Updated: Oct 12, 2022
A Culinary Journey in New Orleans
Having the privilege of living in one of the world’s premier culinary towns, has allowed me the opportunity to try many of New Orleans incredible dining experiences. While I have yet to visit everyone of this city’s incredible venues, I have been able to sample a large selection over the years. This week, I would like to share my thoughts on a few of my favorite restaurants within the city’s famous French Quarter. I will try to provide a variety of culinary experiences ranging from casual to fine dining.
This restaurant is easily my favorite, not only within the French Quarter but within the entire city of New Orleans. GW Fins specializes in seafood and offers several dishes that are unique to this restaurant. The Scalibut, a GW Fins original, needs to be mentioned front and center when it comes to this restaurant. The Scalibut is a fresh cut of halibut that is cooked to perfect with sliced scallops seared to the top of the filet. The entire filet is served on top of a shrimp risotto. This is a must try dish for anyone’s first visit to GW Fins. The restaurant does offer many other more traditionally cooked dishes but using uncommon fish selections such as Swordfish, Sheepshead, Rockfish, and Tripletail. You can not go wrong with any item on this menu. In fact, the only challenge will be to resist to urge to try everything at once. Even the appetizers are top tier. I would personally recommend the Yellowfin Tuna tartare to start off with. GW Fins is located right off Bourbon Street, making it easily accessible for all visitors. One thing to keep in mind when visiting this establishment is that, although worth it, the prices here are on the higher end. This restaurant is very clearly on the upper end of the fine dining spectrum to be prepared to dress appropriately and brace to leave with a fuller stomach but emptier wallet.
Brennan’s is another French Quarter restaurant that provides a fine dining experience. Located on Royal Street (2 blocks away from Bourbon), it is also very accessible to visitors. Brennan’s has some menu items that offer local dishes, but this restaurant is where you would go to enjoy a unique twist on traditional dishes. For example, etouffee is either a roux or tomato-based stew that includes either shrimp or crawfish and is served on top of rice. Brennan’s instead offers an octopus etouffee that has a much stronger roux based than you will find in most other restaurants. It is a unique experience that allows this restaurant to standout from others in the area while still providing a flavorful experience. Brennan’s Scallops Veronique also happen to be among the best scallops I’ve tasted at any restaurant. These scallops were seared and seasoned perfectly and served on top of a cauliflower risotto. For dessert, although all items are exquisite, first-time visitors should try out their Banana Foster, banana’s cooked with brown sugar and other spices served on top of vanilla ice cream. Although other restaurants have added this item to their menus, Brennan’s is the originator. As with other fine dining establishments within New Orleans, although they provide a top-quality culinary experience; any patron should expect to spend a substantial amount on a meal here and dress accordingly.
Unlike the previous two restaurants, Mambo’s is a far more casual dining experience but still provides a great culinary experience. Rather than offering unique takes on local Cajun cuisine like Brennan’s, Mambo’s instead offers excellent quality versions of those dishes made in the traditional way. Their menu includes Cajun staples such as Oysters Rockefeller, BBQ Shrimp, Blackened Fish, and a variety of Po-boy sandwiches (a hoagie/sub style sandwich that is made with French bread and commonly uses seafood filling). Another advantage that Mambo’s offers is how late they stay open. If customers continue to come in each night, they tend to keep their doors open. I have had several nights where I enjoyed an incredible meal here at 3 and 4 in the morning, although 2 am is when I see them close most frequently. Although several restaurants in the French Quarter remain open this late, most of them tend to be fast food establishments while Mambo’s offers a casual sit-down restaurant experience. Located in the middle of Bourbon Street, the location makes this restaurant extremely convenient for visitors to this section of the city. Mambo’s is an excellent restaurant to dine at before beginning your Bourbon Street adventure or a way to recharge at the end of the night after bar hopping around Bourbon Street until 2 am.
Café Du Monde:
The final establishment that I will share this week is a staple landmark of New Orleans. Café du Monde is located right in front of the St. Louis Cathedral (anyone who is a fan of Disney’s Princess and the Frog will quickly recognize this landmark). Café du Monde model’s itself as a European style outdoor café that frequently includes live music from street performers who set up shop outside of this café. The menu at Café du Monde is admittedly very limited. It includes a traditional café, a café au lait (coffee with milk), and beignets (fried dough pastries covered in powdered sugar). Although the menu is limited, each item on it is high quality. First time visitors to New Orleans should try to have a coffee at this establishment purely for its iconic status within the city. One important thing to keep in mind though is that due to this iconic status, the wait time to get a coffee can frequently be an hour long with the line stretching several city blocks. Although I do suggest trying to visit here, I would advise against waiting in line if it were overly long. If this is the case, walk around the area and take in some of the local artists who setup shop across the street at Jackson Square or visit the nearby French Market and come back to Café Du Monde later in the day once the line has decreased to a more reasonable wait time. New Orleans offers so much to see, there is no reason to waste time waiting in line for a cup of coffee, no matter how good it is.
New Orleans offers so many amazing culinary adventures and these 4 are just a taste of what can be experienced in this remarkable city. I look forward to sharing not only more restaurants within the French Quarter but also restaurants from other regions of this city. But those are stories for another day…