The word “restaurant” comes from the French verb restaurer, meaning to restore. There is a lot to the history and evolution of the modern restaurant, but the “amuse bouche” version is that the restaurants we know today first appeared after the French Revolution of 1789, when many chefs cooking in the home of nobles, lost their jobs and opened their own places.
New Orleans’ restaurant scene is in its own revolutionary moment. The dining landscape and the restaurants themselves look different, meaning food fanatics, eager eaters and dining denizens must look at it differently.
Many of New Orleans’ venerated restaurants are anywhere from 75 to more than 100 years old. Let that sink in for a moment. Dining in these hallowed halls is as much about the experience as the food; their individual histories cling to the skin like fine perfume. Arnaud’s, Galatoire’s, Antoine’s, the Court of Two Sisters, Brennan family restaurants, et al., have each found a way to reinvent and repackage the experience in recent months to stay relevant and in business. The French Quarter teems with these places, and there are many outside the Quarter as well.
Old Line, New Look
All these restaurants offer dine-in opportunities within current city guidelines, as well as incredible and clever to-go options.
Mr. B’s Bistro
Dine-in, delivery, curbside and shipped: There are now many ways to get chef Michelle McRaney’s killer jumbo lump crab cake, Gumbo Ya Ya, barbecued shrimp and more. The Sunday lunch is a stunner, and out-of-towners can order “Dinner for 2,” shipped overnight. www.mrbsbistro.com
A very successful stint ofprivate dining options from chef Tommy DiGiovanni’s abbreviated menus gave diners a welcomed prelude to the restaurant’s early October reopening. www.arnaudsrestaurant.com
Executive chef Mike Nelson finds delicious ways to surprise diners, keeping his menus as impeccably fresh as the seafood. For a bit of cheek, check the Magazine Street Breaux Mart grocery store’s freezer case for the packaged ice cream version of Nelson’s Salty-Malty dessert, complete with chocolate-covered pretzels. www.gwfins.com
Tipping the world off its axis, 115-year-old Galatoire’s offers “to-go” versions of its long-popular classics, from Oysters en Brochette to Canape Lorenzo, Godchaux Salad, Chicken Bonne Femme, Shrimp Clemenceau, gumbo and, well, everything! www.galatories.com
Ralph’s on the Park
Online ordering and curbside pick-up are great for early-evening picnicking in City Park, dinner on the porch or a blanket-covered balcony. The Sunday Supper is a value, though it’s tough to pass up Baked Oysters, Pan-Seared Redfish and the seasonal cheesecake. www.ralphsonthepark.com
Its dining rooms have reopened, but the newest addition to “Big Blue” is Le Petit Bleu,” the neighboring shotgun home turned prepared food to-go spot. Grab a Turtle Soup, Blue Crab Ravigote or even a classic local sandwich (think muffuletta). www.commanderspalace.com
Do the Hustle
When chefs/cooks can’t cook at their regular restaurant or other gig, they get creative, finding ways to keep skills sharp and money in the bank. Most use social media to get out the word, with Instagram the platform of choice. Pick-up or delivery is how to get the goods.
The Custard Girl
Dessert maven Ahreal Smith’s custards—tumbled with fruits, cake, cookies, cream, and caramel—check every sweets-lover’s box. @thecustardgirl
Flour Moon Bagels
Chef Breanne Kostyk’s excellent bagels come in a weekly range of flavors, such as sumac, pumpernickel, sesame, salt, plain and everything. @flourmoonbagels
Laozi Ice Cream
Sam Caruso is a frozen custard wizard. His flavors and mix-ins are delicious fun, and have a cult following. Scoop a quart of the Nano-Mello (cinnamon-laced vanilla, brûléed banana cake, homemade caramel) and plan to not share. @laozi.ice.cream
A Detroit-style pizza pop-up at the Palm & Pine Restaurant. The classic red top is an obvious get, and if it’s on the menu, the Dequindre Cut (pistachio pesto, cherry tomatoes, eggplant and ricotta) is a standout. @doughtownnola
Papa Ted’s Truck
Chef Alex Anderson helms this vegan-centric pop-up with divine “stacheballs” (vegan snoballs) and breakfast-inspired, totally meatless/eggless sandwiches. Live music or art accompanies the “Eco-Friendly Sensory Experience.” @papatedstruck
Board De Lis
Super-clever meat, cheese and condiment boards boxed to go. @board_de_lis
New Orleans’ food scene is alive and rolling once again. It may look and operate differently, as the city more fully returns to business as usual, though there is no doubt restaurants will live up to the historic origins. They will restore and be restored. There is no other way; it’s part of the city’s culinary DNA.