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Guide for the Gourmet

Lunch, brunch and happy hour specials

Steven Hronek

With so many restaurants in New Orleans, it’s hard to keep track of what’s new and what’s hot. We do the legwork for you and highlight some of the best deals – and meals – in the city.

 

Bayona

430 Dauphine St., 525-4455, Bayona.com
When to go: Saturday Light Lunch is every weekend and Ooh La La! Lunch is Wed.-Fri. until Jazz Fest; both are 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Good to know: Lunch reservations are required at OpenTable.com.
Best deal: Choose any three small plates from the Saturday Light Lunch menu for $25; the Ooh La La! Lunch special includes three courses for $24 with complimentary champagne.
If the spring weather has you itching to spend time outside, then head to the French Quarter for lunch in Bayona’s lush brick courtyard.
Drop by any weekend for Saturday Light Lunch. The menu changes weekly, but you’ll always be able to snag something amazing. There is a cap on lunch seats, so be sure to make a reservation at OpenTable.com. Until Jazz Fest, Bayona is also hosting an Ooh La La! three-course lunch special. Guests can choose a soup, a salad and an entrée with complimentary champagne.
Chef Susan Spicer is famous for her Smoked Duck “PB&J,” incarnated in smaller puff pastry form with peanut-cashew butter and hot pepper jelly. The Capriole Goat Cheese Crouton, with mushrooms and Madeira cream, is a Bayona classic, as are the Sautéed Veal Sweetbreads with potatoes, mushrooms and sherry mustard butter. New Orleans-Style BBQ Shrimp is a must-have, with pimiento cheese grits and smothered greens. Even the Caesar Style Salad is special, eggless with lemon pickles and fried capers, and the restaurant does an excellent cheese plate. End with Sweet Potato Cheesecake for a perfect finish.
 

Wayfare

4510 Freret St., 309-0069, WayfareNola.com
When to go: The restaurant is open 11 a.m.-’till
Good to know: Almost everything is made in-house; view their menus at their website.
Best deal: Specials are still in the works for the fledgling restaurant, but everything on the menu is an excellent value.
Wayfare is the latest joint to snag prime real estate on Freret Street. Open since February 1, the gourmet deli run by Vincent Arnona and family boasts a full bar with local drafts. The selection is broad enough to satisfy every palate but refined enough to make any choice the right one. Suit or sweatpants, lunch or drinks, a quick meal or a long stay; Wayfare is as adaptable and delicious as any New Orleanian should expect.
With meats pulled from the in-house curing room, these sandwiches aren’t lunchbox standbys. After Easter (though it’s available now), order up the Porchetta: Kurobuta pork belly is wrapped around tenderloin to ground the richness and accompanied by caramelized onions and salsa verde aioli. Chef Kevin White believes the Media Dia may be the best sandwich he’s ever made, and its popularity backs him up. The sandwich heaps black forest ham, salami, orange mojo pork, Swiss, jalapeños and charred onion onto a pistolette.
Even the bar fare and side dishes are special. The arancini, fried planets of panko-crusted risotto with a core of house-pulled mozzarella are served with a sage cream dipping sauce, and the cole slaw is different enough to convert nonbelievers. Farro-quinoa with greens is a big hit, and the lardon-studded mac and cheese is done right: richness with a purpose. Housemade sweet potato hot sauce is great with everything.
Vegetarians will still find treats on the meat-loving menu – think of the roasted and wine-poached pear sandwich. And salad seekers rejoice, the meal-sized bowls of greens are no compromise. The seared salmon salad with cherry tomatoes, cucumber and caper pesto makes for a great light meal.
 

Antoine’s

713 St. Louis St., 581-4422, Antoines.com
When to go: Sunday Jazz Brunch is 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; Hermes Bar Happy Hour is Mon.-Sun., 4 p.m.-7 p.m.
Good to know: Reservations are advised for brunch and can be placed online at Antoines.com or by phone; dress code is business casual.
Best deal: The Three Course Sunday Jazz Brunch Special is $31 and inclusive of one complimentary Mimosa; at Happy Hour wine and champagne from the massive hallway-like cellar and house drinks are $4, among other deals.
Creole standby Antoine’s is the United States’ oldest family-run restaurant. Opened in 1840, it is credited with inventing many famous dishes. Sunday Brunch is the perfect way to sample a bit of history.
Before you do anything else, place an order for a Baked Alaska. This special dessert must be ordered at the start of dinner for perfect preparation. Start your meal with the Huitres en Coquilles a la Rockefeller to sample the iconic oysters, its rich sauce named after the time’s richest man. The recipe is a closely guarded Antoine’s secret that you’ll have to pay a visit to experience. Eggs Sardou is another original, featuring poached eggs topped with artichoke hearts, ham, anchovies, truffles and hollandaise sauce. You won’t want to leave without sampling the popular puffed potatoes, Pommes de Terre Souffles. After the table is wowed by the Baked Alaska that you’re now glad you ordered, treat yourselves to Café Brûlot Diabolique, a hot spiced coffee drink with brandy that is flamed tableside.
Head back later for Happy Hour at the Hermes bar for a more relaxed atmosphere and great deals.

Arnaud’s

813 Rue Bienville, 523-5433, Arnauds.com
When to go: Sunday Brunch is 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Good to know: Reservations are required for brunch and are accepted online at Arnauds.com or by phone; dress code business casual.
Best deal: Choose any entrée from the Sunday Brunch & Jazz menu and the other three courses are included in its price ($28.50-$39.95).
Open since 1918, Arnaud’s must be doing something right. Maybe keeping it in the family is the trick. The restaurant was founded by Arnaud “Count” Cazenave and taken over by his daughter Germaine Wells, who passed it into the hands of Archie and Jane Casbarian in ’78. Jane and their children Katy and Archie still run it today. Co-proprietor Katy manages the restaurant in the spirit of old-line Creole tradition but keeps it relevant in the modern dining world. After 95 years, Arnaud’s is still a gem in the New Orleans culinary crown.
Dixieland Jazz and tuxedoed servers make for a festive Sunday brunch, where diners are sure to find a treat on the vast menu. The indecisive can zone in on these suggestions. To start, Creole Cream Cheese Evangeline combines seasonal fresh fruit with sugared Creole cream cheese that makes it hard not to lick the plate. Eggs Fauteux combines poached eggs, house-smoked fresh Gulf pompano and hollandaise atop an English muffin. Crêpes Suzette is sautéed in butter, orange and lemon juice with orange and lemon zest and flamed tableside, as is Bananas Foster. The spiced butter and rum dessert is served with Brocato’s ice cream.
Follow a lush meal with a look at lush Mardi Gras memorabilia. The Germaine Cazenave Wells Mardi Gras Museum showcases some of the gowns from Germaine’s record-breaking reign as queen of 22 Mardi Gras balls.
 

Ralph’s on the Park

900 City Park Ave., 488-1000, RalphsOnThePark.com
When to go: Bubbles & Brunch is Sun., 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; lunch is Tues.-Fri., 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; Happy Hour is Tues.-Thurs., 5-7 p.m.
Good to know: Reservations are recommended and can be made by phone or online at RalphsOnThePark.com; dress code is smart casual.
Best deal: Three-course Bubbles & Brunch starts at $12; two-course lunch starts at $14; at Happy Hour, cocktails, spirits and wine are $5 and Budweiser and Bud Light are $2.
Ralph’s on the Park offers Southern elegance and true New Orleans cuisine. Across the street from City Park, fresh locally caught and farmed seafood and vegetables star on their beautifully curated menus.
On Sundays, choose endless champagne or endless mimosas to accompany your three courses at Bubbles & Brunch. Start with classic turtle soup finished with sherry, and then enjoy a gourmet twist on Chicken & Waffles, served with country ham, boudin balls, chocolate chip waffles and red eye gravy. No brunch is complete without Bananas Foster. If you’re visiting during the week, the two-course lunch starts at $14. Be adventurous and have the chef’s special of the day for both courses, or cozy up to the Pickled Beet Salad, made with roasted pecans, goat feta, butter lettuce and orange blossom vinegar. For the main course, Pork Meatbals & Tagliatelle Pasta is rich and delicious with Mississippi shiitakes and Madeira cream sauce. At Happy Hour, cleverly named cocktails are delicious and refreshing. The Soccer Mom combines Ketel One Citroen, mint, cranberry juice and Sprite, and for something with a little bite, order Ralph Buys a Pony: Stoli Vodka, fresh lime juice and ginger beer.

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