6 Inspiring New Orleans Restaurants at the Top of My Vacation Eating List

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We’ve partnered with OpenTable to highlight some of our favorite restaurants across the country, from neighborhood gems making a difference in their communities to the inspiring spots we’re excited to travel for. Like us, OpenTable is proud to support restaurants making a difference with their Open Kitchen initiative. Here, we share our picks for New Orleans.

I have been hearing people talk about how much they love New Orleans—the food, the jazz, the history, that unmistakable architecture—for what seems like, well, forever. I don’t know what took me so long, but after years of just hearing about it, I’m finally going to get to experience it for myself. After the holiday rush, my parents (plus our little black Maltese-Poodle, Lucy) and I will be making the drive from South Florida (say a prayer for me) all the way up to the Big Easy to spend a few days eating as much as humanly possible. But since I’m a planner when it comes to any vacation, I’ve already got a lineup of uniquely NOLA spots to visit all mapped out.

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With some help from the Food52 team and some internet sleuthing, I discovered a few spots that are not only doing great work in the kitchen, but also outside of it—which makes me that much more excited to support them. I’m talking restaurants that emphasize sustainability and local ingredients over what’s easiest to come by, support the communities they call home outside of serving a good meal, or are owned or operated (in many cases, both!) by inspiring female chefs.

Below, check out the list of feel-good New Orleans eateries I plan to visit during my trip. Did I miss anything I can’t leave the city without trying? Tell me about them in the comments!

Seaworthy

It wouldn’t be a trip to the Gulf Coast without trying a bit of the local catches. That’s why I’m heading to Seaworthy, which exclusively serves wild-caught and sustainably harvested oysters, as well as local fish. I plan on pairing up a few dozen fresh Louisiana oysters and ceviche with the bar’s special punch of the day; it’s the perfect pre-dinner or lunch bite.

The Country Club

Set in the Bywater, “a vibrant, artsy neighborhood,” according to Food52 team member, Mollie Doherty, The Country Club offers up one of NOLA’s most fun ways to spend a weekend morning: drag brunch. Swing by on a Saturday or Sunday (you will definitely need a reservation) for a full Bloody Mary bar, classic brunch options with a local twist, and a drag show Mollie guarantees you’ll be raving about for months on end.

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Compère Lapin

Up near the top of my list is Compére Lapin, which is led by Chef Nina Compton, who became the first black woman to win the James Beard Award for the South’s Best Chef this year. The menu draws inspiration from her Caribbean roots and local ingredients, as well as the city’s culinary heritage. One menu item I’m eyeing: spiced pig ears with a smoked aioli.

Brennan’s

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Opened in 1946, this classic French Quarter spot supports a number of local non-profit organizations throughout the year. It’s also the birthplace of Bananas Foster (I’ll have three, please) and considered a New Orleans fine-dining landmark (it’s casually housed in an 18th-century mansion). I’ve already made a reservation here for brunch (it fills up fast!), and I’ve got my eye on the decadent Eggs Cardinal (lobster with black truffle hollandaise, anyone?) and the Cajun Bloody Mary with pickled okra.

Bayona

Chef Susan Spicer has been cooking creative, globally inspired cuisine (like Mississippi rabbit roulade and grilled teriyaki squid) in this popular French Quarter spot for almost three decades. She’s also one of the city’s most inspiring—and badass—chefs. Back in 2010, she filed a class-action lawsuit against BP in response to the negative economic and environmental effect of the Gulf Coast oil spill.

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Toups Meatery

Born and raised in Rayne, Louisiana, the chef behind Toups Meatery—Isaac Toups—is at the forefront of modern Cajun cooking. His family has called South Louisiana home for over 300 years, so the food (in-house cured meats and Gulf shrimp, for starters) is not only deeply rooted in Cajun traditions (and heavily influenced by both of his grandmothers), but the ingredients are also sourced from local vendors.

In partnership with OpenTable, we’re excited to share some of our favorite tried-and-true restaurants that are doing right by the community. For more delicious recommendations around the country, stay tuned for our locals-approved picks for the Bay Area and New York City. But before you plan your big night (or breakfast, lunch, or brunch!) out, don’t forget to make a reservation using OpenTable—there’s nothing worse than putting your name on a two-hour waitlist.

Photo by Eric Gross/Flickr.

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