In the hierarchy of New Orleans meals, lunch and brunch are equally critical. A person needs energy to handle a full day of this vivacious city, and a plate full of fried chicken and red beans and rice can be that necessary fuel.
The tradition of enjoying a good mid-day meal can be traced back to early New Orleanians who lived to enjoy a bowl of gumbo and a glass of sweet tea on their sprawling Victorian front porches. Fast forward to today, and the experience is similar at fancy spots like Commander's Palace and Galatoire's.
If you don't mind a siesta after you eat, catch some of the best soul food in town at Li'l Dizzy's on leafy Esplanade Avenue, an easy walk or bike ride from the French Quarter. Fill a plate with steaming fried chicken and sides, and be prepared for an inevitable food coma.
Drinking is as important as eating during any New Orleans meal, and the local joints know this. Bars will be staffed as early as they open, ready to pour an old favorite or concoct something new. Finally, at least once, line up early for lunch at Galatoire's on a Friday, an esteemed tradition that draws hordes of locals to one of the loudest, most protracted afternoon parties in town.
Liuzza's by the Track
In a city that's po'boy proud, Liuzza's at the Track stands out from the crowd, thanks to the house specialty, a buttery, Worcestershire-fueled gi-normous portion of gulf shrimp slathered between a hot and crusty roll. It's called barbecue shrimp, but there's really nothing barbecued about it. Save room for the gumbo. This town is full of conflicting opinions about gumbo - how light, or dark the roux should be, seafood vs. sausage and on and on. Liuzza's recipe includes seafood, local sausage, 13 spices and a few secret ingredients. On a hot day, nothing beats s seat at the bar, a bowl of gumbo and a cold beer at this hole in the wall joint. ((504) 218-7888)
Compere Lapin (pronounced kom-pare la-pan) means "brother rabbit," a reference to a mischievous rabbit featured in the Caribbean folk tales chef Nina Compton read as a kid. Drawing on the story's themes of exploration and play, Compton designed a restaurant that features a mix of inventive flavors drawn from the New Orleans table, Compton's Caribbean roots, her French culinary training and deep experience with Italian cuisine.
After even just a few bites, it's not hard to conjure Compere Lapin's island roots. Small plates, which pair insanely well with the bold drinks program designed by beverage director Ricky Gomez, include the likes of conch croquettes with pickled pineapple tartar sauce and roasted jerk corn with a citrus aioli. Flavors are exotic, tropical and tinged with just the right amount of heat. Brunch dishes including bruleed grapefruit, coconut French toast and goat Bolognese over cavatelli are delish. ((504) 599-2119)
Cochon chef co-owner Stephen Stryjewski, winner of the 2011 James Beard Foundations "Best Chef South" award, pays homage to the old style Cajun Boucherie at this must-eat Warehouse District restaurant. Order a moonshine-based cocktail and dig in to platters of housemade charcuterie, including boudin, andouille sasuage, smoked bacon, and head cheese. Local seafood also stars in succulent crawfish pies and roasted gulf fish "fisherman" style, along with comfort foods including spoon bread with okra and tomatoes, roasted oysters and suckling pig. Stryjewski sources locally wherever possible and buys seafood and frogs legs from nearby Gretna and Des Allemands, Louisiana. Try the black-bottomed brown butter banana cream pie for dessert. (504-588-2123)
Located in the fab Loews Hotel, the Brennan family-run Cafe 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)
There are plenty of vegan and vegetarian options at this funky little spot powered by creative chef Paul Artigues. Expect a wait, as reservations aren't an option for one of the coveted 14 seats that literally spill out onto the alley in nice weather. In addition to his take on Creole flavors, chef Artigues features global-inspired dishes with special emphasis on Indian cuisine. Try the pork sugarcane lollipops with coconut slaw or the South Indian uttapam (a pancake with onions, peas, peppers, tomatoes and panchpuran rolled and filled with vegan curry). Open Wednesday to Sunday for lunch and dinner. (504-301-3347)
Arana Taqueria Y Cantina
Arana Taqueria y Cantina, home to local chef Richard Papier, is a popular Magazine Street specializing in flavorfuil Mexican cuisine. The name, which means spider in Spanish, is a nod to the chef's longtime nickname. Look for slow braised pork, beef, chicken and duck cooked in banana leaves and dishes seasoned with achiote.
Papier, who has worked alongside chefs Emeril Lagasse, Donald link and Susan Spicer, gets creative with smoky chicken mole, a send up on chicken fried steak called torta Milanese and a variety of 12 different tacos including killer fish tacos with jalapeno sauce and a tasty carne asada.
The chef recently launched a new menu featuring crowd pleasing Mexican dishes like fajitas, burritos and enchiladas - including the New Orleans-flavored fried oyster tostadas. ((504) 894-1233)
Located in a green, historical renovation of an 1891 Greek Revival home on Oretha Castle Haley, the quickly changing arts corridor in Central City, Casa Borrega is a fantastic little taco bar. Besides a great selection of margaritas, the menu dishes authentic street food, the kind you'd find in Mexico City. The ceviche is delish, same for trios of tacos stuffed with te likes of tequila marinated lamb and chorizo.
The special appetizer the night of our visit was a relleno from heaven. Portions are large, so start by sharing an entree unless you're famished. More vegetarian than vegan, you'll find fresh, healthful takes on Mexican dishes and plenty of veg to keep you smiling. Snag a seat in the outdoor courtyard if the weather permits. Live music is featured most weekends, from Cuban and salsa to flamenco. (504-427-0654)
St. James Cheese Company
St. James Cheese Company is a gourmet artisan cheese shop that also happens to do a very good lunch/light dinner. Located on Prytania in the Garden District and in the Warehouse district at 641 Tchoupitoulas close to the convention center, St. James is a locals' fave with good reason. Besides all things fromage, including regular cheese tastings, this beloved cheese shop features sandwiches like duck confit banh mi, classic Cuban, burrata salad, charcuterie, and even a cheese bar for nibbling and small bites. Wine and beer is also served, and if you're in a rush for one or the other, there are two lines, one for ordering from the menu, the other for the cheese case. Thursdays through Saturdays they host a happy hour where visitors can pair cheese plates and wine/beer for discounted dollars. This place is a cheese lover's dream. ((504) 899-4737)
Fogo de Chao
Swords, handsome cowboys who can cook, endless amounts of fresh salads and perfectly cooked meat – have you died and gone to heaven? No, welcome to the earthbound reality of Fogo de Chao (say fo-go dèe shoun), the new-to-New Orleans Brazilian-based churrascaria ensconced in the JW Marriott on Canal Street. Blessed with a gorgeous space, high ceilings and a second floor balcony with private dining rooms, this Fogo is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner to serve the hotel's guests. Grill artists sear up cuts like filet, top sirloin, beef and pork ribs and lamp chops over a custom-made, 500-degree gas rotisserie. Veggie lovers will be equally happy with the market table with its seasonal greens, salads, smoked salmon, giant wheel of imported Parmesan and fresh fruit. There's also a fejoida bar featuring rice and Brazil's national black bean and pork stew. (504-412-8900)
New Orleanians are not only loyal to this traditional bastion of Creole dining, they're loyal to their waiter, and if they're old enough, to their waiter's son. Generations come and go, but Galatoire's, with its classic seafood-centric menu focused on in-season fish and shellfish treated to artful preparations like trout meuniere, shrimp remoulade and oysters Rockefeller. Not only can your order well known local fish like drum, redfish and pompano, you can also get the sweet goodness of sheepshead and lemon fish if the waters are right. This French Creole palace is a definitive New Orleans experience, but remember, gents need a jacket after dark. (504-525-2021)
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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