Louisiana is the birthplace of both Cajun and Creole cuisine. This popular culinary option has gained popularity and spread across the country in the last few decades, but visitors often flock to New Orleans to try out the local cooking. Many restaurants even offer Cajun sample platters that often include local staples such as red beans and rice, gumbo, and jambalaya to allow patrons to take in a sample of the local cooking. Etouffee, po’boys, and fried seafood platters are also staples at many of the city’s menus and these restaurants are often among the most popular in the city for tourists. While a culinary adventure is a great reason to visit New Orleans and I encourage all first-time visitors to have their fill of Cajun classics; the city has many other great restaurants that offer non-local cuisine. Whether you are a local and want to try something different or you are a tourist and want to change up your dining in the middle of your trip; here are a few restaurants to consider in New Orleans.
The first restaurant I’d like to talk about is no stranger to appearing in the media. Galatoires is in the middle of Bourbon Street and frequently graces popular travel and food tv shows. It is among the oldest restaurants within the French Quarter and has lasted if it has due to its atmosphere and high-quality menu. While local creole food is partly inspired by French cuisine, Galatoires is an authentic French restaurant. This venue does offer local popular dishes as well ranging from remoulade, oysters Rockefeller, and crawfish Maison; but there are also many French dishes on the menu that you will not find in most local restaurants. Some of these dishes are escargot, foie gras, and bouillabaisse.
The first time I had the privilege of visiting this restaurant was during Mardi Weekend in 2019. Following the afternoon parades on Canal Street, my wife and I went into this restaurant ready for a high-end dining experience and it did not disappoint. The atmosphere when you walk in immediately suggests that this restaurant is meant as a luxury experience. From the white linens to the catering staff in suites; every aspect of this restaurant screams of a European luxury experience. Galatoires does enforce a business casual dress code. I arrived in a 3-piece suite and although this was not needed, I did not seem out of place here. Although there were many others wearing suites, there was just as many in khakis and button-down shirts.
There were many items on the menu that I wanted to try but for this visit, I wanted to emphasize trying something I never had before. To begin, my wife and I started with the Bouillabaisse and Turtle Soup. Although Turtle soup is a local dish, it is not one common to most local restaurants. Bouillabaisse on the other hand, is a traditional French seafood soup. This one does some local flair by using Louisiana crab, shrimp, oysters, and shrimp for their seafood. Both soups exceeded our expectations. For the main course, I tried a strategy I commonly employ when I am having trouble deciding from many menu options at new restaurants. I ask the staff to pick their choice item for me and I was thrilled with their choice. A well season Black Drum fillet topped with jumbo lump crab. Between the exceptional menu and luxury atmosphere, this is frequently a restaurant that I recommend to first time visitors to New Orleans.
Sticking with French cuisine within the French Quarter, the next stop on our culinary adventure is Antoine’s. This is among the city’s oldest restaurants, originally opened in 1840, it has since become a staple of New Orleans culinary landscape. Although there are several menu options that offer patrons a selection of local favorites such as blackened salmon and oyster’s Rockefeller; there are plenty of menu options for those who want a more traditional French cuisine or at least a taste of something that they can not find in many other restaurants in New Orleans. One appetizer that stood out to me are the Oyster Foch, oysters fried in yellow cornmeal served with a fois gras and a Colbert sauce. Oysters are also available at Antoine’s in charbroiled, Rockefeller, and Bienville options but these can be found in several other French Quarter restaurants, the Koch is a rare treat worth experiencing at Antoines. Another appetizer that is unique here are the Escargot Bourguignon, which are snails served with parsley and garlic; brought in a hot serving tray to the table. A final appetizer option of note that is also popular as a side dish are the souffle potatoes, fried potato puff that go incredible with any of the entry options.
Not to be outdone, the entries at Antoine’s also offer a combination of New Orleans and French cuisine. One popular option for visitors to try at Antoine’s is the Reveillon Dinner, a pre-determined 4 course dinner that is complete with a fine dining service experience. The course are a soup or salad option, an appetizer, a main course, and a desert. While the courses offered change, to provide an example of the kind of meal one may expect; I’d like to share what was on offer during my most recent visit. The first course was a bacon boursin vol au vent, which was a bacon topped puffed pastry course topped with spiced cane sugar and pecans. The next course was a smoked oyster velouté served with crispy potato. The main course was a paneed gulf fish that was topped with blue crab, asparagus, and truffle sauce. To end the mean, a desert of satsuma pot de crème was served which was a white chocolate cream desert. This dinner is an excellent option for visitors overwhelmed by the menu options and would instead like to be surprised by the chef’s selection.
Shaya’s has become a staple of New Orleans dining over the last decade and has been featured frequently on travel shows. This restaurant is a middle eastern restaurant with a heavy emphasis on Israeli cuisine. Although they do offer full platters, among my favorite things to do when visiting this restaurant with friends is to order a series of their appetizers and small plate dishes to share. They have several types of hummuses such as lamb ragu and fried chicken that pairs incredibly well with their pita bread which is frequently delivered from the oven right to your table. Their pita oven is in the dining room, and they churn out this fresh pita all day long for the many customers who visit. Shaya is frequently full during lunch and dinner hours, so a reservation is recommended ahead of time if you want to enjoy a meal there during peak hours. In addition to the hummus, several more of their dishes pair great with this pita such as their baba ganoush (creamy eggplan dip with green onions and olive oil) or their smoked labneh (lima beans with vinaigrette).
Among their other platters, a personal favorite small plate option of mine is their lamb kofte or their crispy haloumi that is served with figs and apricot. Their large plate also come with several incredible options such as their falafel or their lamb burger. I have yet to find an item on their menu that I didn’t enjoy. The prices for this restaurant are also very reasonable. On average, 20-25 dollars per person for food is what should be expected when dining at Shaya.
St. James Cheese Company
St. James is a unique restaurant in that they are centered around cheese and cured meat charcuterie boards. Although this may seem like very limited options; the incredible and diverse selection of cheese that this restaurant has is incredible. I have personally had lunch at this restaurant well over 20 times and I always make it a point to try out new cheeses each time. Despite this, I am not even close to sampling everything they have to offer. Their cheeses are important from around the world so whether you want a creamy brie from Italy, a strong blue from France, a refreshing Manchego from Spain, or a sharp cheddar from Wisconsin; St. James has you covered. Whether its cow, milk, sheep, or goat milk; this restaurant is not afraid to push the envelope by bringing in a rotating stock of culinary adventures. Each of their charcuterie boards is served with a selection of both dried and fresh fruits as well as a fruit preserve to compliment the cheeses served. Even their fruit preserves boast incredible variety whether its apricot, fig, or plum; the staff at St. James always seems to know what would pair perfectly with the cheeses they present you with.
Although you can hand select what cheeses and cured meats are brought to you on your own personal charcuterie board, I often allow the staff to pick for me. St. James employs several cheese mongers on staff that specialize in the art of cheese selection and charcuterie board presentation. If you are honest with them regarding what you want, then they are happy to oblige. Feeling adventurous? Tell them so and they will whip up something to send you on a unique culinary adventure.
The Rum House
As the name implies, this restaurant is an excellent option for where to get rum (or quite a few other drink options). This is a combination bar and taqueria that serves incredible pina coladas and margaritas. The restaurant creates a tropical ambiance meant to transport you to a tropical beach in central America. The Rum House is among my top choices within the city for lunch, especially on taco Tuesday. Although they have a varied menu, their tacos are the primary attraction as they boast an incredible variety of taco options that are all mouthwatering. Whether it’s their Duck Duck Goose taco (twice cooked duck with tamarin sauce), the Jerk Chicken, or the Carolina BBQ taco (pulled pork); the Rum House has a taco for everyone’s taste buds. With over 20 different tacos on the menu, you will be hard pressed to try each of them in a single sitting, but you could very well be tempted too. If you find yourself strolling through the boutique shops of Magazine Street during the afternoon, the Rum House is the place I would suggest stopping by to take a break from your shopping for an hour or two.