I don't always use my gifts and talents to the best of my ability, but I will say that being from New Orleans, I've been gifted with a seemingly limitless list of restaurants where food and atmosphere are unmatched. And as I believe this is one of the best gifts I've been given, I also feel like it's my responsibility to share my knowledge (though limited) with anyone and everyone who asks (and even those who don't) for recommendations. So to make it easier on myself, I decided it would be a good idea to make this into a blog post, rope Gen into offering her suggestions, and just direct people to this post whenever they are visiting New Orleans and want food advice. Unfortunately, we had to limit ourselves to a short list in the interest of brevity and efficiency. But if you don't like these options or want to try new ones and don't know where to look, feel free to leave a comment below or send us an email and we'll gladly offer you more suggestions.
I’ll be honest: While I’ve tried most of these places and my recommendations come from generally great experiences at each of them, there are a few I haven’t tried and some that I’ve suggested only because my brother-in-law, who knows his way around New Orleans dining like no one else I know, recommended them. So in essence, I cheated with this post because I had a resource much more reliable than myself and I wanted to give you the best. You’re welcome.
Places for Coffee:
Spitfire (French Quarter) - I’ve been here a couple of times, and each time was always impressed. While this coffee shop can’t boast of size or seating accommodations (plan to get it to go), it does have the high approval rating of almost any online list of places to get coffee in New Orleans I’ve seen. Try their pour over or espresso - but you can’t go wrong with any choice from here.
Stumptown Coffee (Warehouse District) - Based out of Portland, this chain is known in the coffee lover’s world as having a cool atmosphere and a great cup of cold brew.
French Truck (multiple locations) - I had never been here until recently, but when I heard it is the best place to get coffee in the city, I had to try it. I was not disappointed. They make basically any type of coffee you want, and it’s strong and delicious.
Gracious Bakery $ (multiple locations) - packed with delicious pastries and good coffee, Gracious Bakery has a variety of less expensive breakfast options to get your day started. They have a "build-a-breakfast egg sandwich" option starting at $6.25.
Willa Jean $ (CBD)- Good for morning carb-y snacks, Willa Jean serves food all day but is known for its breakfast and dessert. Some breakfast (and weekend brunch) offerings include crawfish & grits, avocado toast, and a separate portion of the menu just for biscuits.
The Palace Cafe $$-$$$ (Canal Street) - This is by far my favorite place to get breakfast in the city. With options like bananas foster waffles, BBQ shrimp & grits, and crabmeat cheesecake (yes you read that correctly), I haven't had a bite here that's been less than satisfyingly scrumptious. Additionally, this place (and Canal Street in general) does Christmas like a dream. Pair the food with the 1920's atmosphere and weekend live jazz band, you'll feel like you stepped into a Fitzgerald novel.
Antoine’s $$-$$$ (French Quarter) - I haven't actually been here for lunch, but Antoine's is the oldest French-Creole restaurant in New Orleans (John Paul II dined here when he visited in the 80s!). They offer a $20.18 prix fixe lunch menu including Charbroiled Oysters and Grilled Louisiana Drum, but this menu is seasonal and subject to change. They have signature oyster recipes (including Oysters Rockefeller) as well as a signature after dinner drink called the Café Brûlot, a flaming cinnamon coffee drink.
Cowbell $-$$ (River Road near Uptown) - Obviously known for their beef/burger options, Cowbell also offers vegetarian and good seafood small plates that are worth trying.
Bear's Po-Boys $-$$ (Metairie) - Arguably some of the best po-boys in the city. If you've never been to New Orleans and/or never had a po-boy, I'd recommend you start here, but it's likely you won't find a better roast beef po-boy anywhere else (unless you visit my mama's house).
Domenica $$-$$$ (Canal Street) - One time Jonathan and I ate dinner here during happy hour for under $19 (not including tip). Dinner included complimentary bread to start, one alcoholic beverage for each of us, a pizza to share, and two free small cookies given to us with our bill. We left feeling like we'd cheated the system, full of disbelief that we could get all of that great food and drink for under $20. Try any of their pizzas along with their roasted cauliflower with whipped feta appetizer, and you will not be disappointed. Happy Hour times are 2-6 PM, daily.
Avo (Uptown) - $$-$$$ 1/2 off wines by the glass, $4 beer offerings, and $9 pasta offerings, Avo's happy hour is hard to match for elegance, atmosphere, and cost for quality drink options. Go when it's not too hot and you'll enjoy their covered outdoor patio with candles all over the exposed brick and vine-covered walls. If mussels and fries are on the menu, do yourself a favor and order two rounds. Happy hour times: 4-6 PM, Mon.-Thurs.
The Rum House $-$$ (Uptown) - With close to 20 different taco options, The Rum House is not lacking in variety of delicious Carribean-inspired food. Get the Damn Good Nachos (a small portion can probably feed and fill 2-3 people as a meal) and a margarita.
Clancy’s $$$-$$$$ (Uptown) - This is some of the best food I've ever had in my life. It's extremely difficult to get reservations and can be very expensive, so save Clancy's for a celebration dinner, as you won't be able to use it for a spur-of-the-moment food stop. You want to be mentally and physically as prepared as possible for this dining experience.
Bayona $$$-$$$$ (French Quarter) - Also some of the most delicious food I've ever had, Bayona is one of those places where every bite you eat is just as (if not even more) delicious as the last. Jonathan asked me to be his girlfriend here, and I know now that it was because of sneaky smart planning on his part. How could I have said no after having just consumed the best drink (lavender blackberry Stormy Morning) I'd ever had and a meal like that?
The Galley $$-$$$ (Metairie) - A little on the pricey side for seafood, the Galley is a good casual date option because it doesn't have the feel of a seafood shack (where it's best to just pick up your seafood and eat it at home). You can still dress casual, enjoy delicious seafood, and feel like you're on a nice date all at the same time.
Drago’s Seafood Restaurant $$$ (Metairie and Downtown) - If you aren’t convinced that oysters can be the most delicious food on the planet, you probably haven’t been to Drago’s and tried their charbroiled oysters. It’s the restaurant that made charbroiled oysters a big deal, and it’s where I tried my first oyster on my first date with Jonathan. Forget about practicality and trying to be healthy for a second, and get the whole dozen. You won’t regret it.
Commander’s Palace $$$-$$$$ (Uptown) - This is classic New Orleans dining. Known not only for its local cuisine, the service at Commander’s is one of the main reasons locals keep going back for special occasions. It’s one of the only restaurants in the city that still has a dress code, so if you’re going to make reservations here as a tourist, make sure you dress according to their guidelines. Celebrating something? Make sure you let them know when you make your reservation. They’ll make sure to celebrate with you.
Mandina’s $$-$$$ (Mid-City) - Looking for New Orleans cuisine but don’t want to break the bank? Go to Mandina’s. A locally owned family restaurant, their seafood specials are incredible, and their po-boys will never disappoint.
Cafe du Monde $ (Multiple Locations) - If you go to New Orleans and don’t try beignets (ben-yays) at Cafe du Monde, you didn’t actually go to New Orleans. Make sure you get a cafe au lait to pair with your beignets, but wait to add sugar to your coffee until you try the beignets; once you try the beignets you can make a better estimation of how much sugar you want to be adding to this breakfast.