10 Best New Orleans Lunch Expxeriences: From Phat to Fancy
By Beth D'Addono
New Orleans Local Expert
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 sould food in town at Li'l Dizzy's on leafy Esplanade Avenue, an easy walk or bike road from the French Quarter. Fill a plate filled with steaming meat 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. Their bars will be staffed as early as they open, ready to pour an old favorite or concoct something new. Finally, at least one, 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.
Creatively modern just begins to describe chef Phillip Lopez's approach to cooking at Root, the 70-seat Warehouse District space done up with exposed wooden beams and industrial lighting. Lopez, who studied molecular gastronomy in Spain, makes food that is fun to eat, surprising and experimental. Try the daily menage a foie, a $25 chef's preparation which might include fried oysters encrusted in smoked cornmeal and topped with Manchego foam or smoked scallops made with chorizo dust and served in a cigar box. Lunch can be pricey, but you won't find a better $13 smoked veal pastrami on rye or $15 burger served ona brioche bun. Prepare to be wowed. (504-252-9480)
9 NOLA Restaurant
This perennial hotspot is full of Lagasse specialties like Louisiana crab cakes with Creole tartar sauce, cedar plank roasted red fish, and homemade chorizo and pork chops with pecan-glazed sweet potatoes. What makes this Emeril restaurant different is the wood-burning oven gourmet pizzas - for lunch try the veggie with artichoke heart, kalamata olives, tomato, feta and house-made ricotta cheese. The funkiest of chef Emeril's restaurants, nola is situated in a renovated warehouse with a bright yellow stucco facade, exposed brick, large French door windows, and dining on the second floor balcony. Dine at the food bar for a front row view of the action. (504-522-6652)
8 Galatoire's Restaurant
Galatoire's turns 110 in 2015, a Bourbon Street institution since French immigrant Jean Galatoire opened in 1905. Frequented by residents as well as tourists, this award-winning seafood-centric restaurant inspires folks to line up for lunch on Friday for coveted seating in the loud and lively downstairs dining room. Some of the famous specialties include duck crepes, crabmeat sardou and crabmeat maison. Remember to dress up a bit - no shorts or T-shirts allowed, and if you're planning on dinner, gents need a jacket. The restaurant's impeccable service has won awards year over year. If it's old guard you want, Galatoire's is the epitome of a Creole Palace, staffed by waiters who have tended the same families for generations. (504-525-2021)
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 Byblos Restaurant
With five locations around town, including one in the Garden District and several in suburban Metairie, Byblos offers a much-needed respite from the rich sauces and fried food that can weigh down a New Orleans visit. Tahini-powered hummus, fried eggplant and gyro nachos made with pita chips topped with grilled gyro meat, tzatziki sauce, red onions, tomatoes, olives and feta cheese are good choices out of the gate. Kid-friendly kababs made with chicken, beef or shrimp are served with hummus and imported Basmati rice pilaf. Vegetarian options abound, including the falafel Greek salad, eggplant baba ghanuj, grilled veggie wrap with fries and cheesy spanakopita. (5048941233)
5 Li'l Dizzy's Cafe
A down-home setting and authentic gumbo make Li'l Dizzy's a must for anyone seeking a genuine New Orleans dining experience. The cafe is family owned and the welcome is genuine and warm. The gumbo is family 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. Efficiency is maximized and hunger minimized if you purchase the buffet for lunch. Or order platters of fried seafood or po'boys and be warned, portions are immense. You'll leave waddling. (504-569-8997)
4 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)
3 Coop's Place
Compact and crowded, Coop's probably isn't on most travelers' agendas which is a crying shame. Located right on Decatur not far from the French Market, Coop's remains a locals' haunt, with its well-worn surfaces and gritty elan. Unpolished, seductive, and even a touch dingy, Coop's is the real deal. Staples like shrimp Creole, Cajun-fried chicken, fried oysters and rabbit and sausage jambalaya are always good bets for lunch, or order the taste plate, which features the items above along with scrumptious portions of seafood gumbo and red beans and rice with sausage. This place serves food late, if you need to circle back at the end of a night on Frenchmen Street. (504-525-9053)
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)
1 Commander's Palace
The green and white signature awning beckons at this must-eat restaurant, housed in a beautiful Victorian mansion in the Garden District landmark. Both Emeril Lagasse and Paul Prudhomme started here, and the Brennan family has maintained a tradition of culinary excellence with stand out menu items including turtle soup laced with sherry, trout wrapped in crispy pecan crust and shrimp remoulade. Lunch is less formal than dinner, but you still want to look a little uptown when you visit this iconic New Orleans restaurant. Yes, the martinis are just 25 cents at lunch, but remember there is a limit of three. Jazz brunch is an event on Sundays. (504-899-8221)
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, the Boston Globe, Newsday, Philadelphia Daily News, Taste, Jewish Exponent, Fodor's and others. She is the author of Must Sees New Orleans (Michelin) and co-author of City Tavern Cookbook (Running Press).
Read more about Beth D'Addono here.