Rise and Shine
Move over brunch, breakfast is the meal of the day
In a town where boozy brunches tend to hog the morning spotlight, breakfast often gets short-stacked. That focus is shifting, however, as a growing number of restaurants around town pay closer attention to the first meal of the day. Whether your idea of morning glory is poached eggs on a white tablecloth or hash browns in a vinyl booth, we’ve got you covered.
From buttery biscuits to tasty tacos to veggie-packed vegan scrambles, it’s breakfast time in New Orleans.
BEST PLACE FOR A BAGEL-BASED MEAL
Stein’s is a cult favorite not only for its deli offerings but also for the staff’s gruff-love delivery and decidedly casual ambience. Owner Dan Stein sources his bagels from Davidovich in New York, enabling locals to enjoy an authentically dense and chewy “bagel with a schmear” experience.
Customers with serious appetites can add corned beef or pastrami to their bagel sandwich by ordering the “Stoltzfus” or take an exotic turn with Taylor pork roll, a meaty delicacy commonly found in New Jersey and surrounding areas (including Stein’s native Philadelphia).
Whether toasted with butter, sandwiched around egg, cheese and breakfast meat or piled with smoked salmon and cream cheese, nothing [in New Orleans] beats Stein’s for a bagel repast.
Stein’s also offers an artisanal coffee and espresso bar, currently operated by Whatever Coffee, to wash down those bagel bites in style. 2207 Magazine St., 527-0771, SteinsDeli.com
Also check out:
4716 Freret St., 355-3535, HumbleBagel.com
2700 Chartres St., 766-8740
BEST PLACE FOR DINER-STYLE FARE
The Camellia Grill
In the category of dining with a heaping side of nostalgia, nothing stands out like The Camellia Grill. Nestled in the heart of the Riverbend, the Grill has been through a lot since 1946, notably the drama surrounding its post-Katrina closing and 2007 reopening under new ownership. During that hiatus, fans longing for their Camellia Grill fix papered the restaurant’s façade with love notes.
Today, Camellia Grill seems no worse for wear, offering a menu that still hits all the best diner breakfast buttons for a steady flow of college students, neighborhood regulars and Mardi Gras bead-dazzled tourists.
Weekday mornings are a great time to beat the crowds. It’s worth noting that breakfast here isn’t limited to its traditional time slot but is served from 8 a.m. until closing (midnight Sunday through Thursday and 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday). It’s equally appealing at all hours.
Omelets are a specialty, from the simplest Tutti’s cheese to a fluffy western stuffed with peppers, ham and onions or the more elaborate chef’s special. Grits are exactly what they should be, smooth and decadently buttery, but are served only until 11 a.m.
The pecan waffle has always been a personal favorite, a generous disc that strikes just the right balance of crisp and chewy, with a rich, nutty flavor.
The staff at Camellia Grill treat diners like long lost friends, whether it’s their first or 50th visit. When your server proffers that half-wrapped straw, take it as a sign of good things to come. 626 S. Carrollton Ave., 309-2679
Also check out:
Slim Goodies Diner
3322 Magazine St., 891-3447, SlimGoodiesDiner.com
Red Gravy Cafe
125 Camp St., 561-8844
BEST PLACE FOR SPECIAL OCCASION EGGS
When we need our eggs served with fanfare, there is no better destination than Brennan’s.
“Breakfast at Brennan’s” has been a thing since the 1950s. The Brennan family developed the signature meal in part as a rebuttal to “Dinner at Antoine’s,” a popular 1948 novel that was big business for the French Quarter competitor. The Brennan family cast its lot with eggs and eye-opener cocktails that made the restaurant a special morning destination.
Today, under the hand of talented chef Ryan Hacker, Brennan’s remains a sought-after spot. A classic menu highlight is Eggs Hussarde, a Brennan’s original that tops house-made English muffins with coffee-cured Canadian bacon, hollandaise and marchand de vin sauce.
The kitchen cooks up enticing non-egg options as well, including ricotta pancakes, or crab and avocado toast. There’s also a two-course breakfast menu for $29.
At Brennan’s, breakfast cocktailing is not only accepted but encouraged. The brandy milk punch is legendary, and the Irish Coffee transforms a morning standard into something especially festive. 417 Royal St., 525-9711, BrennansNewOrleans.com
Also check out:
The Grill Room
300 Gravier St., 522-1994, Windsorcourthotel.com/dining/the-grill-room
BEST PLACE TO CATCH UP WITH FRIENDS
Molly’s Rise and Shine
It’s hard not to smile at Molly’s Rise and Shine, a cheerful breakfast spot in the lower Garden District from the revolutionaries behind Turkey and the Wolf. Customers order at the counter from a menu filled with imaginative offerings, such as the deviled egg tostada, a crunchy tortilla base loaded with whipped egg mousse, red beans and pickled peppers. The Grand Slam McMuffin takes the classic breakfast sandwich to another level, adding a house-made English muffin, griddled onions and a crispy hash brown layer to the more standard sausage and cheese components.
Shareable dishes include Molly’s take on chilaquiles: crunchy fried tortillas coated with salsa verde, sunflower and sesame seeds and topped with a sunny-side-up egg. A dish of sardines and bagel chips gets interesting with chimichurri cream cheese, hot cherry peppers and other accompaniments.
Alcoholic beverages are BYO, but Molly’s promotes self-serve mixology with offerings like the “lunch box cocktail combo,” a selection of house mixers, OJ and Topo Chico.
Bonus points for the ever-changing selection of fresh pastries, includes coconut mango morning buns and galettes filled with local strawberries and poppy seeds. Like a sunny table at Molly’s, they’re just right for sharing with friends. 2368 Magazine St., 302-1896, MollysRiseandShine.com
Also check out:
Surrey’s Café and Juice Bar
Multiple locations, SurreysNola.com
New Orleans Cake Café & Bakery
2440 Chartres St., 943-0010, NolaCakes.com
BEST PLACE TO RECOVER FROM THE NIGHT BEFORE
The Bywater and surrounding environs are the source of many a hangover. Fortunately, the neighborhood is also home to one of the city’s best remedies: Elizabeth’s.
Though it opened in 1998, the weathered corner eatery feels like it’s been there forever, having achieved neighborhood icon status by delivering on the promise of “real food done real good.” Much of that magic happens over breakfast. On weekends, crowds line up for creative brunch options and hair of the dog action, but weekday mornings offer the same goods with easier access.
Whether you’re craving sweet relief or savory (or both), Elizabeth’s has something odd – and oddly satisfying. The French toast burrito may be the best example of menu medicine in town, enveloping bacon, eggs and sausage in a French-toast-battered tortilla then dousing it all with maple syrup and powdered sugar. “Redneck eggs” adds fried green tomatoes to the classic combination of poached eggs and hollandaise, while “Bayou breakfast” pairs eggs with fried catfish.
If your recovery involves ingesting more booze, the all-day cocktail menu includes a “morning margarita” with a hint of orange. Or just keep the coffee coming.
Don’t leave the table without a bite of Elizabeth’s sonnet-worthy praline bacon, thick-cut slabs transformed by brown sugar and pecans into something that will enable even the most beleaguered sufferer to face the day. 601 Gallier St., 944-9272, ElizabethsRestaurantNola.com
Also check out:
Multiple locations, TheRubySlipperCafe.net
Multiple locations, WakinBakin.com
BEST PLACE FOR VEGAN-FRIENDLY FARE
There was a time, not long ago, when options for vegan breakfast were few and far between in New Orleans. That’s no longer the case. Not only do many places cater to vegan fare, they run the gamut from counter service cafés to full-service restaurants, like Seed.
Seed is a revamp of an earlier concept, a restaurant by the same name that originally opened in 2014 and closed in August 2019. Seed reemerged in January with new ownership (the partners behind District Donuts.Sliders.Brew), a new menu and a sleek new look.
Seed’s offerings are designed to appeal to a range of eaters, from vegan loyalists to visiting carnivores. On the decadent side, the breakfast menu offers a stack of blueberry buckwheat pancakes with maple syrup and griddled apple quick bread with cane syrup butter.
Lighter options include the creative and beautifully presented black rice porridge with avocado, mango, macadamia and fresh garnishes as well as a platter of tacos filled with avocado, onion, cilantro and oat mole.
Throw in a bourbon [almond] milk punch or a cappuccino made with your choice of alternative milks, and [vegan] breakfast is served. 1330 Prytania St., 417-7333, SeedNewOrleans.com
Also check out:
The Daily Beet
Multiple locations, TheDailyBeetNola.com
Good Karma & South of Eden
2940 Canal St., 401-4698, GoodKarmaNola.com
BEST PLACE TO DO BUSINESS OVER BREAKFAST
When Willa Jean burst onto the scene in 2015, it was clear that their breakfast meant business. Chef/Partner Kelly Fields’ menu is crammed with exquisite examples of biscuits, toasts and cornbread, reflecting the restaurant’s bakery-inspired theme (along with whisk-shaped light fixtures). It also features upscale options like the inspired smoked salmon toast, which piles a slice of house-made rye with delicate smoked fish and a heap of fresh fixings.
The menu includes a whole section dedicated to biscuits, keeping things simple with butter and jam or dressing them up with fried chicken and Tabasco honey or sausage, egg and pimento cheese.
Those seeking healthful fare could choose the grain bowl with quinoa, farro and white beans, avocado, cashews and poached eggs, while a more indulgent spirit might sample the fine shrimp and grits.
Best of all, the restaurant provides full table service and a tranquil atmosphere that, combined with its O’Keefe Ave. location, makes Willa Jean a perfect spot for morning meetings. The grab-and-go coffee and pastry counter up front also makes it easy to take a box of goodies back to the office for co-workers who weren’t lucky enough to join. 611 O’Keefe Ave., 509-7334, WillaJean.com
Also check out:
Downtown Café, 644 Camp St., 265-0194, CongregationCoffee.com
600 Carondelet St., 930-3070, JosephineEstelle.com
BEST PLACE FOR A HEALTHY START
It’s hard to believe Bearcat is celebrating its third birthday. When Bearcat Café opened its doors uptown on Jena Street in 2017, its “Good Cat”/ “Bad Cat” menu spoke to customers in a new way, as did its minimalist décor, adorably kawaii logo and homestyle touches like handcrafted ceramic tableware. In December 2019, Bearcat opened a second location, on Carondelet St. in the CBD, that also features a large outdoor patio.
By design, Bearcat caters to a range of health-conscious eating practices. Its menu was one of the first in town to mainstream vegan fare, incorporating it into tasty dishes like the vegan ranchero, which layers black beans, salsa, ranchero sauce, avocado, cashew crema and a corn tortilla to lure even avowed meat-eaters across the line. For paleo followers, Bearcat offers the “cave breakfast” featuring a paleo pancake, pork chop and cauliflower mash.
Diners seeking a lighter meal can opt for house-made yogurt or chia pudding, both accompanied by granola and fresh fruit, as well as juices made fresh daily.
The crisp potatoes that accompany certain entrees are hard to resist, even for good cats, and well worth ordering as a separate side.
Manager Edwin Ponce estimates that 70 percent of customers at the Uptown location are regulars and believes people keep coming back for the quality of the food and the flavor behind it. “Our product speaks for itself,” says Ponce. Multiple locations, BearCatCafe.com
Also check out:
Multiple locations, SatsumaCafe.com
8124 Hampson St., 872-0187, RefuelCafe.com
BEST PLACE FOR THE KID IN ALL OF US
Gracious Bakery & Café
It’s easy to blame a hardcore Gracious habit on the children. But really, who can resist that array of just-baked goodness? Flaky chocolate croissants share space with sugar-dusted morning buns and hazelnut “cruffins,” a blessed union of pastry genres.
For days when adulting is required, Gracious offers delectable make-your-own egg sandwiches on a variety of homemade bagels and breads, as well as habit-worthy house-cured salmon.
On other mornings, check at least one nutritional box (fruit) by ordering the twice-baked French toast with whipped cream, maple syrup and berry compote or the pecan raisin cinnamon roll.
If the inner child develops a grown-up thirst, the Prytania St. and St. Charles Ave. locations offer alcohol. Multiple locations, GraciousBakery.com
Also check out:
Multiple locations, ToastNewOrleans.com
Multiple locations, ihop.com
BEST PLACE FOR CARBS
Levee Baking Co.
Try as the world might to steer us from grain, it remains a steadfast morning ingredient. Behind the glass at Levee Baking Co. lie the building blocks of one of the city’s best breakfasts, built from masterfully crafted carbs. That’s partly because baker/owner Christina Balzebre’s breads and pastries are delicious, but also because they are made with the highest quality ingredients, including a variety of whole grains.
“Every pastry we do has whole grain in it, from our cakes to croissants to bread,” says Balzebre. “Being able to showcase different flavors and nuance by using really fresh wheat is something I love tasting in a pastry.”
Levee’s flaky croissants calm sweet and savory cravings alike with fillings of locally-made Acalli chocolate or caramelized onion, cheddar and house-made mustard. Chocolate babka knots offer a new twist – literally – on a classic treat, and generous biscuits make a meal unto themselves. Individual fruit galettes evolve with the seasons – currently cradling local strawberries or citrus and pistachio.
When it comes to breakfast-building, Balzebre considers what pairs best with the first sip of coffee. For her that’s a deeply caramelized kouign-amann. The rest of us may just have to sample it all to decide. 3138 Magazine St., Ste. D, 354-8708, LeveeBakingCo.com
Also check out:
4600 Magazine St., 269-3777, LaBoulangerieNola.com
District Donuts. Sliders. Brew
Multiple locations, DistrictDonuts.com
BEST LATIN-INSPIRED BREAKFAST
El Pavo Real
As Latin-influenced breakfast dishes have made their way to restaurant menus across genres, it’s no longer a surprise to see huevos rancheros or breakfast tacos on any diner menu. For a standout experience, visit the Uptown Mexican favorite El Pavo Real. The restaurant is best known for its evening offerings, but don’t sleep on its quietly excellent breakfast.
The morning menu at El Pavo Real features egg preparations such as huevos rancheros, which tops fresh tortillas with fried eggs, black beans, salsa ranchera and more, and chilaquiles, a layered dish of tortilla strips, queso chihuahua, crema, poblanos and poached eggs.
The breakfast taco is a surefire winner: a house-made corn tortilla enveloping scrambled eggs, savory chorizo-infused pinto beans (which can be replaced with vegetarian black beans upon request), a melty mix of mozzarella and queso Oaxaca and a refreshing salsa pico.
Better yet, on weekday mornings (except for Mondays, when the restaurant is closed), one of these hearty breakfast tacos will only set you back $2. That’s makes for an all-around good morning. 4401 South Broad Ave., 266-2022, ElPavoRealNola.com
Also check out:
527 Julia St., 875-4132, CafeCarmo.com
Los Catrachos Restaurant