In the hierarchy of New Orleans meals, lunch is holding hands with brunch at the top spot. 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 the early New Orleanians; they lived to enjoy a bowl of gumbo and a glass of tea (or mint julep) on their sprawling Victorian front porches. Fast forward to today, where you can enjoy the same food in similar atmospheres at the likes of Commander's Palace or Antoine's.
The people who don't eat lunch for energy, eat lunch in preparation for a nap. Enter Soul Food. Jump in line at Mother's, get a plate filled with steaming meat and sides, and be prepared to creep towards in inevitable food coma.
Drinking is as much important as eating during any New Orleans meal, and the local joints know this. Their bars will be staffed as early as they open, ready to pour an old favorite or concoct a new venture. New Orleans knows food, and 10Best.com knows where to go for the best lunch in town.
10 El Gato Negro
El Gato Negro is a newer restaurant open for breakfast, lunch and dinner in the French Quarter of New Orleans. This establishment is a self described "Mexican kitchen" that fuses typical Mexican fare like tacos, burritos, etc., with Louisiana seafood. They also offer a wide variety of traditional Mexican food. Besides the food, the bartenders can craft up some mean margaritas in deep glasses to help chase down your potentially zingy meal. Be on the lookout for the "Blood of the Devil" margarita, a spicy variation found nowhere else. The atmosphere here is loose and welcoming, drawing up some decent crowds right after work lets out. (504-525-9752)
9 Red Gravy
Red Gravy is an authentic Italian restaurant located in the heart of the French Quarter. An "Italian Girl from New Jersey" mans the sauce pot, and has lunch and dinner goers up in arms about the tasty and sizable portions. Pastas, meatballs, sausages and bruschetta fill the lunch and dinner menu. Conveniently, Red Gravy is also open for breakfast and brunch on weekends. The atmosphere is relaxed, yet catering to the fast paced (if that exists in New Orleans) lunch crowds who fill the seats during the weeks. Food taste and quality have been known to drive repeat visitors, especially for the above mentioned meatballs, and the chicken & waffles. ((504) 561-8844)
8 Antoine's Restaurant
Classic French Creole cuisine is what sets Antoine's apart. The restaurant has been in business since the mid-1800s and the recipes may seem basic, but each entree's flavor is uniquely delectable. Diners can enjoy choices like potato souffl� or Poulet Rochambeau, a boneless half-chicken served with a sweet brown rochambeau and tangy b�arnaise 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. Their reasonably priced lunch special is a favorite among locals. Be sure to check out the bread pudding when it comes time to choose desrt. (504-581-4422)
7 Cafe Reconcile
Cafe Reconcile is a non-profit lunch cafe and catering group that is located in the Central City area of New Orleans. The cafe serves up some of the best Southern Soul/Creole dishes in the city at some of the best prices, all while providing a charitable service to the community. Po-boys, catfish and chicken dishes dominate the menu. If you like to leave lunch stuffed and ready for a nap, look into the Special Daily Entrees. The crowd here is generally a local business crowd who appreciate a hearty economical lunch. Keep that in mind if you get tired of waiting for food in large tourist populated lines. ((504) 568-1157)
6 Palace Cafe
Sweet banana beignets served with a classic Foster sauce of brown sugar, butter, rum, cinnamon and banana liquor; the official description of the Banana Foster Beignets crafted specially for Sunday Brunch at the Palace Cafe. The Palace also serves up a mean lunch, using classic and contemporary Creole cooking techniques and flavors. The joint is housed in the historic Werlein's music building, easy to spot when perusing the Central Business District of New Orleans. Enjoy an upbeat, friendly staff and relaxed atmosphere as you sample favorites like Crawfish Mac & Cheese or the Andouille Crusted Fish. Make sure to schedule a trip to one of New Orleans' best restaurants during your trip. (504-523-1661)
5 Li'l Dizzy's Cafe
A down-home setting and authentic "N'awlins-style" gumbo make Li'l Dizzy's a must for anyone seeking a genuine New Orleans dining experience. The cafe delights diners with a "true Creole" recipe that includes fresh, local seafood and traditional file powder. Specializing in authentic cuisine made exclusively with regional ingredients, this intimate eatery's buffets are exceedingly popular with locals, so come early and bring a hearty appetite. Don't come here if you are looking for fancy, do come if you are looking for legitimate New Orleans cookin'. Efficiency is maximized and hunger minimized if you purchase the buffet for lunch. You'll leave waddling. (504-569-8997)
Mother's has been a New Orleans tradition since the 1940's and it is still creating happy customers today. If you are looking for a hearty breakfast or a "meat and three" for supper and don't mind standing in line, this cafeteria-style eatery is sure to please. And do not miss the po' boys -- natives claim Mother's sells the definitive version of the popular sandwich. Also a winner: the New Orleans style, chicory-flavored coffee. Mother's is located on Poydras in the Central Business District, and is known for attracting heaping amounts of visitors during weekends. Try sneaking your Mother's trip in mid-week to avoid a potential fiasco. (504-523-9656)
3 Dooky Chase's Restaurant
Dooky Chase's is a New Orleans mecca for gumbo, especially the Gumbo Z'Herbes. On the Thursday before Good Friday, Dooky Chase's closes up their traditional menu and serves just the gumbo and fried chicken (this is the only day you can get this type of gumbo here). The lines can be long, but it is tradition and is worth checking out if you are in town for. Chef/host/overseer Leah Chase has run this place forever, and it's her touch that transforms the simple soul food into a powerful hunger fighter with zing! Beginning in 2013, you be able to sample Dooky Chase's cuisine when you get off the plane at Louis Armstrong Airport (brand new location). ((504) 821-0600)
2 Crabby Jack's
Crabby Jack's, on Jefferson Highway is the "side of the road seafood shack" type of venue that was prefaced in the intro to this list. While it doesn't generate the fanfare or publicity of some of the more upscale seafood joints, the locals know and love Crabby Jack's because they do fried shrimp po'boys better than anyone in the city. Owned and operated by the same chef that gave you Jacques-Imos on Oak Street, the menu here is focused on loaded po'boys and seafood platters at uber reasonable prices. This is the type of place you come to straight from a day working the land or for those visitors, playing in one of the city's parks. Tacky t-shirts and holey shorts as a wardrobe will have you fitting right in. ((504) 833-2722)
1 Commander's Palace
Driving by the blue Victorian facade of Commander's Palace in the Garden District of New Orleans immediately invokes curiosity. What's in there? Just a five star upscale restaurant whose kitchen was tended to by a young pre-famed Emeril Legasse some many years ago is all. Commander's Palace was battered a bit by Katrina, but it is back in full force now, serving up dishes starring local meats, seafood, vegetables and fruits. In keeping with tradition, the Palace requires patrons to wear slacks and button ups, with suit jackets recommended for dinner. Stepping inside the time warp that is the front door, be prepared to experience New Orleans dining like it was, back in the day. (504-899-8221)
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.
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