There's no question New Orleans has incredible Southern cuisine. My charming little city boasts some of the finest dining and most talented chefs in this country. Down here, we breed folks like Emeril Lagasse. I adore traditional Southern dining and the impeccable service, white linens and mounds of butter that go along with it. However, New Orleans seems to be in the midst of a restaurant revolution. In the shadow of landmarks like Galatoire's, Emeril's and Commander's Palace, a new breed of restaurants is popping up. The Bywater neighborhood seems to be at the heart of this culinary renaissance with two eateries pairing international bites with craft cocktails and noisy, young crowds. My personal favorite is Booty's Street Food (however I may be biased, because I adore owners Kevin and Nick). Around the corner, Maurepas Foods is a close second. Meanwhile, Mariza, which recently opened in the Bywater's Rice Mill Lofts, was named one of My New Orleans' best new restaurants. I ate there this weekend and can confidently say their chocolate terrine with sea salt, olive oil and candied orange will change your life.
In the Warehouse district, another newcomer on the culinary scene is gaining loads of press. Pêche Seafood Grill has become a hotspot for celebrity diners like John Goodman, looking to avoid the Hollywood eye. Another unique addition to NOLA? Mid City's meat-centric, contemporary Cajun restaurant, Toup's Meatery. You guessed it. Toup's specializes in charcuterie and so much delicious meat. If you head Uptown, Dominique's on Magazine couples chef Dominique Macquet's French training, with influences from his globe-trotting adventures. There's nary a heavy drape in sight, with the modern courtyard (and menu) featuring vertical herb gardens instead.
Speaking of revolutions, Restaurant R'evolution will outright blow your mind. It may blow your entire paycheck as well, but Chefs John Folse and Rick Tramanto create a gourmet dining experience you won't soon forget. Focusing on "culinary evolution," the chefs reinvent traditional Cajun and Creole cuisine. Conde Nast Traveler named R'evolution one of the best new restaurants in the South and plenty of other publications agree. Did I mention, they actually bring you a personal upholstered stool... for your purse!?!
There are few experiences in this world that rival Friday lunch at Galatoire's (Don't believe me? Read this and this and this), but some of these new establishments are giving the old-timers a run for their money. So, next time you're in NOLA, don't be afraid to step off the beaten path and try a few of our up and comers. They just might surprise you.