Before they arrive, many of our guests write to us asking for the best New Orleans restaurant recommendations. There are 800 restaurants New Orleans. We have eaten at over 350 of them. We have to eat out a lot because part of our job is to make recommendations. I can count on one finger the bad meal we have had in New Orleans. I’m not going to say where it was, but this place has a reputation among locals as having the most lackluster kitchen in the city.
When looking for the best New Orleans restaurant recommendations, I suggest you go about everything in New Orleans like Chance, the gardener:
You can go a long way if you just follow your nose and let New Orleans lead you where it will. Your sojourn in our fair city will be full of unexpected surprises, the best kind of surprises, the kind of surprises from which good memories are made.
We’re in New Orleans. We are not in Wewoka, OK, where your dining options are the local Pizza Hut outlet or a drive ten miles down State Highway 48 to the greasy spoon in neighboring Holdenville. Wherever you find yourself in New Orleans, there will be something good to eat to complement and enhance your adventures in this wonderful city we call home.
Here is a sample of some correspondence we recently had with a future guest. Per our usual practice, all names have been changed to protect the innocent and some light editing has been performed by your humble narrator to remove revealing details.
Dear Matthew and Melanie,
We are getting excited about our visit to New Orleans and to La Belle Esplanade in two months and we are in the process of planning our restaurant visits. We use Trip Advisor and Open Table for our bookings. Do you have recommendations you could send our way to help in our research? We like local-finds type of places and we are amateur foodies so we’ll appreciate any insights you may have about where to make reservations for our visit.
Thanks for your help,
There are over 800 restaurants in the city. Frau Schmitt and I have eaten at over 350 of them. If you tell me what you are interested in, I’ll be able to point you to a more off-the-beaten track option.
An example: many, many, many or our guests arrive with reservations for Couchon, a top shelf snout-to-tail pork restaurant by the Convention Center. We don’t dissuade anyone from going to Couchon. It’s written up in all the guidebooks and everyone’s friends who have been to New Orleans have told them how great it is and your vacation is not our vacation, but we prefer Toup’s Meatery, closer to our house and in a residential neighborhood. Isaac Toup was nominated for a James Beard award this year and he was on one of the cooking shows, I have no idea which one, but it’s increased the restaurant’s success. Now, you’ll need a reservation for Toup’s, unfortunately. I liked it better when we could just walk in, but, then again, that’s what I did for lunch on Saturday without any difficulty. It’s not because they know me by name there, it’s all in the timing.
If you give me something to work with, I’ll be able to point you in the right direction.
With a handshake,
La Belle Esplanade
Dear Mr. King
Thanks very much for the feedback. I will share this info with my travel companion..
I can say that Toup’s sounds more like what we would be looking for. I know mine was a very open-ended question, but I guess as guidelines, we could go with: close to your location; places you would (or do) re-visit as a longtime resident; non-touristy.
Hopefully that helps narrow the list a bit. By no means do I expect an exhaustive list. I don’t want you to go nuts trying to reply to this request. I was thinking you might get this question often and already have something or other assembled.
We do get this question often and I tend to fob it off the way I’m doing now. We don’t like to provide pre-programmed answers. With this kind of question, you can expect a pre-printed list from the concierge in a big hotel in the French Quarter or next to the Convention Center. We’re a tiny boutique operation, so we tailor our recommendations, usually after we meet you. You’re coming during off-season, so New Orleans won’t be too, too busy. I wouldn’t worry overmuch about needing reservations unless you want to go where everyone else is going.
The last time I counted, there were around 90 places to eat within a mile and a half of our house. That total includes places of all kinds and descriptions. Here are the nicer ones close by to us, lakeside:
Cafe Degas, Lola’s Santa Fe, all on Esplanade Avenue, toward the City Park End. All of these are very good for various reasons.
We just ate at Crescent City Steaks last night, which is .4 miles from our house on N. Broad Avenue. I love it there—it is very old fashioned and I rarely order steak, even there. Check it out. If you want a curtained booth, make a reservation. If you are happy with a table out on the tiled floor, just show up.
Ralph’s on the Park is a bit further walk away but it is excellent, and after dinner you can walk home through City Park and stop for coffee and beignets at Morning Call, which is open all night.
Rue 127 on N. Carrollton Avenue, a bit further uptown from Toup’s, is in a shotgun house and it’s really good. A lot of people don’t know about it. Too bad for them.
If you are going to be here on a Thursday night, don’t make any plans. I’m not going to discuss what we recommend on Thursdays, just don’t make any plans. Trust me.
In the other direction, toward the French Quarter, there are so many places and they run the gamut of options from high brow to low class and everything in between.
My best advice is to not overplan. Do a little research to get some ideas but New Orleans is a city full of delightful serendipity. It is very hard to have a bad meal here. Follow your nose. Wherever you find yourself, there will be something good to eat nearby. Really.
Don’t worry, it only took me about 10 minutes to write this so I haven’t knocked myself out. I don’t want you to think I don’t take the request seriously. It’s just that time and again I’ve seen that New Orleans will take care of you. New Orleans will feed your gut, heart, and spirit. The city will love you and you will love the city right back just as much.
For lunch today I had frog legs at Mid-City Yacht Club, which is a landlocked bar without any yachts. When I have some time to kill, I like to go there for the Buffalo frog legs. You never know what you’ll find in New Orleans.
If you have any specific questions about places, I’m happy to answer them and possibly redirect you. Any place you have heard of, we have probably been to. We have our favorites, but you are not going to be in the city to do more than just scratch the surface and get a taste. You’ll get enough of a taste to want to come back for more.
La Belle Esplanade
Dear Reader, who is reading this now,
Please, email us if you have any questions about New Orleans before you arrive. That’s what we’re here for. We are unofficial goodwill ambassadors for New Orleans. We have been everywhere and we know a lot of things. We like to share what we know. We don’t provide an off-the-rack experience. When we give advice, it is off-the-cuff, honest and lived.
Truth to tell, there are no best New Orleans restaurant recommendations. Where you find yourself planted, that’s where you’ll grow. We live in a very fertile city.
We look forward to meeting you. Venture out in New Orleans and be unafraid. Be like Chance, the gardener. Be here, whether you have the best New Orleans restaurant recommendations or not. New Orleans will treat you right.
À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade
….where every morning is the start of another alimentary adventure. The first step starts at breakfast.
Wednesday, September, 28, 2016: Frau Schmitt and I had lunch at Commander’s Palace this afternoon.