Grazin’ New Orleans
While the French Quarter has and always will be an iconic New Orleans destination – home to Café du Monde, quintessential New Orleans restaurant K Paul’s, and a slew of other culinary institutions – modern foodies would be remiss by not exploring flourishing new neighbourhood and the top-tier talent and surprises they showcase.
Carrolton Neighbourhood/Oak Street
A streetcar ride to historic Oak Street in Uptown New Orleans’ Carrolton neighbourhood – a burgeoning culinary and entertainment destination. Home to NOLA music institution Maple Leaf and award-winning Jacque- Imo’s restaurant, the Oak Street corridor is at once a neighbourhood community and a tourism destination. The opening of several new markets, eateries and bars are evidence of a resurgence of this district.
At the recently-opened DTB (which stands for Down the Bayou), Commander’s Palace alum Chef/Owner Carl Schaubhut delivers modern interpretations of Southern Louisiana’s coastal cuisine, recreating the region’s antiquated dishes with refined technique and a lighter, more creative twist. Diners can expect culinary delights such as Crawfish Fry Bread with green chilli fonduta; Mushroom Boudin Balls – which just happen to be vegan; and Cacio e Pepe – a Cajun play on the Italian classic with house made cayenne spaghetti, tossed in crabfat butter and garnished with trout roe. Cocktails, created by award-winning libations maven Lu Brow, complement the Chef’s savoury menu and focus on creative concoctions using Louisiana ingredients. The Fire on the Bayou features Baton Rouge-based Magnolia vodka, Lillet and house made pepper jelly, served as a ‘shot’ alongside a pony beer to lessen the heat.
Next door to DTB is Simone’s Market which opened in late 2016 and offers locally and regionally sourced produce, meats and an array of prepared foods. Jump across the street to Oak Wine Bar and Ale on Oak craft beer bar, both owned by New Orleanian Katie Winters. With a menu crafted by Chef Aaron Burgau of Patois and live music throughout the week, there’s something for everyone at these sister hotspots. Other must visit spots on Oak Street include Cowbell, Jacque-Imo’s and late-night music haunt the Maple Leaf.
Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard/Central City
Once a thriving mecca for New Orleans’ Jewish and African-American communities, Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard (OCH), formerly known as Dryades Street, is now becoming a beacon for food culture, history, and commerce. First stop for any foodie is the Southern Food & Beverage Museum (SoFAB)/Museum of
the American Cocktail (MOTAC) – a non-profit shrine to the food, drink & culture of the South. SoFAB examines and celebrates all the cultures that have come together through the centuries to create the South’s uniqueculinary heritage. SoFAB also hosts special exhibits, demonstrations, lectures and tastings that showcase this heritage. On Mondays and Thursdays, guests can also attend interactive lunch demonstrations in the Museum’s state-of-the-art Rouses Culinary Innovation Center.
Step out of SoFAB and visit the John & Bonnie Boyd Hospitality & Culinary Library, certain to keep any foodie enthralled for hours. This culinary branch of the New Orleans Public Library is the largest such library in the United States not connected with a culinary school or food corporation. This niche collection contains astounding 17,000 cookbooks, ranging from those wonderful community cookbooks with plastic bindings to bestsellers from professional chefs and food writers. Chef Paul Prudhomme willed his entire collection to the library, and here you’ll find papers from Southern food pioneer Louis Osteen.
After getting your culinary culture on, walk across the street to Dryades Public Market. Just opened last year, this unique affordable marketplace is a modern version of Dryades Market which in 1849, served as the city’s public market. Butchers, food stalls and fresh produce make any foodie drool.
OCH is also home to some incredible dining spots including Adolfo Garcia’s Primitivo; Mexican hotspot Casa Borrega and Roux Carré – a multi ethnic collection of food stalls with multiple vendors spanning an array of cuisines.
Lower Decatur/Lower French Quarter
Past Bourbon Street and the French Market deep into the bottom of the French Quarter, cocktail enthusiasts and discerning diners will find a multitude of options on Lower Decatur Street. When Neal Bodenheimer, owner of James Beard finalist Cure cocktail bar opened Cane & Table, he revitalised a corridor of the Lower French Quarter and made the area a destination for craft cocktail lovers.
On the same block, Chef Michael Isolani and developer Hugh Uhalt recently transformed the former Maximo’s space with a US$1 million-dollar makeover into Trinity which has been touted as one of the city’s best restaurants by Conde Nast Traveler and Opentable. With a varied menu that pays tribute
to the amalgamation of ethnicities that make up the very unique and easily recognisable flavor of New Orleans food culture, Isolani focuses on sourcing the best local products and using familiar ingredients to create unfamiliar dishes. Diners can expect bright, creative and adventurous dishes such as Crawfish and Fontina Beignets with tarragon aioli; Frog Leg Tempura with cilantro ponzu sauce; and Foie Gras Tourchon & Blood Sausage.
Other Lower Decatur must-dos are Molly’s on the Market and Coop’s Place – a hole in the wall known for their rabbit & sausage jambalaya.
Warehouse District/Central Business District (CBD)
No visit to New Orleans would be complete without dining in the Warehouse District and the CBD – a concentrated area of some of the most critically-acclaimed Chefs in the city.
Since opening in June 2015 Compere Lapin, Chef Nina Compton’s beloved New Orleans restaurant in the Old No. 77 Hotel, has received critical acclaim including a rave review in The New York Times, Top 10 Winner of Playboy’s Best New Bars in America 2016 and “Best New Restaurant” nods by New Orleans Magazine and Times- Picayune. Compton who was named a James Beard Award 2017 finalist for “Best Chef South” and is one of the “Best New Chefs in America 2017” according to Food & Wine, helms the neighbourhood restaurant, creating robust dishes that meld the flavours of her Caribbean upbringing and love for French and Italian cuisine; while highlighting the Gulf and Louisiana’s beautiful indigenous ingredients. Diners won’t want to miss her signature Curried Goat with sweet potato gnocchi, Cold Smoked Tuna Tartare and Hot Fired Chicken. With a beverage programme overseen by nationally-renowned Head Bartender Abigail Gullo, Compère Lapin is one of the hottest restaurants in NOLA.
Just a stone’s throw away is Meril – the latest restaurant from celebrity Chef Emeril Lagasse. Meril is a departure from Lagasse’s other ventures and showcases an impressive menu of globally-inspired
small plates, all meant to be shared. The open kitchen allows diners to take in the action and get a glimpse of Lagasse who is often found at the helm with Chef de Cuisine Will Avelar. Crispy turkey necks and tuna tacos are not to be missed.
Within this few block radius, foodies will also find award-winning restaurant Sac-a-Lait by husband & wife chef team Samantha and Cody Carrol; the famed Cochon and Peche restaurants by Donald Link; and Lagasse’s first and flagship restaurant, Emeril’s.