Discussing food, cooking and restaurants is a part-time sport for New Orleanians. From breakfast to brunch, lunch to cocktail bites, dinner to late night eats and desserts, we’ve got a lot to talk about. Enjoy our selection of the best new dining spots in New Orleans, and continue your own food conversations!
BEST OF THE BEST
There is a certain niche of New Orleans restaurant where entertainment, décor and people-watching all converge. Enter Justine, a French Brasserie with plenty of extras from restaurateur Justin Devillier and his wife and business partner Mia Freiberger-Devillier. The result is a destination where DJs and burlesque acts are as much of the landscape as excellent platters of fruits de mer.
The huge restaurant unfolds like a picture book through a series of thematically distinct dining rooms. Many of the accent pieces were purchased over a long trip to France where the team went to do research prior to opening. Executive Chef Dan Causgrove, formerly of Seaworthy, runs the kitchen. The menu is grounded in brasserie classics like onion soup and steak tartare, yet has plenty of room to stretch. For example, a menu section entitled Le Bouf Gras offers so many variations of Steak Frites it almost qualifies as an American steakhouse. But there is no mistaking French technique; the Filet au Poivre with its crust of crushed peppercorns and decadent cognac pan sauce offers a spectrum of flavor and taste not found in your local Ruth’s Chris. And the sharp, clean bite of the dijonnaise with the salty frites satisfies at an elemental level. “One of the things I missed at Seaworthy was braising meats and making reduction sauces,” Chef Causgrove said. “The smell of a braised lamb shank coming out of the oven or slow-cooked duck confit – I get that here.”
Seafood also shines at Justine – consider the Lobster Tartine, a generous mound of lobster salad seasoned with fennel, tarragon and lemon atop a thick slab of brioche. Also the ceviche-like West Indies Crab salad with its chopped onion and fresh herbs is recommended.
The later you go, the more spectacle awaits. “The idea is to feel good, feel a little bit fancy but also to be laid back because you are there to have a good time,” Devillier said. – Jay Forman
Justine, 225 Chartres St., 218-8533, JustineNola.com.
Jewel of the South
It’s been a very long time since bar patrons in New Orleans were curious about which Brandy Crusta was in season. Or if the bar establishment turned out an especially authentic Roffignac. Or if the French 75 contained the right brand of gin, giving true balance to the accompanying sparkling wine.
Jewel of the South, a new mid-19th century historic destination, is perfectly positioned to tell a lot of stories and preserve New Orleans long-past memories. The original Jewel was founded by Joseph Santini in the CBD, on Gravier Street, in 1855. The exact address is still the subject of conjecture and speculation.
In 2019, along comes well-respected, long-time New Orleans barmen Chris Hannah and Nick Detrich. These close friends have collaborated to resurrect and enshrine Crescent City cocktails, giving the breadth of such drinks as the aforementioned the proper regard, and in a proper setting.
Jewel of the South is not the first collaboration for these two creative and demanding professionals. The Cuban bar Manolito, 508 Dumaine Street, opened in 2018, proved the value of patience and friendship.
The Brandy Crusta, by the way, was created by Santini, and the Jewel’s contemporary partners are also focused on other cocktails of the era just before the Civil War. The Roffignac was named after New Orleans’ last French-speaking mayor, 1820-1828, and the man who brought streetlights to a dark town.
The French 75? Hannah had much to do with popularizing that cocktail during his 14-year stint at the bar of the same name.
As can be expected, the menu consists of well-designed small plates, made real by Chef Philip Whitmarsh, a Brit who understands pub food and noshing very well.
The Jewel team, all the way around, have nothing in their way to making the reborn pub more popular than the original. Santini would be proud, indeed. –Tim McNally
Jewel of the South, 1026 St. Louis St., 265-8816, JewelNola.com.
Last August, Eric Cook opened Gris Gris, a chic but comfortable restaurant and bar in the triangular-shaped building at Magazine and Felicity, with the tantalizing bonus of a deep, graceful second floor balcony. Gris Gris is firmly rooted in New Orleans’ singular style of warm hospitality, and features inspired takes on the southern cuisine locals cherish and visitors seek out.
Cook, a New Orleans native and former Marine, should be familiar to local diners. His 25-year career has brought him through the kitchens of Brennan’s, Commander’s Palace, Bourbon House, Tommy’s Cuisine and N.O.S.H., giving him plenty of time to figure out what he wanted to do in his own place.
“I’m staying in my lane,” Cook said. “I’m doing what I do well and not trying to be everything to everyone.”
Expertly fried Gulf oysters make two memorable appearances on the starter menu. They are the main attraction on a refreshing salad with crisp Little Gem lettuce, thin shavings of watermelon radish, a scattering of bleu cheese and a hint of sugarcane vinaigrette. They co-star in a fun take on a BLT, alongside cubes of smoked pork belly and a truly sensational tomato jam. A silken tomato butter sauce elevates the shrimp and fried green tomatoes to game changing status. Ditto that for the smoked sausage, roasted red peppers, and cherry tomatoes that enhance the “Shrimp & Gris Gris Grits.”
“My mom makes this every year for my birthday and I plucked this straight from her,” Cook said of his deeply satisfying chicken and dumplings, which have the power to bring a warm smile to the stoniest of faces. Tender ribbons of pulled chicken mingle with carrots and pillow-like dumplings, the long cooked dish enlivened at the last moment with the addition of fresh thyme. – Jyl Benson
Gris Gris, 1800 Magazine St., 272-0241, GrisGrisNola.com.
It was true from the time Spain took control of New Orleans in 1763. Our new “owners” bitterly complained about, apologies to Rodney Daingerfield, getting no respect. Yet they were the most important overseers to our culture, deeding us with the New World Colonial architecture of the French Quarter, a love of fine drink, and the Feast of San Fermin. Think: Running of the Bulls.
Spanish cuisine in New Orleans has never been as innovative as it is right now. Costera, new and wonderful in Uptown, is bringing authentic Iberian dining in a true and totally enjoyable sense. The freshest of vegetables and the most delectable seafoods are the soul of the menu offerings.
Chef Brian Burns and restaurateur Reno de Ranieri know their way around a great paella. As the name suggests, Spanish coastal cuisine is the theme playing through every beverage and dish. – Tim McNally
Costera, 4938 Prytania St., 302-2332, CosteraRestaurant.com.
Ethiopian restaurants are rare in New Orleans, so we were fortunate when Addis NOLA opened in March of this year, bringing one of the world’s most delicious cuisines to the edge of Mid-City. The restaurant is operated by Biruk Alemayehu and her husband Jaime Lobo; the kitchen is helmed by chef Sammy Shiferaw, a veteran of Ethiopian restaurants in Washington, D.C. and Atlanta.
The literal basis for Ethiopian food is injera, a thin, crepe-like bread that serves as both vessel and utensil. With a tangy, fermented flavor and a spongy texture, diners at Addis NOLA tear off pieces of injera to scoop up the spicy and aromatic stews, pulses and stir-fried dishes on offer. Try the lamb wot, an aromatic stew with ginger, garlic and turmeric and the chicken tibs, bone-in meat sautéed with onion, tomato and jalapenos, and any of the vegetable dishes, and you’ll understand why Addis NOLA is among the best new restaurants in town – Robert Peyton
Addis NOLA, 424 S. Broad St., 218-5321.
Last year Iderlin “Donna” Rivera and her husband, Richard, lost their lease in the Olde Towne Slidell strip mall where they had been running Que Rico!, their Cuban restaurant, for close to 10 years. Slidell’s loss is New Orleans’ gain. One of the many Uptown customers who frequently made the trek to the other side of the lake to enjoy the Riveras’ exceptional Cuban cuisine intervened and helped negotiate a reasonable lease on a small building on Magazine Street. They painted the interior of the space a pale shade of aqua, adorned the walls in gilt-framed works from Cuban artists and opened in December to overnight success, driven by their strong existing customer base and an enthusiastic welcome from New Orleans’ sizeable, population of persons of Cuban heritage or descent.
The menu is stocked with luscious Cuban classics: croquetas, lechon asado, ropa vieja, garlic and spice-rubbed Cuban-style steak, and sweet, potent, tres leches cortadito. BYOB. – Jyl Benson
Que Rico Cuban Cafe, 4200 Magazine St., 827-1398.
A visit to Saint-Germain, an idiosyncratic bistro and wine bar recently opened by a trio of MoPho alum, places you totally in the hands of its chefs. But the plates that issue from the kitchen will reward this trust. The dining room offers a choice of just a three or five course tasting menu. The market-driven compositions change constantly, but recently included shrimp and blue crab with a tomato-based dashi. Another dish, simply labeled “Omelet”, was a study in French execution – at once substantive and cloud-like, garnished with salty pops of caviar and bitter arugula to cut the fat.
The restaurant is owned by Trey Smith, Blake Aguillard and Drew DeLaughter. They share a common bond with MoPho, and Aguillard also worked at the Michelin-rated Saison in San Francisco. The reservation-only dining room is intimate, just 16 seats, so planning ahead is essential. The bar menu – recommended if you don’t have a reservation – offers walk-in customers choices like exceptionally sourced crudité, dusted with crispy wild rice for texture and a charred pepper rouille.
“A lot of it what we do here is about layering the flavors,” DeLaughter said. “We work with what the purveyors bring us and are particularly excited about. We do a lot of fermentation and dry-aging as well – techniques that reinforce flavor and add complexity.”
The apparent simplicity often belies the technique. I defy you to go home and cook an omelet like the one served at Saint-Germain. But while the prevailing ethos is French, the vibe is ramshackle New Orleans chic. “We thought a double shotgun home would be the perfect setup with a small dining room on one side and a bar on the other,” DeLaughter said. “We wanted it to be very casual, to feel like a dinner party at a friend’s house.” In short, this is a restaurant chefs will love, and for that matter anyone intimately interested in food. –Jay Forman
Saint-Germain, 3054 St. Claude Ave., 218-8729, SaintGermainNola.com.
Molly’s Rise and Shine
Mason Hereford grabbed up the lease on the 30-year home of Magazine Street Po-Boy & Sandwich Shop immediately after the owner announced his retirement and closed the doors. A renovation brought Hereford’s colorful, playful madman sense of style to the formerly nondescript place, creating a more-fun-than-kindergarten way to start the day. This happy breakfast and lunch spot is adorned with bright murals and vintage toys, and your meal may arrive on the sort of plastic, compartmentalized tray most often associated with school cafeterias.
Options trend toward the unexpected. The deviled egg tostada brings together Cotija cheese whipped with a rich egg mousse, and topped with refried red beans, chopped cilantro, lime, red onions, pickled peppers and peanut salsa. “Whirled Peas on Toast” marries whipped feta, English pea chimichurri, toasted almonds, white onion, mint and dill, cured egg, and roasted garlic with an optional addition of smoked salmon (yes!) –Jyl Benson
Molly’s Rise and Shine, 2368 Magazine St., 302-1896, MollysRiseandShine.com.
In 2017, Judy Ceng, a native of Hong Kong, sold Little Chinatown, the celebrated Kenner restaurant she opened in 2010, to travel with her husband. In late January she returned to open Dian Xin near the French Market, a petite, 12-table dim sum (a Chinese dish of steamed or fried dumplings filled with a variety of ingredients) spot that has taken the city by storm.
It turns out New Orleanians were ravenous for dim sum. Now Ceng is adding new traditional items to the already lengthy menu of bao (dumplings), soups, salt-and-pepper shrimp and quid, jianbing (a bean flour and egg crepe stuffed with minced pork or seafood and herbs) , and shu mai (open, pleated wonton “purses” filled with shrimp, scallion, and ginger). –Jyl Benson
Know this: You will never get in without a reservation. BYOB.
Dian Xin, 1218 Decatur St., 266-2828.
This town values traditions and sense of place. When something is not where it is supposed to be, things just don’t feel right. New Orleanians can sense such shifts in the universe.
What was originally a neighborhood Bywater grocery store became a restaurant, which morphed into a plan for another restaurant, which then, and finally, became an excellent choice for dining. There was an interruption to the flow of the cosmos and New Orleans was uncomfortable.
Now, comfort and a sense of peace can be enjoyed. The Franklin Restaurant, on the corner of Franklin Avenue and Dauphine Streets, is back and all is good. In fact, the restaurant is way better than good. Owners Michael Wilkinson and operating partner, Ken Jackson, never gave up the quest to bring about the rebirth. Meanwhile diners can comfortably settle back and enjoy what Chef Dane Harris has wrought.
The Franklin is best described using a term which has industrial meaning, but to New Orleans not so descriptive (because most of our local bars and food hubs qualify) – Gastropub. Besides being a quite-good-looking and comfy place, The Franklin has raised the neighborhood dining bar.
Barbecue spiced pecans set a nice palate-preparing pace; then diners move on to Redfish Rillettes or duck liver mousse. Follow those treats with meal starters tuna Credo, beef Tartare, grilled octopus or shaved ham with cheese.
Main course offerings include a sizeable and satisfying burger, or crispy whole fish, a not-often- found schnitzel and the “Four Vegetable Monte,” your choice of what will be included in the preparation and the presentation.
The drinks program at the bar is equally diverse and equally internationally represented.
Getting The Franklin back from a quixotic journey just feels right. The fact that it’s an excellent dining destination makes it all that much better. –Tim McNally
The Franklin, 2600 Dauphine St., 267-0640, TheFranklinNola.com.
Chef Sue Zemanick received acclaim during her 12-year stint as executive chef at Gautreau’s, including recognition from Food & Wine Magazine as one of the 10 best new chefs in the U.S. in 2008, and being named Best Chef, South by the James Beard Foundation in 2013. The chef took some time away from restaurant kitchens after leaving Gautreau’s and opening the short-lived Ivy, on Magazine Street, but she’s back with a new restaurant: Zasu.
Chef de cuisine Jeff McLennan worked with Zemanick at Gautreau’s, as did general manager Chris Cuddihee, who runs the front of house with aplomb. The restaurant occupies a shotgun on a narrow lot, and the dining room isn’t large – there are probably around 40 seats, and while there’s a bar, it’s strictly for service. The menus aren’t expansive either, but they are ambitious, inventive and unapologetically fine-dining.
Zemanick’s food is hard to categorize, because she has influences from all over the place. When asked, she told me that she and McLennan cook the food they want to eat. Fortunately for diners, the two have excellent taste.
Zemanick has always been fond of seafood, and fish made up three of the six entrees recently. Two of those dishes, halibut with English peas, haricots vert, spring onions and spinach in a ginger-mushroom broth, and saltine-crusted grouper served with braised greens, crawfish and bacon in a spicy butter sauce illustrate the wide range of flavors on offer. There are vegetarian options on each section of the menu, and a well put-together wine and cocktail list that includes non-alcoholic versions of the latter.
Chef Sue Zemanick’s return to restaurant cooking will be welcome news to fans of her sophisticated cooking. – Robert Peyton
Zasu, 127 N. Carrollton Ave., 267-3233, ZasuNola.com.