Feasting through the Big Easy – a food guide to New Orleans

St. Lucia native Nina Compton cooked in Miami before moving to New Orleans to open Compere Lapin and her new Bywater American Bistro. Photograph by Denny Culbert.

New Orleans may fly under Old Glory, but it might as well be its own country for the rich history, culture and cuisine in which it is steeped. Originally founded by the French in 1718 and named after the Duke of Orleans, this strategic port city hopped between French and Spanish ownership until falling into American hands courtesy of Napoleon.

Jazz was born here, as was America’s first cocktail, the Sazerac. Voodoo grew strong, and a penchant for living the good life in all its excess became the identity of the city till this very day. Most visitors know New Orleans for its celebrated stops like Commander’s Palace and the prerequisite beignets and chicory-infused coffee at Café du Monde. But for those seeking to explore the city’s culinary prowess a bit off the tourist path, INDULGE has you set.

DINNER

new orleans compere lapin
Curried goat with sweet plantain gnocchi, roasted tomatoes, cashews and cilantro at Nina Compton’s Compere Lapin in New Orleans. Photograph by Star Chefs.

 

Bywater American Bistro: Chef Nina Compton left Miami for New Orleans in 2014. Bywater is her second restaurant here (see Compère Lapin, below), where she and chef/co-owner Levi Raines keep locals happy with bistro fare like duck breast with butterbeans, figs and scallions, and smoked ricotta agnolotti with mushrooms, peas and pickled onions. bywateramericanbistro.com.

Compère Lapin: Compton’s debut restaurant in The Crescent City prompted the James Beard Foundation to crown her with the Best Chef: South award in 2018, recognizing Compton’s flawless harmony of Caribbean and New Orleans Creole cuisine. Its name translates to “brother rabbit” and is both a reference to the mischievous folktale rabbit from Compton’s native St. Lucia as well as the restaurant’s whimsical approach to food. Don’t miss the conch croquettes with pickled pineapple tartar sauce or curried goat with sweet potato gnocchi. comperelapin.com.

La Petite Grocery: Housed in what was formerly, you guessed it, a grocery store, this is where chef/owner Justin Devillier delivers some of the best modern Creole food in town.  Blue crab beignets served with malt vinegar aioli are light and packed with flavor, and the turtle Bolognese is exquisite as well. Desserts include butterscotch pudding and Louisiana cane sugar crème brûlée. lapetitegrocery.com.

Sac-a-Lait: Culinary couple Cody and Samantha Carroll divide their menu into fish, hunt and farm at their restaurant, housed in an former cotton mill in the Warehouse District. Their contemporary interpretations of Acadian and Cajun cuisine includes dishes like chargrilled oysters with jalapeño-bacon-garlic butter, alligator with honey powder and pickled mustard seeds, and deep-fried veal brain with black-garlic breadcrumbs. sac-a-laitrestaurant.com.

sac a lait new orleans
Chargrilled oysters at Sac-a-Lait in New Orleans.

BRUNCH & LUNCH

Toups South New Orleans
A Toups Julep at Toups South. Photograph by Denny Culbert.

 

Toups South: An ode to all the flavors of the South, it’s no accident Toups South is housed inside the Southern Food & Beverage Museum. The airy, industrial-chic spot is ideal for brunch, with dishes like smoked foie gras terrine with banana bread, farm eggs in purgatory served with andouille sausage, and buttermilk fried quail and waffles. toupssouth.com.

Pythian Market: Sample the culinary diversity of New Orleans at this recently opened food hall. Start at Bar 1908 with a tequila-based Watermelon Paloma, then amble over to Fete Au Fete for shrimp and grits before moving on to Cru Raw Oyster & Bubble Bar for tempura fried oysters with truffle mayo, and finishing on Meribo Pizza’s crispy Brussels sprouts with pepper jelly, pecans and parmesan. pythianmarket.com.

Turkey and the Wolf: Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurant of 2017, this sandwich shop is as casual as it gets. Order and pay up front, help yourself to cutlery with rainbow-colored handles while Tupac plays on the sound system, and wait for the sandwich that will change your life. Try the collard green melt or the fried bologna. turkeyandthewolf.com.

DESSERT

willa jean bakery new orleans
The tempting pastry counter at Willa Jean. Photograph by Rush Jagoe.

 

Willa Jean Bakery: Sticky buns, fig and brown-butter blondies, and caramelized monkey bread are just some of the enticing pastries that render decision-making here very difficult. willajean.com.

Fat Boy Pantry: Housemade ice creams are scooped inside a sweet hamburger-style bun made from a local bakery and briefly toasted on a panini press. instagram.com/fatboypantry.

MORE NOLA

turkey and the wolf
The life-changing fried bologna sandwich at Turkey and the Wolf in New Orleans.

 

HOTELS

Old No. 77 & Chandlery: old77hotel.com

Henry Howard Hotel: henryhowardhotel.com

JAZZ BARS

Royal Sonesta Jazz Playhouse: sonesta.com

Bacchanal Wine Bar: bacchanalwine.com

FESTIVALS

Boudin, Bourbon & Beer (November 9): boudinbourbonandbeer.com

Oak Street Po-Boy Festival (November 11): poboyfest.com

Fête des Fromages (November 17): fetedesfromages.com

Tremé Creole Gumbo Festival (November 17-18): jazzandheritage.org/treme-gumbo

More INDULGE travel: Food tour through Israel’s best restaurants and markets

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