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New Orleans Restaurants: Reviews & Recommendations


chezcherie
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You know, I had the same feeling when I read Brett's piece: it seems to me that restaurants are doing pretty well at the moment, and that we've had a lot fewer closings than I would have expected given the population decrease. I wonder to what extent that has to do with locals eating out more often? I think we're probably past the point where a lack of kitchens absolutely *requires* folks to eat out more, but maybe the habit has stuck?

There are still joints opening pretty regularly. Patois, as you know, is about to open, and I just got an email from a friend touting Anton Schulte's new place, Daisy Bistro. I can't claim to have taken an economic survey, but just from my observations it's a pretty good climate for restaurants these days.

I read somewhere that Smith & Wollensky decided that the New Orleans market wasn't strong enough to re-open their Poydras Street restaurant. I seem to recall that they blamed it on the local economy and so forth. My only response to that would be to point out that Smith & Wollensky sucked, and that's the main reason why they couldn't sell freaking steaks in the middle of the CBD. They should have had lawyers and accountants and any number of professionals lining up to pay them lots of money for beef. What a pity.

Oh, and I think you missed Grand Isle as another of the "new" restaurants.

Edited by Robert Peyton (log)
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I think the answer to your question depends on where in NOLA a person lived. Many of us patronize neighborhood restaurants that aren't "destination" dining, yet still capture a fair portion of our food budgets. I'm thinking of corner poboy shops, pizza joints, hot-wings-n-shrimp-fried-rice outlets, smaller boiled seafood vendors, convenience stores w/lunch counters, coffee shops w/sandwiches, etc. If these places disappeared from your Gentilly Woods, NO East, Mid-City, Lakeview, or other neighborhood, perhaps you're driving farther afield to dine out than pre-K.

For example, MeMe's market (on Canal Blvd) made pretty good poboys before it got flooded out, Plantation Coffeehouse had pastries/snacks, and Lakeview Fine Foods sold a bunch of take-home meals stuff. None would rank as a restaurant in any official count except the Board of Health's food outlet licensing numbers. So if you have returned to Lakeview and your old spots aren't open, maybe you're driving into downtown now, or heading up Vets. I know that this shift in population has impacted my dining out, and I don't even reside in a flooded area. I frequented the Pho Tau Bay in Fat City a couple times a month when I found myself in the area; it's gone, so I don't hit that neighborhood for errands/shopping as much as I once did (I can get the same stuff on the Westbank, so I've shifted my travel routes & dining destinations).

Another factor that might be driving some of the dining out is the limited access to grocery stores in the larger Lakeview/lakefront area. Meme's, Lakeview Fine Foods, Roberts...all are still closed. So perhaps a larger proportion of this fairly affluent neighborhood has increased its dining out because it's easier than driving to other areas to buy groceries?

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Let me throw out another data point (I've got some theories and ideas, but for the moment let me just toss this out there).

Just before the storm, Pableaux Johnson published Eating New Orleans. If you don't have it, get it. It has great stories and descriptions of New Orleans restaurants and serves as a snapshot of where things stood before the storm.

He lists 116 restaurants. Of those, 11 or 12 are still closed (I'm not sure if The Pearl is open). That means 90.5% of the restaurants are still open.

Here are the closed places:

Dooky Chase (should open any week now)

Resaurant Mandich

Uglesich's (closed for reasons unrelated to Katrina)

Gabrielle

Ruth's Chris

Cobalt

Lulu's in the Garden

René Bistro

Sid-Mar's of Bucktown

St. Roch

The Pearl (or maybe not, I'm not sure)

Barrow's Shady Inn

If he were writing the book today, are there 12 restaurants to reasonably replace these loses? Places that opened since the storm? (Keeping in mind that he limits himself to New Orleans) How about these:

Cochon

Iris

Lüke

Grand Isle

Sucré

La Divina Gelateria (he includes a section on desserts with Sophie's and Creole Creamery)

The Grill Room (he doesn't include it as fine dining, but with Greg Sonnier there I bet he would)

Savvy Gourmet

La Boca

Delachaise

Vizard's

Li'l Dizzy's

Minnie Catfish

That's 13. So what does that mean? I guess I agree with Fitzmorris, more or less. He says the number of "restaurants" is slightly higher than before the storm. I would say the number of restaurants that people talk about, that get press and attention, is stable. Does that mean that restaurants or the restaurant scene are healthy? Not necessarily. I've still mulling over the "health" question, but I thought that I would throw those numbers out.

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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I enjoyed a Katrina-anniversary special called "Back to New Orleans" last night on a satellite station. Deacon John was a great spokesperson for the comeback and his candor, freshness and genuine enthusiasm and love for his hometown made me re-double my determination to get down there, not only to support them but to render my own soul complete. Vive la Nouvelle Orleans! Laissez les bon temps roulez! And I don't just mean partying . . I mean the "good times" and all that implies in quality of life. We love you guys. Take heart and know that.

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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Another thought about this issue: the huge nosedive in population isn't evenly spread across the socioeconomic spectrum....we've lost a HUGE number of the very poor and a substantial number of upper middle/slightly wealthy folks. So perhaps the post-storm demographics favor certain kinds of restaurants?

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  • 2 weeks later...

I meant to get back to this topic sooner. Sorry about that.

Let's take a look at a press release [note: pdf] from the Louisiana Restaurant Association. They cite "the number of licenses issued in

the three parishes" by the Department of Health and Hospitals through August 7, 2007. These numbers should capture all establishments legally serving food. Here is the info:

Orleans Parish: 2,116 pre-storm vs. 1,462 as of August 2007 = 69% reopened

Jefferson Parish: 1,557 vs. 1,465 = 94%

St. Bernard: 219 vs. 86 = 39%

Now, compare those numbers to the most recent population numbers from the Brookings Institute [note: another pdf] (current as of July 2007):

Orleans Parish: 67.6% of pre-K population

Jefferson Parish: 98.3%

St. Bernard: 36.5%

So the percentage of reopened restaurants in each parish seems to closely track the population recovery.

I agree with Fitzmorris that DHH numbers include many places that we wouldn't call restaurants (hospitals, gas stations), but I don't think that point is relevant. They included these numbers before the storm as well. The criteria for the data hasn't changed. Unless there is evidence that places that like gas stations selling hot dogs have been much slower to return than other types of food establishments, there is no reason to assume that overall percentages would change if we could weed out these kinds of places.

So what does this all mean? I don't know. The types of restaurants that get covered in guide books, a category that appears relatively stable numberswise, skews towards the higher prices. Perhaps the population is wealthier now and better able to support them. Perhaps these places are more likely to hang on for non-economic reasons, so they're willing to operate in the red for longer than other places.

Thoughts?

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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Thank you thank you thank you for the real apples-to-apples comparison of all food outlets w/Board of Health certificates, before and after the storm. Makes perfect sense that they're tracking the population figures. Does DHH classify the licenses into categories? That might reveal some interesting things, too.

Deep pockets survive trying times, as do family operations that can rely on free labor or in-kind services from a large social network, or an extremely dedicated clientele.

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Thank you thank you thank you for the real apples-to-apples comparison of all food outlets w/Board of Health certificates, before and after the storm.  Makes perfect sense that they're tracking the population figures.  Does DHH classify the licenses into categories?  That might reveal some interesting things, too.

Deep pockets survive trying times, as do family operations that can rely on free labor or in-kind services from a large social network, or an extremely dedicated clientele.

You're more than welcome.

I don't know if the licenses are broken down by category. I'll try to find out.

Good point about deep pockets and family operations. My guess would be that a chef owned restaurant is likely to try harder to survive. If you've put your heart into a restaurant and see it as, in some way, a personal expression, then you're likely to hang on and hope that things improve. If you're just putting out lunches for the masses, your probably more likely to seek a new business if that's not turing a profit.

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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Since a fair number of displaced folks moved to other parts of LA, I wonder if new restaurants are opening in the areas with the greatest number of new residents (like St. Tammany, Ascension Parish, Tangiphoa, etc)?

I spoke to the Louisiana Restaurant Association about this. The DHH, unfortunately, doesn't have numbers for St. Tammany from before the storm. They're going to get me the current numbers, but it looks like we can't make the same comparison.

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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I've looked at the current threads for Louisiana several times over the past few weeks and haven't seen any one thread that answers my question(s), so I'm going to start a new thread. If I've missed an older thread that did supply the answers to my questions, I apologize for being redundant and if you point me to the older thread, I'll read through it.

I'm going to be in New Orleans for a 2 day meeting over the last weekend in October. It's a meeting of smallish volunteer organization that draws members from around the country (we have a national meeting 2x/year). I think the number of people attending will be around 25-30 people. There's a variety of food preferences--some people are adventurous and will be looking forward to this meeting partly because it'll give them a chance to sample food in a city internationally known for its food and restaurants. Others are (I believe) more conservative and prefer a more meat & potatoes meal. We'll be staying in a hotel in what I'm told is the business district (I've never been to NO)--the hotel is on 300 Canal Street. I mention that because if the area's ok, some of us might want to walk to wherever we're eating. I think the price range is probably from $35 to $55/person (not including tip) although I suppose I could be overestimating what people are willing to spend. I believe our per diem is $50/person so possibly the majority may want to limit their meal cost accordingly. I'd guess that means staying in the middle range of restaurants (I hope it doesn't mean only low end places, although if they're good, it doesn't matter). We have only one evening (Saturday) where we can choose where to eat--the other evening is catered by the hotel or someone as are all other meals.

For the last meeting, we (the administrator and I) came up with three restaurants for people to choose from. The three suggested offered a reasonable variety of types of food (Indian, Italian and M&P), people let the administrator know where they wanted to go, she made reservations, and people seemed happy with a greater choice of places to eat than had been offered at prior conferences.

I'd like to reproduce this success in New Orleans if that's possible (with all that I've heard about NO's food & chefs, it's difficult to believe it's not possible)--or at least I hope that with the assistance of eGulleteers I can. That's who helped me out with suggestions for the last conference.

Within walking distance (for me, that'd be a half mile or more, if it's a safe area to walk at night but that might be more than some people would want to do) isn't an absolute limitation. I like to walk, especially after I've been traveling, but within cab distance is fine too. Say a 1-5 mile radius? I'm looking for about 5-7 sitdown restaurants, that offer meals within the price range I've listed above, and ranging from offering meat/steak & potatoes style food or what's sometimes referred to as traditional American (although it seems like sort of a misnomer to me), to whatever foods New Orleans is best at in your opinion. I like fish, shellfish, except for mussels & oysters, and I enjoy spicy foods, but I'm not that big a meat eater although other attendees might enjoy a good barbecue place (that's three types of food already).

I don't know if time of eating makes a difference, if it does I think it'd be around 7:30-8pm.

Any suggestions you can offer will be much appreciated.

Azurite

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might not be in walking distance of Canal unless it is still daylight but you cannot go wrong with Cochon. Uptown I would have tos ay Jacques-Imos or Dantes. Hopefully TAprice or Robert Peyton can supply some more choices. Enjoy.

Edited by chickenfriedgourmet (log)
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I've looked at the current threads for Louisiana several times over the past few weeks and haven't seen any one thread that answers my question(s), so I'm going to start a new thread.  If I've missed an older thread that did supply the answers to my questions, I apologize for being redundant and if you point me to the older thread, I'll read through it.

I'm going to be in New Orleans for a 2 day meeting over the last weekend in October.  It's a meeting of smallish volunteer organization that draws members from around the country (we have a national meeting 2x/year).  I think the number of people attending will be around 25-30 people.  There's a variety of food preferences--some people are adventurous and will be looking forward to this meeting partly because it'll give them a chance to sample food in a city internationally known for its food and restaurants.  Others are (I believe) more conservative and prefer a more meat & potatoes meal.  We'll be staying in a hotel in what I'm told is the business district (I've never been to NO)--the hotel is on 300 Canal Street.  I mention that because if the area's ok, some of us might want to walk to wherever we're eating.  I think the price range is probably from $35 to $55/person (not including tip) although I suppose I could be overestimating what people are willing to spend.  I believe our per diem is $50/person so possibly the majority may want to limit their meal cost accordingly.  I'd guess that means staying in the middle range of restaurants (I hope it doesn't mean only low end places, although if they're good, it doesn't matter).  We have only one evening (Saturday) where we can choose where to eat--the other evening is catered by the hotel or someone as are all other meals.

For the last meeting, we (the administrator and I) came up with three restaurants for people to choose from.  The three suggested offered a reasonable variety of types of food (Indian, Italian and M&P), people let the administrator know where they wanted to go, she made reservations, and people seemed happy with a greater choice of places to eat than had been offered at prior conferences. 

I'd like to reproduce this success in New Orleans if that's possible (with all that I've heard about NO's food & chefs, it's difficult to believe it's not possible)--or at least I hope that with the assistance of eGulleteers I can.  That's who helped me out with suggestions for the last conference.   

Within walking distance (for me, that'd be a half mile or more, if it's a safe area to walk at night but that might be more than some people would want to do) isn't an absolute limitation.  I like to walk, especially after I've been traveling, but within cab distance is fine too.  Say a 1-5 mile radius?  I'm looking for about 5-7 sitdown restaurants, that offer meals within the price range I've listed above, and ranging from offering meat/steak & potatoes style food or what's sometimes referred to as traditional American (although it seems like sort of a misnomer to me), to whatever foods New Orleans is best at in your opinion.  I like fish, shellfish,  except for mussels & oysters, and I enjoy spicy foods, but I'm not that big a meat eater although other attendees might enjoy a good barbecue place (that's three types of food already). 

I don't know if time of eating makes a difference, if it does I think it'd be around 7:30-8pm. 

Any suggestions you can offer will be much appreciated. 

Azurite

If your staying at the Doubletree, you exit your hotel onto Tchopitoulas street, go left and walk about 7 blocks to Cochon. Emeril's is on the way. The Grill Room at the Windsor Court is next door, Restaurant August is catycornered across the street, the French Quarter is across Canal Steet and is very walkable from where you are.

For the best free thing to do in the City, walk down to the ferry and ride the ferry across the Mississippi, it is free for pedestrians and has the best view of the City from the water. Take a cab out Magazine street to La Divina Gelateria, the best in town. To go to Cafe du Monde for coffee and beignets, touristy but a lot of fun, exit your hotel onto Tchopitoulas, take a right and walk across Canal Street into the Quarter and keep going on Decatur until you reach Jackson Square, Cafe du Monde is across the street from Jackson Square.

You are in a very walkable part of New Orleans. Oh, I forgot, go to Cafe Adelaide in the Lowe's Hotel on Poydras and St Peter, the street on the river side of your hotel. That is where the Swizzle Stick Bar is located.

You have lots of options within walking distance, even Mothers is only 2 blocks away.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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St Tammany has definitely added restaurants. At least it seems so to me. I lived uptown Pre K and Abita now, but the rest of my family has been on the north shore for ages. The choices for north shore residents have certainly increased and this completely coincides with population. St. Tammany has been adding restaurants steadily for years, but post storm it seems like it is happening faster. There are new Thai places, New Orleans expansions (we now have a R&Os and Mandina's and if the new shopping center off of 1-12 ever gets built we will have a Ruth's Chris), several new chains, and some neighborhood type joints.

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Thanks, cfg & joiei, for your suggestions! Joiei, your suggestion about taking the ferry sounds wonderful. I don't know if I'll have time to try it, but I know of two other people who are going down before the meeting starts, so they'll have a free day or part of the day, so I'll pass on your ferry suggestion to them.

azurite

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Sorry to be slow to weigh in on this.

I wouldn't bother with barbecue. New Orleans is the one pocket of the south where barbecue is just not a big factor.

Just to get you oriented, Canal Street is the edge of the French Quarter. On the other side is the Central Business District. Also, at that point the Warehouse District is just a few block away. (Those neighborhoods get closer as you get closer to the river.)

Joiei had some good suggestions, but it sounds like August, the New Orleans Grill Room and Emeril's might be out of your price range.

Here are just a few suggestions for that area that should be in the price range:

Bayona: Contemporary American. Upper end of the price-range, but cheaper as lunch (that goes for most places, I guess).

Café Du Monde: nothing but beignets and coffee, but it's super cheap and a great experience.

Coop's Place: a bar with some good jambalaya and other local food. Fried chicken can be good.

GW Fins: a fish spot. Good and on the higher end, but have much to do with the local traditions. Less adventurous eaters who like fish would like it.

This is just off the top of my head. There are lots of good places in the French Quarter, and certainly more options if people want to spend more.

Central Business District:

Luke: This is John Besh's new brasserie. Good food. Think French brasserie food. Relaxed.

Grand Isle: part of the Harrah's hotel complex, but run by a local. Lots of fried seafood, po-boys. I've had good meals there. Great turtle soup.

Warehouse District:

Cochon: New-fangled decor with old-style Cajun. Lots of pork.

Rio Mar: Spanish/Latin American fish. Excellent chef and mid-priced.

La Boca: An Argentine steak house from the owner of Rio Mar. Also excellent and well-price (although higher, because steak is higher).

How many places did you need?

I'm not much help on meat and potatoes. Not sure where to send those folks.

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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Thanks, TAPrice, for your suggestions. Maybe a few more? Although I'm already intrigued by the idea of getting to sample Latin American/Spanish food . Or maybe one of two of your other suggestions . . .

Bayona, the contemporary American place you mentioned and/or La Boca might work well for people who really prefer beef or steak. I think that if I offer a fair variety then after that, it's up to the administrator to deal with anyone really fussy.

I only wish we didn't spend most of our time in meetings. At least this time I won't be frazzled because I've flown from west to east, but will have taken the train from NY to NO, so plenty of time to adjust to the time difference between the two cities plus it's east to west so the time change is helpful to me (not an early riser by preference).

Thanks again to everyone who's posted.

azurite

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  • 2 weeks later...

No Idea. It is not like there is a giant Asian population. Though we did get some folks from The East post K. Where as it is evident that the Latin population has grown just like everywhere else, I have not seen the same situation in the Asian population.

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No Idea. It is not like there is a giant Asian population. Though we did get some folks from The East post K. Where as it is evident that the Latin population has grown just like everywhere else, I have not seen the same situation in the Asian population.

I think that it has alot to do with a minor population shift and even more to do with the fact that, for a very long time, Asian on the Northshore has been lacking and this issue was identified by the business owners of these places. Sure, Trey Yuen, especially in it's hayday, was a great place to eat (it still can be if you order right, but it's not as good as it was when the brothers were running the places every day full time), but, beyond that, it was just a bunch of very mediocre kinds of places. A couple of old, not very good, but ok, places that haven't moved or changed in years, a couple of sushi places that have been open for a long time but aren't anything remarkable, and a series of places that opened and closed in pretty short order.

Also, it's probably pretty helpful that these places are set up and do, pretty well, to-go stuff. As the population shifts and gets younger, there is much more of a demand for that kind of thing. After all, with the traffic situation in most of the Covington/Mandeville area, sometimes it's alot easier for one person to just go get something to eat for everyone than it is to pile the whole fambly into the car and go out.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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