Have you ever been stuck debating with co-workers about where to go for lunch or for happy hour, or looking for a new place for the family to go for Sunday brunch? Fear not, because below are nine of the area’s best places for such occasions. Each location offers delicious food, atmosphere and spirits, so start planning and enjoy.
During its Sunday jazz brunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., historic Antoine’s (713 Rue Saint Louis, 581-4422, www.antoines.com) offers a three-course brunch special for $29. The seasonal menu currently offers crab cakes or fresh spring salad for an appetizer; poached egg cochon or soft shell crab florentine for an entrée; classic cheesecake for dessert; and one complimentary mimosa to drink. They also offer à la carte items, including the popular filet de truite amandine, a filet of fried trout and toasted almonds in a lemon-butter sauce.
Monday through Saturday, the restaurant offers a three-course lunch for $20.11. Currently, one can choose from a cup of gumbo, fresh harvest salad or hot crawfish ravigote au gratin for an appetizer; trout Lafayette or veal burgundy for an entree; pecan bread pudding, chocolate mousse or classic cheesecake with blueberry sauce for dessert; and a featured Quarter martini to drink.
Along with great brunch and lunch specials, Antoine’s will also keep you happy with drinks. Stop by the Hermes Bar for happy hour seven days a week from 4 to 8 p.m. Enjoy the drink specials including $4 house brands, $3 imported beers and $2 domestic beers, and on Fridays and Saturdays from 9:30 p.m. to midnight, live music provides the perfect background sounds.
Family-owned and operated, Arnaud’s Restaurant (813 Rue Bienville, 523-5433, www.arnaudsrestuarant.com) has been feeding New Orleanians since 1918. Kick off the day of rest listening to the sounds of Dixieland Jazz and enjoying its four-course prix fixe brunch. Choose one of 19 different entrée options; the price of this selection is the price of the complete brunch. Arnuad’s offers classic options such as eggs Benedict, eggs Sardou, grillades and grits and shrimp Clemenceau, and specialties like eggs Fauteux (poached eggs and house-smoked fresh Gulf pompano on an English muffins with a dill-infused hollandaise sauce), eggs Arnaud (any two styles of poached eggs from a selection of five), a red bean omelet with alligator sausage and Louisiana boudin cakes.
The restaurant has also resumed serving its punch romaine; this cocktail made up of rum, sauvignon blanc and lime and orange juice, was featured on some of the first menus at Arnaud’s. Sunday brunch and jazz are served from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
For more than 20 years, locals and visitors have flocked to Bayona’s (430 Daupine St., 525-4455, www.bayona.com) French Quarter location to try a little of James Beard award-winning chef Susan Spicer’s globally inspired dishes.
Constantly ranking high in discussions about local favorites, this year the restaurant took home “Top Food” from Zagat’s “2011 New Orleans Restaurant Survey.” Stop in for lunch Wednesday through Saturday beginning at 11:30 a.m. to understand why – and be sure to save room for dessert. New pastry chef Kerri Dean Pitre created two spring desserts featured on the lunch and dinner menus. Try the caramel-topped mango cheesecake flan with pistachio crust and blackberries macerated in ginger mint syrup or the dark chocolate caramel hazelnut tart with Earl Grey ice cream and Louisiana strawberries.
For quick, healthy Mediterranean options, stop into one of the city’s four-area Byblos (1501 Metairie Road, 834-9773, Metairie; 3218 Magazine St., 894-1233, Uptown; 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., 830-7333, Metairie; 29 Mcalister Drive, Tulane University; www.byblosrestaurants.com). The restaurants offer a wide variety of specialty lamb dishes including kabobs, chops and racks, but also a variety of other meats including rotisserie chicken and beef kabobs. There are many vegetarian options as well, like the vegetarian platter, your choice of four traditional Mediterranean veggie dishes and house-made hummus.
Starting this month, the Magazine Street location will begin to offer all-day drink specials with a theme. Mondays are “Mojito Madness,” “Tuesday on tap,” Wednesday focuses on wine (sometimes featuring wine not on the day-to-day menu), Thursday offers $3 martinis and belly dancers for entertainment and Friday through Sunday is the bartender’s delight.
Stop in to the Flaming Torch Restaurant (737 Octavia St., 895-0900, www.flamingtorchnola.com) when you’re in the mood for French food. This Uptown boutique restaurant, steps from Magazine Street, serves a special southern brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Try the popular liver with grits, eggs Sardou or eggs Benedict. They also offer a bloody Mary special.
Three-time New Orleans Wine & Food Experience award winner, new chef Nathan Gile comes to the kitchen continuing the tradition of contemporary French cuisines while utilizing fresh, local ingredients. Along with brunch, the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, serving popular items such as crab beignets with grilled corn, pink pepper seared redfish, seafood bouillabaisse with roasted garlic rouille and sautéed escarole with pearl onions and sauce maltese.
For all the sommeliers, Oak Wine Bar (8118 Oak St., 302-1485, www.oaknola.com) provides the perfect location to relax. The place is open Tuesday and Wednesday from 5 p.m. to midnight, Thursday from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Along with offering live music nightly featuring local musicians in eclectic genres, Oak hosts a happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m. with $5 glasses of red and white and Prosecco. The wine list is grouped by palate rather than region.
Acclaimed chef Aaron Burgau of Patois created a small plates menu, available until midnight, inspired by international flavors but “refined for a New Orleans palete.” The assortment of dishes are divided into categories, including “oak originals,” such as potato gnocchi, “market inspired,” such as chilled beet salad, “from the sea,” such as Gulf shrimp tacos, “from the land,” like crispy duck confit salad, and “something sweet,” such as baked chocolate mousse.
New Orleans Magazine named Ralph’s on the Park (900 City Park Ave., 488-1000, www.ralphsonthepark.com) the best new restaurant in 2004, and the restaurant hasn’t lost steam. Founded by New Orleans restaurateur Ralph Brennan and Chef Gerard Maras (the duo behind Mr. B’s Bistro), the restaurant continues to serve globally inspired local cuisine.
Stop in on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for brunch. For $28, one will get three courses from a fixed menu including turtle soup, red bean cakes or chicken and waffles and Bourbon-soaked banana fritters. Or, order items à la carte from its choices of small and large plates. Try the braised lamb and cream cheese grits with a fried egg and red eye gravy. A children’s brunch menu is also available, serving classic favorites with a twist. The peanut butter and jelly sandwich is brown-buttered and served on brioche bread, with or without the crust, with a caramelized banana. Reservations are recommended, but not required.
Ever been with company where one is starving and the other barely so? Well, Salú (3226 Magazine St., 371-5809, www.saluresturant.com), provides the perfect compromise. The primarily tapas menu features 30 small plates showcasing a variety of flavors. For $15, one can enjoy the three tapas lunch, which includes choice of soup or salad and two other tapas from a specified list.
The restaurant also offers numerous deals for its happy hour. Monday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m., one can indulge in $10 pitchers of classics such as mojitos and margaritas or $14 for pitchers of specialty drinks. Kettle martinis or mixed drinks are $5, along with a handful of cocktails. And for the beer lovers, $2 domestic, $3 import and draft and $12 to 14 pitchers will quench your thirst.
One of New Orleans’ newer restaurants, Ste. Marie (930 Poydras St., 304-6988, www.stemarienola.com) opened its doors in January of this year. Owners Leon Touzet and Pierre Touzet of Patois and Robert LeBlanc of LRG modeled their restaurant after the legendary champagne houses of France. Big ideas need big talent, so the team brought in executive chef Chris Foster who relocated from New York City after serving as sous chef for five years under Bobby Flay at his restaurant, Bar American. And to complete the theme, Eskew+Dumex+Ripple Architects designed an illuminated champagne tower art installation for the restaurant as a tribute to the Widow (Veuve) Barbe Cliquot Ponsardin and the legendary champagne house she built.
Enjoy lunch with classic French dishes with an adventurous twist such as crowd favorites gnocchi, steak tartare, alligator soup, raspberry duck salad, bistro-style burgers, classic steaks and fries. What is a French restaurant without wine? Enjoy the ever-expanding champagne menu. Currently, they offer six champagnes and 22 sparkling wines ranging in price, diversity and origins from around the world.