New Orleans picks: Quick lunches, dinners worth a splurge and the best drinks

By Todd A. Price

Welcome to New Orleans. In this town, you won’t go hungry (or thirsty). I’ve been covering food and drinks in the city since 2004, and I wanted to share a few of my favorites, places you might overlook and also newcomers that likely aren’t yet in online guides. All of these picks are an easy walk from the ONA19 hotels.

Lunch and low-priced

Here are suggestions within walking distance from the conference for quick lunches and lower-priced dinners.

Johnny’s Po-Boys
511 St. Louis St., 504.524.8129

The po-boy is the classic New Orleans sandwich: a loaf of crusty French bread filled with roast beef, fried seafood or even french fries. (It’s like a sub or a hoagie, but never say that to someone from New Orleans). You’ll be asked if you want it “dressed,” which typically means lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and mayo. Johnny’s, opened in 1950, has a good representation of the full range of classic po-boys. Note: Cash only.

Killer Po-Boy
219 Dauphine St., 504.462.2731
811 Conti St., 504.252.6745

In the last few years, the po-boy got complicated. Renegade shops started messing with the basic formula. Killer Po-Boy is one of the best of the new breed, with a menu that includes roasted sweet potato, rum-glazed pork belly and barbecue chicken confit sandwiches. The Conti Street location is at the back of a dive bar called the Erin Rose.

Napoleon House
500 Chartres St., 504.524.9752

This historic restaurant, which dates to 1914, mainly attracts visitors, but it’s far from a tourist trap. The standard order is a muffuletta, a hubcap-sized sandwich with cold cuts and olive salad, and a mildly intoxicating Pimm’s Cup. The staff is efficient and the prices reasonable. 

Nine Roses Cafe
620 Conti St., 504.324.9450 

A large number of Vietnamese people settled in New Orleans after the war. Most of their restaurants are far beyond the city center. Nine Roses Cafe is an offshoot of a long-running suburban restaurant, and a welcome find for anyone looking for lighter meals or vegetarian dishes.

St. James Cheese Company
641 Tchoupitoulas St., 504.304.1485

The shop sells a large assortment of U.S. and imported cheeses, and it turns those products into light sandwiches and filling salads.

Brennan’s. (Photo by Paul Broussard)

Worth a splurge

Be sure to make reservations in advance for any of these restaurants.

417 Royal St., 504.525.9711

The classic Creole restaurant underwent a massive, lush renovation five years ago. The menu was also updated. For breakfast you can still get the classic egg dishes, like eggs Benedict or eggs Sardou. The flaming bananas Foster, invented here, remains the most popular dessert. But on the dinner menu you’ll find more contemporary fare, like pâté with sweet corn mousse, duck lacquered with the local tangerines called satsumas, and Louisiana shrimp with kimchi.

Cane & Table
1113 Decatur St., 504.581.1112

The space has a faded but stylish vibe. The cocktails, from the team behind the James Beard Award-winning bar Cure, focus on tropical flavors. The food creatively ranges across Latin America with a few detours to Spain. The menu includes carrots in mole, garlic soup, a shrimp and crawfish cocktail, and grilled tuna with Romesco sauce. Good for snacks or a full meal with many excellent vegetarian options. (Note: Cane & Table doesn’t have a sign, so it can easy to miss.)

Compère Lapin
535 Tchoupitoulas St., 504.599.2119

Chef Nina Compton, who this year won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: South, grew up in St. Lucia. Her first restaurant blends Compton’s Caribbean background with her years spent working in high-end French and Italian kitchens. Don’t miss the dirty rice arancini, marinated shrimp in jalapeño jus or the curried goat with sweet potato gnocchi.

Palm & Pine
308 N. Rampart St., 504.814.6200

The recently opened restaurant on the back side of the French Quarter combines the flavors of the South with cooking from south of the border. Palm & Pine, which grew from a pop-up, has been an instant hit with other chefs and restaurant workers. The seasonal menu might include the blistered Shishito peppers with grilled peaches, Jamaican goat curry or chanterelles in Mexican mole.

Pêche Seafood Grill
800 Magazine St., 504.522.1744

Restaurants built around open hearth cooking have spread across America. Pêche, which focuses on simply prepared Gulf seafood, was one of the first, winning a James Beard Award in 2014 for Best New Restaurant in the country. Pêche was created by well-know chef Donald Link, who also runs the nearby restaurants Herbsaint (a modern bistro), Cochon (Cajun and Southern), Cochon Butcher (sandwiches and snacks) and Gianna (regional Italian) — all are worth a visit.

616 St. Peter St., 504.934.3463 

Want to taste classic New Orleans French Creole cooking? Tableau, from a branch of the Brennan family of restaurateurs, is a relative newcomer, but it does traditional fare better than many of the Grandes Dames. Try old school dishes like shrimp remoulade, oysters Rockefeller, turtle soup, or piquant crabmeat ravigote. The French Quarter location is ideal: next to the cathedral and with balconies overlooking Jackson Square.

Compère Lapin. (Photo by Paul Broussard)


Finding a drink in New Orleans takes little effort. But some drinks are better than others. Here are six bars worth seeking out. And yes, it’s true you can drink on the streets in New Orleans. Glass, however, is not allowed. Ask for a plastic go-cup to carry your drink outside.

Jewel of the South
1026 St. Louis St., 504.265.8816

The bar opened this summer in a converted cottage, but it looks to the past for inspiration. Named after the 19th-century New Orleans bar that invited the brandy crusta (a crucial ancestor of the margarita), here even the original drinks harken back to the era before Prohibition.

Latitude 29
321 N. Peters St., 504.609.3811 

One man deserves credit for the recent revival of tiki: Jeff “Beachbum” Berry. The bibulous scholar tracked down the secrets recipes from classic tiki chains like Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic’s. After years of writing about tiki, Berry came to New Orleans and opened this bar, which a chic mid-century vibe.

221 Camp St., 504.553.9550

The elegant bar inside the International House Hotel offers a secluded retreat with a carefully chosen wine list and cocktails made with curious homemade syrups and plants foraged from local fields.

Longway Tavern
719 Toulouse St., 504.962.9696

The gastropub draws locals and off-duty chefs with stiff drinks, delicious snacks and a wide interior courtyard. Only a half black from Bourbon Street, Longway Tavern feels a mile away from the tacky madness of that strip.

508 Dumaine St.

Due to its active port, New Orleans has always had a close connection to Cuba. This tiny bar offers a tribute to the culture of “cantineros,” or Cuban bartenders, with daiquiris blended until the texture is just right or martinis “thrown” in long streams from one mixing cup to another. 

The Sazerac Bar
130 Roosevelt Way, 504.648.1200 

The Sazerac is a strong drink made with rye and local cherry-red Peychaud’s bitters poured into glass washed with absinthe. In 2008, the state named it the official cocktail of New Orleans. The Sazerac Bar, a gorgeous Art Deco space inside the Roosevelt Hotel, will make you a fine example. Even by hotel standards, however, the drinks here are expensive. But you’re paying for the experience.

Todd A. Price covers food in New Orleans and the South for the USA Today Network. He was previously the dining writer for | The Times-Picayune and led their Where NOLA Eats team. Follow him on Twitter at @tprice504 or Instagram at @food_krewe.