The shadow that Antoine's casts in New Orleans can't be underestimated. The oldest continuously operating restaurant in America, Antoine's is still run by its founding family. In honor of its anniversary, guests can order a special five-course classic menu that serves up an edible history of French Creole dining, dishes like soufflé potatoes, oyster Rockefeller and seafood gumbo. The decor is spaciously elegant and, even though Antoine's still prints its menu in French, the staff is more than eager to help. Check out Antoine's in the French Quarter (between Bourbon and Royal) during your New Orleans stay. Post dinner you'll be calling the Mississippi the Seine.
Recommended for French because: Antoine's was established in 1840 and is the country's oldest run family restaurant.
Beth's expert tip: Jackets are no longer required at this culinary institution, but you still might want to dress to impress.
La Boulangerie is hybrid bakery/cafe located on Magazine Street in New Orleans. The kitchen specializes in traditional French pastries and breads that are on display at the counter. For breakfast, coffee and a chocolate filled croissant can make a great start to a day in the Garden District. For lunch, try a quiche or a mouth watering sandwich on a freshly baked baguette. The whole decor of La Boulangerie is Parisian modeled. It's the type of place you could come to at 6 am with your laptop and stay til 6 pm, enjoying coffee, treats and French fare throughout the day.
Recommended for French because: La Boulangerie makes some of the best French breads and pastries in the city.
Beth's expert tip: Great place to read the paper, drink a French coffee, grab a pastry and plan the day's activities.
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.
Recommended for French because: Luke is a great option for seafood and frites centrally located in the CBD.
Beth's expert tip: You won't find a more convivial setting for lunch or better pomme frites anywhere in town.
La Petite Grocery leaves the sugary powdered beignets to the Cafe du Mondes of the world, taking its own approach to the beignet. La Petite stuffs their doughy morsels with blue crab and tops them with a savory roumalade. These are a must order appetizer when you visit La Petite Grocery for lunch, dinner or brunch. Positioned on Magazine Street, La Petite is often void of the long wait times associated with other popular local restaurants. If you do find yourself waiting a little bit, you can grab a drink from their innovative cocktail menu and soak in the historic decor of the property.
Recommended for French because: La Petite Grocery head chef Justin Deviller was recently up for the James Beard "Best Chef-South" award.
Beth's expert tip: La Petite Grocery is named after the business that used to exist on the property; a specialty grocery store.
Cafe Degas is a European style French bistro housed in the leafy Bayou St. John neighborhood along the Esplanade Ridge. A metal-roofed porch enclosed in plastic houses the quirky dining room. Ceiling fans and metal garden tables and chairs with tapestry cushions flank the tight but charming space. Bloody Marys and mimosas compliment the delicious brunch specials that might include seafood crepes, grillades and grits, and calf's liver and sweetbreads. At dinner, you'll enjoy classic French bistro fare. If you're lucky the French dessert that translates to something like floating islands will be on the daily menu, irresistible dollops of meringue floating on a sea of vanilla custard.
Recommended for French because: A tight space in an artsy neighborhood with great interior decor, Cafe Degas screams authentic French Bistro.
Beth's expert tip: Ooh la la, this French bistro is a lovely spot for a leisurely lunch.
Lilette is a decadent French restaurant situated on Magazine Street. Stellar cuisine and a hip cocktail bar make this a sexy destination for a varied crowd of locals and couples on date night. Tempting bites â" 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 one-pound seared Kobe rib eye is a decadent beefy indulgence worth sharing. The wine list includes more than 50 wines, with 11 varieties available by the glass. Sit in the garden if the weather permits.
Recommended for French because: French wines, scrumptious food and one of the sexiest dining rooms in New Orleans makes Lilette an ideal date night.
Beth's expert tip: Lilette is a perfect addition to a day of Magazine Street strolling.
Patois translates to "local accent", which is fitting for a restaurant that blends French culinary traditions with New Orleans flare and ingredients. Founded by Chef Aaron Burgau, the Uptown restaurant is noted for serving dishes like the Mississippi Rabbit and Hanger Steak at reasonable prices relative to the competition. Patois, housed in a quaint building in Uptown New Orleans near Audubon Park, offers an always intimate and unhurried experience. The local crowd is always lively - read a bit on the noisy side - but the welcome is warm and cuisine always divine. The crispy boudin stuffed chicken and lamb vindaloo are two examples of chef de cuisine Jonathan Lomonaco's tasty handiwork.
Recommended for French because: Patois takes traditional French cooking style and fuses it with local food and flavors; the result is culinary brilliance.
Beth's expert tip: Patois is a great choice for Friday lunch and Sunday brunch.
Chef Donald Link, whose restaurant holdings include Cochon, Cochon Butcher and Peche, conceives robust modern French fare on Saint Charles Avenue not far from Lafayette Square. In a setting that's casually elegant, chef de cuisine Rebecca Wilcomb heads a kitchen that delivers inspired small plates that deserve careful study - try the Louisiana shrimp with roasted chili grits, okra and mushrooms or any of the housemade pastas, a recent spaghetti with guanciale and fried-poached farm egg was especially memorable. Another winner, the roasted Kurobuta pork belly with black olives and arugula. The wine list is thoughtfully compiled and reasonably priced, including the interesting option of seasonal flights.
Recommended for French because: Herbsaint is an excellent choice for sophisticated New American-French cuisine.
Beth's expert tip: Herbsaint stays open in the odd between lunch and dinner hours, a good time to come by for a nibble if you haven't made reservations.
Here are a few things N7, the hidden gem of a French restaurant in the upper 9th ward doesn't have: a phone, live music, creole cuisine, New Orleans-inspired decor, a website. Now here's what you will get if you track down this unassuming bistro tucked behind a wooden fence just off of St. Claude Avenue: a gorgeous, candlelit courtyard complete with an old Citroen off to one side; cool retro meets French pop music; a menu that includes expected favorites like steak au poivre and mussels, along with the unexpected presence of mostly imported seafood in a can - think smoked sardines, spiced calamari, escabeche. There's a good rose by the glass, a nice wine list overall and a small bar at which to drink same. N7 is the roadway that goes between Paris and the Italian border, but you probably already know that.
Recommended for French because: Shhhh...this is a secret hidden French gem just across from the Bywater.
Beth's expert tip: There's only a small lettered N7 on the gate, when you turn left off of St. Claude it's in the first block to the right.
The sparkling $66 million Higgins Hotel New Orleans might just be America's first museum hotel, with a World War II theme from stem to stern. Beyond the hotel's many stunning Art Deco spaces, dining and drinking options impress. Café Normandie, where French chef Virgile Brandel presides, rustic French cuisine shakes hands with the New Orleans' table. The crab beignets, offered for lunch and dinner, are a revelation, airy pillows of dough stuffed with creamy Louisiana lump crab meat. But really everything is tasty here, from the char-grilled oysters and crispy duck with duck fat fried fingerling potatoes to the stuffed portobello tangy with asiago cheese and for dessert, of course! crazy good warm beignets with dark chocolate dipping sauce. As the holiday season rolls around, restaurants all over town will be debuting their Reveillion celebratory menus, a uniquely New Orleans tradition. Historically, the meal unfolded in homes after Christmas Eve mass - the name comes from the word révei - meaning "waking" - because everybody ate all night long until morning, when it was time to open presents. Now, these special menus are just part of the season. Chef Brandel's prix fixe $84 menu celebrates his French heritage, with four courses and choices like oyster vichyssoise with Cajun caviar, escargot with almond garlic cream and exotic mushrooms and pan seared scallops with creamy vanilla grits.
Recommended for French because: Cafe Normandie just reopened for dinner, which is something to celebrate.
Beth's expert tip: Have a drink at Rosie's, a stellar rooftop bar with river views, before or after dinner.