The Dozen Most Essential
New Orleans Restaurants Of 2010
This is almost–but not exactly–a list of what I think are the best restaurants in town. I rank these by how important they are to the local dining picture. Sheer goodness of the cooking plays the most important role, but a host of other elements come into play: creativity, culinary uniqueness, history, romance, value, and a million other things. I will soon publish this year’s 250 Essential Restaurants. For now, here are the top twelve from that list.
Click on any restaurant name in this list for a detailed review.
1. Commander’s Palace. Garden District: 1403 Washington Ave. 504-899-8221. The most impressive thing about Commander’s is that it comes as close as can be imagined to being all things for all tasteful people. It’s culinarily excellent and original, it’s stunningly beautiful and historic, has a great wine list, a first-class service ethic, and it’s open all the time. There are restaurants that perform one or another of those jobs better, but nobody who does all of them so well.
2. Galatoire’s. French Quarter: 209 Bourbon. 504-525-2021. Galatoire’s is the axis of New Orleans fine dining. Without it, we would lose our sense of direction. All you need to do is to get what’s going on there, which isn’t like what goes on in most other restaurants.
3. Stella!. French Quarter: 1032 Chartres. 504-587-0091. Stella! and its chef-owner Scott Boswell went full speed ahead with innovative cooking with rare ingredients, regardless of how far out of the mainstream it would take them or how much it would cost its customers.
4. Restaurant August. CBD: 301 Tchoupitoulas. 504-299-9777. The explosive expansion of John Besh’s universe–he added four restaurants and a cookbook to it in the past two years–has had an effect on his flagship restaurant. But it’s still an exemplar of dining in the grand style. If only he could pull away from other people’s trends a bit (i.e. back away from the now-omnipresent beef short ribs), things would be even better.
5. Mr. B’s Bistro. French Quarter: 201 Royal. 504-523-2078. Mr. B’s continues to be the archetype of the New Orleans gourmet bistro, with the best versions of such critical dishes as chicken-andouille gumbo, barbecue shrimp, and crab cakes. And it’s a cool place.
6. Pelican Club. French Quarter: 615 Bienville. 504-523-1504. With a menu that straddles the border between traditional and avant-garde Louisiana cooking, this is a very satisfying restaurant. Its special menus (particularly the Reveillon) are topped by no others.
7. Brigtsen’s. Riverbend: 723 Dante. 504-861-7610. Chef Frank Brigtsen runs his bistro out of his back pocket, with all the immediacy and personality that implies. Nobody does that better.
8. Emeril’s. Warehouse District: 800 Tchoupitoulas. 504-528-9393. The historic New Orleans disdain for successful people makes a lot of would-be diners eschew this seminal restaurant. That is to their detriment. Emeril’s remain exciting, hip, and delicious.
9. Tommy’s Cuisine. Warehouse District: 746 Tchoupitoulas. 504-581-1103. Tommy Andrade’s restaurant had matured in the last year or two into one of the most pleasurable and important places to eat New Orleans food. While maintaining a traditional menu and service style, it performs the same magic that Galatoire’s does, in its own way. The lack of pretentiousness is especially agreeable.
10. Gautreau’s. Uptown: 1728 Soniat St. 504-899-7397. The evolution of Gautreau’s continues. It has become the best of the New American bistros, and with its intimate premises keeps a certain society of Uptown diners attached to it.
11. Le Foret. CBD: 129 Camp. 504-553-6738. For a restaurant barely one year old to make this list is saying something, and what I am saying is that it’s great once again to have polished dining rooms with a sharp service staff, brilliantly-conceived food and a lavish wine list born anew. There’s hope for the future.
12. Bistro Daisy. Uptown: 5831 Magazine. 504-899-6987. In the tradition of Warren Leruth, Gerard Crozier, and other chefs with strong and personal culinary styles, Chef Anton Schulte and his wife Diane have an attention-getting gem. Most first-time diners find it amazing that it was there so long without their knowing about it.