Forget home cooked meals and staying in; fall in New Orleans is all about going out, having fun and socializing with pals over a great meal. Menus are changing to reflect the new mood in the autumn air, with bolder ingredients inspired by world flavors and spices, served in palate-pleasing, unexpected ways. Light and flaky fish dishes move over to make room for tasty game-centric cuisine, such as duck and rabbit. Another new trend in local dining? The ever-appealing small plate menu, making it the perfect way to get out and experience new flavors without having to order a huge portion of it. So go out, get a bottle of wine and a table outside, and try some of the new exciting tastes on menus around the city.
SATURDAYS TO SAVOR
If you can’t wait for Sunday brunch, don’t fret; many of the city’s most
popular restaurants have started offering Saturday lunches destined to give Sundays a run for their money. Hot spots such as Bayona and 7 on Fulton offer three-course menus on Saturdays for under $25 and, unlike most prix fixe menus, the choices are extensive and full of options to please everyone. Chef Susan Spicer’s imaginative cuisine at Bayona spans the globe in terms of flavor; recent menu items have been of an Indian persuasion, with offerings such as Lamb Kofte with Fried Eggplant and Dhal Soup. Side-by-side with these is the comfort food of Tasso, Mushroom and Aged Cheddar Mac ‘n’ Cheese.

Bayona, long known as a go-to dinner dining option, is famous for their duck dishes, such as their Grilled Duck with Pepper Jelly Sauce, so be sure to check out similar game-inspired dishes at lunch.

Justin Pettinger, the executive chef at 7 on Fulton, has created a similar three-course lunch menu, with flavors coming from Spanish and French influences. Recent menu offerings on their Fall Lunch menu included chilled Butternut Squash Soup (perfect for that Autumn transition period), Duck Confit with Stone ground Grits and Grilled Swordfish. These fabulous prices even include dessert; so make sure to partake in decadent options – like Flourless Chocolate Cake.

If you need your seafood fix, there’s no better place than Red Fish Grill. The Brennans are culinary masters when it comes to fruits de la mer, with individual takes on such New Orleans staples as shrimp and oysters. Start your meal off right with the signature barbecue oysters, which are freshly shucked, then flash fried in a Crystal barbeque sauce and topped with housemade blue cheese dressing. They also have a great deal on a half sandwich with soup or salad; a barbeque shrimp poor boy goes great with their delicious Alligator sausage and seafood gumbo, perfect for these cooler months ahead.

Ernst Café, with its CBD location close to Harrah’s Casino and the Convention Center, is a great place to meet friends and enjoy Game Day. Grab a pitcher from their extensive brew list, some sweet potato fries and a catfish platter for the group, and relax. They also recently expanded the restaurant, adding two new beautiful dining room options for bigger parties.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS
Nothing says holiday in New Orleans like a fabulous evening out. Many restaurants offer Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s dining at prices much lower than their normal a la carte prices. These prix fixe menus offer a smattering of favorite and signature dishes, and many even include a glass of bubbly to help celebrate the festive occasion. Reveillon dinners, traditionally celebrated into the wee hours of Christmas Eve, are seeing a resurgence, but with a very important difference: instead of midnight dining, guests can partake of these four-or-more course dinners at much more reasonable hours.

Café Adelaide, also of Brennan’s fame, is the family’s more hip dining option. Located in the Loews Hotel, next to the fun Swizzle Stick Bar, this chic and sophisticated restaurant offers breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. However, this destination is revving up their evening menu for the fall holidays. This year’s Reveillon extravaganza includes Satsuma Daiquiri Painted Muscovy Duck with duck confit golden grits, red verjus braised turnip greens and burléed fig chow chow. For dessert, don’t miss the Southern Comfort-Pumpkin Torte with Bocage honey glaze and clove oil.

The Pelican Club’s executive chef and owner, Richard Hughes, has been delighting locals and weary travelers for nearly two decades. The food is constantly changing and updating, save a few signatures that need no tampering with their perfection. Hughes’ international cuisine highlights the very best ingredients. Expect to see dishes inspired by their signature Trio of Duckling – a leg of duck Confit, barbeque duck and a sliced breast – on the holiday offerings. If you save room for dessert, be sure to indulge in their divine bread pudding.

Another perennial favorite for locals is the contemporary Creole cuisine of Brigtsen’s. Located in a beautiful cottage in the Riverbend area, Frank Brigtsen has been creating crowd-pleasing bites for 22 years. This year, they’ll be offering holiday dining, utilizing the best of quality local ingredients. Imaginative dishes such as Shrimp Remoulade served with Deviled Egg and Mirliton Corn Relish make a great starter for sharing, while Roast Duck with Honey Pecan Gravy and Cornbread Dressing definitely says the holiday season has arrived.

GW Fins is renowned around the country as one of the best seafood restaurants in America, and chef Tenney Flynn certainly aims to please. From the elegant dining room to the uncomplicated dishes, Flynn knows the star attraction is the flavors in his food, and he really lets them shine. Fresh flavors from across the globe all make an appearance on the menu here, from Scottish Salmon to Halibut from the cold waters of Alaska, and the Chilean Sea Bass is served with a hint of the Orient: the flavors of this flaky fish are highlighted by baby bok choy and a hot and sour shrimp stock. While that dish may not make it onto this year’s holiday menus, cuisine with similar worldly influences surely will.

Fall Dining Around Town

7 On Fulton
700 Fulton St., 525-7555, www.7onfulton.com   
Bayona
430 Dauphine St., 525-4455, www.bayona.com
Brigtsen’s Restaurant
723 Dante St., 861-7610, www.brigtsens.com
Cafe Adelaide
300 Poydras St., 595-3305, www.cafeadelaide.com
Ernst Café
600 S Peters St., 525-8544, www.ernstcafe.net
GW Fins
808 Bienville St., 581-3467, www.gwfins.com
Pelican Club Restaurant & Bar
312 Exchange Place, 523-1504, www.pelicanclub.com
Red Fish Grill
115 Bourbon St., 598-1200, www.redfishgrill.com