Alright ladies and gents, allow me to take an aside to write about another great way (besides strip clubs) to spend your money: food. Truthfully, it’s debatable how good our strip club scene really is; I personally think it’s overhyped. Our restaurant scene, however, is not up for debate. We have some of the best food in the country.
I get emails from people coming into town asking where they should have their bachelor party. Or what clubs to visit. Or which stripper delivery service to use. I always tell them New Orleans is so much more than a strip club/bar destination. Get out and enjoy the city; don’t just hang out in French Quarter bars. But if you can’t leave downtown – don’t fall victim to the tourist traps.
So for those of you visiting New Orleans, I present you a list of restaurants conveniently located near Bourbon Street and downtown NOLA – so it’s just a quick walk to the strip clubs after your meal. I’ll also throw in a few local joints. Everyone wants to know where to eat in New Orleans, so here’s your answer from a fellow New Orleans strip clubber!
NOTE: Mouse over the images for descriptions, and click for bigger photo. Just FYI.
First, the Oyster Joints
Did you really think I wouldn’t talk oysters on a strip club blog? Because the Quarter has some great oyster restaurants! Felix’s, Acme Oyster House, Bourbon House and Deanie’s are all located on the same street, on Iberville (near Penthouse Club). Desire Oyster Bar is further up on Bourbon. Of those, Bourbon House has the best food, but is pricier than the others. They have a great raw oyster bar, but if you don’t like ’em raw, get the Oysters Bordelaise. They’ve also got $5 small plates everyday from 4:00pm-6:00pm (and half-price oysters). This is a seafood restaurant, so stick with seafood. The Fruits de Mer—an assortment of shucked oysters with caviar, Gulf shrimp, seasonal seafood salads, mussels, and marinated crab fingers—is a popular starter. Bourbon House is also known for its extensive collection of small-batch and single-barrel bourbons. Speaking of bourbon, get the Bourbon Milk Punch for dessert. (You’ll thank me later.)
Acme Oyster House is more of a fried seafood joint. I always get the Peacemaker Po-Boy (half shrimp, half oyster). Everyone will tell you to get the chargrilled oysters – and they’re right. Buttery, cheesy and delicious. Remember, go to the one on 724 Iberville Street. Do NOT go to the one at Harrah’s; Harrah’s could screw up anything, including Acme. If you go to Deanie’s, order the seafood & okra gumbo and boiled shrimp (or their BBQ Shrimp). Deanie’s is another fried seafood-type place (although their boiled seafood and crawfish is also good), but I’ll admit Deanie’s is my least favorite of the restaurants mentioned.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, there’s always the option of walking down Poydras Street to Drago’s (Hilton Riverside). I think half of the customers only go for the charbroiled oysters, which are famous locally. Their stuffed lobster is supposed to be good, too. (Full disclosure: I’ve heard the Metairie restaurant is WAY better than the Hilton restaurant; if you go to the Poydras location, I’d stick with the oysters – raw or charbroiled.)
Drago’s food is good. Better than Acme and Deanie’s, but not as elegant as Bourbon House. People swear by the oysters, so you owe it to yourself to check it out.
So, what else is on Bourbon?
Let’s say you’re too lazy to even leave Bourbon Street. You have options! But understand those options are expensive options; never go to Bourbon Street looking for a bargain.
Galatoire’s and Antoine’s are two of NOLA’s most historic restaurants. Galatoire’s is conveniently located on Bourbon, and Antoine’s is right off it on St. Louis. Are they expensive? Yes. Are they overpriced? Yes. Is the food, maybe, a little bit overrated? You bet. But if you’re looking for a true New Orleans “dining experience” – you should start at those places. (FWIW, I think Galatoire’s food is better than Antoine’s.)
Red Fish Grill has some of the best food on Bourbon, at least I think. Their BBQ Oysters are incredible (so is their BBQ Oyster Po-Boy for lunch). If you go for dinner, I’d suggest the Creole Marinated Gulf Shrimp, the Yellowfin Tuna (rare!), and the Double Chocolate Bread Pudding for dessert. This place is also on the pricier side, especially their dinner entrées, so let’s find some cheaper ones.
If you like burgers, most people will point you toward Bayou Burger, since it’s really the only “burger place” on Bourbon. I’ve never been, so I can’t vouch for it (and probably wouldn’t if I did go). Personally, I like Krystal Burger. Nothing soaks up the booze better than Krystal minis! Of course, you could also get a burger at one of the many bars. NOLA’s best burger joints are outside downtown/CBD.
If you like seafood, Oceana Grill is the big dog on Bourbon (well, technically on Conti). It’s OK. Nothing great. Basically fried seafood plus some Cajun/Creole dishes like gumbo, étouffée, etc. They serve po’boys for lunch like everyone else. (NOTE: Olde N’awlins Cookery, also on Bourbon, is owned by Oceana Grill. I thought the food was pretty good, but also found it overpriced for what it is.)
The last Bourbon Street restaurant I’ll name is Remoulade (which is owned by Arnaud’s). I’ve never been to Remoulade, but Arnaud’s is a classic. Anyway, not the most creative menu… BBQ Shrimp, Stuffed Crabs, Blackened Catfish and stuff you can find just about anywhere. But it’s worth a try, I guess.
Q: I’d actually like to get away from Bourbon, but don’t want to wander too far from my hotel downtown.
You’re in luck. Palace Café, one of my personal favorites, is right on Canal Street. They have great lunch specials for under $10, and their turtle soup is some of the best I’ve ever tasted – even better than Commander’s turtle soup. It’s a (Dickie) Brennan’s restaurant, so the Bananas Foster is a must if you’ve never had it. The restaurant is also famous for its crabmeat cheesecake, so… if that’s your thing, go for it! Other suggestions would be the shrimp rémoulade, roasted duck, and crème brûlée or white chocolate bread pudding for dessert. Or their barbecued shrimp, just because.
But WHY do I like Palace Café more than anything else? Michael Murphy summarizes it pretty well in his book Eat Dat New Orleans: A Guide to the Unique Food Culture of the Crescent City:
“… one of the last remnants of old Canal Street, the city’s Grand Boulevard, formerly lined with balconied and gilded movie palaces and large department stores.”
Palace Café looks like it belongs on one of the city’s marquee streets. Our downtown looks trashy in some areas, so I try to support the nicer places whenever I can.
Full Disclosure: I’ve seen a rash of online reviews saying the restaurant has deteriorated, especially in regards to service. Brennan restaurants are known for top-notch service, but Dickie Brennan’s places seem somewhat inconsistent. Hot one day and cold another.
I’ve had good experiences at Palace Café, which is why I’m recommending it. It’s a great lunch spot if you don’t want to spend too much on dinner. The rest of Canal Street dining sucks… Popeye’s, Arby’s, McDonald’s and a bunch of other crap. Actually, I like Popeye’s fried biscuits.
Q: These posts are getting really long. Can you just do everything in bullet-point form?
Yes. And I’m getting tired of writing this shit…
- If you’re looking for an upscale steakhouse, you’ll find a Ruth’s Chris and a Morton’s nearby. Ruth’s is inside Harrah’s (the place that shall not be named) and Morton’s is inside Canal Place. If you want a local steakhouse, try Desi Vega’s on St. Charles. It’s basically the same thing as Ruth’s. And I’ve heard Doris Metropolitan is supposed to be good. VERY expensive menu, so it better be good.
- If you’re in the Quarter and in the mood for a Muffuletta, you might as well go to Central Grocery. They invented it, and that’s basically all they got. I personally don’t like Muffulettas (too much bread), but they’re a staple of New Orleans.
- For those who have never experienced Port of Call, you’ve missed out. Especially since the restaurant isn’t what it used to be. This place went from dumpy bar to New Orleans icon because their burgers were so good. The Monsoon (made with rum and pineapple juice) is good, too. You owe it to yourself to try this place at least once.
- Walk-On’s was voted by readers of ESPN.com as the nation’s best sports bar. And that means the ballot was rigged. Walk-On’s is terrible; like Buffalo Wild Wings, but not as many TVs. Absolutely no redeeming qualities. Actually… they do have some tables where there are beer taps at the table. That’s cool. But everything else sucks. Happy’s Irish Pub (next door) is only good if you plan on hounding the bartenders (hot girls dressed slutty).
- If you’re a Gordon Biersch fan, we have one on Poydras. Or you could try a local alehouse/microbrewery, Crescent City Brewhouse. I think Gordon Biersch’s beers are pretty good, but the food at Crescent City Brewhouse is much better.
- Many tourists come down here looking to pig out on “New Orleans food” … red beans and rice, jambalaya, gumbo, shrimp Creole, crawfish étouffée, etc. etc. That’s fine and I encourage it. You’ll soon realize that everywhere—literally, everywhere—sells gumbo and other “authentic New Orleans cuisine.” I won’t step into the debate of whose gumbo or jambalaya or whatever else is best. I will say that I’ve enjoyed many of these items at the Gumbo Shop. Sounds touristy, and it probably is, but it gets my recommendation. There you go.
- Allow me to add to that last point. Not only do tourists want “New Orleans food” like gumbo and jambalaya, but they specifically want Cajun and Creole food. (BTW, if you’re interested in the difference between Cajun and Creole cuisine, Tom Fitzmorris says it best… “There’s no real difference anymore. The two have cross-pollinated each other so thoroughly that the question is academic.” If that’s not good enough for you, you can dig deeper here, here, or here.) You’ll quickly see there are a zillion Cajun restaurants throughout the city, including Mulate’s. Mulate’s is popular, and surprisingly decent for a restaurant on Convention Center Blvd (which comprises some of our worst restaurants). I, personally, think it’s overpriced, but you should expect that in this part of town. It caters to conventioneers. For me, K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen sets the standard. Maybe not THE best anymore, but certainly authentic. Muriel’s is popular as well, but I think that’s another place that’s overpriced.
My hotel is actually in the Warehouse District, not the Quarter. Any help?
- Do yourself a favor: avoid Manning’s like the plague. The food is below average (a Harrah’s property, so big surprise) and it’s not that cheap. Yeah, it looks neat inside. And I’m sure watching a game in their padded recliners is nice, but the bland food and poor service just doesn’t make it worth it.
- Just one final rip on Harrah’s… do NOT go to Besh Steak. Easily the most overpriced restaurant in the city. Harrah’s comps a lot of the meals for high rollers, so they inflate the prices to make them think they’re getting a better meal than they are. Avoid like Herpes, Gonorrhea, and Syphilis combined!
- I won’t debate the best Warehouse District restaurant, but a fantastic seafood restaurant is Pêche. Get the whole grilled fish – you won’t regret it. Another restaurant people love is Cochon (which is French for “pig”). It’s a true Cajun/Acadiana-inspired place; lots of cured/smoked meats and sausages. Nationally reviewed by the NY Times… get anything on the menu with pig. Skip Emeril’s (overpriced, overrated) and Lucy’s Retired Surfer’s Bar (super slow service). Other good places are Annunciation (pricey), Tomas Bistro (pricey), Warehouse Grille and Capdeville (both moderately priced, neither one expensive). Felipe’s Taqueria (North Peters) is good for cheap eats. Saint Lawrence doesn’t get much publicity but has outstanding burgers and a great beer/cocktail menu.
Q: Anything else a tourist should know?
- Everyone talks about Mother’s (CBD) as if it’s the best restaurant ever. Like they invented the po’boy or something. I’m not saying I dislike Mother’s; I think their breakfast is a bargain. But… if you’re looking for the best po’boy in NOLA – take a trip to Mid-City and visit Parkway Bakery. Case closed.
- Reginelli’s is a popular pizza chain in New Orleans. It’s OK. If you want better pizza, try Rotolo’s. And if you want good pizza, try Pizza Delicious.
- Every tourist website will tell you to get beignets and chicory coffee from Café Du Monde. They’re not lying, but understand their Decatur Street location (the original) is ALWAYS crowded – even though it’s open 24 hours a day. If it’s something you want to do, go for it. But if you need a quick breakfast place, just go to The Ruby Slipper.
- Those who live in NOLA will tell you there are two cuisines we don’t do well: Mexican food and barbecue. If you’re dying for Mexican food, your best bet will be El Gato Negro. It’s a funky, quirky kinda place. Good food, great ceviche. Plus they’ve got a killer tequila list (and great margaritas, as you’d expect). And it’s conveniently located in the French Quarter. Now, if you want good BBQ… you won’t find it in downtown NOLA. Sorry.
- If you love seafood, GW Fins is a must. Do not go there and order steak. And if you’re looking to spend tons of money, why not try Restaurant R’evolution? Great food, big prices. Both restaurants located downtown.