Chain Restaurants--Dozen Best

Tom Fitzmorris April 20, 2011 16:39

Creme de la Creme

Dozen Best Chain Restaurants In New Orleans

The trend is distressing, but unstoppable. Once a restaurant attracts a following and becomes successful, its owners seem unable to resist opening another one. And another restaurant chain is born.

New Orleans historically has been more resistant to chains than other cities. In Chicago, for example, even restaurants the look for all the world like one-unit operations turn out to be one of a dozen similar places owned by the same people. In most large markets, the national and regional chains are not only omnipresent, but packed with customers all the time.

As unique as the New Orleans restaurant culture is, chains have crept in. Most of the major nationals are here, but so too are quite a few home-grown multi-unit restaurants.

Although there's no question that one's dining success will improve by avoiding chain restaurant entirely, there is such a thing as a good chain restaurant. Here is my top-dozen list of the good ones in this area. For it I define a chain as having at least three locations with the same name, style and menu. Click on any underlined restaurant name to go to a full, detailed review.

1. Zea. Founded by the three chefs who invented Semolina (after two of them had significant careers with Copeland's), Zea has emerged as an inventive, reliable, local chain with enough variety to please almost everybody in any group of people. The rotisserie food is a major specialty, and more than a few unique fusion dishes show up. And one of the city's best hamburgers. My only big complaint is that they don't use much local fish.

Harahan: 1655 Hickory Ave. 504-738-0799.
Kenner: 1325 West Esplanade Ave. 504-468-7733.
Lee Circle Area: 1525 St Charles Ave. 504-520-8100.
Metairie: 4450 Veterans Blvd (Clearview Mall). 504-780-9090.
Covington: 110 Lake Dr. 985-327-0520.
Harvey: 1121 Manhattan Blvd. 504-361-8293.

2. Ruth's Chris Steak House. A lot of Orleanians are still angry with Ruth's Chris for its actions after Katrina. But the new management of the past couple of years has brought back the two local shops of the world's biggest prime steakhouse to their former excellence. I haven't had anything less than that in my last half-dozen visits.

Metairie: 3633 Veterans Blvd. 504-888-3600.
CBD: 228 Poydras (Harrah's Hotel). 504-587-7099.

3. New Orleans Food & Spirits. The three local units of this seafood specialist (there's another in Birmingham) have a slightly offbeat, Cajun-inspired menu. Fried platters are here, but so are many other Louisiana specialties, of which the most notable is the Thursday rabbit and white beans special.

Harvey: 2330 Lapalco Blvd. 504-362-0800.
Bucktown: 210 Hammond Hwy. 504-828-2220.

Covington: 208 Lee Lane. 985-875-0432.

4. Sun Ray Grill. Although it's entirely a New Orleans operation, the food here is described as "beach cuisine"--the kind of food you'd find throughout the Caribbean. It's a fusion of all of those dishes with New Orleans ingredients and seasoning.

Gretna: 2600 Belle Chasse Hwy. 504-391-0053.
Warehouse District: 1051 Annunciation. 504-566-0021.
Old Metairie: 619 Pink. 504-837-0055.

5. Acme Oyster House. The city's oldest oyster bar has spread far from Iberville Street, but its menu is the same as it ever was. A great oyster bar, grilled oysters, seafood platters, poor boys, red beans, and gumbo.

French Quarter: 724 Iberville. 504-522-5973.
Metairie: 3000 Veterans Blvd. 504-309-4056.
Covington: 1202 US 190 (Causeway Blvd). 985-246-6155.

6. Little Tokyo. One of the city's first sushi bars has expanded and franchised repeatedly throughout the years, with mixed results. The current trio of restaurants are the best ever under the Little Tokyo flag.

Metairie: 1521 N Causeway Blvd. 504-831-6788.
Mid-City: 310 N Carrollton Ave. 504-485-5658.
Mandeville: 590 Asbury Dr. 504-727-1532.

7. Camellia Cafe. When there was only one of these, it looked like a chain. With a kicky menu and graphics by artist Luis Colmenares, the Camellia Cafes do a menu that will remind you a little of Copeland's, but in a fresher, more natural way.

Slidell: 525 Gause Blvd West. 985-649-6211.
Abita Springs: 69455 LA 59. 985-809-6313.
Arabi: 8011 St Bernard Hwy #B. 504-277-6996.

8. Taqueria Corona. The original on Magazine broke away from the Tex-Mex style of other local south-of-the-border restaurants and created a sensation, long before the city was riddled with taquerias. The branches are a little inconsistent, but that has been improving lately.

Uptown: 5932 Magazine St. 504-897-3974.
Metairie: 3535 Severn. 504-885-5088.
Harahan: 1827 Hickory Ave. 504-738-6722.

9. Morton's The Steakhouse. The local branch of the national Morton's Steakhouse could be better if it used more local ingredients, and its recent lower-price specials aren't up to the standards that make it famous. But it's still a pleasure to dine there.

CBD: 365 Canal (Canal Place Mall). 504-566-0221.

10. Corky's. Barbecue of any note is a recent phenomenon around town, and the best of it comes from one-location joints. But Corky's helped teach us about real 'cue, and it's always been consistent.

Metairie: 4243 Veterans Blvd. 504-887-5000.

11. Houston's. It's overpriced, way too much of the menu comes off the same grill, and the wait for a table is too long. But Houston's satisfies the desires of a lot of eaters, and it's never, ever terrible.

Uptown: 1755 St Charles Ave. 504-524-1578.
Metairie: 4241 Veterans Blvd. 504-889-2301.

12. Reginelli's Pizzeria. Darryl Reginelli's local pizza chain keeps expanding. Its pizza isn't the equal of the New York-style places around town (let alone the likes of Domenica), but it's well-made, and the rest of the menu is good and just different enough.

Uptown: 741 State. 504-899-1414.
Lakeview: 874 Harrison Ave. 504-488-0133.
Elmwood: 5608 Citrus Blvd. 504-818-0111.
Kenner: 817 W Esplanade Ave. 504-712-6868.
CBD: 930 Poydras. 504-586-0068.

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