10 Best Places to Experience New Orleans Brunch Culture
By Beth D'Addono
New Orleans Local Expert
Brunch, that lazy, decadent meal that allows for sleeping in late and languishing over a full plate for hours, is still an ideal way to start a Sunday in the Big Easy. Oten enjoyed between sips of champagne and Bloody Marys in lush shady courtyards, the best brunches are accompanied by live music, often with a stand-up bass player keeping the beat. Brunch in New Orleans is a longstanding tradition that makes weekends special. After a late night listening to music on Frenchmen Street, that deliciously hybrid feast, accompanied by hair of the dog, is just what the doctor ordered.
For early birds, brunches can start as early as 10 a.m., with sleepy-eyed stragglers listing in until around 2. The hungry traveler has plenty of time to stumble out of bed and walk/streetcar to the nearest establishment. The drinks are one thing, the food is another. New Orleans is known for its culinary creativity and love of seafood. Brunch menus will be packed with seafood/breakfast food options that you simply will not find anywhere else on the globe. The brunch menu at Commander's Palace proves this point. Add in live jazz, and you know you aren't brunching in any other city in America
Located in the fab Loews Hotel, the Brennan family-run Café Adelaide is named for colorful Ti Adelaide Martin, co-owner of big sister restaurant Commander's Palace. You'll be happy starting with the bacon and cornmeal crusted fried oysters, and the shrimp and tasso corndog with five pepper jelly is like nothing you'll ever taste at a country fair. The menu is served at the Swizzle Stick bar next to the restaurant, a tasteful homage to Adelaide Brennan, also known as "Queenie" and "Auntie Mame," who did her share of living the good life. The restaurant recently adopted an All American approach to its wine list, with some 200 selections derived from North, South, and Central America. (504-595-3305)
Driving by the blue Victorian facade of Commander's Palace in the Garden District of New Orleans immediately invokes curiosity. What's in there? Just a five star upscale restaurant whose kitchen was tended to by a young pre-famed Emeril Legasse some many years ago is all. Commander's Palace was battered a bit by Katrina, but it is back in full force now, serving up dishes starring local meats, seafood, vegetables and fruits. In keeping with tradition, the Palace requires patrons to wear slacks and button ups, with suit jackets recommended for dinner. Stepping inside the time warp that is the front door, be prepared to experience New Orleans dining like it was, back in the day. (504-899-8221)
Fried frog legs for brunch? absolument if it's a truly French brasserie setting you crave with the emphasis on locally sourced seafood and Southern hospitality. Offering a trendy, convivial atmosphere, top notch service and one of NOLA's most extensive raw bars to boot, Luke is a dream come true for shellfish enthusiasts. If selections like fresh local oysters and littleneck clams don't pique your appetite, choose from a host of other menu items like the local crabmeat omelet or the signature Luke burger. A house speciality, the flamenkuche is always a crowd pleaser, an Alsacien onion and bacon tart fragrant with Emmenthaler cheese. Personable bartenders are always in the house, and the drinks are top shelf. (504-378-2840)
Named for the 19th century French Impressionist, Hilaire Germain Edgar Degas, who in 1872 lived just down the street at 2306 Esplanade Avenue, this restaurant is one of the most authentic French dining rooms in town. A partnership between French restaurateur Jacques Soulas and New Orleanian Jerry Edgar, Cafe Degas oozes quirky charm along with a menu straight out of a Paris cafe. For brunch, you'll savor the likes of homemade pate and traditional boudin noir, seafood crepes, grillades and grits and calf's liver and sweetbreads. Bloody Marys and mimosas flow, or get a bottle of bubbly, French of course, to complement your meal. (504-945-5635)
With tasty Southern cuisine at reasonable prices, this Bywater neighborhood standby is popular with locals and visitors alike. Weekend brunch earns a wild fan base for its copious portions of grillades and grits - think smothered steak and red neck eggs, poached and topped with fried green tomatoes. On the sweet side, you might find Bananas Foster stuffed French toast or homemade and biscuits with butter and honey. If there is a wait, head upstairs to the bar for a mimosa or veg-enhanced Bloody Mary, the perfect jump start to a fun-filled New Orleans day. Come hungry and prepare to be wowed by the charming setting, friendly service and downhome savory eats. (504-944-9272)
Cafe Atchafalaya features authentic Creole food, comforting service and locally seasoned live music. Touted as New Orleans' only "five A" restaurant, this funky neighborhood bistro emanates a distinct New Orleans vibe that attracts locals and tourists alike. The sauces, soups and shrimp and grits are offerings that attract weekly repeat customers. The Jazz Brunch offered here is less "prim and proper", and more wild to put it simply. The Jazz trio pumps out some great tunes while interacting with the enthusiastic crowds. The building has served as a restaurant since the 20's and is located in the famed Irish Channel. (504-891-9626)
Court of Two Sisters
The Court of Two Sisters offers a genteel setting for a weekend eye opener, situated in an historic three story building on Royal Street in the French Quarter. Every day is Sunday at this popular spot, where a $29.95 buffet jazz brunch is served seven days a week. Sit a spell in the massive leafy courtyard where you can enjoy a hot and cold buffet of Creole specialties, as well as a carving and omelet station, while listening to soothing live jazz. Its central French Quarter location makes The Court of Two Sisters convenient to just about every FQ hotel, and reservations are recommended. ((504) 522-7261)
Surrey's Cafe and Juice Bar
A favorite with the locals, this eatery's the perfect spot to spend a leisurely morning. Beverage selections are of the non-alcoholic variety, including fruit and vegetable juices, Abita root beer and organic coffee. Menu favorites include the muffuletta, filled with ham, cheese, salami, and olive salad, and huevos rancheros, comprised of chilies, black beans, egg and tortillas in a deeply flavored mole sauce. Lush plants, whimsical art work and regional music playing in the background add to this restaurant's vitality. Surrey's has two locations on Magazine Street, one in the lower Garden shopping district and one uptown close to Napoleon Avenue. (504-524-3828)
There is no better way to begin a New Orleans weekend morning than brunch at Dante's Kitchen, where delectable dishes represent playful twists on Creole comfort food. This local gem's charming dining rooms and tropical patio provide a wonderful setting for sipping the perfect Bloody Mary and indulging in morning masterpieces like decadent breakfast breads, brioche French toast and a deliciously genius version of eggs Benedict, featuring rosemary-crusted pork and honey on a buttermilk biscuit. Located right on the Riverbend, take the St. Charles streetcar (the green one) Uptown for a delicious meal followed by a stroll along the Mississippi to work off your feast. (504-861-3121)
Li'l Dizzy's Cafe
Situated on leafy Esplanade Avenue, Li'l Dizzy's delivers authentic Creole and Southern fare in a friendly, family atmosphere. Order from the menu if you like, dishes like jambalaya omelet with biscuits and grilled catfish and eggs are legendary favorites. But if your appetite knows no bounds, opt for the buffet. You'll get change from a $20 and the chance to tuck into made-to-order crab omelets, rice and beans, seafood gumbo and hot from the fryer chicken that is crispy, light and succulent. For dessert, bread pudding is the best choice night or day. Expect to be treat like family, another reason locals love Li'l Dizzy's. (504-569-8997)
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.