My 5 Favorite Spots to Eat in New Orleans

The Delights of an Aspiring Reporter in the Crescent City

Barbecue shrimp is a typical dish in Louisiana, seen her at Palace Cafe.

Barbecue shrimp is a typical dish in Louisiana, seen her at Palace Cafe. (@PalaceCafe)

The Big Easy may have come across difficult times economically, but no one can take anything away from the city’s food.

Perhaps the New Orleans laid-back attitude to life in general is what gives chefs more room to breathe and be creative. The place welcomes partiers, and locals are not fussed about a bit of extra butter, salt, liquor, or whatever else may add to their meals. So many other elements have contributed: the French and Cajun history, the port-city mixing of races and cultures, the proximity to Central America, and the wide variety of seafood available.

Since I had the privilege of living in New Orleans for my first year as a reporter and editor (2010-2011), many people have inquired about what to do in the city. During that time I worked a lot, so I didn’t get to know the nightlife so much, but of course a man has got to eat. Here are the few places I came to frequent and which I try to return to when I attend the New Orleans Investment Conference each year (coming up on November 1-4).

Majoria’s Commerce Restaurant is an old-style diner in the New Orleans CBD. Note the LSU cup alongside the muffulettas.

Majoria’s Commerce Restaurant is an old-fashioned diner in the New Orleans CBD. Note the LSU cup alongside the muffulettas.

1. Majoria’s Commerce Restaurant

This place has changed little in many years, and that is what makes it so great. The owner, Brett, told me that it is often used in film sets for that very reason. He is the son of the original founder, and you can find Brett at the till every day.

Aside from the simple, old-fashioned diner look, the people there always made my day. The main lady would ask me, as I arrived on my lunch break, “Muff with fries?” She knew me too well. That’s a muffuletta, by the way, a staple in New Orleans.

You can find the “original” home of the muffuletta up on Decatur Street at the Central Grocery. They are enormous, so go for the half size. If you want a more conventional lunch in the CBD, there is the RC Cafe next door—formerly Dress It. (They may have dynamite tater tots.)

2. Lüke

Lüke on St. Charles Avenue is a fusion of Creole and European dishes. Where they all come from, I couldn’t tell you, but I used to love the French croque-madame and the more refined atmosphere.

In my time, few people knew of it, and the prices were low for the quality on offer. Lüke has risen in popularity and become pricier, but it is still a solid option for a nicer occasion. It has a ton of seafood to choose from, notably fresh oysters from the Gulf of Mexico.

Celebrity chef John Besh designed and ran Lüke. However, a sexual-harassment scandal in 2017 forced him to step down from managing this one and other restaurants in his group.

new-orleans-croque-madame

The croque-madame is one of the more affordable dishes at Lüke. Even though it wasn’t on the menu last time I was there, they will still make you one if you request it. (@LukeNewOrleans)

3. Felipe’s Mexican Taqueria

Who doesn’t love Mexican? The fact that the French Quarter location is packed at almost all hours is testament to their tasty burritos, chimichangas, tacos, and quesadillas. (I know chimichangas are not real Mexican, but they are too rico to pass up.)

I see that this place has expanded to locations elsewhere in the United States, but you wouldn’t know it was a franchise. When I first went there it was cash only, and I used to practice my Spanish with the workers, who would laugh and struggle to understand.

Felipe's has Tex-Mex nachos and chimichangas, and it is a more affordable option in the French Quarter.

Felipe’s has Tex-Mex nachos and chimichangas, and it is a more affordable option in the French Quarter. (@FelipesNola)

If you are keen on a more authentic Latin-American and less Tex-Mex scene, try Carreta’s Grill in Metairie. This place is actually run by Hondurans, who have a strong presence in the area, but presumably they market their food as Mexican to appeal to gringos.

The most impressive part of Carreta’s is the live music, which used to be every Thursday night. As far as I can tell, they still have that, but perhaps not on a weekly basis. If you don’t know what baile punta is, of the Honduran Caribbean coast, it is a sight to see. It works best with shapeliness and a double-jointed butt.

4. Palace Cafe

This place on Canal Street offers genuine Louisiana Creole dishes, particularly plenty of seafood such as the bouillabaisse. Among New Orleans options, it offers higher-end dining.

My late boss, Kevin Kane, and I used to go there for lunches when the organization was doing well, so it was one of his favorites too.

The Palace Cafe on Canal Street offers about traditional Creole cuisine as you are going to get.

The Palace Cafe on Canal Street offers traditional Creole cuisine. (@PalaceCafe_Nola)

5. Meauxbar

If you have not taken the plunge and tried escargot (snail), Meauxbar—on the edge of the French Quarter—should be one of your stops in New Orleans.

I must admit that Meauxbar is best for drinks with friends, but it has excellent French-oriented food as well. In keeping with New Orleans tradition, the chefs put a great deal of emphasis on creativity and local ingredients.

Crab meat and crispy prosciutto at Meauxbar in the French Quarter. (@MeauxBar)

Crab meat and crispy prosciutto at Meauxbar in the French Quarter. (@MeauxBar)

*New Orleans has countless amazing restaurants, with more popping up all the time. Please do not consider this list to be exhaustive or a ranking.

Fergus Hodgson About Fergus Hodgson

Fergus Hodgson is an economic consultant, media executive, athlete, and traveler. He holds degrees in economics and political science from the United States and New Zealand, and he has lived in eight countries. Follow @FergHodgson.

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