10 Best New Orleans Cajun Restaurants: Are you Looking for a Kick in the Mouth?
By Kristopher Neild
Palm Beach / West Palm Beach Local Expert
Cajun or Creole is a serious question of taste in New Orleans, but liking one doesn't mean you discard the other. Cajun food is the dark roux-ed, pork using, spicy sister of Creole, and is often intertwined, fused and used hand-in-hand with Creole techniques.
Most of the restaurants you see below blend the two styles to fill out their menus. The spots picked tended to be favored by the Cajun crowd of locals. Places like K-Paul's (who "invented" Cajun) tend to cook right out of the Cajun recipe book. Newer spots like Restaurant R'evolution use Cajun technique as a base and expand upon that with modern culinary technique and flair.
When you come to a city so revered for their foods, you will be tempted by every genre. The hamburgers look good, the pho delicious and the pizza unworldly. But those are migration foods. Since you may visit infrequently, you should make plans to try food unique to and developed in the great city of New Orleans. Many of the places below will have a Cajun take on your favorite American/Italian/Southern food favorite.
Stick to the 10 Best Cajun Restaurant list to find and attend one or more of New Orleans' best Cajun spots, a culinary styling indigenous to the great Gulf city.
10 Domilise's Po'Boys
A tiny room bustling with hungry diners, this neighborhood joint has been serving irresistible po-boys since the 1920s. A collection of vintage décor ranging from old Tabasco bottles filled with toothpicks, beer cans, newspapers and photos hints at the establishment's age. Nonetheless, few get tired of the tried and true menu, which offers scrumptious fillings such as pepper wiener and chili, fried shrimp, catfish, turkey, and sweet barbecue, all served on a hearty French bread, and hopefully, complemented by a cold beer. You can find Domilise's on Annunciation, heading towards Audubon park from downtown. Come hungry, leave happy and repeat. (504-899-9126)
9 Bon Ton Cafe
Located in a historic 19th century building, this restaurant's interior -- exposed brick walls, checkered tablecloths, wrought iron fixtures -- exemplifies casual elegance. Geographically positioned in the Central Business District, the exterior gas lamps beckon in the hungry. The main draw of Bon Ton is the traditional Cajun cooking, highlighted by specialties such as chicken fried steak, crawfish étouffée, jambalaya, catfish, turtle soup and soft-shell crab. Any food goes well with their refreshing house drink, the Rum Ramsey. If the entree and laced drinks don't throw you into diabetic shock (a joke), check out the bread pudding for desert. Closed weekends. (504-524-3386, 888-524-5611)
8 K - Paul's Louisiana Kitchen
If it's "blackened," its Cajun! K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen is manned by world renowned Chef Paul Prudhomme, who introduced the world to Cajun cooking. Diners can enjoy spicy meals that feature starters such as seven steak okra gumbo and entrees such as crawfish étouffée and blackened Louisiana Drum, a fish. Dessert choices include bread pudding and sweet potato pecan pie. The decor is elegant and features patio and balcony seating. K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen is a nonsmoker's haven. It is located in the French Quarter on Chartres, easy to get to from any of the major hotels and a short walk away from Woldenburg Park. (504-596-2530)
Nestled in the Warehouse District of New Orleans, Cochon, led by renowned Chef Link offers up a true Bayou dining experience. Chef Link crafts up food offerings rich in Cajun tradition using local ingredients. He strives to develop an authentic taste that seasoned locals could recognize from fifty years prior. Their menu is simple so no translation is needed for ordering. Prices are super reasonable for what is considered a top, if not the top restaurant in all the Crescent City. Don't waste your time trying to find a great local seafood fare, as restaurants are known here for employing people on the streets to usher you in. Cochon doesn't employee these people; their reputation speaks for itself. (504-588-2123)
6 Chartres House Cafe
A Vieux Carre Landmark "Where Locals Enjoy Casual Cuisine"
, the Chartres House is a traditional New Orleans Cajun restaurant. They have multiple dining settings for their guests to enjoy depending on the mood and the weather. Enjoy true French quarter ambiance with the wrap around balcony, two full bars serving famed martinis and a gorgeous courtyard. Dishes such as the Crawfish Pasta Estrellita and any of the seafood platters will have you salivating pre- and sleeping post post-meal. If you happen to be apart of the mid-morning drinking crowd, Chartres House has your back, serving up system shocking Bloody Mary's. (504-586-8383)
5 New Orleans Food and Spirits
Located across the Ponchartrain River (also a second location in Metairie), this casual joint serves some of the best Cajun in the area. Among the most popular numbers are homemade concoctions like crawfish corn bisque, catfish stew and a signature gumbo. A word to the hungry; their heaping servings of fried seafood exceed all expectations, and have frequently been voted the best in the general New Orleans area. The quality of the ingredients is indicative of the the scrumptious-ness of the food. New Orleans Food and Spirits uses Liedenheimer French Bread, which automatically turns an ordinary po-boy into an amazing one. Reservations are not accepted, so be prepared for a wait. (504-828-2220)
4 Grand Isle Restaurant
Grand Isle is the strip of land off mainland Louisiana known for its amazing fishing. Grand Isle Restaurant, with its menu of fresh local seafood and vintage photos channeling the same gulf goodness as its namesake. Situated on busy Fulton Street, Grand Isle spotlights the talent of chef Ryan Haigler, a South Carolina native who's come light years from his Waffle House beginnings. With a resume that includes working with Sean Brock in Charleston, Tom Colicchio in New York and Emeril in New Orleans' Delmonico, Haigler lassos a lot of flavor in gulf specialties like smoked fried oysters with garlic aioli and a version of grilled oysters with havarti and tasso that is completely off the hook. The smoked drum chowder with roasted corn is another treat, and you can't miss with anything seafood. But Haigler handled the butcher program for Delmonico for two years, so steak specials or the winning combo of confit pork cheek and baby clams served with crunchy popcorn rice pilaf. This is a relaxed yet surprisingly sophisticated option just steps from Canal Street and the Convention Center. (504-520-8530)
3 Restaurant R'evolution
Restaurant R'evolution is located on Bienville in the French Quarter of New Orleans. It is a restaurant "steeped in the historical & cultural influences" of the Big Easy. They are an upscale Cajun/Creole venue offering some amazing takes on dishes like Crawfish Stuffed Flounder Napoleon and the Gulf Shrimp and Grits. Can't decide what to eat? Like most powerhouse New Orleans Restaurants, R'evolution offers a tasting menu where you can sample a bit of this and that. Besides dinner, they serve lunch and brunch on certain days. Their bar is known for hand crafting some traditional throwback drinks including a great take on the Sazerac. ((504) 553-2277)
This is Cajun cooking at its best. Brigtsen's chef, Frank Brigtsen, is known as one of the finest in the region and the culinary entrees he creates are divine. His previous work stops included the famed Commander's Palace and K-Paul's. Manning his own kitchen, Frank's famed dishes are the roast duck or blackened tuna -- but all are guaranteed to leave you wanting more. Brigtsen's is a quick streetcar ride Uptown from the French Quarter. It's a great spot for a romantic night out with a date, or to bring a group of friends. The wait times are a lot less than may be experienced closer to the city center. (504-861-7610)
1 Jacques-Imo's Cafe
Jacques-Imo's is a Cajun/Creole mecca for New Orleanians, with their unforgettable "truck-turned table for two" beckoning the Oak Street foot crowd. The Shrimp Etouffee and Smothered Chicken highlight a menu of Creole favorites offered at relatively inexpensive prices compared to peers. You will also notice that, compared to peers, Jacques-Imo's has the best tasting and most diverse Creole offerings. Their specials menu, which changes often, is known for having up to and over 15 items that are all begging to be ordered. Jacques Leonardi, the chef and mastermind of this venue, is regularly on hand to engage guests and talk of his craft. (504-861-0886)
About Kristopher Neild
Kris is a South Florida resident, living close to the coast in West Palm Beach. The area lets him delve into his vices - beaching, bar-hopping and baseball. Besides writing about travel & leisure, he is a CFA candidate, hoping to pen an investment newsletter sometime in the future.
Read more about Kristopher Neild here.