In the last five years, I’ve made multiple trips to New Orleans, and I’ve never had a bad meal there yet. I could write a really, really long post about all of the wonderful restaurants I’ve eaten at in the Crescent City. Maybe I will revisit some of them in a later post, but for now, I just wanted to share my new NOLA faves from a recent trip.
Before I dive into that list, there’s a special New Orleans dining experience that I must mention any time I’m talking about food in New Orleans. Mosquito Supper Club has been running for a few years, and I had the pleasure of an evening there in 2017. It is and will probably remain in my “top 5” favorite culinary and cultural experiences list, not for NOLA but for anywhere and everywhere I’ve ever been. Learn more about it in this article I wrote for The Local Palate.
Now the new darlings:
Housed in the new Hotel Peter & Paul in New Orleans’ Marginy neighborhood, The Elysian Bar has a cozy nook for cocktails and other libations in back but is so much more than a watering hole. It’s a coffee shop and a restaurant too. And it’s all housed in the rectory of an 1860s-founded and decade-shuttered Catholic church and school. (The rest of the hotel takes up the school, convent and sanctuary; read more about it in my article for the July/August issue of The Local Palate.)
The multi-purpose space is inviting and engaging with its plush, fabric-festooned parlor, a sun-drenched, plant-draped garden room and an amber-washed bar area. Décor and atmosphere are important, but it’s the food and drink that really make this spot a standout. During daily aperitivo happy hour, effervescent delights like the classic Aperol spritz and woodsy, herbal tonics put the refresh in refreshment.
And when hunger strikes, chef Alex Harrell and his team are in the kitchen showing off massive skills, creating sharable plates born from a blend of Mediterranean and Southern influences. Offerings like roasted Gulf shrimp accented with chili butter and zingy preserved lemon and the confit chicken leg with briny olives, white beans stewed to submission and salsa verde’s tart-heat both easily earn “must-order” status.
Plump links and fat hunks of all manner of cured meats and sausages hanging in a glass walk-in case greet you at this butcher shop-sandwich stop on a shady stretch of Bienville Street in NOLA’s Mid City area. This carnivore’s carnival is packed with fresh and cured meats that make use of entire animals, nose to tail. Think duck confit, mortadella, ribeyes, tasso, headcheese, smoked chickens, smoked hocks and of course, boudin.
And that’s the stuff you can take home. Do not pass up the opportunity to enjoy a meal here. Go simple but sensational with the smoked brisket sammy: slow-smoked beef with pickled red onions and horseradish mayo to cut the richness. Or bombard your taste buds with flavor by opting for the hot pastrami with tender, thin-sliced, salty and pepper-punched meat, smothered in thousand island dressing and creamy cole slaw and piled on rye.
With only a small, stencil-and-spray-paint “N7” adjacent a door in a tall, wooden privacy fence marking its entrance, N7 would be easy to miss if you weren’t looking for it. This hidden gem in the Bywater is off the beaten tourist path for sure, (although it has gained plenty of food-media acclaim), but what you find behind that wall of wood is worth a little searching.
A chic, bohemian French bistro is wrapped in an enchanted secret garden. So enchanting in fact, that I forgot to take pictures. But you need to go see this place for yourself anyway. Snag a seat inside or out; both spaces bask in a jewel-toned glow that ups the romantic charm factor. Sip on a glass of European natural wine (which means little or no added sulfites, natural yeasts and no pesticides) while waiting for your steamed mussels, escargot, mushroom tarte or steak au poivre.