Off the Bourbon path: There's more to the Big Easy
Widen your horizons at the best bars and restaurants beyond New Orleans's French Quarter.
In some of New Orleans’s most exciting neighborhoods, there is more to be found than the sugary booze and roving bachelorette parties of the French Quarter. Assembled here are some fine eateries, bars, and dessert shops perfect for the next time you want to try something new in the magical sprawl of the Big Easy.
For an alternate, more intense way to start the day, settle into the old-fashioned seats at Elizabeth's and order the Bayou Breakfast: a stacked plate of fried catfish with eggs and grits or hashbrowns. You might want to try some of the praline-candied bacon, too, but don't expect to finish it all. Their motto "Real food done real good" is all you need to know. The staff is friendly, the wait is not overwhelming, and there is nice sidewalk seating when the weather cooperates.
At Bacchanal, step through the front-of-house wine store and ask for staff recommendations on a bottle. Pay in the shop, then pass through to the backyard and snag a table. Order tapas like the bacon-wrapped dates and tomatoes with haloumi, and open that wine. Bacchanal hosts live, local music most nights of the week, and it's more than your local dive bar's open mic. The artists are as good as the food is, and the backyard is nothing other than a magical escape in the middle of the city.
For a lighter start to your day, go with a dish like Mexican breakfast (served with delectably creamy black beans) or the Garden Tartine, both perfectly balanced and — rare in New Orleans — not too filling to bog down your day. Satsuma is health-conscious and earth-focused, a nice break from so much else in New Orleans. See below.
At Cochon, order any of the meat-centric sandwiches like a Cubano, or the historic New Orleans muffaletta and add a side of classic New Orleans Zapp's chips or creamy, crusty individual dishes of mac ‘n cheese. Cochon Butcher is located just off the Museum District, and after your lunch you'll enjoy checking out the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, brimming with folk art pieces and major exhibitions from world-class artists.
Peche is the perfect spot for an upscale happy hour, but it's just as good for a late dinner, too. The raw options are really the treat here: Sit at the bar and try a classic 4:30pm combo of a half dozen oysters and a glass of champagne, ideal if you're traveling solo. For a group, make dinner reservations and share the raw platter, a fruits de mer spread as delicious as it is simple. Order whatever fish is on special, at market price. Concoctions like a collar cut of yellowtail infused with ginger and soy sauce are sure to both delight and inspire.
A favorite of Anthony Bourdain and locals alike, the out-the-door wait for a Domilise’s po-boy is well worth it. In New Orleans, opting for seafood is usually the rule, but you might make an exception (or double your order) for a roast beef po-boy as well.
Open only in the dead heat of summer, expect another out-the-door wait at this eighty-year-old snow cone stand. You’ll be shocked at how velvety ice can be—all from a low-tech machine developed almost a century ago. Trust the kids working on what flavors go together best: Satsuma and vanilla bean is a classic combo.
Located in the friendly and up-and-coming Freret district, Cure is a haven for good conversation in its large, quiet booths or the tables on its secluded back patio. The drinks list is charming, and the changing cocktail menu features classics as well as new creations.
Commander's Palace is holy ground in New Orleans. For dinner, it's perfect for celebrations like a birthday, an anniversary, or a splurge — but it's at midday that the place comes alive with local color, and a bit of danger, too. Lunch at the classic New Orleans restaurant is just as famous for its dress code as for its 25-cent martini menu. That's right. 25 cents. You've been warned. But beyond the drinks, go for the turtle soup. Dreamed up nearly 100 years ago and simmered down for days before serving, nothing could be more delicious or more New Orleans. Follow it up with a special, and maybe just another martini to wet your whistle before you're back in the heat.
Speaking of a sweet tooth, step into Sucre for a European-inspired mélange of fine desserts: from gelato to eclairs to dainty, bright macarons. Featured in numerous magazines, and a personal favorite of Oprah Winfrey, this shop will have something for every set of tastebuds.
Begun as a juice bar, the two funky locations of Surrey’s (both on Magazine Street) are worth the line at peak brunch-time. Try their variations on huevos rancheros (with smoked salmon) or opt for something sweet with bananas foster French toast.