Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Robert St. John: New Orleans Restaurant Recommendations 2024

In a poll of national food critics I believe New Orleans would be listed among the top three food cities in America. To my taste— and I’ve eaten extensively in most of America’s top restaurant cities— New Orleans is number one. Period. No question. End of discussion.

I consider myself fortunate to have grown up 90 minutes away from this culinary mecca. As a restaurateur and part-time New Orleanian I’m blessed to have spent over six decades eating my way through the city, typically logging in more than 100 New Orleans restaurant meals annually.

For the past couple of decades, I’ve kept a journal of my restaurant visits in New Orleans. I also keep a to-do list of new restaurants I have yet to visit, and a separate list of restaurants I plan to re-visit. I typically field hundreds of requests for restaurant recommendations in New Orleans each year. There are a few dozen restaurants that aren’t on any to-do or re-visit list because they are places that I frequent on a regular basis. The following is that list.

MY FAVORITE BREAKFAST SPOT: LA BOULANGERIE, 4600 Magazine St— Almost every morning I’m in town, I drive from the Marigny to Uptown Magazine just west of Napoleon, because the croissants made at Donald Link’s bakery are worth the drive. 

Other Breakfast Joints I Frequent: Toast, 1845 Gentilly Blvd— There is a French Quarter location, but I like the one near the fairgrounds. I also like Willa Jean 611 O’Keefe Ave.

MY FAVORITE BRUNCH SPOT: PALADAR 511, 511 Marigny Street— This is the place I eat brunch most often, and not just because it’s in our building. The huevos rancheros and the lemon-ricotta blueberry pancakes are stellar. I can never choose between the two, so I always order both. The Eggs Benedict is unique and loaded with corn and crabmeat. They offer a great dinner menu as well.

Other Brunches I Frequent: Brennan’s, 417 Royal Street— Of the four old-line French Quarter institutions— Galitoire’s, Arnaud’s Antoine’s, and Brennan’s— I eat at the latter most often, and almost always for brunch. Ralph Brennan did the city a huge favor when he took over the reins several years back. 

Commander’s Palace, 1403 Washington Avenue— The old blue lady in the Garden District never disappoints and has been the launching pad for some of the nation’s most legendary chefs. Meg Bickford is currently under the toque and carrying that flame.

Gris Gris, 1800 Magazine Street— Eric Cook is a hard-working, dedicated chef who has excellent touch when it comes to food and a keen eye in knowing what his guests want. The brunch is great, but so are lunch and dinner. It’s a great Monday spot, too. 

MY FAVORITE LUNCH— Meril, 424 Girod Street— I am a frequent lunch guest here, love the food and the interior murals are spectacular. The Lagasse’s know how to prepare fish, it’s in their blood.

MY FAVORITE DINNER SPOT: BRIGTSEN’S, 723 Dante St— This restaurant and this chef have been at the top of my list for more than three decades. Frank Brigtsen is the heir apparent to his longtime mentor, Paul Prudhomme. The Butternut Shrimp Bisque is one of the best soups I have ever tasted (second only to Paul Bocuse’s mushroom soup in Lyon). The seafood platter makes use of Warren LeRuth’s baked oyster recipe. I could seriously make a meal of the crawfish cornbread, and mashed potatoes, and often do. This is real New Orleans. Long live Frank Brigtsen.

Other dinner spots I frequent: 

La Petit Grocery, 4238 Magazine St— The birthplace of the Blue Crab Beignet. Chef Justin Devillier is certainly one of the city’s best. 

Lilette, 3637 Magazine St— Also a perfect spot for lunch.

MY FAVORITE PLACE FOR FINE DINING— EMERIL’S 800 Tchoupitoulas St.— the newly re-envisioned Emeril’s is not only the best fine dining restaurant in the city. I believe it’s the best fine dining restaurant in the entire South. Twenty one year old E.J. Lagasse is one of the most impressive chefs— of any age— I have known in my 43 years in this business. More info here

Other fine dining I frequent: August, 301 Tchoupitoulas Street— I love the room, the service is always impeccable, and it keeps getting better. The meal I enjoyed there a few weeks ago was the best— of many— I’ve ever eaten in that establishment.

Saint Germain, 3054 St. Claude Ave.— It’s not about the atmosphere, it’s about the food. The chefs at Saint Germaine have excellent “touch.” It’s a tough reservation to get. Partially because there are only 12 seats inside, but also because it is so good.

MY FAVORITE STEAKHOUSE: DORIS METROPOLITAN, 620 Chartres St— Their aged prime beef is excellent. Never misses.

Other steakhouses I frequent: Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse, 716 Iberville Street— Great steaks with Brennan family service. No matter which branch of the family one eats with, the service is stellar. It’s in their genes.

MY FAVORITE PO-BOY SHOP: DOMILISE’S, 5240 Annunciation Street— My go-to for po-boys for over 30 years.

Other po-boy shops I frequent: 

Parkway Bakery and Tavern 538 Hagan Avenue— There’s always a line so schedule accordingly.

R&O Restaurant and Catering, 216 Metairie-Hammond Highway— A great roast beef po-boy, and excellent fried seafood.

If there’s no line out of the door (rare) at the Acme in the Quarter dash in, be seated, order the best roast beef po-boy in town, and a dozen on the half shell with the hottest horseradish known to man. Excellent. I wrote it off as a tourist trap years ago, but it’s still legit.

MY FAVORITE SANDWICH— THE SAM AT STEIN’S DELI, 2207 Magazine St— In years past I have driven from Hattiesburg, ordered this sandwich, eaten it, and driven home.

Other awesome and original sandwiches:
Turkey & the Wolf, 739 Jackson Avenue— Mason Herford— my favorite Instagram follow— turned the sandwich world upside down in the most beautiful and hilarious way. The Collard Green Melt and Fried Bologna Sandwiches are, on one hand, everyman’s food, and on the other hand, brilliantly inspired. 

The Deli Deluxe at Martin’s Wine Cellar is a close cousin to the Sam at Stein’s and has been a mainstay for decades.

MY FAVORITE APPETIZER: OYSTER BLT, GRIS GRIS, 1800 Magazine Street— Perfection on a plate. Smoked pork belly, tomato jam, crispy fried oysters, and sugarcane vinegar with a touch of heat.

Other Favorite Appetizers:
Shrimp and Tasso with Five-Pepper Jelly, Commander’s Palace, 1403 Washington Avenue— the first time I ate it I immediately ordered another before my entrée arrived. 

MY FAVORITE ITALIAN: DOMENICA, 123 Baronne Street— I spend 12 weeks a year working in Italy. Most of that time is spent in Tuscany. Chef Valeriano Chiella is from that region, and we are lucky that he has hung his chef’s hat over here for the past decade.  

Other Italian restaurants I frequent: Gianna, 700 Magazine Street, The Italian Barrel, 1240 Decatur St

MY FAVORITE MEXICAN CUISINE: El Gato Negro, French Quarter, Lakeview, and Gretna— Get the wet-aged skirt steak any way they prepare it. 

MY FAVORITE PIZZA: PIZZA DELICIOUS, 617 Piety Street— Excellent pies.

MY FAVORITE BURGER: COMPANY BURGER, 4600 Freret Street— Everything I want in a burger joint. 

(Note: Those who wait in line at Port of Call can get the same burger at Snug Harbor a few blocks away, without the wait)

MY FAVORITE THAI RESTAURANT: SUKHO THAI, 2200 Royal St— My family eats a fair amount of Thai food. This place is always spot on.

MY FAVORITE CHINESE: MISS SHIRLEY’S, 3009 Magazine Street— I hate when I ask a server, “What’s good?” and the reply is, “It’s all good.” So, it pains me to say, with this recommendation, and in reference to their menu, it’s all good. It’s true. 

MY FAVORITE OYSTER BAR: PASCAL’S MANALE, 1838 Napoleon Avenue— It’s an old-school stand-up oyster bar. The oysters are always cold and salty. My son and I go there for the raw oysters and always eat dinner somewhere else. He would probably tell you that Casamento’s is his favorite. 

I also like eating oysters at Cooter Brown’s at the Riverbend (oysters always taste better in a dive bar).

MY FAVORITE ATMOSPHERE: SEAWORTHY, 630 Carondelet Street— The designers did such a great job on all aspects of this interior. Nothing formal. I love it. Killer oyster selection, too.  

MY OFF-THE-BEATEN-PATH FAVORITE: ROSEDALE, 801 Rosedale Drive— You have to be going there to get there, but this Susan Spicer restaurant almost feels as if it were 100% tailor made for me— very casual, comfortable, with great service and excellent food. The barbeque shrimp served there should be the gold standard for all others. The fried chicken thighs ARE perfect.

MY FAVORITE TACOS: GALAXIE TACOS, 3060 St. Claude Avenue— the barbacoa tacos here are spot on. The converted gas station vibe is perfect, and there’s almost always a place to park on the neutral ground of St. Claude.

Other taco joints: Val’s, 4632 Freret— there must be something about tacos served in a converted gas station that appeals to me.  

MY FAVORITE GUMBO: GRIS GRIS, 1800 Magazine Street— Eric Cook is quickly becoming one of my top-five favorite chefs in the city. His gumbo is so good it’s where I take out-of-town guests who have never eaten that particular dish before.

Other gumbos I like: 

Herbsaint, 701 St. Charles Avenue

Station 6, 105 Metairie-Hammond Highway

MY FAVORITE SOUP: SHRIMP AND SQUASH BISQUE, BRIGTSEN’S, 723 Dante St— So good it’s worth mentioning twice in this list. I get a pint and take it home.

MY OFTEN-RECOMMENDED NOT-IN-ANOTHER-CATEGORY FAVORITES (the Link trifecta). All are solid and never disappoint.

Herbsaint 701 St Charles Avenue

Cochon 930 Tchoupitoulas Street

Peche 800 Magazine Street

THE RESTAURANT I TAKE MY VISITING EUROPEAN FRIENDS WHO HAVE NEVER BEEN TO NEW ORLEANS: BRENNAN’S, 417 Royal Street— To me this is the quintessential New Orleans dining experience. Galitoire’s, Arnaud’s Antoine’s certainly all represent the city well, but Ralph Brennan is one of the country’s great restaurateurs. Best to leave my guest’s restaurant fate in his hands.


Mandina’s— the best red gravy in town. Also, the best spot for Monday lunch Red Beans and Rice.

N7— cool outdoor area. Solid French-inspired cuisine.

Mosca’s— No need to make decisions, get the Spaghetti Bordelaise and the Oysters Mosca and eat them together.

Central City BBQ— great BBQ

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS