Make That A Baker’s Dozen
Dozen Best New Restaurants Of 2012
It has been an excellent year for those of us who like lots of new places to dine. In terms both of sheer numbers and impressiveness of the new places, 2012 was better than any other since the turn of the century.
As in past years, this list includes a few entries that appeared in 2011–but too late to make an impression on anyone but dining pioneers in that year. So they became part of the class of 2012. Detailed reviews of most of the restaurants can be seen by clicking on their names. I’ve been to all of them, but a few still deserve more research before a full review.
1. Root. Warehouse District: 200 Julia. 504-252-9480. The best new eatery of the year is very casual, forward-thinking almost to the point that it seems gimmicky at first–and very, very good. No matter what bold technique is brought to bear, the flavors are there.
2. R’evolution. French Quarter: 777 Bienville (in the Royal Sonesta Hotel). 504-553-2277. Certainly the most hyped new opening of the year, this joint venture of John Folse and Rick Tramanto is physically arresting and sports one of the most extensive menus I’ve seen in years. But it’s more casual and traditional than we were expecting.
3. Borgne. CBD: 601 Loyola Ave (Hyatt Regency Hotel). 504-613-3860. John Besh’s idea of injecting St. Bernard’s Islenos culinary culture into a Creole menu is brilliant. And Chef Brian Landry pulls that and the more familiar seafood dishes off very well.
4. Tommy’s Bistro. Warehouse District: 755 Tchoupitoulas. 504-527-0942. Tommy Andrade built a more comfortable, spiffier restaurant across from his busy place across the street. After a few false starts, it has developed into a superlative restaurant in the style of around 1990–a good time for those of us who still like creature comforts with our brilliant cooking.
5. Annunciation. Warehouse District: 1016 Annunciation. 504-568-0245. Longtime Clancy’s chef Steve Manning is on his own, bust serving the same food he always did. Across the street from the always-packed Cochon, it makes an already strong dining neighborhood bitter still.
6. SoBou. French Quarter: 310 Chartres St.. 504.552.4095. I see this as the restaurant of the future. almost all formality is gone, with little distinction between starters and entrees. Eat how you like, with Creole-Cajun flavors, great cocktails and a unique automated wine system
7. Apolline. Uptown: 4729 Magazine St. 504-894-8881. The remnants of Dominique Macquet’s 2011 restaurant here coalesced into an excellent bistro. It’s the sleeper of the year, needing only a little more menu range and more customers.
8. Toups’ Meatery. Mid-City: 845 N Carrollton Ave. 504-252-4999. Isaac Toups, formerly of Cuvee inter alia, is curing and smoking meats big-time here. But the best food may be the straight-ahead Creole bistro fare. The North Carrollton dining strip keeps getting better.
9. Maurepas Foods. Bywater/Downtown: 3200 Burgundy St. 504-267-0072. The most-discussed opening in the emerging Bywater restaurant zone, Maurepas is busy, chummy, and mostly good–although some of the cooking is contrived. That will cure itself, I suspect.
10. Zachary’s. Mandeville: 902 Coffee. 985-626-7008. The tiny restaurant that once was The Hungry Forager is no bigger under the management of Chef Zachary Watters. But it is better, and has collected a corps of regulars who rave about it.
11. Pardo’s. Covington: 69305 Hwy 21. 985-893-3603. It feels like a chain, but isn’t. Must be the suggestion given by the strip mall, and the many chains around the Target intersection of LA 21 and I-12. Mostly Italian, with a bit of New Orleans food, more polished (and expensive) than one expects.
12. Tamarind. Lee Circle/Lower Garden District: 936 St. Charles Ave. (Modern Hotel). Closed. A Creole-Vietnamese-Caribbean restaurant orchestrated by Dominique Macquet while he’s waiting for his new Magazine Street place to open. The food was original and delicious, but the curse of Lee Circle remains, and Tamarind did not last through the year. We liked it while it was here.
Extra. Serendipity. Mid-City: 3700 Orleans Ave. 504-407-0818. Chef Chris DeBarr wields one of the most creative skillets in town, as he has proven over the years in a series of limited restaurant assignments. He finally hit the big time this year, moving from the space-impaired Green Goddess to the roomy restaurant in the American Can Apartments on Bayou St. John. I’m all but certain that Serendipity will prove to be one of this year’s best new restaurants. But it hasn’t been open long enough for me to do a thorough review. Rank as you like it.