Getting a good meal deal in New Orleans doesn't have to mean you're doing without. If you’re a foodie, you want to pick one or two must-eat experiences at the fancier restaurants, and book lunch, not dinner. A two-course lunch special at Commander’s Palace, for instance, runs in the $20 range, and might dish up Parmesan crusted oyster salad and a cup of turtle soup. Drink a $.25 martini – three is your limit – or a glass of $5.99 wine and you’ve dined well for not a lot of scratch in an iconic New Orleans restaurant. Another great bargain is the daily 3-6 pm happy hour and half price pizza deal at the bar at Domenica in the Roosevelt Hotel. Chef co-owner Alon Shaya rocks thin-crust pizzas topped with the likes of spicy salami, bufala mozzarella and arugula. You pay half price for the pizza, wines by the glass, well cocktails and beer. Best bet is to show up early – the place gets nuts by 5.
For casual eats, bargains abound. Po’boys, the city’s official sandwich, are usually big enough to share and almost always in the $10 range. Bar food is not always a good idea, but in this town, don’t be afraid to order chow when you’re taking in live music at a place like Siberia (rib-sticking Russian food), Lost Love Lounge (Vietnamese) or Snug Harbor (good burgers).
Located in the swanky Roosevelt Hotel on Canal Street, on the edge of the French Quarter and the CBD, Domenica dazzles with chef, co-owner Alon Shaya's regional Italian cuisine and what may be the best thin crust pizza in town. Shaya gets ingredients from partner John Besh's farm, so the emphasis is on seasonal freshness. Pastry chef Lisa White, a CIA grad, gives Italian desserts a New Orleans sensibility - as in her zuppa inglese made with rum-soaked banana cake, fresh bananas butterscotch mousse and peanut brittle and a light and slightly fizzy Zabaione made with Lambrusco (instead of traditional Marsala) and fresh Louisiana strawberries. (504-648-6020)
If the muffuletta was the official sandwich of New Orleans, Central Grocery officially makes the best sandwiches in the city! For the uninitiated, a muffuletta is a loaf of bread layered with Italian meats and cheeses and crowned with a chopped olive mixture. Be warned that Central Grocery's sandwiches are huge – you might need to share with a friend. And if you want to sit down, get your sandwich to go – there is only a standing-room counter at the Grocery. Central Grocery is on Decatur Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans. It's a place that tourists tend to flock, so be prepared for a bit of a line if you come at peak times. (504-523-1620)
Liuzza's by the Track
In a city that's po'boy proud, Liuzza's at the Track stands out from the crowd, thanks to the house specialty, a buttery, Worcestershire-fueled gi-normous portion of gulf shrimp slathered between a hot and crusty roll. It's called barbecue shrimp, but there's really nothing barbecued about it. Save room for the gumbo. This town is full of conflicting opinions about gumbo - how light, or dark the roux should be, seafood vs. sausage and on and on. Liuzza's recipe includes seafood, local sausage, 13 spices and a few secret ingredients. On a hot day, nothing beats s seat at the bar, a bowl of gumbo and a cold beer at this hole in the wall joint. ((504) 218-7888)
The Camellia Grill
The Camellia Grill on South Carrollton in Uptown New Orleans is the perfect place for a late night snack to cure the cravings natural or imbibing induced. One of the secrets of this grill/diner is their amazing milk shakes. Camellia fills cups up to the brim with rich shakes in a variety of flavors using real ice cream. Sit up at the counter and enjoy one of these or any of their other scrumptious dessert options, many of which are homemade. Besides sweets, Camellia Grill has excellent omelettes and burgers at affordable prices. The friendly staff adds the perfect touch to complete the experience. ((504) 309-2679)
The Milk Bar
The Milk Bar has two great locations in the Uptown and Riverbend areas (one on Pyrtania and the other on S. Carrollton). The counter ordering joint features great sandwiches, salads and shakes, for which they are most known for. Portion-wise, The Milk Bar gives you crazy bang for your buck, especially in terms of the sandwiches. Depending on if you are in a regular or zany mood, you can sample anything from a Roast Beef Po-Boy to a Caddle Fodder sandwich (a creative vegetable infused sandwich). Pair your main course with a delicious bag of local favorite Zapp's chips, and then have the "Moo Krewe" blend you up a shake. The Milk Bar has plenty of indoor seating and does a decent amount of take out business as well. Every order includes a complimentary Chupa Chups creamy lollipop! ((504) 891-9361)
Now with three locations, this colorful joint features indoor/outdoor dining, a full bar and sometimes live music. There are dogs of all breed, from polish sausage and brat to alligator, red hot and crawfish sausage. There's even the Sea Dog - tempura battered fried cod filet served with homemade tartar sauce. Then, choose toppings, which can include chili, cheese - real Cheddar, not the gloppy liquid kind, bacon, ranch, Andouille sauce, guacamole and crawfish rtouffe. The fries are outstanding. Order cocktails or beer, and for the kids, one of the floats, shakes or malts, or �ask for a Shirley Temple. Yes, it really is on the menu. (504-899-6883)
New Orleans has long had a bounty of authentic Vietnamese restaurants, thanks to its vibrant population of Southeast Asian immigrants. But for a long time, you had to cross the river to the West Bank or head to New Orleans East for the good stuff, a bit of a trek if you're visiting without a car. With the recent opening of 9 Roses in the French Quarter, all that has changed. The original Nine Roses, which has been open close to 20 years, is on the West Bank, a go-to place known for a vast menu of both Vietnamese and Chinese specialties. The second location, a smaller spot on Conti around the corner from the courthouse on Royal, is exclusively Vietnamese and the quality is top notch. Savor favorites including pho, fried and fresh spring rolls, banh mi and vermicelli bowls. The prices are rock bottom and you can bring your own wine and beer for now - no corkage fee - another plus for the budget minded. (504.324.9450)
Port of Call
Situated on the edge of the Quarter on Esplanade at Dauphine, Port of Call is known for its huge, char-grilled burgers and loaded baked potatoes. There are other menu options, steak, and I think pizza, but that's not why you line up and wait for a table. It's all about the burgers and the spuds, with one order easily enough for two people - add an extra potato if you must. The eats are cheap, the atmosphere low key, lighting dim and drinks a-flowing. Speaking of drinks, the Monsoon is Port of Call's version of the hurricane and it's beyond potent. (504-523-0120)
From the outside Sugar Park looks like somebody's house. his eclectic eatery reopened on St. Claude Avenue in a rambling shotgun done up like a pizza parlor in the living room. Sugar Park is still relatively undiscovered by visitors. Expect to rub elbows with locals convening over pizza and tasty grub from burgers to fresh salads and the fried goodness of yum-yums, artichoke and mozzarella served with marinara. Pizza chef and co-owner Stephen Polier is a former New Yorker, and his pies definitely have an accent. Try A Pizza Named Desire, a toothsome crust slathered with crawfish, sausage and jalapeno. The service is friendly, drinks strong and cheap and portions are generous. What's not to like? ((504) 942-2047)
Located in a green, historical renovation of an 1891 Greek Revival home on Oretha Castle Haley, the quickly changing arts corridor in Central City, Casa Borrega is a fantastic little taco bar. Besides a great selection of margaritas, the menu dishes authentic street food, the kind you'd find in Mexico City. The ceviche is delish, same for trios of tacos stuffed with te likes of tequila marinated lamb and chorizo.
The special appetizer the night of our visit was a relleno from heaven. Portions are large, so start by sharing an entree unless you're famished. More vegetarian than vegan, you'll find fresh, healthful takes on Mexican dishes and plenty of veg to keep you smiling. Snag a seat in the outdoor courtyard if the weather permits. Live music is featured most weekends, from Cuban and salsa to flamenco. (504-427-0654)
About Beth D'Addono
Beth D'Addono is a food and travel writer obsessed with flavor, exploring cultures, street music and the city of New Orleans.
After spending years flying in regularly to research stories, attend festivals and eat the city's amazing cuisine, this New Orleanian at heart moved to the Crescent City full time in 2012.
Beth writes about New Orleans and other destinations for outlets including USAToday, AAA Traveler, Wells Fargo Conversations, Philadelphia Daily News, Taste, Fodor's and others.
Her new book The Hunt New Orleans is a carefully curated insider's guide to indie shops and restaurants around town.
Read more about Beth D'Addono here.
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