Copper Vine is what would happen if a swank wine bar married a craft beer joint. Owned by Brechtel Hospitality Group (BHG), the same company behind Fulton Alley and the Walk Ons franchise up the block, Copper Vine is a gorgeous spot close to the Dome, Smoothie King Center and in the heart of the CBD. If some wine bars can be snooty, this one is a breath of fresh air intent on making wine sipping approachable and fun - smart and spunky somm LydiaKurkoski is behind the inventive flights curated with care and not a bit of attitude. BHG founder Kyle Brechtel had a vision with Copper Vine, imaging an approachable and inviting place for tasty food and 30 wines on tap. Add in the knock out interior, second floor balcony, communal tables and private dining options, and Copper Vine is sweet indeed. Chef Amy Mehrtens helms the kitchen, a seasoned young CIA trained chef who worked most recently as a sous at Commander's Palace. She's added spectacular dishes to the menu including bacon wrapped dates stuffed with Creole cream cheese and a filet brochette with wild mushrooms and a tangy roasted pepper sauce that's to die for. Don't miss her excellent gulf fish amandine with a champagne cream sauce, brown butter almonds and tobiko - absolute best version of the traditional dish in town. Substantial mains run the gamut from crawfish and andouille gnocchi to shrimp and grits and chicken piccata. The stunning Edwardian building was originally constructed in 1876 as the Maylie's residence and restaurant.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Perfect service, a fab bar scene with tons of wines by the glass and impeccable cuisine make this spot a winner.
Beth's expert tip: Happy hour is a great deal here, served 2-6 pm Monday to Friday with special drink prices and nibbles like bacon wrapped dates for $5.
Chef Seth Temple is onstage, front and center, at Le Chat Noir, the former cabaret theater at 715 St. Charles Ave. Temple's artful food commands the spotlight, the star of the show that went curtains up in early December 2021. Temple drives a veg-forward menu with big flavors and farm-fresh ingredients. Take what he does with hakurei turnips, for example. A sauté of the small, crunchy vegetable, greens attached, in a miso-fueled umami sauce studded with candied Meyerquats and fronds of bronze fennel is hauntingly simple. Twirl the turnips like linguine, being sure to get the hybrid citrus in every bite, and the depth of clean flavor is worth a standing ovation. A wood-fire oven is a focal point of the open kitchen. Sommelier Kevin Wardell, who moved to New Orleans from Healdsburg, California, curates an affordable wine list with small, boutique producers and lesser-known grape varietals. The restaurant's cocktail program spans classics like a Sazerac and a gin-based Ford's cocktail, along with originals like the Siesta made with tequila, a bitter aperitif, grapefruit and lime.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Chef-driven modern farm to fork eats makes this newly opened restaurant a winner.
Beth's expert tip: Order anything pork - the chef buys from a third-generation farmer in Baton Rouge and they are used snout to tail in this kitchen.
Nina Compton brings her generous spirit and natural warmth to every plate of inventive island meets New Orleans and Mediterranean cuisine at Bywater American Bistro, the second restaurant she and her husband Larry Miller opened after settling in Nola to open Compere Lapin in the CBD. This neighborhood spot - which like all New Orleans restaurants pivoted every which way in the past difficult year, feels personal to Compton, and it is. She lives upstairs and is invested in making Bywater her home. She has a loyal following, with good reason. Comfort dishes like crawfish pot pie, puffing up fetchingly in a cast iron skillet, olive-rich antipasto salad and semolina gnocchi resonate with flavor, same goes for specialties like curried rabbit with coconut rice and peas, which speaks to her Saint Lucian roots, same for a half jerk chicken with semolina dumplings. Crispy pork belly is wonderfully matched with a ginger-spiked carrot puree and nips of pickled mustard seed. A fab bar program and a stylish setting makes this restaurant beyond inviting.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Nina Compton is a James Beard Award winning chef and a champion for hospitality workers in New Orleans.
Beth's expert tip: Chef Nina often brings pop-up chefs in to collaborate with - find out whose in the kitchen on social media.
Walk up to Saint-Germain in its unassuming little bungalow on St. Claude Avenue in Bywater, and you might think you were in the wrong spot. The Sugar Park sign that graces the front of the people harks back to the neighborhood spot that used to live on this busy little stretch of road, which includes neighbors Reds Chinese and Domino bar. But inside, you'll find a sweet bar on one side and a cozy dining room on the other, the brainchild of Drew DeLaughter and chefs Blake Aguillard and Trey Smith, whose resumes include the likes of Michelin three-star restaurant Saison in San Francisco and Bayona, Restaurant August and Mopho in New Orleans. There are two experiences here, one is nibbling and drinking wine and cocktails at the bar, with possible options $10-$15 a fried chicken sandwich, garden salad and fried calamari. Make a reservation in the dining room for something really special, a prix fixe chef's menu that changes a few times a month and includes a vegetarian option the third weekend of every month. The menu mixes global flavors, technique and texture in dishes like hearty morel mushrooms stuffed with boudin noir and scallop sashimi in a delicate grape juice. Dessert often features Japanese kakigori-style shaved ice which might appear in a rootbeer float along with homemade vanilla ice cream. Prices hover in the $100 pp range, with wine pairings an additional $50 or so. Not cheap but expectations are met and exceeded, which feels and tastes great.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Innovative European fare meets Asian and Creole flavors at this chef-driven restaurant in Bywater.
Beth's expert tip: Wednesday only the bar is open, not the dining room, making it a quiet retreat for drinks and nibbles.
Chef Eric Cook brings old school Creole dishes to the table at Saint John, the modern art-filled restaurant he opened in the French Quarter in the fall of 2021. Despite the pandemic, despite hurricane Ida, Cook was laser focused on the dishes he wanted to create with chef de cuisine Daren Porretto. The New Orleans native has a strong track record - he brought elevated Southern cuisine to the plate at Gris-Gris, the first restaurant he opened in the Lower Garden District in 2018. With Saint John, he gets back to real Southern roots, elevating the kind of home cooking that so many locals grew up with. The retro Creole dishes on Saint John's menu open a world of flavor, resonating with nostalgia for New Orleanians who have celebrated family milestones over platters of chicken Clemenceau and oyster patties. Start with the signature appetizer, oysters Saint John is a triumphant trio of oysters three ways –" poached in double cream, crispy fried and oyster dressing, patty style, in a round of buttery puff pastry. Dishes like chicken and shrimp maque choux, courtbouillon, and pork belly cassoulet all reveal the diversity of influences that created New Orleans cuisine, ranging from Sicilian and French to Spanish, African, German and Caribbean.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: This wonderful newish place in the French Quarter delivers old school Creole flavor.
Beth's expert tip: Although many dishes are on the swank side, the smothered turkey necks in brown gravy can't be beat.
This is Cajun meets Creole cooking at its best. Brigtsen's chef/owner Frank Brigtsen is legendary in the region and his culinary prowess superb. Trained with chef Paul Prudhomme for seven years, chef Brigtsen sources many of his ingredients locally, with daily menu specials that are always a good idea. You won't be disappointed by the roast duck or blackened tuna, but don't miss the rabbit and Andouille gumbo, shrimp and grits and pulled pork with pepper jelly glaze. Brigtsen's is a quick streetcar ride uptown from the French Quarter. Chef Brigtsen has garnered many awards including Best Chef Southeast from the James Beard Foundation.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Brigsten's is one of the shining examples of surviving and thriving in the New Orleans restaurant scene.
Beth's expert tip: If you streetcar/ride share to Brigtsen's, plan to spend the evening in the Riverbend/Carrollton area, a charming neighborhood.
The reopening of Cafe Sbisa, the century-old brasserie on Decatur Street, is big news on lots of fronts. Closed for a year during the pandemic, it reopened in March, a tribute to chef/co-owner Albert Singleton's grit and vision. The place is an atmospheric stunner, with original wood, intimate balcony and patio dining and a staircase that harks back to a golden age. Singleton, who worked his way up from busboy to chef until Katrina devastated the restaurant, is back in the kitchen, 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. Enjoy the likes of crawfish beignets, pasta jambalaya and barbecue shrimp on the second floor balcony overlooking the luscious bar. So happy this place made it through.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Cafe Sbisa is one of the few fine-dining restaurants in New Orleans with a Black chef at the helm as co-owner.
Beth's expert tip: Ask for a table on the balcony for a wonderful city view.
Swine is fine at Cochon, where chef Stephen Stryjewski (partnered here with chef Donald Link) pays homage to the old-style Cajun Boucherie with the hand crafting of boudin, andouille, smoked bacon, and head cheese. With newly appointed chef de cuisine Bret Macris in the kitchen, a menu of locally sourced pork, fresh produce and seafood, delivers authentic flavors of Cajun country. Set in the rustic, yet the contemporary interior of a renovated New Orleans warehouse, Cochon is the place to tuck into a succulent crawfish pie and roasted gulf fish "fisherman" style, along with comfort foods including spoon bread with okra and tomatoes, roasted oysters and suckling pig. Try the chocolate peanut butter pie for dessert.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: The James Beard Award-winning restaurant is an altar to all things swine, and it's not to be missed.
Beth's expert tip: Try Cochon's nontraditional grilled oysters, some of the best in town, done with a compound chili butter.
Built in 1883, the Columns gorgeous Italianate setting and stellar bar (order a Ramos gin fizz) has a new owner and a new chef and the place is better than ever. Jayson Seidman bought the mansion with the idea of sprucing up the old gal, not making dramatic changes. Chef Paul Terrebonne puts the emphasis on shareable plates and lighter options.Flash fried speckled trout is moist and flakey, served with cauliflower and a turnip tartar on the side. Orders of French fries fly out of the kitchen, hot and fried to order, a ketchup and a dijonnaise dipping sauce on the side. Tuna crudo is stellar, adorned with Louisiana citrus. Really everything shines and the whole experience is wonderful.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Under new ownership, this old gal has been beautifully restored with chef Paul Terrebonne working culinary magic for an upgraded dining experience.
Beth's expert tip: Pick a nice day and do brunch on the expanded patio facing St. Charles Avenue.
Relocated close to Canal Street in the French Quarter in 2018, this locally owned Creole Italian is a real gem. Follow your nose - you can smell the garlic a half-block away - and take a seat at the spacious bar for well-shaken cocktails while you wait for a table. The charming warren of dining rooms invites, as does the gorgeous outside courtyard. Settle in for a treat, from house made pasta topped with soft shell crab in a divine cream sauce to an assertive osso buco and the wonderful duck St. Phillip lacquered with a raspberry-pancetta demi-glace. Service is exceptional, as is the bread pudding du jour and the ricotta cheesecake.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Irene's is the epitome of Creole Italian cuisine and fine service.
Beth's expert tip: If you can't get a reservation online, definitely call when the restaurant opens at 5, since there are usually tables set aside for walk ins.