The very first fine dining restaurant I ever visited in my life was Antoine's, when I was 16 years old and visiting N.O. on a school trip. I have always been a fearless gourmet eater, and it all started here - after consuming greedily a large bowl of magic known as "gumbo", I got to the bottom of the bowl only to discover that all the tasty things I had been gobbling down included a half a crab, guts spilling out into the bowl. I didn't care. It was awesome. I don't eat at Antonines every single time I am in NoLa, but about every other. After all, I have to give some other fine dining establishments a chance, too. I have never been disappointed.
If you find yourself in New Orleans in August, when the weather is miserable and even the tourists stay home, you may be fortunate enough to have arrived at a time the locals call "Restaurant Week." This is a marketing ploy to lure in the unsuspecting - the heat and humidity are reminiscent of Rangoon in the rainy season- and it is well worth the serious gourmand's attention. Many of the pricier restaurants around town offer special deals, 3 course pris fix meals at a low low rate - both the Old Guarde Grande Dame establishments, as well as the trendier newcomers.
I have never had a bad meal in NoLa. Never. It is because I read reviews online and carefully plan what and where I will eat. Make sure the calories are worth it. I generally don't like chain restaurants, and often find that the newer flashier places are over-priced and under-quality. It's not that I shun the newer establishments, I just vet them carefully before I spend my $$$. Also, I refuse to stand in a line for pretty much anything - except Preservation Hall - and always make reservations in advance. (I use Open Table and collect reward points.)
Galatoire'sThis most recent trip was my first to Galatoire's in a long time. Reservations got us a quiet table for dinner upstairs, at a window overlooking the clamor below. That's how you do it in NoLa. The downstairs room was for walk-ins and had a long line to get a table. Jackets are required for gentlemen- bring your own or wear theirs. I had : turtle soup (so -so), shrimp cocktail, (excellent), salad w blue cheese (excellent), fresh catch of the day fish (forget what kind) in a Meuniere Almondine sauce (excellent), a couple of Sazeracs (very strong) and could barely waddle out, so no dessert.
I have been eating beignets at Cafe du Monde for over 40 years now, and I never get tired of them. The only unpleasant aspect of dining there is the line, which can be two hours long or more. I recommend visiting in the middle of the night.
Brennan's is credited with inventing eggs benedict and bananas foster. For this reason, it is a popular breakfast or brunch choice for many, and again, reservations are your friend. We skipped a line down the block and walked right in. Fans were devastated a few years back when the family announced it was shutting the venerable institution down. Fortunately, they opened it back up awhile later, and you can eat the same wonderful dishes there just as if it never happened. Rest assured, it is still pretty damn good. For breakfast dessert this year I had fresh local strawberries, currently in season, with mascarpone cheese that were melt in your mouth delightful. And of course, mimosas.
Commander's Palace, or CP- I have to disclaim: I have never eaten here. Many rave about it, but my friends have always said they felt it was over-priced and not that good. Yet it is owned by a member of the Brennan's family. IDK. I list it here as a member of the NoLa Old Guarde Grande Dame restaurants.
Tujague's (pronounced "two jacks", like a hand of cards) is a place I have walked by 100's of times all these years, and never entered. I do not know why. This year I decided to try some of these places I had never been to, expand my repertoire as it were. Glad I did - I had the best gumbo of this trip, as well as a damn fine brisket poboy, and the best Sazerac of the trip (made correctly, with cognac, not whiskey). Also, the best French bread of the trip. All around, it was delightful, and I am glad I finally tried it out. Note: I loaded the dice by reading restaurant reviews online, and ordering food items that others had said were the best offerings. Just FYI: The poboy was huge, husband and I shared one, and were penty full when done.
Court of Two Sisters- Many will decry some of these establishments in the French Quarter as being too touristy or too this or too that. My personal thought is that if a place has been around for a long long time, there must be a reason why. Court of Two Sisters is not your fine gourmet cuisine, upscale dining, or eclectic fusion experimental dishes. Court of Two Sisters is huge buffet of all the favorite Cajun comfort foods, in an all-you -can-eat format. It is a great place to take hungry teens, rowdy kids, family reunions, grandmas and grandpas, or folk who want to try a diverse array of foods for the first time, Their oysters rockefeller may not be the best in the world, but you can try them and see if it is something you might like to try again, later, in a more gourmet establishment. Good place for peel and eat shrimp, gumbo, red beans and rice, jambalaya, etc.
Bourbon House- Pull in here for a brief respite when the crowds on Bourbon St start to drive you nutz. Dinner is pretty good, the oyster bar is great, and their bread pudding is the best in town.
Atchafalaya - We ventured out of the Quarter on our previous visit, and discovered this little gem. Here I had the best shrimp and grits I have ever had in my life, before or since.
These are by no means the only or even the best restaurants in town. These are my faves, and what I know and do not know based on what I like. Stay posted- everytime I go, I try someplace new, and I will let you know what I think.