There are few cities that are as renowned for their food as New Orleans, Louisiana. The Crescent City has a food culture all its own; insanely delicious po’ boys, hushpuppies, and other specialties that put it on the map beckon around every corner. From French Quarter institutions to restaurants further afield, we’ve rounded up the 5 best restaurants in the city.
To assemble our ranking, we started by compiling the New Orleans restaurants that were included in our own rankings of the 101 Best Restaurants in America and the 50 Best Casual Restaurants in America, and rounded the list out with pre-existing rankings in both print and online from leading culinary authorities. We then scored each restaurant on food quality, level of renown, service, atmosphere, and overall experience.
A serious cult favorite since it opened in 2006, Cochon is the domain of pork-loving chef Donald Link, proprietor of the popular Herbsaint and winner of a James Beard Award for his Real Cajun cookbook. Inspired by Cajun and Creole culinary traditions of his grandparents, Link serves dishes like “fisherman’s style” oven-roasted gulf fish, catfish courtbouillon, smoked pork ribs with watermelon pickle, rabbit and dumplings, and the namesake cochon: slow-roasted Louisiana pig with turnips, cabbage, and cracklins.
#4 Peche Seafood Grill
Peche demonstrates that chef Donald Link can glorify fish just as well as he does pork. Named one of Bon Appétit’s Top 50 New Restaurants in 2013 and the home of James Beard Award winner for Best Chef South, Ryan Prewitt, the restaurant is centered around a coal-burning open hearth. The daily whole grilled fish — no matter what it is — is always a smart choice, but the traditional classics, like smothered catfish, shrimp and corn bisque, and the seafood platter certainly shouldn’t get overlooked.
John Besh is one of the most interesting and ambitious chefs in the Crescent City today. The American menu at this splendid eatery shows his love for, and understanding of, French, Italian, and high-level American cuisine; much of it interpreted with a New Orleans lilt. His dishes also always incorporate the finest local food that the Gulf has to offer; for example, his roasted Gulf dorado with house cured lardo, crisp farro, and Swiss chard, or his Chappapeela Farms tête de cochon with crispy pig tail and house pickles.
A Bourbon Street landmark, Galatoire’s has been serving classic Creole, New Orleans-style cuisine for many generations. The immense menu has changed little over the past century-plus and is full of things like turtle soup au sherry, oysters en brochette, seafood okra gumbo, a variety of seasonal fish and shellfish, chicken Clemenceau, and black bottom pecan pie for dessert. Anyone can get good cooking here, but go with a regular if you can; that way you'll be guaranteed good service (regulars have their "own" waiters) and maybe a taste of something not on the menu.
#1 Commander’s Palace
A slice of New Orleans dining history — it opened in 1880 — this culinary landmark has long been collecting accolades for everything from its service, to its wine list and its "haute Creole" cuisine. Two of its alumni, it might be noted, are Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse, but with chef Tory McPhail at the ovens for over a decade, Commander’s Palace is still going strong. Come hungry and ready for such dishes as the foie gras and candied pecan beignet with foie gras infused café au lait or satsuma and Grand Marnier-lacquered quail with bacon-braised Vidalia onions.