Bananas Foster is a must eat dessert and the best place to get it is where it was first flamed, the redone Brennan's. A theatrical presentation of caramelized banana fragrant with cinnamon and plenty of rum, it's a treat that never goes out of style. Like Brennan's itself, a gorgeously redone grande dame on Royal with a lovely courtyard garden, a lovely place to sip a glass of bubbly or a craft libation - try the French 417, Brennan's take on a French 75 made with pomegranate liqueur. Chef Slade Rushing has kept many of the Brennan's classics along with a strong showing of modern Creole and even globally flavored dishes. Nothing cheap about this place, and the dress code is business not casual, but it's all part of the experience.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Perfect service, a fab bar scene and the best "breakfast" in town, Brennan's is superb.
Beth's expert tip: Even if you don't want to drop a bundle, you must experience the bird-themed bar for a cocktail.
The turquoise and white awning is the first sign of good taste at this flagship of the Brennan family, housed in a gorgeous Victorian mansion in the Garden District since 1880. Sporting a post-Katrina redo that combines whimsy with elegance, Commanders is a dressy spot, no shorts or t-shirts and jackets are preferred - but not required - for gents at dinner. The kitchen, where Emeril Lagasse and Paul Prudhomme started and chef Tory McPhail now presides, delivers Haute Creole specialties including oysters with absinthe and skillet seared gulf fish. From your first sip of a Sazerac to your last crumb of bread pudding soufflé, you will enjoy Brennan family hospitality at its best. Ask about chef Tory's new line of bottled sauces, all-natural and full of flavor, they're a great way to take home a taste of New Orleans.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: This is an iconic New Orleans eatery, the shining star in the Brennan family crown.
Beth's expert tip: Two-course lunches are $18-$21, best enjoyed with 25 cent martinis at lunch - "only" three to a customer.
Generations come and go, but Galatoire's on Bourbon Street, with its classic menu of trout meuniere, shrimp remoulade and stuffed eggplant, will never change. Now taking reservations - a plus if you're planning your dining spots ahead of time - Galatoire's is about as New Orleans as it gets. Locals are not only loyal to this bastion of Creole dining, they're loyal to their waiter, and if they're old enough, to their waiter's son. A few years back, Galatoire's added a steakhouse to its family of restaurants with the opening of Galatoire's 33 Bar & Steak next door to the original Galatoire's Restaurant on Bourbon St. If you only choose one French-Creole restaurant, make it this one.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Galatoire's has been a beloved New Orleans institution since 1905.
Beth's expert tip: Friday lunch is a locals' tradition at Galatoire's, great fun notable for high fashion, flowing champagne and decadent excess.
Chef de cuisine Ross Dover is a Louisiana native, born and raised in Houma, a small town outside of New Orleans. His roots, along with a stint at the John Folse Culinary Institute, combine to give diners extraordinary Creole-influenced French cuisine in an atmospheric 19th-century French building aglow with chandeliers, French doors and sexy red leather seating. The menu always delights, with crispy oysters with Cajun caviar and roasted gulf swordfish with blue crab. The award-winning boutique wine list is a stunner. A lovely special occasion spot worth gussying up for and if you're feeling flush, get the chef's tasting with paired wine. Expensive, but over the top.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: This contemporary French fine dining spot always rises to the occasion.
Beth's expert tip: Come for lunch if you're on a budget, but come for dinner if you are looking to impress.
Chef Eric Cook is creating plenty of buzz at Gris-Gris, his welcoming new spot in the Lower Garden District. Cook, who has worked in kitchens from Commander's to the American Sector and Bourbon House, works his magic creating stellar versions of local comfort dishes, including an ethereal version of his mom's chicken and dumplings (when was the last time you saw that on a menu?) and a daily gumbo simmered to a dark and smoky essence. The oysters BLT is a revelation of perfectly fried juicy oysters alternating on the plate with candied pork belly on a sheen of tomato jam. Eat at the bar to watch the open kitchen in action. Gris-Gris also boasts the Samedi Room, one of the most unique special event spaces in the city, a two-floor kitchen/dining/sitting room with outside balconies overlooking the city. Very special.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: This wonderful newish place in the Lower Garden District delivers authentic Southern flavor.
Beth's expert tip: Weekends are busy so plan on dinner during the week for a relaxed dining experience.
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 citrus aioli. Flavors are exotic, tropical and tinged with just the right amount of heat.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: She may not have won Top Chef New Orleans, but that didn't stop Nina Compton from moving here and opening her own restaurant.
Beth's expert tip: Ask about the unlimited Pimm's Cups available during weekend brunch.
Emeril created quite a splash when he took over this longstanding institution, poured millions into a sophisticated renovation and transformed a tired space into one of the city's swankiest eateries. Portions are mammoth - try the 20-ounce Delmonico, the sauteed rainbow trout with rock shrimp and ultra-rich crab meat imperial. Delmonico's white-tablecloth elegance provides the perfect backdrop to the Creole-accented steakhouse menu. The restaurant offers a fantastic wine program and one of the best martinis in town. Ride the St. Charles Streetcar to dinner for an even more memorable experience. Once here, it is an easy walk to the French Quarter. Check out the daily happy hour which features $.99 charbroiled oysters and $5 small plates prepared by Chef Anthony Scanio, along with half price wines by the glass and select bottles, and half price specialty and well cocktails.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: This classy steakhouse holding court on St. Charles Avenue is Emeril's swankiest eatery.
Beth's expert tip: Check out the cornstalk fence space in the back, a little hidden gem that offers a private entrance and courtyard for cocktailing.
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 sip a flight of m, then 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: Although Central Grocery is tough to beat, the muffaletta at Cochon may be the best in town.
The giant fish hanging in Donald Link's new industrial-chic Warehouse District eatery says it all. This place is all about local and line-caught seafood, most of it cooked on an epic wood fire grill. Chef/partner Ryan Prewitt (last of HerbSaint) delivers intriguing dishes like smoked tuna dip, spicy Asian-flavored capellini with crawfish and chilies, beer-battered fish sticks and one of the best grilled whole redfish you'll ever eat in your life, a beauty flavored with a lemony, herbaceous salsa verde. Whole fish is a specialty, and you can't go wrong with whatever is the special catch of the day. Reserve early and often, this place is hot.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Peche does for whole grilled fish what Cochon does for all things piggy.
Beth's expert tip: For a real wow, ask about the whole wood-fired grilled Gulf fish of the day for the table, market priced.
The buzz about Jewel of the South is all true. The cocktail program under the direction of James Beard Award winner Chris Hannah is superb. Where else can you order a perfectly balanced cocktail called Tuxedo Tails, an elegant riff on a gin martini with Manzanilla sherry, maraschino liqueur, orange bitters, and a pickled quail egg garnish? (Sounds a little weird but the egg totally works) All the cocktails are off the charts but that's not the only good news. This lounge is also a restaurant, offering spectacular eats on the quiet end of the lower Quarter, close to Armstrong Park. Gorgeously composed plates from chef Philip Whitmarsh, an Englishman who was most recently the sous chef at Compére Lapin, include the likes of miso roasted eggplant with tofu creme and salted plums and Italian roast pork with pickled chanterelles cheekily served on yesterday's bread (it's toasted). Nothing is cheap here - expect to pay $11-$16 for cocktails and in the $16 range for small plates, but the quality speaks for itself. Say no to cheap ordinary food and eat here.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Jewel of the South is both a culinary and cocktail gem.
Beth's expert tip: The kitchen stays open until midnight seven nights a week, a plus at this side of town.