Feature

10 Hottest Restaurants in New Orleans

By Paul Oswell | April 27, 2015 By Paul Oswell  |  April 27, 2015

It’s not easy for new restaurants to make a name for themselves in the food-obsessed city of New Orleans, but these are the places that have excited local palates over the last 12 months.

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  • Angeline

    Why It's Hot: Since the closure of fine-dining hot spot Stella, the city has been waiting to see what would fill the space, and chef Alex Harrell has lightened things up considerably. It’s still a beautiful spot, adorned in historic French Quarter colors and touting a menu of refined Southern food. Chef Harrell benefits from the kitchen setup left behind by Stella’s chef Boswell, one of the most impressive kitchens in the city

    Must-Order: The oyster pan roast with creamed leeks is an instant favourite, as is the Mississippi rabbit milanese.

    Insider Tip: The beverage program was developed by Jeff Grdinich, who worked at Boston’s acclaimed cocktail bar Drink.

    1032 Chartres St.; 504-308-3106

  • Balise

    Why It's Hot: A new Warehouse District venture from Justin Devillier, who built up a cult culinary following at La Petite Grocery. Devillier says La Petite is his “beautiful woman” and Balise is his “handsome man” — the latter a noticeably masculine affair, all dark woods and angular interiors. The menu is eclectic to say the least, with nuanced seafood dishes sharing space with cheeseburgers. 

    Must-Order: The baked rigatoni (made with beef cheeks) may be small, but it’s perfectly formed.

    Insider Tip: The menu changes frequently, but is always divided into four sections: Garde Manger, Entremet, Entrée and Lagniappe.
     
    640 Carondelet St.; 504-459-4449

  • Brennan's

    Why It's Hot: After closing for a year, this local institution on Royal Street opened its doors again in late 2014 complete with its army of captains, runners and waiters. The renovation was $20 million well spent, and the new dining rooms are colorful reincarnations of the restaurant’s past, with a brand-new space out front that includes windows for the first time in its history. The menu is filled with NOLA classics, from gumbo to bananas Foster.

    Must-Order: The three-course breakfast is still a classic, and the restaurant has been touting its Steak Diane since the reopening.

    Insider Tip: Pride of place goes to the new bar, which has an aviary theme complete with birdcage-shaped lanterns and ostrich-textured leather barstools.
     
    417 Royal St.504-525-9711

  • Brown Butter

    Why It's Hot: Fresh from experimental supper clubs in the city’s suburbs, Simon Beck and chef Dayne Womax have opened up a “Bible Belt Southern Food” joint in a Mid-City strip mall. The menus boasts a large selection of elevated comfort foods, from warm pork rinds with pimiento cheese and deviled ham to a truffled egg sandwich. All fanciness is presented in a down-to-earth fashion, and brown butter features heavily, from the vinaigrette to the gelato.

    Must-Order: The chicken-fried quail salad starter may challenge your decision to get an entree, but it's worth trying the rabbit and dumplings, which comes with cornbread gnocchi.

    Insider Tip: No need to order Diet Coke when they have a fine range of craft sodas, including cherry limeade and peach ginger.
     
    231 N. Carrollton Ave.504-609-3871

  • Johnny Sánchez

    Why It's Hot: The Johnny in the name is actually local culinary superhero John Besh, who has collaborated with Mexican food expert Aaron Sanchez to dive headlong into a world beyond your standard tacos and burritos. It’s a bustling dining room, with families and mezcal aficionados sitting shoulder to shoulder beneath vibrant Latin murals. The menu takes a journey through Mexican regional cuisine that’s picked up some Louisiana influence en route. The roasted cauliflower tacos are a perfect example, as are the Gulf tuna tostados.

    Must-Order: The must-share bistec a la parilla, an adobo-rubbed steak with local veggies and tortillas.

    Insider Tip: Delve into the drinks menu and you’ll discover some wonderful anejo tequila.
     
    930 Poydras St.; 504-304-6615

  • Kebab

    Why It's Hot: The St. Claude channel is awash with new ventures, and a casual restaurant with an original (for New Orleans) menu based on good ingredients is just what the neighborhood needs. In a city where even gyros are hard to come by, a restaurant making doner-style kebabs is a revelation. The enterprise comes from Benjamin Harlow and Walker Reisman, who ran the universally lauded Pizza Speakeasy, and they run an arty, bohemian spot. The menu is simple and traditional and adds Pan-European touches such as Belgian fries to the menu.

    Must-Order: Both the gyro and the doner kebabs are good quality, with local pork and chicken filling the fresh-baked bread along with plenty of vegetables.

    Insider Tip: Take a look around the art gallery attached to the restaurant while you wait for your order.

    2315 St. Claude Ave.; 504-383-4328

  • Purloo

    Why It's Hot: Museum restaurants don’t usually whet too many appetites, but since this one is located in the new Southern Food and Beverage Museum, it’s natural to expect a little more. Chef Ryan Hughes certainly delivers. There are flashes of local classics, but Hughes is drawing inspiration from across the South to delight his diners: the seared drum comes with fried pickles; the short ribs are dusted with a pecan crust. Combining a food stop at Purloo with a museum visit means that your mind and body both leave feeling well nourished.  

    Must-Order: Southern mash-ups rule the menu; the Delta tamales and paneed rabbit with redeye gravy are standouts.  

    Insider Tip: Tables are available, but for the full experience, aim for a seat at one of the three wraparound counters that overlook the kitchen.
     
    1504 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.; 504-324-6020

  • Red’s Chinese

    Why It's Hot: Interesting Chinese food has been conspicuous by its absence from the New Orleans dining scene, but this assured addition to the St. Claude dining portfolio plugs that gap. The menu is quirky, taking inspiration from the anything-goes mash-up dishes of the pioneering bicoastal Mission Chinese Food restaurants (where owner Tobias Womack once worked). One dish (the kung pao pastrami) is taken directly from that institution, while others, like crawfish rangoon, put a NOLA spin on the style.

    Must-Order: The General Lee’s chicken is a cheeky take on a classic dish, and the Hawaiian fried rice is a feast in its own right.

    Insider Tip: The portions are huge, so take friends, and share a bountiful dinner, complete with leftovers for all.

    3048 St. Claude Ave.; 504-304-6030

  • 1000 Figs

    Why It's Hot: The Fat Falafel was one of the city’s best-loved food trucks, so this permanent home on Bayou St. John has been universally welcomed. The dining room feels modern and rustic, with cute touches such as a sliding drawer underneath each table stocked with silverware and napkins. The hummus is a delight and the flatbreads have a wonderful chewiness.

    Must-Order: The Falafel Feast, which can easily be shared, comes with golden falafel and a mountain of pickles, salad, hummus and tahini.  

    Insider Tip: While the restaurant waits to receive its alcohol license, you could do worse than pop next door to Swirl Wines and bring a bottle back with you.

    3141 Ponce De Leon St. #1; 504-301-0848

  • Shaya

    Why It's Hot: After cooking some of the city’s best Italian food at Domenica under John Besh, chef Alon Shaya has turned his considerable abilities to his own modern Israeli restaurant. It’s actually a fairly comprehensive take on Middle Eastern cuisine, with nods to Jewish food in the matzo-ball soup, but with Turkish and even Bulgarian influences on the eclectic menu. 

    Must-Order: The baba ghanoush, which comes topped with a flourish of charred green garlic.

    Insider Tip: You can sample the full range of Shaya’s flavors by sharing the bargain feast of nine appetizers, complete with pita bread.

    4213 Magazine St.; 504-891-4213

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