The Jazz Fest restaurant guide is not meant to be a “best of” list, because at this point, if you haven’t made arrangements to dine at Bayona, Brigsten’s, Gautreau’s, Emeril’s, Peche, SABA, Commander’s Palace, and/or Brennan’s, you’re probably not going to get a reservation this Jazz Fest. The following list also does not include many of the most popular restaurants where folks often wait in lines for hours. Many of these spots do not require reservations. What this list does include is many places that locals like to keep to themselves.
This unassuming Thai restaurant is worth a special trip. BBQ shrimp and roti bread, lamb panang curry, pineapple fried rice, pad Thai, shrimp with green curry, coconut shrimp with sweet-chili sauce, and the voodoo noodles, are all among this local staple’s myriad of flavorful dishes. 500 9th St., Gretna, 504-500-0997.
The Blue Crab Restaurant and Oyster Bar
The Blue Crab Restaurant and Oyster Bar offers a wide range of classic New Orleans seafood offerings in a casual setting, overlooking sweet Lake Pontchartrain. 7900 Lakeshore Dr., 504-284-2898.
BOIL Seafood House
BOIL specializes in boiled seafood, with the twist being the sauce offerings, including Cajun, Asian, garlic butter, and Caribbean citrus sauces. 3340 Magazine St., 504-309-4532.
Chef Donald Link Restaurant Group alumnus chefs, Brian Burns and Reno De Ranieri, teamed up to create this uptown hotspot inspired by the cuisine and culture of coastal Spain. Shrimp with garlic, lemon, sherry, and oregano, Iberico Bellota ham with almonds and arugula, and red wine braised lamb shank with chickpeas and yogurt are among the highlights. The wines are mostly from Spain as well. 4938 Prytania St., 504-302-2332.
Drago’s Seafood Restaurant
Signature charbroiled oysters, here topped with garlic, parsley, Parmesan cheese and butter, remain absolute must-haves! Hilton New Orleans Riverside, 2 Poydras St., 504-584-3911; 3232 N. Arnoult Road, Metairie, 504-888-9254.
El Pavo Real
I hesitate to mention this delightful Mexican restaurant because locals like to keep the very best to themselves. El Pavo Real brings the motherlode, everything from tamales to empanadas, to chilaquilles, mole poblanos, enchiladas, and of course, some of the best tacos in town. 4401 S. Broad Ave., 504-266-2022.
Fiorella’s Café, The Original
Besides their award winning fried chicken, Fiorella’s serves excellent po’boys, daily specials, and New Orleans-Italian classics in a casual setting. 5325 Franklin Ave., 504-309-0352.
The folks from Katie’s recently opened this casual deli in Lakeview that specializes in classic overstuffed New Orleans po’boys, alongside American staples including pizza, wings, salads, and sides such as crispy fried okra. 515 Harrison Ave, 504-266-2511.
Chef Greg Sonnier began his career with Chef Paul Prudhomme and has been elevating New Orleans cuisine ever since with offerings such as “panic fried” andouille sausage, and boudin links served with honey-lavender creole mustard. Or try smoked quail gumbo and braised rabbit with rose-petal syrup sliced grapes, wilted greens, caramelized onions, and Stilton cheese fries. Reservations are highly recommended. 2441 Orleans Ave., 504-603-2344.
The High Hat Café
The High Hat offers a wide range of offerings from Gumbo Ya-Ya, to BBQ shrimp, and spicy gulf fish with shrimp and potato hash. Expect casual dining in a spaced filled with light—in short, a modern classic. 4500 Freret St., 504 754-1336.
In the not too distant past, New Orleans severely lacked any decent BBQ options. Now, there exist about a dozen respectable spots. Still, none top The Joint. The Joint provides most everything you want in a BBQ joint: laid back vibe, welcoming, soulful, and deeply satisfying. The Joint is always worth the ride, and worth the wait. 701 Mazant St., 504-949-3232.
Justine is possibly the hottest and hippest restaurant in New Orleans right now. Classic French bistro fare is served in a beautifully lit, upscale, chic, sexy space that features DJs and burlesque performers in the evening, going on up until 1 a.m. on weekends. Reservations are highly recommended. 225 Chartres St., 504-218-8533.
Located near the Jazz Fest, Marjie’s is a casual spot that features dishes inspired by Asian street food. Local mirliton squash are served in a salad with root vegetables and garlic-chili vinaigrette and dried shrimp. Crispy pig knuckles are tossed in pepper and garnished with lime and chili. And who can resist the grilled honey buttered pasture raised chicken? 320 S. Broad Ave., 504-603-2234.
Chef Emeril Lagasse’s latest dining destination is small-plate heaven. This place is the most! Boudin tamales, you say? Crispy chicken livers with pepper jelly? Most certainly! Fried oysters with tomato bacon jam! Bam! Muffaletta flatbread, linguini and clams, lasagna, crawfish étouffée, Korean short ribs, kielbasa on a pretzel bun, seriously, what doesn’t this place NOT have? If you had to pick just one place, this is the one! Reservations are recommended. 424 Girod St., 504-526-3745.
NOLA Cantina is a fun, sprawling, ambitious, Mexican-inspired hot-spot with offerings such as the “Smoke & Mirrors Margarita” with mezcal, lemon, chamomile, and lavender. Creative taco offerings abound, such as the Flower Power with cauliflower, smoked paprika, blistered scallions, hibiscus pickled onions, chimichurri, and the Passionately Hot Shrimp with passion fruit, habanero glazed shrimp, jicama sticks, coconut and turmeric yogurt, scallions, and mint. These mouthwatering treats are accompanied by live music during lunch, and DJ’s on into the wee hours on weekends, plus burlesque brunch on the last Sunday of each month. 437 Esplanade Ave., 504-266-2848.
There exist a handful of restaurants that will make you fall in love with New Orleans forever: Casamento’s, Galatoire’s, Gautreau’s, Clancy’s, and I wouldn’t hesitate to add Pascale’s Manale to that list. The wait includes cocktails and a visit to the oyster bar, to get things started off right. Pascal’s Manale is filled with memorabilia from its century of history, and tons of New Orleans charm. The menu is peppered with homespun local classics and several Italian-Creole offerings, but the place is famous for its BBQ Shrimp. 1838 Napoleon Ave., 504-895-4877.
Susan Spicer’s Rosedale is the quintessential word-of-mouth sweet-spot located just off the beaten path. Patio dining compliments delicious turtle soup, BBQ shrimp, cochon de lait po’boys, smoked brisket, and the duck pastrami sandwich, among other highlights. 801 Rosedale Dr., 504-309-9595.
Seaworthy offers exquisite seafood at one of the hippest dining destinations downtown. 630 Carondelet St., 504-930-3071.
The Silver Whistle Café
Located in the historic Pontchartrain Hotel on St. Charles Ave., this charming breakfast spot offers upscale classics such as a po’boy with scrambled eggs, white cheddar, andouille and aioli and the classic Pontchartrain Benedict biscuit with poached eggs, ham, and hollandaise. 2031 St. Charles Ave., 504-323-1455.
Great seafood dishes at the hottest restaurant in Bucktown. 105 Metairie-Hammond Hwy, Metairie, 504-345-2936.
Dickie Brennan’s latest dining destination features signature items such as Crystal Shrimp, with Crystal hot sauce brand honey-butter sauce. Classics like BBQ shrimp and grits are served in cozy dining rooms, while balcony dining overlooks picturesque Jackson Square. 616 St. Peter St., 504-934-3463.
James Beard Award-winning Chef Sue Zemanick’s jewel box-sized restaurant is inspired by Sue’s Slovak heritage. Menu highlights include artichoke and goat cheese agnolotti with crispy sunchokes and preserved lemon; saltine crusted grouper is served with braised greens, crawfish and bacon, then loved-up with a spicy butter sauce. Also, try the soulful wild mushroom and potato perogies, garnished with caramelized Vidalia onions. Zasu has become a recent hot spot, so we definitely recommend reservations! 127 N. Carrollton Ave., 504-267-3233.