actually Champagne, although some of the substitutes can be very good), the music, the surfeits of food, and the non-worry about the rest of the afternoon all contribute.

NTinis-EggsBenedict-

Sounds nice. But there is a dark side. If you’re interested in seeing a restaurant’s kitchen at its best, Sunday brunch is not the time to go. Not only are the best cooks and waiters often not on duty (they’re too pooped from Saturday night), but the restaurant’s management is likely to be hors de combat. What’s more, the menus tend to be fairly cut-and-dried, with specials being rare. More to come. . .

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Dozen Best Mother’s Day Restaurants.

CremeDeLaCremeSquare-150x150Mother’s Day is second in popularity only to birthdays as a reason for dining out. Around forty percent of us will treat our mothers (or our wives) out to dinner on the second Sunday of May. ¶ Every day’s a birthday. But there’s only one Mother’s Day. That makes it the busiest day of the year for restaurants. Fortunately, a large array of restaurants waits to serve the mothers and their families. Many restaurants normally closed on Sundays usually open for Mother’s Day. It may be the only Sunday they open all year. ¶ So the answer to “Where do I take my mother on Mother’s Day” can start not with “Who’s open?” but “Where would Mom like to dine?” Here is a list of a dozen restaurants that most of the mothers I know would find very nice. And if that’s not enough, we also have a list of the 100 best for you to peruse, along with some thoughts about Mother’s Day dining that you might find helpful. More to come. . .

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Dozen Best Pizzerias

Pizza is so appealing that it has swept across the world. If you’re in a place without pizza, you are truly in a remote area. Unfortunately, pizza lends itself to so many shortcuts, commercialized versions, and cheap ingredients that there is far more bad pizza out there than good. New Orleans was not historically a great pizza town, but that has changed in the past few years. Since my last edition of this list a year ago, several superb new pizza specialists have appeared–most of them near the top of…

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Dozen Best Garlic Restaurants

CremeDeLaCremeSquare-150x150Garlic is good. It’s exciting. It’s earthy, ethnic, aromatic, sharp. It’s good for you. A case could be made that there is no such thing as too much garlic. Here are my favorite dishes that have garlic right up front in their flavor profiles. We have enough restaurants with a passion for garlic around New Orleans that I extended the list from our usual dozen to a dozen and a half. More to come. . .

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Outdoor Dining–Dozen Best

CremeDeLaCremeSquare-150x150New Orleans only gets a few weeks during the year when the weather is comfortable enough for alfresco dining. But that doesn’t prevent over a hundred restaurants from offering it. Particularly since the city began allowing sidewalk tables, which have been eagerly patronized by diners. More to come. . .

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Dozen Best Value & Specialty Steakhouses

CremeDeLaCremeSquare-150x150Steakhouses play two different identity games. One side of the category makes a big deal over the pedigree of its beef, claiming high grades, special breeds, aging, and other matters that they hope will keep customers from focusing on the lofty prices such steaks command. The restaurants listed below also consider steak a specialty. But instead of stressing the intrinsic merit of the beef (which is often very fine), the cooking methods, sauces, and cut of beef are the attractions. The prices tend to be lower than in the deluxe steakhouses–sometimes by quite a large margin. Also included here are a few restaurants which, while not really steakhouses, have a distinct emphasis on steak. More to come. . .

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Dozen Best Deluxe Steakhouses

CremeDeLaCremeSquare-150x150New Orleans takes a back seat only to New York in the quality of its steakhouses. Prime grade has always been the standard for the very top places. Here are what I think are the twelve best steakhouses in town right now. In the spirit of the season, here is our annual list of the dozen best steakhouses. This is not the same as a list of the twelve best steak served around town. A lot of excellent steaks come from restaurants that aren’t really steakhouses. For the purposes of this list, a steakhouse is defined as a restaurant where steak is offered in many cuts and dominates the menu. More to come. . .

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Dozen Best Restaurants For Christmas Ambiance

CremeDeLaCremeSquare-150x150We need the holidays. So many warm friends and relatives we’re ashamed to say we haven’t dined with since. . . well I guess it was last Christmas, right? The restaurants encourage the cheer with the trappings of the holidays–some of them in extravagant measure. They do this both to express good will, and to use the opportunity to serve their customers with all the festivity for which their craft is renowned. More to come. . .

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Lasagna–Dozen Best

CremeDeLaCremeSquare-150x150 Lasagna is not a complicated dish, but two aspects of it keep most makers from excellence. First is the amount of time it takes to make it properly. Hours. Second is the amount of cheese needed to make it distinguished. The cheese component is the most expensive part of the dish, even when it’s a beef or veal lasagna. The best versions use several different cheeses, and plenty of them. The red sauce matters, too. It needs to be thick and present in a great enough amount to flow. . . More to come. . .

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Shrimp Remoulades–Dozen Best

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Dozen Best Shrimp Remoulades

Remoulade came from France as a blend of nearly-pureed savory vegetables, grainy mustard, and pungent radishes. Almost immediately, the Creole and French versions began to diverge. The former evolved into a deep red-orange concoction, the color coming from tomato, paprika, or both. In France, it became a mayonnaise variant, still with a sharp mustard component. Because of the continuing French influence on our food, the white kind kept being imported here. Both kinds of remoulade sauce collude with our matchless local shrimp to make one of the best imaginable appetizers. Here are my twelve favorites. You will see my own preference for the red remoulade, but please adjust to your tastes. More to come. . .

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Chef’s Tasting Menus–Dozen Best

CremeDeLaCremeSquare-150x150 The day I discovered dinners of many courses was the day I became a gourmet. Although the closest we came to today’s chef’s tasting menus was with the table d’hote dinners in unreconstructed restaurants like Tujague’s and Maylie’s, there was something about the idea that locked me into that style of dining. Six or so small courses, each one touching a different part of one’s appetite, seemed to bring even ordinary food up to a higher level of dining. More to come. . .

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Dozen Best French Restaurants
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Dozen Best French Restaurants

When I began describing the restaurants of New Orleans, French cooking was king here. Even unarguably Creole restaurants like Arnaud’s, Antoine’s, and even Tujague’s said they served French food, and used the French language heavily (exclusively, in the case of Antoine’s) in their menus. The few non-Creole French restaurants tended toward the most formal end of the dining spectrum, and were among the most expensive and ceremonious restaurants in town. That condition peaked in the early 1980s, when palatial restaurants like Louis XVI, the Sazerac, L’Escale, Les Continents, and Maison Pierre created a buzz in gourmet circles.

But not for long. Suddenly, all of those were gone, with no more of their ilk to take their place. The restaurants people went to for a Big Occasion were the new kind of chef-driven Creole restaurants. The French restaurants that survived the mass extinction were all bistros like La Crepe Nanou, Chateau du Lac, and Cafe Degas. Escargots, onion soup gratinee, mussels mariniere, poulet a la grandmere, steak and frites, and tarte Tatin were everywhere. Restaurants along those lines blossomed all around New Orleans in the 200s, but now they seem to be on the downswing in terms of numbers. As for the big, expensive, formal French restaurant, it never came back, and I don’t expect it ever will. It’s dying even in France. Click here for the list.. . . .

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Dozen Best Restaurant Mascots
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Dozen Best Restaurant Mascots

Like many other businesses appealing to the general public, restaurants usually have distinctive logos, and sometimes an animated character designed to made ads and menus distinctive. Here is a list of the twelve most interesting of those around New Orleans. Leading the league in this regard is the Brennan family, which seems to feel that mascots are essential. The oldest of those was the tipsy-looking, sword-wielding military mariner that once. . . keep on reading. . . .

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Chilled Entrees–Dozen Best
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Chilled Entrees–Dozen Best

At some point during our relentless New Orleans summers, even people disinclined to eat cold dishes open to the idea. Chilled dishes grow in their appealing the longer hot weather lingers. Here’s a list of the dozen best such summertime delicacies. We are fortunate in having many locally-grown foods that lend themselves to this sort of thing. Among them, crabmeat is king, followed closely by big shrimp. keep on reading. . . .

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Fried Chicken–Dozen Best
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Fried Chicken–Dozen Best

In the 1960s and before, fried chicken was considered a gourmet dish. Then, just as they did to the hamburger, the mass-production restaurants moved in on fried chicken and ruined its reputation. Fortunately, good fried chicken still exists. Here are the dozen restaurant’s I think fry the best chickens in the New Orleans area. Read More. . .

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Dozen Best Mexican Restaurants
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Dozen Best Mexican Restaurants

The rumor that an influx of Hispanic people to the New Orleans area following Katrina would bring with it better Mexican restaurants at least had us out there looking for some new coming. But we remain only a marginally good city for the potentially magnificent, unique cuisine of Mexico. Here are a dozen restaurants that manage to break through the cliches and serve excellent Mexican cookery. Nowhere in here will you find the word “authentic,” which has no meaning away from Mexico itself. But you’ll see it all over the anonymous faux-reviews on the big food sites, usually from people who have never visited Mexico. Read on. . .

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