Located in a historic 19th-century building, this restaurant's interior features exposed brick walls, checkered tablecloths, wrought iron fixtures, the epitome of old New Orleans. Feeding New Orleanians for more than a century, the Bon Ton specializes in traditional Cajun cooking, highlighted by specialties such as chicken fried steak, crawfish etouffee, jambalaya, catfish, turtle soup and soft-shell crab. Any food goes well with their refreshing house drink, the Rum Ramsey. The service hearkens back to a warmer, softer time when dining was unhurried and gracious. Lunch is always a fine idea, but you'll need to reserve in advance for dinner.
Recommended for Cajun because: Bon Ton Cafe does Cajun right. The ambiance and historic setting is the icing on the cake.
Beth's expert tip: This isn't a place to pick for a quick lunch. You get to ordering, then drinking, then eating, then yapping, then drinking...
Before there was Emeril, there was Paul Prudhomme, who is credited with introducing the world to Louisiana's Cajun flavors in the 1980s. His 200-seat restaurant (named for his wife, K) has three kitchens and a bakery that serves as a testament to his popularity, and it remains a gold standard for Creole-style cooking. The dinner menu changes daily based on the availability of ingredients, but you might find turtle soup, shrimp and corn maque choux, crawfish etoufee, blackened Louisiana drum and of course bread pudding for dessert. Don't be put off by all the tourists - this is good food at a reasonable price in the heart of the French Quarter.
Recommended for Cajun because: K-Paul's cozy brick interior makes you feel at home, same goes for the friendly service and clientele.
Beth's expert tip: The "order at the counter" lunch is an economical way to experience K-Paul's.
Nestled in the Warehouse District, chef/owners Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski pay homage to all things swine at this inspired and authentic Cajun restaurant. Link mines his German-Acadian roots with dishes such as fried boudin with pickled peppers, pork-and-black-eyed-pea gumbo and delectable fried chicken livers with pepper-jelly toast. Reservations are recommended as this place gets packed. Or choose to dine at the same location at the more casual and newly expanded Cochon Butcher, same great charcuterie dished out of a sandwich counter and wine bar that will remind you of an old world meat market. Here's a tip: get the muffuletta, some locals say its better than Central Grocery's. And here's another tip: the grilled oysters may just be the best in town.
Recommended for Cajun because: Some of the best pork in New Orleans happens on the plate at Cochon.
Beth's expert tip: This is a fun lunch option Monday through Friday, your best bet for getting in during busy festival times.
Located close to the Outlet Collection at Riverwalk and the Convention Center along the Mississippi River, Mulate's is the New Orleans version of the original restaurant (now closed) in Breaux Bridge not far from Lafayette. A stage, dance floor, colorful murals and a giant paper mache accordion flank this lively venue. Start off the night with a cold beer and the likes of grilled alligator, fried crawfish tails, stuffed mushrooms, or Zydeco meat pies. For dinner, Catfish Mulate's is served with jambalaya, coleslaw and a twice-baked potato. There's a giant Cajun sampler that can easily be shared with a crowd. Live music is featured nightly so wear your dancing shoes.
Recommended for Cajun because: This is a touristy spot for sure, but the ambiance is fun, the food just fine and location perfect for groups.
Beth's expert tip: Mulate's is a fine place to bring the kids for fried food and Cajun dancing.
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 tasting 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.
Recommended for Cajun because: There's always a line out the door at Coop's - and there's a reason for that: the place is simply good.
Beth's expert tip: If loud bothers you, move along. But this lively French Quarter spot is the real deal as long as you can jump into the fray.
Restaurant R'evolution, situated in the Royal Sonesta Hotel on Bourbon Street, channels the creative powers of two chefs, James Beard-winner Rick Tramonto from Chicago, and John Folse, a local chef-personality from Donaldsonville. With competent Chef de cuisine Jana Billiot responsible for fomenting this dual vision, the menu here is imaginative and showy, with a price tag to match. Modern takes on Cajun/Creole dishes include Crawfish Stuffed Flounder Napoleon and the Gulf Shrimp and Grits. Can't decide what to eat? Like most powerhouse New Orleans Restaurants, R'evolution offers a tasting menu where you can sample a bit of this and that. The bar is known for handcrafting a great Sazerac.
Recommended for Cajun because: Restaurant R'evolution offers an ultra contemporary take on traditional Cajun cooking.
Beth's expert tip: Try the "Death by Gumbo" which includes a whole quail stuffed with oysters.
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 Cajun because: Chef Frank Brigtsen is a Cajun/Creole superstar chef. His flagship restaurant is well worth a cab ride uptown.
Beth's expert tip: If you streetcar/ride share to Brigtsen's, plan to spend the evening in the Riverbend/Carrollton area, a charmingly authentic neighborhood.
Jacques-Imo's is a Cajun/Creole mecca notable for its truck-turned table for two beckoning the Oak Street pedestrian crowd. The shrimp etouffee and Smothered Chicken highlight a menu of favorites that deliver huge portions at reasonable prices - all entrees include salad and two sides. Locals love the fried chicken - although that argument will never be settled in New Orleans, this version is right up there. The paneed rabbit with tasso pasta is another winner, and for dessert, what else but the alligator cheesecake? Jacques Leonardi, the chef and mastermind of this venue, is usually on hand to chat up guests and talk food.
Recommended for Cajun because: Jacques-Imo's is a lively, locally cherished neighborhood joint tucked into a two-story shotgun on historic Oak Street.
Beth's expert tip: Don't leave until you try the alligator cheesecake, a hefty slab of savory cheesecake chock full of shrimp and alligator nuggets.
Chef Ricky Cheramie brings his twist on traditional homestyle Cajun dishes to the table at this breezy, newish spot steps from the Convention Center. His menu features swamp favorites such as alligator, crawfish, and raw oysters; from the flatlands, there are tastes of wild boar sausage, duck, Cajun marinated prime rib and boudin-stuffed free-range Statler chicken breast with a side of field pea fricassee. There's a swell local beer list along with a fine array of wines to stand up to the chef's cuisine.
Recommended for Cajun because: Galliano delivers authentic Cajun flavors in the heart of the city, just steps from the Convention Center.
Beth's expert tip: Attention all oyster lovers, happy hour (Mon-Fri, 5:30-6:30 pm) includes $1 raw oysters and $10 for six chargrilled, $20 for a dozen.
Toups', as the name implies, isn't geared to vegetarians. But if you're a serious meat eater and housemade charcuterie gets your pulse racing, then run don't walk to this Mid-City eatery, where reservations are a must. Owned by chef Isaac Toups and his wife Amanda, Toups' serves contemporary Cajun cuisine, dishes like Gulf shrimp stew, double cut pork chops with dirty rice, boudin balls and cracklins'. The chef, who worked for Emeril for a decade before opening Toups' in 2012, describes his menu as what happens when a Cajun boy spends 10 years in fine dining. Toups comes by his Cajun flare honestly - he hails from Rayne, Louisiana, "the frog capital of the world." The chef branched out with Toups South, his ode to Southern cuisine adjacent to the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.
Recommended for Cajun because: Toups' Meatery is a chef-owned meat palace in Mid-City, a natural add on if you're heading to Rock'N'Bowl for music.
Beth's expert tip: If you love Toups' Cajun flavors pick up a copy of his new book, Chasing the Gator, on sale at both restaurants.