by Christine Liu - 156 Reviews - 111 List
It's scarcely possible for one to go hungry in the Big Easy--home of belly-busters like po' boys, jambalaya and boudin--but it's best to make every precious calorie count at these hidden gems for top New Orleans food and drink. Take a gastronomic tour from the French Quarter to Uptown to the Warehouse District, and taste what lies beyond.
(Photo: Napoleon House by Christine Liu)
Updated: August 18, 2010
Though dripping with glittering lights, dramatic gauzy curtains and the cache that comes from its sumptuous host, the Roosevelt Hotel, make no mistake: Food is chef John Besh's number-one priority, as evidence by the behemoth salumi slicer anchoring the bar. Effortlessly chic dishes like torn pasta with oxtail ragu or spicy lamb meatball pizza pair so well with Italian wines that they're practically BFFs.
The mishmash of archaic tchotchkes. A verdant, breezy, fountain-lined courtyard. Portraits and lampshades and typography of long-lost days. Affable servers and jostled shoulders at the low-lit bar. Thanks to its muffaletta, oozy boudin and signature Pimm's cup, the Napoleon is a French Quarter institution with very good, inexpensive food in an extraordinary space.
It all starts with the adorably (and appropriately) named Swine Bar at Cochon Butcher (the diminutive deli-cum-bar behind the main restaurant). Begin your meal with lamb carpaccio, dressed ever so finely; then nibble a slew of duck pastrami sliders, assembled like you-know-what in a row; keep digging into that fancy-fresh Kurobuta BLT; and you couldn't possibly pass up the plump, porky boudin with house pickles, could you?
It's unimaginable that one of the most venerated cocktail bars in the country lies on this otherwise sleepy, if not outright tumble-weeded, Uptown strip. But inside this bottle-lined den, meticulous drinks, passionate bartenders, impeccable small plates and a refreshingly modernized spin on New Orleans cocktail culture await. Also notable: No smoking allowed inside. A stark, handsome patio beckons if you must indulge.
Among the refreshingly minty-green decor, jars of pickled something-or-other stashed in odd corners, and a bold wallpaper printed with metallic inks, this restaurant (located in the Bienville House hotel) hits every note correctly with an eclectic melange of Americana-meets-Asia. Pepper-glazed firecracker shrimp and unctuous veal cheek ravioli go down awfully well with adventurous cocktails, including a salty pisco lemonade.
Before you ask--no, this isn't a restaurant for vegetable fetishism, or anything remotely hippy-dippy-crunchy as its name might suggest. This charming hole-in-the-wall doles serious cocktails and NOLA 2.0 grub including Ninth Ward sprouts and local crabmeat stuffed into a Vietnamese-inspired crepe. The piece de resistance is the Drinker's Dream Tasting Menu, a six-course, cocktail-paired feast served with aplomb from the tiny kitchen that could.