“New Orleans food is as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin.” Mark Twain said that, and in my experience eating and drinking my way across the city, he’s spot on. Sure, New Orleans has its must-visits (Café du Monde, Commander’s Palace, Dooky Chase’s, and anything with John Besh’s name on it) but there will forever be another hundred spots in town where any item on the menu will confirm Twain’s assertion. Here are eight favorites where you can sup, sip, sin, and experience the culinary glory of New Orleans.
Willie Mae’s Scotch House
It’s a bold statement, but I’ll make it. Willie Mae’s Scotch House serves the best fried chicken you’ll ever eat. Crispy, succulent — all the adjectives that could possibly be used to describe good fried chicken are applicable to this fried chicken. Throw in red beans and rice, fried okra, and cornbread, and you’ve got a simple meal that will have you making plans to return tomorrow.
In 1939, Ernest and Mary Hansen started selling shaved ice doused in homemade syrups off their front porch. He invented the ice-shaver, she perfected the syrups, and now, nearly eight decades later, granddaughter Ashley serves up sno-balls using their original machine and original recipes. These icy treats are the only reasonable solution to the sweltering summer heat. Plus, you never know who you’ll see there: maybe Top Chef fan favorite Nina Compton.
Speaking of Nina Compton, her restaurant, Compère Lapin (French for “brother rabbit” and mischievous subject of many a Creole and Caribbean folktale), marries impeccable technique with the flavors of Compton’s native St. Lucia and her adopted New Orleans. Conch croquettes, pig ears with smoky aioli, curried goat, and black drum fly out of the kitchen. The bar also shakes up some crazy good cocktails and punches.
Chef Isaac Toups (another former Top Chef contestant) leans on his deep Cajun roots — his family’s been in Louisiana for 300 years — and his own culinary inventiveness to create dishes that honor, elevate, and celebrate traditional Cajun cuisine.
Maypop combines New Orleans’ palate with the flavors and techniques of southeast Asia, resulting in dishes that wow with every bite. It’s so good Chef Michael Gulotta was named Food & Wine’s 2016 Best New Chef. Go see for yourself if the crispy skinned fish in grapefruit curry or the fermented pork belly and red beans in XO sauce are worth the hype. (Hint: they are.)
If wine, food, live jazz, and cocktails sound like a good time, Bacchanal is where it’s at. The menu has a Mediterranean flair, so every dish is light and lovely, and their wine selection matches the menu about as ideally as can be. Throw in a cocktail list that eschews the frozen Bourbon Street standards in favor of flavor-forward drinks and you’ve got a winner.
The Sazerac Bar
The Sazerac Bar is the epitome of yesteryear elegance and the cocktails match the ambience, especially the namesake drink. Believed by many to be the first American cocktail, the Sazerac combines rye, bitters, sugar, and an herbsaint rinse to create a powerful yet sippable cocktail. It’s spicy, tempered by a touch of sweetness, herbaceous, and fiery, just like this town.
Cane & Table
The cocktail menu at Cane & Table is a personalized map made to your satisfy your individual tastes. Are you feeling Refreshing or Heady? Classic or Adventurous? Make a choice, select a drink from the appropriate corner of the menu, and prepare yourself for deliciousness. Creativity and flavor are King and Queen here, and combinations like coconut and scotch, aqua vit and pineapple, and habanero and mezcal delight guest after guest.