Cuisine Française: The Best French Restaurants in New Orleans
By Kristopher Neild
Palm Beach / West Palm Beach Local Expert
New Orleans embodies so much French tradition and culture, whether in architecture, fashion or food. With the latter being such a big draw for the many travelers that descend upon the Crescent City each year, eating at a French restaurant should be given a preferential spot on every visitor's "to do" list.
Whether it's traditional or contemporary, fusion or Creole, New Orleans offers diners a variety of options when selecting a French restaurant.
For le petit déjeuner (breakfast), check out La Boulangerie for excellent cafe au lait and chocolate croissants. Around lunch time, Lilette can be great for a cocktail and a hanger steak. When the sun sets and the stars rise over the Mississippi, it's time for le dîner (intuitive). For an amazing traditional French dinner, you won't be disappointed in choosing Restaurant August.
Besides the the lamb, duck and creamy, herb infused entrees the French are famous for, they are also known for their taste in wine. Many of the places below have vast wine cellars stocked with vintage bottles from the home land. Be sure to check with servers for the run down on inventory, and what pairs best with what. The service staff at the upscale French establishments are always unworldly intellectual when it comes to their gastro-knowledge.
10 Antoine's Restaurant
Classic French Creole cuisine is what sets Antoine's apart. The restaurant has been in business since the mid-1800s and while the recipes may seem basic, each entree's flavor is uniquely delectable. Diners can enjoy choices like potato soufflé or Poulet Rochambeau, a boneless half-chicken served with a sweet brown rochambeau and tangy béarnaise sauce. The decor is spaciously elegant and, even though Antoine's still prints its menu in French, the staff is more than eager to help. Check out Antoine's in the French Quarter (between Bourbon and Royal) during your New Orleans stay. Post dinner you'll be calling the Mississippi the Seine. (504-581-4422)
9 La Boulangerie
La Boulangerie is hybrid bakery/cafe located on Magazine Street in New Orleans. They incorporate mostly traditional French methods in baking the many pastries and breads that are on display at the counter. For breakfast, coffee and a chocolate filled croissant can make a great start to a day in the Garden District. For lunch, try a quiche or a mouth watering sandwich on a freshly baked baguette. The whole decor of La Boulangerie is Parisian modeled. It's the type of place you could come to at 6 am with your laptop and stay til 6 pm, enjoying coffee, treats and meals sprinkled throughout the day. (504-269-3777)
8 Galatoire's Restaurant
Galatoire's is a traditional French inspired restaurant situated on Bourbon Street. Founded in 1905, the menu was built not by one singular chef, but by a family of cuisine experts. The schtick of Galatoire's has been keeping its food offerings delicately simple, without sacrificing taste that New Orleans eaters yearn for. Until recently, the restaurant strong armed against taking reservations, and on weekends the line to get a table would seem endless. Now, second floor seating can be reserved in advance. The seafood-centric menu focuses on in-season fish and shellfish. The impeccable service of Galatoire's has won awards year over year and is ready to cater your group on your next visit. (504-525-2021)
7 Cafe Degas
Cafe Degas is a European style French bistro housed the Bayou St. John neighborhood of New Orleans. A metal-roofed porch enclosed in plastic houses the quirky dining room. Ceiling fans and metal garden tables and chairs with tapestry cushions flank the tight but charming space. Bloody Marys and mimosas compliment the delicious brunch specials that might include seafood crepes, grillades and grits, and calf's liver and sweetbreads. At dinner, you'll enjoy delicacies such as seared duck breast with mushroom spatzle and pear choucroute. Don't miss this local favorite during your trip to the culinary marvel that is the great city of New Orleans. (504-945-5635)
6 La Petite Grocery
La Petite Grocery leaves the sugary powdered beignets to the Cafe du Mondes of the world, taking its own approach to the beignet. La Petite stuffs their doughy morsels with blue crab and tops them with a savory roumalade. These are a must order appetizer when you visit La Petite Grocery for lunch, dinner or brunch. Positioned on Magazine Street, La Petite is often void of the long wait times associated with other popular local restaurants. If you do find yourself waiting a little bit, you can grab a drink from their innovative cocktail menu and soak in the historic decor of the property. (5048913377)
Lilette is a decadent French restaurant situated on Magazine Street. Stellar cuisine and a hip cocktail bar make this a sexy destination for young professionals. Tempting bites -- like eggplant crisps with skordalia, oven-dried roma tomatoes, basil and oil cured olive line the menu. The grilled veal paillard comes served with broccoli raab, almonds, homemade ricotta toast and garlic parsley butter. The wine list includes 50 wines, with 11 varieties available by the glass. Stop by for lunch while bouncing between Garden District neighborhoods. Upon entering, their dining room will leave one slack jawed, which is convenient considering you are about to eat. (504-895-1636)
Patois translates to "local accent", which is fitting for a restaurant that blends French culinary traditions with New Orleans flare and ingredients. Founded by Chef Aaron Burgau, the Uptown restaurant is noted for serving dishes like the Mississippi Rabbit and Hanger Steak at reasonable prices relative to the competition. The establishment has recently won awards such as "Best of New Orleans" and "Best Bargains" by revered local media outlets, making it a necessary stop for any traveler to the area looking for a great local dining option. Patois is housed in a quaint building in Uptown New Orleans near Audubon Park. ((504) 895-9441)
Chef Link's second restaurant on this 10Best list has no interest in playing second fiddle to Cochon. Herbsaint offers a completely different, modern bistro type experience. The menu is filled with French and Italian dishes brushed with Southern undertones. You will find a house made spaghetti here that rivals anything being done in Italy, which is one of the few fixed options on a menu that has been tinkered with on occasion. The venue itself is a humble, quiet place where a conversation amongst your group has no need to be shouted or abbreviated. Patrons are comfortable staying as long as they wish, and dessert is a must. How can you say no to a Duck and Goose Egg Creme Brulee? (504-524-4114)
2 Restaurant August
Housed in a historic French-Creole building downtown, Restaurant August's dining room features grand French doors, exposed brick walls and elegant chandeliers. The menu offers delicately prepared masterpieces of haute cuisine, such as "lasagna" of rabbit, veal sweetbreads and grilled lobster. A creative selection of starters includes asparagus salad with crabmeat, baby greens and truffles vinaigrette, and warm goat cheese with frisee, Seranno ham and sour cherries. Sound selections of martinis and international wine and beer complement the fare. This upscale John Besh dining mecca can be found on Tchoupitoulas Street in downtown New Orleans. Be prepared for a life changing dining experience. (504-299-9777)
1 La Provence
Ranked by "Traveler" magazine as one of America's top ten restaurants, La Provence absolutely justifies the 40-minute drive from New Orleans. Located across Lake Pontchartrain, it's affiliated with a country inn and features a Provencal atmosphere. The chef savors seclusion from New Orleans, and La Provence's idyllic spot only enhances its inherent charm. Meals frequently commence with a series of pâtés and languish well into the evening. Entrees take their inspiration from fine French and Creole cuisines, and service is well above par. La Provence is a John Besh restaurant and is consistently recognized as a top eco-friendly restaurant nationally. (985-626-7662)
About Kristopher Neild
Kris is a South Florida resident, living close to the coast in West Palm Beach. The area provides him with plenty of golf courses to hack up, restaurants to sample and beaches to surf and sun. Plus, he can get his baseball fix with all the spring training and minor league action. Kris is also a CFA candidate, meddling in financial matters to pay the bills.
Read more about Kristopher Neild here.