In New Orleans, a city that lives and breathes on its tourism and group business, restaurants that can handle a crowd are an important part of the dining landscape. Figuring out where to take your gang involves first deciding what kind of an experience you want them to have. If you're planning an event on the corporate side, you may need a private dining room that can accommodate business travelers intent on networking and impressing clients. Or you may want a more casual vibe, allowing for mingling and fun without breaking the budget. Whether your crowd is business or leisure oriented, it might be a classic New Orleans dining experience that you want to deliver. For parties more festive than the typical business affair, the ideal setting should put the emphasis on fun, personal attention and atmosphere that can set the stage for a milestone birthday or life event. But whatever the size or nature of your group, the bottom line is to deliver a memorable experience with fabulous food at its center. These 10 restaurants won't disappoint, each has a solid culinary reputation and an ambiance that will please the right crowd. In some cases, an inhouse group manager is available to help you coordinate all details.
Offering a trendy, convivial atmosphere, top notch service and one of the city's most extensive raw bars, Luke is a bustling French brasserie, New Orleans style. 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. Service is efficient and personable. For a real wow, there is semi-private dining in view of the kitchen that seats up to 35. For receptions or sit down dinners there are four ballrooms for up to 250 guests. If business is what you have in mind there are three boardrooms available. The Grand Chapel is a popular venue for weddings. (504-378-2840)
Synonymous with New Orleans cuisine, Emeril Lagasse is a celebrity chef everybody can relate to. Group sales manager Sandy Odom is Emeril's secret weapon, a committed meeting pro who makes details her business. All of Emeril's restaurants have private dining options, and each has its own personality and version of the chef's signature and seafood-centric cuisine. Emeril's Delmonico on St. Charles Avenue offers an understated elegant setting, fantastic wine program and modern steakhouse Creole cuisine, with a variety of space options to take care of up to 230 seated, 375 for a reception. Check out the cornstalk fence space in the back, a little hidden gem that offers a private entrance and courtyard for cocktailing. (504-525-4937)
Nestled in the Warehouse District of New Orleans, Cochon powered by chef co-owner Stephen Stryjewski, who earned the James Beard Award for Best Chef South 2011 and partner Donald Link, who also owns Herbsaint and Peche as well as a desginated private dining space Calcasieu in the Warehouse District. The restaurant pays homage to the old-style Cajun Boucherie with the hand crafting of boudin, andouille, smoked bacon and head cheese. Local seafood also stars in succulent crawfish pies and roasted gulf fish done "fisherman" style, along with comfort foods including spoon bread with okra and tomatoes, roasted oysters and suckling pig. (504-588-2123)
Fulton Alley in the New Orleans CBD is a fun locally owned destination for bowling, contemporary Southern comfort food and curated craft cocktails. The setting is sleek and urbane, with local art adding eye-popping appeal. Executive chef Mike Nirenberg is behind the contemporary Southern-influenced menu, delivering the likes of pimento cheese on toasted brioche, crispy chicken sliders and raisin bread pudding beignets right to your lane. Cocktails from the team behind Cure bring a hip night of bowling into perfect focus. The bowling lounge recently expanded to include an array of fun games, from darts and foozball to a full on bocce court and oversized chess on the patio. A creative event staff will customize a party package for your group, including everything and anything from bowling and shoes to tasty nibbles and cocktails from the premium bar. ((504) 208-5569)
Red Fish Grill
Run by a branch of the famed Brennan family, this Bourbon Street restaurant serves seafood specialties in a casual setting. The hickory-grilled redfish, barbecue oysters and andouille-crusted gulf fish have been the talk of the town for more than a decade. Whole grilled fish is a popular option, paired with one of six specialty sauces including green olive with tomato and basil and a light lemon herb vinaigrette. Located in the first block of Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, Red Fish Grill features three private dining areas perfect for meetings and receptions. The restaurant can handle a group of 250 people for full service dining and up to 500 for cocktail galas. (5045981200)
Broussard's Restaurant and Patio
An iconic French Quarter restaurant and event space on Conti Street since 1920, Broussard's went through a multi million dollar redo and reopened in late 2013 with new ownership. Now under the family-owned Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts, founded by a group of brothers who got their start with a chain of frozen daiquiri bars, Broussard's is a French Creole restaurant with outstanding cuisine from Executive Chef Neal Swidler, formerly chef de cuisine at Emeril's Delmonico and NOLA. The restaurant's decor features a Parisian-styled promenade as well as a serene courtyard, plus there is piano entertainment on Friday and Saturday evenings. The Empire Bar serves up great classic cocktails. (504-581-3866)
It doesn't get any more traditional than at this Vieux Carré landmark, founded in 1840. The 15 formal dining rooms include the glittering Rex Room, with its motif of crowns, scepters and Mardi Gras memorabilia. Oysters Rockefeller originated here in 1889, and the menu hasn't changed much since. Expect rich French Creole cuisine and Gulf seafood including tasty fried oysters on buttered toast with foie gras. Local gents still wear jackets to dinner, but it's not required. Antoine's still prints its menu in French, and the staff is more than eager to help. Be sure to check out the bread pudding when it comes time to choose dessert. (504-581-4422)
August spotlights John Besh's Creole-influenced contemporary cuisine in a former grocer's warehouse space now aglow with French doors, red leather chairs and chandeliers. Besh keeps one foot in his native Bayou and the other in the big city, putting out creative fare like his B.L.T.--buster crabs, lettuce and heirloom tomatoes and Louisiana rabbit with morels served with sage grits. The menu offers delicately prepared masterpieces of haute cuisine, such as "lasagna" of rabbit, veal sweetbreads and grilled lobster. The upstairs private dining room can seat 100 or 120 for a reception style event. For a more intimate soiree, the Chef's Tasting Room can seat 12 and features a customized Chef's Tasting Menu. (504-299-9777)
Muriel's Jackson Square
This former 1700s residence of Jean Baptiste Destrehan was renovated into an intimate series of Victorian dining rooms and bars, complete with the decadent Séance Lounge, supposedly home to a high-spirited spirit. A large menu of regional favorites includes a sampler of crawfish Etoufee, seafood gumbo and jambalaya, pecan-crusted puppy drum fish and wood-grilled barbecue shrimp. There are multiple rooms for groups, like the intimate veranda and the balcony overlooking Jackson Square, home to some of the most coveted dining tables in New Orleans. The Seance room is a sexy spot that harks back to the days when Muriel's was one of the French Quarter's best bordellos along the Mississippi. (5045681885)
Bourbon House Seafood & Oyster Bar
The Bourbon House is an authentic New Orleans seafood restaurant, with its dining room windows looking out onto the riotous Bourbon Street. Inside, the atmosphere is classy and quieter, with the menu including only in-season Gulf of Mexico offerings. There are multiple private rooms, to handle 22 to 40 people and glass wine cabinets partition the dining rooms from a wrought iron balcony that can serve as a pre-function area for group dining. The wait staff is over-the-top attentive and caring, able to guide you through the various oyster options and small batch/single barrel bourbon choices. The menu, a veritable catalog of Creole specialties, includes oysters Bienville, catfish pecan and a killer fried seafood platter. Many ingredients are sourced from local purveyors. (504-522-0111)
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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