10 of the Best Lunches, Brunches & Happy Hours

Where to imbibe and what to choose.

Spring is here. The strawberries have finally come into season after an agonizing winter; fresh local sprouts are arriving atop soups and salads; and that sweater you’ve been toting around with you is now just a pillow for your midday work nap. The sunshine and mild weather do great things for our eating habits – face it. From the fresh flowers gussying up our tabletops to the fennel tinctures accentuating our cocktails, New Orleans keeps it cool even before the sun goes down.

Brunch at Ralph’s on the Park: 900 City Park Ave., 488-1000, www.ralphsonthepark.com
Go because: It offers luxury dining with gorgeous views of City Park. A la carte small plates, such as barbecue tempura shrimp and crabmeat ragivate Napoleon. Large plates include the unique Cajun Scotch egg and Spiced Cream Cheese encrusted grouper. Ralph’s also offers a kids brunch menu, about $8, with comfort food specialties – chocolate chip waffles and pigs in a blanket – so everybody in the family feels special.

Best Deal: Brunch features a $28 prix fixe menu with New Orleans staples: turtle soup, cochon de lait and eggs or veal grillades and stone ground grits. Butterscotch and bread puddings round out the meal, if you still have room.

When to go: Sundays 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Brunch at Audubon Golf and Country Club: 6500 Magazine St.,212-5285,www.auduboninstitute/visit/golf/clubhouse
Go because: The clubhouse is open to the public, with lush views of Audubon Park. It offers buffet-style brunch, complete with a carving station, made-to-order omelets, Caesar salad bar, traditional breakfast fare and lunch favorites. Fried chicken, grilled rainbow trout and macaroni and cheese make this brunch destination perfect for families with differing sensibilities. The upcoming Mother’s Day Brunch will offer a special menu and unlimited mimosas, and is reservation only at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m.

Best Deal: $5 mimosas and Bloody Marys. The buffet is $22.95 per person; $10.95 for kids 6-12. Kids under 6 eat for $6.95.

When to go: Sundays, 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

  Brunch at Broussard’s: 819 Conti St., 581-3166, www.broussards.com
Go because: Lush courtyard dining in the heart of the French Quarter is one of the best ways to start off a Sunday.

Even swankier indoors, with their signature hand-painted tiles and live jazz, Broussard’s offers an eclectic mix of brunch fare, including a melon and Louisiana crabmeat salad, Eggs Broussard, poached eggs served over a crabcake and finished with a mushroom fricassee and a Weinerschnitzel entrée – tender veal breaded and fried, served with potato cakes. There is even a prix fixe option for $23.

Best Deal: Mother’s Day brunch is $40.50 per person with an indulgent three-course meal.

When to go: Sundays, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mother’s Day, noon-4 p.m.

  Brunch or Lunch at Mr. B’s Bistro: 201 Royal St., 523-2078, www.mrsbsbistro.com
Go because: It offers elegant dining in the Fench Quarter. Two-course lunch specials change weekly and usually include traditional favorites like Trout Almandine and Stuffed Quail for around $20. You can also choose from a la carte menu items like Duck Springrolls, Catfish Meunière and Lemon Ice Box Pie. Brunch Specials range from $25-$30 and feature three courses. Their gumbo ya-ya is a must try.

Best Deal: Lunch on the weekdays for drink specials like $1.50 Bloody Marys and $3 bellinis.
When to go: Monday-Saturday 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays, 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m.

  Lunch at Bayona: 430 Dauphine St., 525-4455, www.bayona.com
Go Because: Chef Susan Spicer is a culinary genius, recently inducted to the James Beard Who’s Who hall of fame, and lunch is a great way to sample her gourmet creations for less. Try the Quick Fix menu, a 3-course lunch for $22, with your choice of soup, salad or appetizer and pasta, fish or vegetarian entrée, plus homemade ice cream for dessert.
Best Deal: Every Saturday, Bayona offers a “Light Lunch” special, featuring three gourmet small plates – be they sweet or savory – for just $5 each.
When to go: Wednesday-Saturday 11:30 a.m.-til dinner.

Lunch at Bacco: 310 Chartres St., 522-2426, www.bacco.com
Go Because: You’re craving pasta. As in Maine Lobster and Gulf Shrimp Ravioli. As in Panko Crusted Veal over housemade capellini, drenched in lemon caper butter. Long distance runners should rejoice in the carbo-loading.

Salads, vermouth steamed mussels and bruschetta are available for those who need a lighter lunch before a stroll through the French Quarter or heading back to work.

Best Deal: $15 two-course lunch includes a choice of oyster-artichoke soup or a lemon Parmesan salad to start and a choice of crawfish papardelle, shrimp orechiette and oyster fettucine for entrée.

When to go: Monday-Saturday 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

Lunch at Redfish Grill: 115 Bourbon St., 598-1200, www.redfishgrill.com
Go Because: The dining room makes you wish you were a mermaid. The food makes you glad you live in New Orleans. With an oyster bar, seafood staples, lunch sandwiches and a mélange of hard-to-resist appetizers – crispy boudin cakes, anyone? – it’s better to bring a lot of friends, so you can sample more menu items.

Best Deal: Two-course red plate lunch special for $11.95, which includes half a gourmet poor boy plus a soup or salad. Try the alligator and sausage gumbo and barbecue oyster poor boy.

When to go: Daily 11 a.m.-3:00 p.m.

  Brunch, Lunch, or Happy Hour at Galatoire’s: 209 Bourbon St. 525-2021, www.galatoires.com
Go Because: Really, everyone knows any hour spent at Galatoire’s is a happy hour. Anyway, it doesn’t matter if you go for lunch or brunch, you probably won’t leave before dark. Indulge in shrimp remoulade, stuffed eggplant, eggs Sardou or whatever your server thinks you should try.

Best Deal: Café brûlot is only $6 per person, a steal for the tableside production of folklore, cocktail and, yes, fire.

When to go: Sunday noon-10 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.

Happy Hour at Cure: 4905 Freret St., 302-2357, www.curenola.com
Go Because: Located in a beautifully restored fire house, this non-smoking bar with comfy banquettes, patio seating and gourmet noshes, is home to a slew of innovative bartenders highly regarded by cocktail enthusiasts around the world. New drinks for spring include the bright red Bog Royale with housemade cranberry shrub, prosecco, cinnamon and lemon peel and the aromatic wonder West Indian Summer, which pairs nicely with a side of curried chickpeas. Follow Cure on Twitter or befriend them on Facebook for exclusive updates and drink specials.

Best Deal: During happy hour, all classic cocktails are $5, including Pimm’s Cups, Sazeracs, house martinis, daiquris and Moscow mules. The same goes for glasses of red and white wine and prosecco. On Thursdays bottles of red and white wines are half off.

When to go: Daily Happy Hour, 5-7 p.m.

Happy Hour at One Restaurant: 8132 Hampson St., 301-9061, www.one-sl.com
Go Because: This tiny but swank gem in the Riverbend consistently turns out amazing contemporary Creole dishes such as chargrilled oysters with Roquefort cheese, and grilled redfish over herbed risotto with shitake mushrooms and sherry buerre blanc. Plus they have a cocktail called the John Daly – with Firefly sweet tea vodka, lemon juice, sparkling water and pinenuts – which we can only hope is named after the most infamous golfer ever, well, before Tiger Woods.

Best Deal: Half off all appetizers and specialty cocktails.

When to go: Happy Hour Monday-Thursday, 5-7 p.m.

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