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Big Easy Eats: The Best Restaurants in New Orleans

One of the top ten restaurant cities in America, New Orleans is famous for its unique and flavorful cuisines. Countless cultural influences provide the city with a multitude of amazing restaurants, which is both wonderful and a bit overwhelming when it comes to choosing where to go. That’s why I’m breaking down what I believe to be the best restaurants in New Orleans. In this post, you’ll find a list of all of my current favorites, along with my picks at each spot, and a link to the menu so you can scope it out yourself! Bon appetit!

Disclaimer: This may come as a shock considering I’m from Louisiana, but I’m not a fan of most seafood and find typical New Orleans cuisine to be pretty heavy, so you won’t find that here. Not to mention the REALLY good southern cooking isn’t something you find at a restaurant, but at your mom or grandma’s house…and don’t get me started on restaurant gumbo.

Plates of food on the table at Gianna Restaurant in New Orleans

Gianna

Modern Italian cuisine-the best I’ve had outside of Italy-which is saying something! I’ve tried just about everything on their brunch and dinner menus and can easily say it’s all delicious. This is my go-to restaurant when we have friends or family in town, want to celebrate a special occasion, or just want some pasta. Their cocktails are also great, most notably the espresso martini, which is the best one in New Orleans in my opinion. You can check out more of my favorite cocktail bars in the city here.

Pro tip: If you’re celebrating a birthday, make sure to tell them when you make the reservation -they’ll add a special note at the top of the menu & bring out a birthday meatball, complete with a candle ☺

My picks: Ciabatta Garlic bread, Ricotta Gnocchi, & butterscotch budino
Menu: Gianna
A plate with an arepa at Maïs Arepas in New Orleans

Maïs Arepas

This authentic Colombian restaurant has great arepas, but the star of the show for me is their maiz de la rueda, aka street corn. If you’ve had street corn before, I can promise it’s never been this good. I highly recommend getting your own order rather than splitting one, you won’t regret it! The arepas are very filling so I wouldn’t recommend getting too much else. This is one of the few restaurants in New Orleans that has an entirely gluten-free menu. Everything is fresh and made to order, so you can expect to be there for a fair amount of time. It’s also small and always packed, so reservations are a must.

*Keep an eye out for the Banksy mural located right across the street, which is one of only three left in the city.

My picks: maiz de la rueda, choriarepa, & a Pineapple Cilantro Margarita
MENU: Maïs Arepas
close up of 3 desserts with a wine pairing at Costera restaurant in New Orleans

costera

If you love Spanish tapas -or great food in general- this is your spot. Costera is another restaurant where you really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. I’m not a fan of seafood but everyone I dine with raves about the scallops here. This is a great spot to go with a larger group so you can order a majority of the menu and share. They also have what might be my favorite dessert in all of New Orleans, the Salted Honey Tart. Their cocktails are really good, but make sure you do a wine pairing with dessert, you won’t be disappointed!

My picks: Griddled Sourdough, Shishito peppers, Roasted mushrooms, Hanger Steak, & Salted Honey Tart
Menu: Costera

Osteria Lupo

Osteria Lupo is the sister restaurant to Costera and one of New Orleans’ newest additions. They specialize in Northern Italian cuisine, including house-made pasta, pizzas, meats, & veggies cooked in the wood-fired oven, and seafood dishes. I HIGHLY recommend doing the tasting menu here if you’re with a group. Not only do you get to try most of the menu this way, but you also get SO much food. We did this with a group of 8 and still had boxes of leftovers to bring home!

My picks: Papardelle Pasta and Diavola Pizza
Menu: Osteria Lupo
close up of a pancakes and a breakfast pizza at Paladar 511 restaurant in New Orleans

Paladar 511

This restaurant in the Marigny serves modern Italian fare with a sprinkle of some very well-done American dishes. I can never decide if I like their brunch or dinner more, they’re both equally delicious and worth a visit. I also love that it’s located just outside the French Quarter, making it convenient to pop over and explore before or after your meal. You’ll definitely want to make a reservation here because it’s a very popular spot. If you’re visiting with a group of 4-6 people request a booth to get the best view of the whole restaurant.

My Picks: Spicy San Marzano Pizza & Papardelle
Menu: Paladar 511
close up of a hummus plate at Shaya restaurant in New Orleans

Shaya

This spot has the most amazing Israeli cuisine. I don’t even bother getting hummus at other restaurants now because it never lives up to Shaya’s. There are usually 4-5 different hummus options on the menu and I’ve yet to have one that wasn’t amazing. It’s served with the warmest, fluffiest pitas as well which are just as delicious. This is a good spot to share hummus and small plates, but I’d say to skip the main course unless you’re still really hungry after that.

They have great cocktails as well which change seasonally, and their happy hour (4:00-6:00 pm) is great for specials on hummus and wine. Be sure to make reservations in advance because it’s a very busy, popular spot. I prefer sitting inside because it has a cozy vibe, but they have a cute outdoor patio with string lights as well.

My pick: Try all the Hummus! But really, get at least 2
Menu: Shaya

Stein’s Market & Deli

As soon as you walk into Stein’s, it feels like you’ve been transported to a local deli in NYC. The sandwiches and bagels are delicious, and the best you’ll find in New Orleans. They also have a great beer selection in the coolers, as well as the room out back (follow the signs outside to the door on the right.) I love that you can grab a mix to make your own 4 or 6-pack, then take them to go and enjoy a drink while you walk along Magazine Street. You can also crack your beer while you wait on your order, just be sure to ask for a cup to drink it in when you checkout.

The owner, Dan Stein, is usually working and known for a New York-esque, no-nonsense attitude, but it’s part of the experience. Don’t get in the way and you’ll be fine! It’s almost always busy here but they move quickly.

My picks: SAF or Reuben & a bag of truffle chips to go with your sammie
Menu: Stein’s

Val’s

This old mechanic shop has been turned into a great spot for tacos and margaritas. The fish taco is so delicious (the best in my opinion) but all their tacos are good. I recommend starting with the chips, guac, & salsa combo and enjoying that with a margarita before ordering tacos since they come out pretty quickly.

Their drinks are on the pricey side, but they have a great happy hour daily from 4:00-6:00. That being said, it’s totally worth splurging on the Mezcal margarita. They have an extensive Mezcal selection here, but if you’re not a Mezcal lover, their frozen margarita is really good. They usually have a different drink special each day as well. Whatever margarita you get, ask for a Tajin rim on it. The entire place is really cute with pink accents and lots of plants so anywhere you sit will be nice, but the best spot is outside on the patio.

My picks: Fish tacos, chips + Guac/salsa, & a mezcal margarita
Menu: Val’s

Blue oak bbq

If you’re looking for the best BBQ in New Orleans this is it. Their smoked wings are amazing, as are the brisket, BBQ nachos, and pulled pork sandwich. For sides get the brussel sprouts (they’re surprisingly good) or the potato salad and add some of their house made Carolina BBQ sauce to it. Getting the banana pudding for dessert is a must and will give you a nice dose of nostalgia. They have a great happy hour Monday-Friday from 3:00-6:00, which includes wings, nachos, sliders, and a few drink specials.

It does get really busy on weekends, so expect a line. If you’re with a group send someone into the bar where you can order drinks to sip on while you wait, then grab seats on the outdoor patio and they’ll bring your order out. It’s located right down the street from City Park, so I would recommend eating here before/after you visit the park. You can hop on the streetcar at the Museum of Art stop (right outside the front of City Park) and ride it a few blocks down to the Dumaine St. stop, then cross the street to Blue Oak BBQ.

My picks: Pulled Pork Nachos & banana pudding
Menu: Blue oak bbq
close up of a two pizzas at Ancora restaurant in New Orleans

Ancora Pizzeria

I know this might sound crazy, but this is my favorite pizza I’ve ever had, and I’ve eaten my fair share in Italy. They make authentic Neopolitan pizza (there are specific rules that have to be followed for this) in a hand-crafted oven made with materials from Mt. Vesuvius-ya know, the one that erupted and buried the city of Pompeii back in 79 AD! They also import a lot of their ingredients from Naples, so needless to say, it’s GOOD.

My picks: Quattro Formaggi & Enzo Diavolo (spicy)
Menu: Ancora

Sofia

I know, I know, more Italian food. But seriously this is another one you can’t miss! They serve handmade pasta (the star of the show) and wood-fired pizzas, with a retro-chic vibe and pop art decor of Sofia Loren, which the restaurant is named after. The best starters are the house ricotta or meatballs; for pasta order alla vodka, pistachio pesto, or risotto; and for pizza try the spicy or mushroom pizzas. Skip the cocktails here and ask for wine pairings to go with your specific orders. Make reservations for a high top and go earlier if possible because it can get really loud inside once it’s busy.

My picks: House ricotta & Alla vodka
Menu: Sofia

If this hasn’t convinced you to book a trip and eat your way through New Orleans, I don’t know what will!

Save this post for future indulgence 👇

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