Best People-Watching in New Orleans

Relax and watch the world go by.
July 21, 2016
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by Zagat Staff

Silver-painted mimes, tourists in Mardi Gras beads, locals wearing costumes for no discernible reason—these are just a few of the characters you'll see in New Orleans. Check out Zagat's top-rated spots for people-watching and make dinner conversation just a touch more colorful.

Commander's Palace
Creole · Garden District · $$$
Food 4.8 · Decor 4.8 · Service 4.8

The "nostalgic" , "old-world" ambiance will "make you feel like a king or queen" at this "genteel" Garden District Creole icon – as will the "first-class" staff that treats "everyone the same: spectacularly" ; "rich" , "leisurely" dinners are an "experience to savor" , and made even more "epic" by a "phenomenal wine list" , so it's a "splurge" that's "worth every penny" , though some "prefer" the "fabulous" lunch (could it be the "25-cent martinis" ?); P.S. no shorts or T-shirts; jackets suggested for men.
Muriel's Jackson Square
Creole · French Quarter · $$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.6 · Service 4.4

Despite its location on a "busy corner" in the Quarter, this "classy" , old-world restaurant is definitely "not just for tourists" , what with its "superior execution" of traditional Creole favorites ( "don't miss" the turtle soup); prices aren't cheap, but "delightful" drinks, an "awesome" jazz brunch and "professional" service "all add up to a magical experience" – and remember to check out "the séance room upstairs" , where the "resident ghost" hangs out.
Herbsaint
French · CBD · $$$
Food 4.6 · Decor 4.1 · Service 4.4

Diners "still daydream about" past meals at this "upscale" , "modern bistro" in the CBD from chef/co-owner Donald Link (Cochon), who "amazes" with his "inspired" New American–New French cuisine that "pairs magnificently" with the "outstanding" wine list; a few feel that the "tables are too close together" , but most say the "casually elegant" atmosphere is perfect for a "romantic" dinner or an important "business lunch."
Cafe Du Monde
Cafe · French Quarter · $
Food 4.6 · Decor 3.8 · Service 3.9

"Scrumptious" , "piping hot" beignets sprinkled with "magic fairy dust" (aka confectionery sugar) and "out-of-this-world" coffee, including a "wonderful" chicory version, make this "legendary" French Quarter cafe one of "the best ways to start your day in the Big Easy" – or end it (it's open 24 hours); the huge, mostly open-air space is often "crowded" and service is "all function, no frills" , but "tourists and locals alike" are "greatly entertained" by the "people-watching" ; P.S. "don't wear black" – you're almost "guaranteed" to leave covered in powdered sugar.
Tableau
Creole · French Quarter · $$$
Food 4.2 · Decor 4.6 · Service 4.1

"Soul, imagination and joie de vivre abound" at this "beautiful" , "elegant" adjunct to the historic Le Petit Théâtre in "the heart of the French Quarter" , where chef John Martin works up "innovative interpretations of Creole classics" ; though a few say this Dickie Brennan restaurant is "still working out some kinks" , most patrons "love sitting on the balcony" and "people-watching."