Louisiana Derby Dining
This list is of my favorite restaurants and bars in New Orleans. They might not be the best but they are where I feel comfortable and go to experience my New Orleans. I know I’m starting multiple arguments by putting this list out because everyone has their own opinions – kind of like horseplayers – but I hope you will enjoy these places as much as I do.
Bud’s Broiler – 500 City Park Ave – Located near the track and across from City Park this is a place James Carville and I used to visit before and after the track some 30 years ago. Still going strong and possibly using the same grease this is a classic. Get a burger and a hot dog – they split it and serve it on a bun and a chocolate milkshake. Won’t be the best you’ve ever had but not the worst either. My wife and I ate here in December of 2016 and it was still as good as I remember – maybe even better than ever.
MoPho –514 City Park Ave – Right across the street from Bud’s Broiler is my new favorite stop on my way to the track. Not for a burger but for some Pho and the very best Asian spiced chicken wings you will ever eat – ever – anywhere. The Pho is fantastic – the beer is cold and on good weather days they open the garage door to let the breeze in but go for the wings and don’t be embarrassed if you want to get a second order – it’s ok and it’s been done before.
Borgne – 601 Loyola in the Central Business District – A new John Besh restaurant that features the freshest food ingredients from around the city. The hunting camp duck poppers are worth the visit. Just a note – any John Besh restaurant is worth a visit. Ate here on New Year’s Eve in 2016 and it was extremely good – still a list maker.
Irene’s Cuisine – 539 St. Phillip – The bar is in what used to be a two-car garage. Nothing more to say except the soft shell crabs are a must order. You will have to wait but it is worth a few drinks. Tried Irene’s in 2016 and there has been no falloff in quality.
Stanley – 547 St. Ann – Located on Jackson Square Boswell’s place for breakfast/lunch/brunch. You will have to wait but go next door and get a bloody mary and set yourself down to a perfect New Orleans breakfast or brunch. Eggs Benedict Po Boy only in New Orleans.
Johnny’s Poboys –511 St. Louis – The name says it all. It’s a joint. Not a dive. Don’t stray too far from the basics like a shrimp po-boy and you will be fine.
Central Grocery – 923 Decatur – For a one of a kind sandwich and service that can be pleasantly insulting get a Muffuletta from Central Grocery and a Barq’s Root Beer. Be warned, a half can feed two and a whole will have you wrapping it up and taking it back to the hotel. Don’t do that – it leaves a mark.
Pascal Manales – 1838 Napoleon – Go for the Bar B Que Shrimp Po Boy and Turtle Soup and Onion Rings. That is all. It is the best and you are welcome.
Katie’s in MidCity – a new spot for me since it is out of the uptown quarter area but well worth the trip. Everything is good here but if you can go for Brunch. Bottomless mimosas and bloody marys. Shrimp and Grits are outstanding as are the andouille grits with cheese. The star is the Oysters Schlessinger which are chargrilled oysters with spinach, shrimp and bacon. Boom. I’ve had a lot of their dishes here and have never had a bad one – a real New Orleans restaurant.
Ruth’s Chris – 525 Fulton Street – for all you high rollers out there – go. Yes, I know there are Ruth’s Chris’ all over the country but did you know they originated in New Orleans and there is nothing like the original. If you hit the superfecta get then get a personal Surf and Turf. That is a lobster and a filet – two entrees not a combo. You deserve it.
Domenica – 123 Baronne at the Roosevelt Hotel – Go for the Roosevelt hotel, which is an old New Orleans hotel redone but eat at this Besh restaurant. The house cured meat and local cheese appetizers are worth the visit as is the Octopus Carpaccio – one of the best dishes I have ever eaten. If you are in town around Passover – they do a Passover menu that is not to be missed. I am not kidding.
Port of Call – 838 Esplanade – the reason to go to Port of Call is for a hangover Monsoon and a greasy burger and they deliver both in large portions. The Monsoon is a perfect remedy for a Hurricane hangover. Best done before 12 and you might have to wait.
Parkway Bakery and Tavern – 538 Hagan Avenue – my favorite around the Fair Grounds restaurant. Get the surf and turf which is a shrimp and roast beef po-boy. I know it sounds a bit off but it is divine. President Obama ate here and so does James Carville. And, yeah, they have a tavern connected to the bakery if you are thirsty while you wait.
Café Beignet – Forget Café Du Monde, – that is for tourists. If you are serious about your eating, and want the best beignets, you go to Café Beignet for your doughnuts and Café du Monde to just watch the people.
Napoleon House – 500 Chartes – they serve the best drink in the world here – the Sazerac. For the prissier of the horsey set try a Pimm’s Cup. This is a drinking place only – do not eat here until you have had 3 or more aforementioned cocktails.
Pat O’Brien’s – 718 St. Peter – home of the Hurricane. Ok, so I have some rules about New Orleans drinking. They are tried and true and should never be violated – no exceptions – just ask Lee Davis. # 1 – Never have a Pat O’s Hurricane after midnight – and there is a limit of 2. A Pete’s Special or my personal favorite – a Purple People Eater is allowed but only until 2 am. # 2 – Beer is allowed at anytime – and I mean anytime like 6am. # 3 – Cocktails are allowed after 2am but stop with the fruit juice and drink like a man – with a little water or straight up # 4 – Never, ever, ever drink a Hand Grenade from Tropical Isle or any other joint. EVER. No exceptions. # 5 – Eat after you finish drinking because the good people of New Orleans love to have drunks eat in their restaurants at 4 am. Or, better yet, take out some Ali Baba next door to Pat O’Brien’s after that last Purple People Eater. # 6 – Never eat a Lucky Dog no matter how drunk you are or how great it looks or smells.
As for Pat O’Brien’s bar go to the front bar – it’s got the best AC on Bourbon Street – good to know when temperature is 95 outside. The piano bar is always fun as well with the dueling pianos. Yes, I know if it for tourists but hey, you’re not a local!
Royal Sonesta Street Bar – 300 Bourbon Street – A great place to start a day – like at 11am. Grab an Abita and a bar stool and watch the people go by on Bourbon Street while you catch a game on the TV. Good people watching place but this is a scotch and water bar – please don’t ask for a frozen margarita or you might get thrown out.
Carousel Bar at Monteleone Hotel – 214 Royal Street – Because the bar goes round and round – that’s what makes this a great bar – that and it is across the street from Mr. B’s Bistro and yeah, I got in a fight here on Election Night one year. Great bar – good times.
Mayfair off St. Charles – 1505 Amelia – I’m not even sure what the address of this place is. All I do know for sure is that they make the strongest drinks in New Orleans. Drinks that will last you an hour or more. It’s off St. Charles behind Superior Grill.
The Columns – 3811 St. Charles – OK, so this isn’t a dive and is kind of not a bar but in March/April it is real nice to get a drink and go sit outside on St. Charles and imagine what the city was like 100 years ago. It’s old and it’s elegant and it’s New Orleans at it’s best.
Cooter Brown’s – 509 South Carrollton – This is uptown bar around the Riverbend and near Camelia Grill – great place for hamburgers and a mocha freeze. My lasting memory of this place is 3 days after Katrina – while riding shotgun in a school bus filled with medical supplies – I saw two good ole boys sitting outside in the heat at Cooter Browns with no electricity, no ice but with huge tubs of hot beer – welcoming anyone who needed a little something to get ‘em through the day. Go here for the beer – try the seasonal Abita – and boiled crawfish on the weekends.
Mahoney’s Po-boys – 3454 Magazine – You will hear about Domileses and others but from uptown folks this is the best place to get a po-boy in New Orleans. The po-boys come in butcher paper because they are so overstuffed with either shrimp or roast beef. There are many options but stick with basics – roast beef or shrimp. The po-boys are so big they could be split for you pansy eaters out there.
Vincent’s –7839 St Charles Ave – This is your typical neighborhood restaurant that everyone has around the country near their neighborhood. What makes this restaurant better than your local joint is that it is in New Orleans and the food would stack up and beat the food in most Italian restaurants around the country yet it is a “locals” place and should not be missed.
Brigtsen’s -723 Dante St – A new addition to the list but an old favorite. Chef Frank Brigtsen is a master at taking comfort food to a higher level. His gumbo may be the best in town and the Shell Beach platter is enough food and enough great food to feed the whole table. A cozy little house keeps this restaurant off the beaten path but if I were you I would beat a path to check out Frank’s food right away.
Herbsaint –701 St Charles Ave – Another restaurant in the running for the best gumbo in the city and there is no doubt that their onion rings are the best and a must order. They seem to have rabbit on the menu as a specialty and it is always prepared perfectly. The gnocchi is one of my favorites but the truth is that at this Donald Link restaurant there are no bad dishes on the menu.