The vibrant restaurant scene in New Orleans continues to expand with some truly exciting new dining options. Here’s a little taste.
Addis Nola Ethiopian cuisine is one of the most flavorful and diverse in the world, and Biruk Alemayehu’s Addis Nola offers classic dishes such as savory sabusas, crispy stuffed fried dough pouches filled with lentils, collard greens or beef seasoned with garlic, onions, cardamom, cinnamon and cilantro. Kitfo is raw prime ground beef flavored with butter and mitmita spices and a mild Ethiopian cheese. Stewed split peas and chickpeas are an essential component of this dining experience, and shiro wat is an essential preparation involving slowly simmered onions, garlic, chilis, seasoned with a turmeric-based mixture. Every meal is served with traditional injera, a spongy flatbread made with tef (a millet-like grain) that is fermented for three days. Doro Wot is a pungent and deeply flavorful stew prepared with either chicken or lamb simmered for hours in berbere spices and boiled eggs is an essential component of an Ethiopian meal. Several beef preparations round out the entree listings. 424 S Broad St. (504) 218-5321
Bar Marilou Located at Maison de la Luz, Bar Marilou re-imagines the former library of City Hall Annex as Matisse’s The Red Studio with library shelves and unique curiosities, in a posh, upscale chic setting. The bar’s offerings include sophisticated cocktails, champagne and treats like stacked potato squares topped with a dollop of crème de fraise and caviar. Other sexy starters include seared scallops Saint Jacques, burrata with olive oil, lemon, and fennel pollen, tuna ceviche with trout roe, and puff pastries filled with Époisses cheese. The perfect place to begin or end a night on the town. 544 Carondelet St. (504) 814-7711
Bonci Pizzeria “I wanted to do something different. To make something noble out of something that was being destroyed, namely the quality of bread and pizza, and also give work to as many farmers as I could. That was my objective. Simply put, my food is natural.” Gabriele Bonci on The Pizza Show.
Emanating from the Prati district of Rome in the shadow of the Vatican, Gabriele Bonci’s revolutionary approach to pizza brought forth some 1,500 different topping variations. Hot off the heels of success in Chicago, Bonci Pizzeria has taken the Warehouse District in New Orleans by storm. The New Orleans branch is more streamlined, with just over two dozen offerings that will rotate seasonally. This unique Roman-style al taglio (by the cut) pizza is cooked in thin rectangular sheet pans, then sliced to order and sold by the pound, which offers diners the opportunity to sample many different variations. The pizza dough begins with a 200-year-old starter culture, organic heirloom einkorn farro semolina, whole spelt flour, extra virgin Italian olive oil, water, unbleached sea salt, and a pinch of brewer’s yeast. The dough goes through a day-long cold fermentation process that creates an airy, almost fluffy pizza similar but softer than focaccia, with wonderful crispiness.
Signature toppings include zucchini and ricotta, prosciutto cotta and mozzarella, sausage and mushroom, potato and mozzarella, sopressata and mozzarella, chicken parmesan, grilled eggplant with ricotta and many others. Bonci is a game-changer.
Bonci also serves suppli, a breaded Roman croquette with various fillings ranging from rice, tomato, and mozzarella, to meat sauce with cheese, and even spaghetti with different sauces.
A casual dining experience, Bonci offers wine, beer, and beverages in bright, sunny, sleek dining space that fits right in with the Warehouse District aesthetic. 726 Julia St. (504) 766-6071
Bywater American Bistro An upscale modern neighborhood restaurant, Nina Compton’s Bywater American Bistro took over the beloved Mariza last year and hit the ground running with a menu-driven by local, seasonally available ingredients as well as Chef Compton’s passion for resonating flavors. Here, gazpacho is enhanced with the addition of golden beets, and a dollop of buttermilk sorbet. Yellowtail tartar is complemented by smoked swordfish belly, crispy cucumbers, and the sweet-sour spicy twang of melon kosho, topped with a kiss of caviar. Cheese plates are served; charcuterie options include foie gras torchon, oxtail terrine, or country pâte. A savory farro risotto with maitake mushrooms and minted bread crumbs, and jerked chicken rice with jalapeño peppers are featured in the section entitled Rice, Grains, and Noodles. Fried oysters in oyster gravy are another highlight. Entrees include rabbit curry served with jasmine rice, pecans, and cilantro, and duck breast over a bed of butterbeans finished with port wine sauce, and fresh figs. Delicately steamed red snapper is contrasted with robust broccoli rabe florets and draped with a decadent Crystal hollandaise. Desserts run the range from watermelon meringue to spiced Nutella flan, as well as a selection of homemade sorbets and ice cream. Bywater American Bistro clearly elevates the local restaurant to destination dining status. 2900 Chartres St. (504) 605-3827
Gianna Restaurant At Donald Link’s latest restaurant Gianna, chef/partner Rebecca Wilcomb pays homage to her roots by honoring her grandmother Giannina Chieregati’s culinary heritage in Veneto, Italy. A big part of Wilcomb’s approach lies in her passion; not only for the food she prepares but to a more visceral overarching narrative, connecting with the lineage of families, their recipes and stories to the communities that grow the food. Farmers and foragers are listed on their website, including their background stories. The Good Food Project, Isabelle’s Orange Orchard and Veggi Farmers Cooperative are just a sampling of organic, ethical vendors going above and beyond with a more holistic outlook on food pathways.
Gianna is a grand-scale restaurant with an open-face kitchen serving panelle—chickpea fritters with Allen Bee Farms honey—creamy polenta with lamb sausage gravy, oysters and artichoke gratin and eggplant caponata. Hand-crafted pasta selections include rigatoni with pistachio pesto, Calabrian peppers, ricotta; lasagna with beef ragu layered with fontina béchamel; and their signature tortellini in brodo: all speak to the soul of Gianna. Likewise, the entree selections are rustic presentations including roasted pork shoulder with fennel and orange; shrimp with garlic, rosemary and creamed cauliflower; veal saltimbocca; and a roasted bone-in ribeye. A family-style “Feed Me” menu is available with optional wine pairings. Desserts include specialty items such as tartufo with amarena cherries, chocolate amaretti cake with with hazelnut toffee and espresso whipped cream; and pistachio cheesecake. The bar features signature drinks made with exotic Italian liqueurs and the wine selections highlight regional varietals from the motherland. 700 Magazine St. (504) 399-0816
Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken Hailing from Mason, Tennessee, Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken began as a humble, homespun African-American owned tavern created six decades ago by Napoleon and Maggie Vanderbilt to cater to black patrons in their segregated community and immediately became the talk of the town. In 1973, the family established Maggie’s Short Order with the help of the entire community, then after his parents passed away in the early ’80s, their son Vernon Gus Bonner changed the name to Gus’s World Famous Hot and Spicy Chicken.
Now franchised nationwide, a New Orleans location recently opened to rave reviews. The specialty is a secret recipe battered hormone-free chicken fried in peanut oil, served over white bread with sides including baked beans, fried okra, mac ’n’ cheese, spicy French fries, coleslaw and greens simmered in bacon fat. Gus’s also has killer slices of pie including pecan, chess, coconut, and sweet potato which include the à la mode option. 308 S Diamond St. 504 252-4870
Jewel of the South James Beard Award recipient Chris Hannah achieved legendary status at the helm of Arnaud’s French 75 before creating Jewel of the South. This eclectic bistro serves delights such as crisp frog-leg bao with pickled shishitos, roast bone marrow crème with caviar, egg yolk and madeleines, and hummus made with black-eyed peas served with various pickled vegetables. The heartier fare includes boudin noir with peaches and kimchi, ox tongue with peanut salsa, and beef short ribs with caramelized fish sauce and green papaya.
Partaking in Hannah’s specialty cocktails is a must here. The Brandy Crusta, The Golden Monkey and the reportedly the most popular drink of the 19th century, La Belle de Jerez, demonstrate Hannah’s passion for the history of his craft. Likewise, The Night Tripper illuminates his equal love for the music and culture of New Orleans. 1026 St Louis St. 504 265-8816
Justine Featured in our March 2019, issue Justine has been a success since its opening day and the chic Parisian style brasserie remains one of the most exciting new downtown dining options. The dining room is nothing short of breathtaking, with its dramatic lighting, ambient burlesque performers and a live DJ adding to the ambience. The menu ranges from seafood towers to French onion soup, to shrimp in parchment paper, fennel, and baby spring vegetables to steaks large enough to feed a family. Justine reminds us that serious can be quite sexy. 225 Chartres St. (504) 218-8533
Palm&Pine See feature on page 35. 308 N Rampart St, (504) 814-6200
Que Rico! Cuban Café Being half-Cuban myself, the menu at Que Rico! Cuban Cafe speaks to my soul. It has all the things that my mother Haydee prepares for family meals including sweet and savory versions of tostones (plantains), yucca, tamales, croquettes made with either ham or chicken—and that’s just the appetizers.
Lechon Asado is one of the world’s great pork preparations beginning with an insanely flavorful mojo marinade made with bitter orange, cumin, coriander, onions and lots of garlic slowly cooked all day until the meat falls off the bone. Pork chops, chicken simmered in onions and mojo, Cuban shrimp creole and various types of Cuban sandwiches round out the menu. Of course Ropa Vieja—Cuba’s national dish—is served, prepared in a cauldron with shredded flank steak simmered in sofrito. Black beans and rice are among the classic sides. Flan, tres leches, and the ever-popular churros are served with three sauces: condensed milk, raspberry and chocolate. 4200 Magazine St. 504-827-1398
Shake Shack Developed by the legendary Manhattan restaurateur Danny Meyer (Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern and Eleven Madison Park) Shake Shack has been a nationwide smash and the New Orleans metro area will soon have three locations, the first recently opened on Veterans Boulevard near Lakeside Shopping Center.
Shake Shack offers five burgers including a ’shroom burger consisting of a crisp-fried portobello mushroom stuffed with Muenster and cheddar cheese. The signature SmokeShack is a winner—a cheeseburger topped with applewood smoked bacon, cherry pepper relish, and ShackSauce. The Chick’n’Shack is a classic in its own right with its crispy crust set atop lettuce, pickles, and slathered with herbed buttermilk mayonnaise. Yukon gold crinkle fries are not to be missed, and the shakes are the best in the world, no lie! The frozen custard selections are the bomb, too much, really. Super rich and loaded with flavor and calories, which are listed (you might want to take a look at that). Shake Shack proves to be a heavyweight contender in the field of local burger joints and blows away the chains. 3501 Veterans Memorial Blvd. 504 380-0279
Zasu Featured in our May 2019 issue, my most recent visit to Zasu reaffirms that Sue Zemanick’s new dining venture has everything one hopes for in a great new restaurant—pleasant service, great energy, and truly spectacular food. Every plate is beautifully arranged, and the flavors sing. 127 N Carrollton Ave. (504) 267-3233