Cuisine Française: The Best French Restaurants in New Orleans
By Beth D'Addono
New Orleans Local Expert
New Orleans is deeply tied to its French roots, whether you're looking at architecture, culture or food. Since this is a city all about food, mining its French roots is something many a chef explores. The Creole cuisine that is such a New Orleans hallmark traces its evolution in part to the European settlers who landed here back in the 17th and 18th centuries, many coming equipped with their own personal chefs.
The French kitchen flourished in New Orleans, influenced by other cooking styles as well as infromed by the bounty of fresh seafood and produce that abounded. Today's array of French restaurants, most with a Creole accent, satisfy the Francophile's cravings.
Visitors hungry 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 steak frites. When the sun sets and the stars rise over the Mississippi, it's time for le dîner, with Luke one place for traditional bistro fare.
Wine is as important as what's on the menu, so you can expect hefty lists and informed wine service at most of these spots. Service is general will be excellent, whether you're just nibbling or in for a gourmet affair.
9 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)
8 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)
If it's a truly French brasserie setting you crave with the emphasis on locally sourced seafood and Southern hospitality, you've come to the right spot. Offering a trendy, convivial atmosphere, top notch service and an 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. If Personable bartenders are always in the house, and the drinks are top shelf. Prices are a little spendy, but a daily $17 special includes a cup of soup and entrees like Tabasco honey fried chicken and cochon de lait jambalaya. (504-378-2840)
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)
5 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)
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)
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
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 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.