Eating well in New Orleans isn’t hard to do. Where to eat is a favorite topic of conversation among locals, and there are countless guidebooks and go-to lists that will rattle off the names of the city’s most revered and time-honored establishments. But the lesser-known restaurants — those that eschew publicity and are off the beaten path — can often surprise and delight. These pop-up restaurants and incognito eateries are everywhere: hidden away in the corner of a bar, tucked behind an alleyway, on a nondescript strip in the city’s outskirts. Part of what makes New Orleans such an alluring place to explore is its inherent mystery and wonder. Here are our 10 picks for some of the most unexpected food finds in the city to charm any adventurous eater.Read More
10 Unexpected Dining and Drinking Spots in New Orleans
Bayou Beer Garden New Orleans
This popular Mid-City sports bar is perhaps best known for the hidden patio out back, a sprawling outdoor urban oasis with plenty of seating and a swath of television screens that make it a natural pick on any given game day. A lesser-known fact is that the food here rivals the impressive beer selection and far exceeds your run-of-the-mill pub grub. Order an Elysian Dayglow IPA with a grilled ahi tuna sandwich on a crusty ciabatta bun with a dollop of creamy remoulade and the whimsical peanut butter bacon burger. The house disco fries show zero restraint and come swimming in melted cheddar cheese and mounds of roast beef debris — all you really need to soak up those extra couple of brews.
Junction Bar & Grill
New Orleans might not get enough street credit as a veritable burger town, but Junction — which sits on St. Claude Avenue just steps from the Press Street tracks — disproves that theory in one bite. With grass-fed beef from nearby St. Amant, Louisiana, and brioche buns from James Beard Award-winning Dong Phuong Bakery, the charred, six-ounce patties display the owners’ dedication to local products while serving as a blank slate for their creative whimsy. In a nod to the country’s railroad routes, the New Mexico Rail Runner pairs Southwestern staples like green chiles and chipotle aioli with thick slices of cheddar cheese, while the Central Vermont delivers a sweet and savory punch with applewood smoked bacon, white cheddar, grilled apple, and a creamy maple-tinged sauce.
Mimi's In the Marigny
Crispy patatas bravas arrive drizzled in aioli. Goat cheese croquettas sit nestled in dollops of honey. Garlicky gazpacho, marinated olives, and figs stuffed with salty nibs of blue cheese somehow keep showing up on your table. No, you’re not in Spain: You’re at Mimi’s, the Marigny watering hole that doubles as one of the city’s best tapas spots. Sidle up to the downstairs bar for a plate of the grilled, perfectly charred lamb chops or sneak upstairs to one of the window-lining high tops for a larger spread that might include coffee-glazed salmon, a shaved Brussels sprouts salad, and, on special occasions, a whopping seafood-topped paella.
From the dangling pendant lights and al fresco seating overlooking St. Charles Avenue to the bar’s tarnished mirrors and sultry interior, it’s no surprise this Francophile wine bistro has become one of the city’s most charming date spots. Diners can choose from more than 350 wines on the restaurant’s encyclopedic inventory or the equally impressive beer list, including regional favorites like Elysian. Then go globetrotting across the kitchen’s eclectic and international-leaning menu. A Southeast Asian twist on moules frites features a broth heavy with kaffir lime and chiles while the goose fat fries that accompany the dish speak directly to the bar’s Gallic persuasion. Flank steak bruschetta detours to South America and comes drizzled in a Peruvian garlic and herb sauce with aged Manchego on crusty ciabatta. The generous charcuterie and cheese selections make for the perfect bedfellow to a nice bottle of wine at the end of a long day.
Hot dog purists (here’s looking at you, Chicago and New York) may argue over the proper way to enjoy the ballpark staple. But Dat Dog, which opened on Freret Street in 2011, serves as a constant reminder that the humble hot dog has come a long way. From the crawfish links topped with etouffee and Creole mustard to smoked duck sausages drizzled in blueberry sauce, there is no wrong way to dress a dog here. A tour of the world’s wieners includes globally inspired links from German bratwursts to Polish kielbasa and smoked Slovenian sausages, while a selection of vegetarian-friendly links includes the field roast Italian dog flavored with fennel, eggplant, garlic, and red wine.
No longer a secret among locals but still hidden from plain sight, the long-running gonzo po’ boy operation inside of the Erin Rose bar is still one of the best spots in the city to curb a late-night sandwich craving. Soak up some of that booze with a rum and ginger-glazed pork belly medley topped with lime slaw and garlic aioli or opt for the hefty “not po’ boy” — a whiskey-tinged English cheddar grilled cheese sandwich.
Bao & Noodle
Nestled on a sleepy corner in the Marigny, Bao & Noodle serves some of the most creative — and inexpensive — Chinese fare around. Meals begin with crispy scallion pancakes and pillowy fried bao stuffed with a mix of gingery ground pork and garlic. The menu here feels worlds away from the greasy, Americanized Chinese dishes that have become so ubiquitous. Instead, there is cumin-braised lamb shoulder folded into a plate of hand-pulled noodles, tea-smoked duck juxtaposed by colorful tiles of marinated cucumbers and radishes, and steamed chicken noodle soup, drizzled with a crimson chile oil that replenishes and restores.
It’s easy to pass right by the tall wooden fence and entrance to N7, but once you enter, a world of romance awaits at this charming French bistro and wine bar. Named for the highway route that once led vacationing Parisians down to the Italian border, the indoor-outdoor space provides an alluring backdrop to an evening that might start with French scallop rillettes, linger over a duck a l’orange, and end with a cheese plate. What’s certain is that the night will begin and end with aperitifs and digestifs, and stay lubricated throughout with plenty of wine.
Earlier this year, legendary barman Chris Hannah partnered up with bartenders Nick Detrich and Konrad Kantor to open this darling tribute to Havana’s El Floridita and Cuba’s infamous cocktail culture. The jewel box-sized dining room provides a speakeasy-like atmosphere while a petite menu of classic Cuban fare — ropa vieja, black bean soup with plantains, shrimp ceviche — provides enough fodder to soak up a daiquiri or two.
Kukhnya at Siberia
Maybe a hardcore metal and bounce bar wouldn’t be the first place you’d expect to find genuinely delicious Slavic treats, but Kukhnya inside the Siberia bar on St. Claude Avenue is the real deal. The kitchen and restaurant unfolds in the rear of the building where a menu punctuated by Eastern European snacks runs the gamut from pierogies and blinis to steaming bowls of borscht and braised beef stroganoff. Expect some New Orleans mash-ups like kielbasa po’ boys and vegetarian-friendly favorites like the red beet Reuben.