If you're headed for the Big Easy, you probably know to bring your appetite.
And you can count on a wide variety of options to suit any craving you have during your stay. Historical sites serve traditional French and Cajun dishes influenced by the regional seafood. Then there are the trendy new spots that have built up a following based on a fresh approach to food. Whatever you're in the mood for, the best New Orleans restaurants have you covered. And we've taken a look at some of the most popular among them. Keep reading to find out why visitors and locals alike won't hesitate to recommend.
The Best New Orleans Restaurants for a Perfect Big Easy Trip
New Orleans is a destination often associated with parties and overindulgence. But you don't have to overdo it to have a great meal. Maybe you want some classic southern cuisine. Perhaps it's the creole classics that keep you coming back. But no matter where you choose, the best New Orleans restaurants emphasize taste and quality.
1. Willie Mae's Restaurant
Fried chicken is a staple in the south and beyond. And Willie Mae's is a local institution based on its staff's expert preparation. If you've tried it, you know it's special. But if not, prepare for a mouth watering experience.
This spot is located off of the beaten path a bit, though it's not too far for devotees. You'll appreciate the passion that goes into creating all of the scratch made recipes. And each piece of fried chicken is perfectly crispy and juicy. Service and ambiance reflect the local attitudes and culture. And the food embodies New Orleans attention to hospitality and community. Of course, with any of the best New Orleans restaurants, it all boils down to the food. You're likely to find locals and frequent visitors who point to Willie Mae's as the best fried chicken in town. Some fans might even say it's the best they've ever had.
A frequent favorite among the best New Orleans restaurants are po boys. They are easy and affordable ways to fill up on fresh, local food. And if you've had one from Parkway, you know they're much more than just sandwiches. In fact, the same high quality seafood and other ingredients from more expensive spots are in generous supply.
Whether you're looking for a quick and portable lunch or you choose to sit and enjoy it, stop by. But prepare for a wait, especially during peak dining hours. You can often tell a lot about a restaurant by the traffic it gets. So when you see folks lining up throughout the building to order, you know it's something special.
One of our favorite restaurants is located in the famed French Quarter section of the Big Easy. You might recognize it from its unique awnings. Perhaps you've heard about the delectable brunch regularly served at Brennan's. And chances are, it will live up to your expectations or even exceed them.
For starters, it's located on beautiful property with incredible views and ambiance. You can dine with a view of the quaint courtyard. There's even a pond on the premises with some friendly turtles swimming or walking nearby. But since you're there to eat, suffice it to say you really can't go wrong. Everything is chef inspired and created for the perfect tastes and flavor combinations. Order what you like, whether during brunch or dinner, and count on a perfect preparation. And you can end your experience with an order of bananas Foster, which will be torched right at the table. It is a great way to finish a meal and reflects the restaurant's dedication to freshness and quality.
Here's another restaurant that has figured out how to capture the local charm with its own spin. Clancy's is located in the uptown area amid a range of historic and beautiful homes. And it fits right in with its fragrant rooms and creole decor touches. Plus, its formal atmosphere sets it apart from some of the other restaurants in town. Waitstaff is clad in tuxedos and make all guests feel important and pampered.
Be sure to make a reservation to receive some of the finest service around -- not to mention food. There is ample choice on the menu, which is based around the fresh seafood caught nearby. But the specialty is soft shell crab. If you've had this delicacy prepared perfectly, you know how great it can be. And if you haven't yet tried Clancy's, you're in for a treat. Choose yours prepared in almost any way you choose. Then pair it with an aged bourbon to really join in the cultural celebration.
At first glance, this might appear to be a standard seafood restaurant. But the food is anything but standard. Sure, you'll see common items like fried seafood and oysters prepared anyway you want. An incredible gumbo, alligator and other specialties elevate the course options even more. But whatever you choose is prepared with precision and recipes handed down over years.
Then there are the po boy sandwiches, which are arguably among the best in the area. And the best New Orleans restaurants have some unique features. One of our favorites at the Harbor Seafood is the adjacent seafood shop. Love the fish you ordered? Interested in the shrimp a nearby table seemed to enjoy? Just pick up a bag of your favorites and take it home with you to prepared yourself. It's possible you won't be able to recreate the subtle and savory flavors of the expert preparations. But the quality and freshness speaks for itself.
6. Toups' Meatery
Maybe you could tell from the name, but this eatery is all about meats. But it's also made and served in a uniquely New Orleans atmosphere. Try the pork chops with dirty rice for a Cajun alternative on a popular dinner. And the meats served here are cured in house to create the perfect robust and full flavor. There is plenty of variety on the menu prepared from methods proven to give you succulent, tender bites.
You can also opt for seafood, including a crab recipe created with pineapple and peppers. There are two different locations in the area, including Toups' South. That one might be worth the drive if you're also interested in dining history. It happens to be located within the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. And with its expertise in the field, it makes sense that it would have a spot in that revered destination.
Another more formal option is Galatoire's, which has been around for much more than a century. You'll want to dress the part when you pay a visit to this delectable dining establishment. Find many of the classic dishes you might immediately associate with the region. Pick from popular options like pompano fish topped with crab meat or a tasty shrimp remoulade. It's all served to you in an elegant atmosphere that helps cement its status as one of the best New Orleans restaurants.
And if you feel like a great meal during the day, get a seat for its Friday lunch. This is a fun time, but be forewarned that it gets crowded. No matter when you go, its location on Bourbon Street gives you an authentic experience. Plus, the expert staff will guide you through the process. New to Galatoire's or New Orleans in general? Let your server explain some of the dishes and guide you toward the right meal. No matter how good it sounds when it's described, chances are the taste will far exceed your expectations.
8. Vincent's Italian Cuisine
We'll end our list of the best New Orleans restaurants with an option for fans of Italian cuisine. Of course, it has a clear Gulf Coast influence. But you can also count on the old world hospitality of owners and loyal staff. In fact, don't be surprised if you see regular guests greeted with a kiss on the cheek. Many of the servers have been around for generations and make sure to get it right.
You'll be treated like a member of the family. And that's all well and good, but what about the food? It's prepared with plenty of love and lots of expertise. This place does some great things with crab, including a delicious bisque and a great fresh salad. Choose some light gelato to end the meal on a sweet note. Whether you're craving an Italian dish or just want some fresh local fare, Vincent's has you covered.
It can be difficult narrowing down a list of the best New Orleans restaurants.
With so much great and diverse food available all over the place, it's hard to go wrong. But there are a few places that have clearly attracted a strong base of loyal fans. And we hope our guide has helped narrow down you search for incredible food in the Big Easy.
If so, share this article with the travelers in your life. And leave us a comment below if you have any final thoughts or questions.