Date Night in New Orleans: The City's 10Best Romantic Restaurants

Photo courtesy of Cafe Sbisa
Photo courtesy of Meauxbar
Photo courtesy of Commander's Palace
Photo courtesy of New Orleans CVB
Photo courtesy of Renee Kientz/Louisiana Northshore
By Beth D'Addono, New Orleans Local Expert

Man may not be able to live on bread alone, but add in a dozen grilled oysters, a pecan crusted red fish and bananas foster prepared tableside, and we're getting somewhere. 

New Orleans is a city that inspires love, Talk to locals and more often than not, you'll hear a few stories of people who fall in love with New Orleans, and wind up moving here. Like every love affair, there are highs and lows, but in New Orleans, the rich gastronomic landscape is impossible not to adore. With the person you love across the table, sharing quaffs of bubbly, local seafood and pecan-defined desserts is sure to satisfy on multiple levels.

Whether you want the grand experience of Commander's Palace, or a more modern take on an intimate evening dining at Cafe Sbisa in the Quarter, each of these 10 spots will make your sweetie's heart beat a little faster as he, or she, tries not to gulp down the goodness of smartly prepared specialties served in a moody, jazzy setting. The regional flavors, European architecture and fabulous courtyards of New Orleans restaurants are simply not found anywhere else. Whether in the French Quarter or Warehouse District; Uptown or Bywater, New Orleans has your date night covered.

10. Cafe Sbisa
Photo courtesy of Cafe Sbisa

The reopening of Cafe Sbisa, the century-old brasserie on Decatur Street, is big news on lots of fronts. First of all, the place is an atmospheric stunner, with original wood, intimate balcony and patio dining and a staircase that harks back to a golden age. Chef Alfred Singleton, who worked his way up from busboy to chef until Katrina devastated the restaurant, is now back in the kitchen. And more than that, Singleton, who has spent the past decade working at restaurants including Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse, is also a partner with owner Craig Napoli, whose seafood business assures the freshest gulf catch on the seafood-centric menu. Outstanding French-Creole cuisine including the likes of blue crabcakes and an amazing turtle soup laced with sherry is served under the watchful eyes of a bawdy George Dureau mural - which somehow survived the mold that bloomed after the flood. During Sunday brunch, live jazz fills the restaurant, providing a wonderful ambience for diners who can't wait to get at the diverse menu. Choices include Creole classics like crawfish and andouille omelette cheese grits). Other brunch possibilities include smoked salmon Benedict and crabmeat omelets.

9. Meauxbar
Photo courtesy of Meauxbar

This quaint little neighborhood spot perfectly exemplifies what makes the French Quarter so special: even on its boundary streets, you're bound to find something that will charm and surprise. Though locals usually occupy the tables at Meauxbar each night, these snug yet easygoing quarters welcome all-comers. Framed photos, mirrors, burnished wood floors and moody lighting reinforce the bistro concept, and seating is available both at tables and at the bar. Another bonus is that conversation is welcome (and audible) at this intimate space, making date night especially romantic. But of course, it's the cookery that truly sets the place apart, most notably such superbly-conceived numbers as yak-a-mein of the day, double-cut pork chop with mustard spaetzle and burrata with crabmeat and braised greens. Weekend reservations are encouraged and brunch is a winner.

8. Lilette
Photo courtesy of Braden Kowitz

Lilette is a decadent French restaurant situated on Magazine Street. Stellar cuisine from chef John Harris and a hip cocktail bar make this a sexy destination for foodies of all ages. 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 some wines, with more than 10 varieties available by the glass. Stop by for lunch while bouncing between Garden District neighborhoods. The art-filled intimate dining room is one of the prettiest places to whisper sweet nothings in town.

7. Arnaud's
Photo courtesy of Arnaud's

In 2018 it will be 100 years since Arnaud Cazenave, a colorful, French wine salesman, founded the grand New Orleans restaurant bearing his name with a commitment to serving quality Creole cuisine. Taken over by the Casbarian family in 1978, Arnaud's is tended to by the fourth generation of Casbarians and is a must for some of the Big Easy's best Creole food. Have three distinct experiences here, live music and a more casual atmosphere in the Jazz Bistro, a romantic dinner in the main dining room, or cocktails in the French 75 Bar. The classy joint is located just steps from Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. Their proprietary remoulade blend that adorns their Shrimp Arnaud and Crab Cakes is delectable and must be sampled. Arnaud's opened for business nearly a century ago, and their dedication to offering a desirable ambiance and delicious Creole food has never wavered.

6. Coquette

Opened by chef Mike Stoltzfus and his wife Lillian Hubbard in December 2008, Coquette is a Garden District stunner, from its gleaming floors and crisp linens to its architectural details and warm exposed brick walls. The Garden District building was built in the late 1880's and has been among other things a residence, grocery store, auto parts store and several restaurants. Chef Stoltzfus, who honed his craft as sous chef at Restaurant August, proffers innovative southern cuisine with an emphasis on locally sourced product. The three course, $23 lunch is a great deal. A few not to miss dishes include the housemade charcuterie plate and striped bass served with kohlrabi and kumquat in a clam broth spiked with jalapeno.

5. Commander's Palace
Photo courtesy of Commander's Palace

The blue Victorian facade of Commander's Palace in the Garden District of New Orleans has been the site of five-star dining since 1880, and a hallmark of the Brennan family since 1974. The kitchen that gave the world Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse is now the domain of James Beard Award winning chef Tory McPhail. Everything is good, but don't miss any featured gumbo, the chargrilled oyster stew with kale, bacon and cream and local fish crusted with spiced pecans. Dan Davis' wine program is second to none, with an average of 45 wines by the glass always in rotation. Menu stand outs include Commander's Palace was renovated handsomely post-Katrina and is a gorgeous place to celebrate something special, or simply people watch and sip $.25 martinis at lunch. In keeping with tradition, Commander's requires business attire, with suit jackets recommended for dinner and jeans frowned upon. Be prepared to experience New Orleans dining at its best.

4. Upperline Restaurant

Located in the Uptown neighborhood of New Orleans, right off the St. Charles Streetcar line, the Upperline is a great reason to explore past the French Quarter, and experience a contemporary take on Creole cuisine. The dining room is presided over by owner and hospitality doyenne JoAnn Clevenger, who won a James Beard Award as outstanding restaurateur in the U.S. in 2017 and welcomes one and all like family. Chef Trent Osborne took over the kitchen a few years ago and is walking just the right balance between respecting the timeless dishes that regulars crave and bringing new inspired creations to the table. The drum piquant with hot & hot shrimp will never leave the menu, same for the slow roasted half duckling with garlic port sauce, spotlighted by chef Aaron Sanchez on the show "Best Thing I Ever Ate."

3. The Franklin
Photo courtesy of New Orleans CVB

Polished elegance isn't a bellwether of the restaurants in the Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods in New Orleans. Which is why The Franklin really stands out in the crowd. Intimate and inviting, this restaurant lives in New Orleans but would be at home in any big city. Chef Baruch Rabasa forgoes traditional New Orleans fare for a menu that is both modern and French inspired. Most of the small plates are intriguing, especially slices of tender rare filet served ala mode with foie gras ice cream. Oysters are available raw or grilled with garlic butter or fried with a luscious white remoulade on the side. There is an interesting (and pricey) wine list as well as a fine array of craft cocktails.

2. Ox Lot 9
Photo courtesy of Renee Kientz/Louisiana Northshore

Just in case you needed one more reason to cross the 24-mile causeway across Lake Pontchartrain, Ox Lot 9 in the suave Southern Hotel in Covington is open for business. The love child of chef/co-owner Jeffrey Hansell and his wife, co-wner and general manager Amy Hansell, Ox Lot 9 is a sprightly addition to the eclectic Northshore dining scene. This simply sophisticated Southern bistro spotlights chef Hansell's deft homage to Gulf Coast ingredients and time-tested Southern comfort dishes. Hansell, whose resume includes stints at Commander's Palace, Veranda in Birmingham and Luke, adds his own Southern twist to dishes like bouillabaise, with the addition of okra, local red fish and shrimp, presenting stuffed rabbit with tasso and housemade mozzarella and poached oysters in Pernod and cream tucked into puffed pastry so good they should be against the law. A well informed wine list and brilliant array of craft cocktails add allure to this destination restaurant. Feeling lucky? Give the bartender a few hints and he or she will concoct something just for your palate. By the way, the restaurant's name comes from Covington's original planning scheme, which allotted space for farmers to tie up their oxen.

1. Delachaise
Photo courtesy of Delachaise

Delachaise is that mystery spot that you might cruise right by without noticing during a daytime trip on the St. Charles streetcar. Come evening, the outdoor patio, lit with twinkle lights, is always buzzing with a lively crowd along with couples enjoying date night. This spirited wine bar uptown is easy to love for its long convivial bar, lack of pretense, impressive wine list and most notably the Thai spiced mussels served with goose fat fries. Really everything at this atmospheric French-ish bistro is good; say yes to housemade pate and tender flank steak bruschetta, and double yes to the devilish chocolate souffle. And order a Viognier and Gruner by the glass - a treat for a white wine drinker weary of house Chardonnay.