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New Orleans Restaurants - Expense Account Picks

Recovery Status for Fall 2006:


New Orleans is well on its way back to re-claiming its place as a fully functional tourist destination.  The  recovery was aptly demonstrated with decisions to hold Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest celebrations in Spring 2006 as usual, as well as by Tulane's "miracle" graduation ceremony that featured past Presidents Bush and Clinton.   In fact, all five New Orleans universities—Tulane, Loyola, Xavier, the University of New Orleans, and Dillard—have reopened


All but a few of the 13 airlines that serviced the City are shuttling flights in and out of the City.  Taxis, bus service and the street care are functioning.  Touro, Tulane and Charity hospitals have all been reopened for months.  It is reported at the close of summer 2006 that 103 out of 140 metropolitan area hotels are open, with over 70% of the original 38,000 hotle rooms available. Of these rooms two-thirds are open to visitors, while the remaining third is contracted to various agencies.  Ninety percent of downtown hotels are open, however, the Fairmont and the Ritz Carlton continue to be closed for renovation.  Both are expected to re-open by the end of the year.  Remediation contractors in all the restored hotels conduct room-by-room assessments against EPA standards. After remediation work is completed, the clearance process includes visual inspection, as well as sampling for airborne fungal spores and ongoing monitoring.  Restaurants are re-opening daily with any of the famous chefs back in their aprons, including Paul Prudhomme, Susan Spicer Donald Link and John Besh. Before any establishment serving food can be reopened it is examined by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals for compliance with all regulations regarding water safety and food handling.  To give you a better sense of the situation you should call ahead to your hotel and favorite restaurants to be sure they are ready for you or check on the site here for opening status.  Air and water are safe for visitors (government air testing results).  Harrah's Casino, the convention center and Riverwalk are open, as are museums including Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the Contemporary Arts Center, the National D-Day Museum and the Aquarium of the Americas.

These restaurants are all great, but in my subjective opinion they are at the leading edge of the pricing spectrum and best suited for expense account situations. Accordingly they are set out in a special section.  If you want to learn about great places in other price ranges, take a look at the restaurant overview page.  If you want to read about hotels or about fun things to do in town, don't miss the Executive Summary page. 

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New Orleans Grill  - The former "Grill Room" upstairs in the Windsor Court Hotel (see Windsor Court hotel listing), has been completely re-tooled with a $1,000,000 renovation.  Now, Jonathan Wright's kitchen rates one of the best restaurants in New Orleans, certain to impress the most discriminating and luxe diners.  In keeping with its princely Windsor theme, the New Orleans Grill is one of the more formal New Orleans restaurants.  The aristocratic hotel lobby provides the appropriate introduction as you ascend the flowing staircase.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served from a menu that changes daily.  The cuisine is international avant-garde with the appropriate nods to New Orleans and to the finest, most exotic ingredients that can be obtained via plane, train or camelback.  Architecturally constructed desserts follow dinner. The decor is impeccable in an English aristocratic theme and the wine list is superb.  Jackets for men are required for day and evening meals.  Windsor Court Hotel, 300 Gravier Street.  504-522-1992 (see Windsor Court Hotel listing).  Major credit cards. 


Peristyle – Located at the northerly edge of the French Quarter across from Congo Square in Louis Armstrong Park, Peristyle has a long history.  It had been the site of a Gentilich's and Marti's restaurants for many years and was one of the brightest restaurants of the 1990s when the shef, John Neal, died.  Anne Kearney Sand (formerly of Emeril's) took over and the place was all but destroyed in a fire.  Re-opened in August 2000, Peristyle rose from the ashes and was considered one of the three best restaurants in town when Ms. Sand sold the joint to Thomas Wolfe.  In it's latest incarnation Peristyle pulled down the painting of Ms. Sand beside the bar and subtly retooled itself. Then came the hurricane.   Peristyle is not a traditional Cajun/Creole restaurant; it is instead a world-class French restaurant (with Mediterranean touches) consistently voted one of the top five in New Orleans.  The sauces at Peristyle are more complex and ingenious than most upscale New Orleans restaurants, and the desserts more inventive.  The copper-top bar is usually enlivened by a bright floral display. 1041 Dumaine Street. 504-593-9535. Major credit cards.  No lunch on the weekends.


Arnaud’s – Arnaud’s is one of the old guard restaurants of the French Quarter, still traditional Creole in its decor and menu.  Dating from the 1920s, Arnaud’s is a worthy competitor of the vaunted Galatoire’s located around the corner on Bourbon Street. Arnaud's gives the impression of actively striving for excellence instead of perpetuating the time-tested formula of days past.  The furnishings and decor of Arnaud's are strictly within the traditional mode (see listing for Galatoire’s), but the color in the wood and tile appear rich, new and polished, and the glass is clear and sharp.  The service and food are presented in an engaging and vivacious manner.  Arnaud's also offers a small but charming bar separate from the dining rooms.  On Sundays Arnaud's pulls its tradition and style together and presents a jazz brunch with a lively, table-to-table jazz trio.  It is with mixed results that Arnaud’s has been expanding into an adjacent property.  On the down side, there is now a less impressive dining room adjacent to the glittering main room (unless you want to go casual, to get the full flavor of Arnaud’s make certain when you reserve that you are booked in the main dining room).  On the up side, the expansion has allowed room for a separate, more casual dining room and separate restaurant operated by Arnaud’s next door on Bourbon Street (see listing for Remoulade).  Jackets for men required in the main dining room. 813 Bienville Street.  504-523-5433 -   Major credit cards.


Emeril’s – When Emeril Legasse first opened his own restaurant a dozen years ago, the warehouse district was just beginning to awaken form its utilitarian past to become New Orleans’ answer to Soho. At that time the portly Paul Prudhomme was the most nationally known purveyor of New Orleans Cuisine. But Emeril’s restaurant quickly became famous in the New Orleans area for its stylish twist on traditional New Orleans dishes (and equally stylish décor).  Now Emeril is a television celebrity for his cooking show (the Food Network show Emeril Live) and reservations at his restaurant are made months in advance.  It is not uncommon to see a celebrity or two at the restaurant.  The cuisine is expansive contemporary Louisiana with splashes of Americana.  The food combinations and recipes delight the imagination and the palate.  There is a food bar at which patrons can watch the chefs up close (don’t expect to see Mr. Legasse handling a skillet).  Those in the know can sample Emeril’s food at his other, lesser-known New Orleans restaurants, NOLA in the French Quarter and Delmonico on St. Charles Avenue.  Emeril’s is not far from the French Quarter but directions/transportation should be arranged.  800 Tchoupitoulas Street.  504-528-9393 -   Major credit cards.  Closed Sunday; no lunch on Saturday.


Delmonico – Emeril’s third restaurant in New Orleans opened in 1997 on the site of the venerable Delmonico restaurant that dated back to 1885.  Some say that Delmonico is the best Emeril restaurant yet, while others claim it is overblown and overpriced.  The detractors point out that instead of respecting and sanctifying the old Delmonico restaurant, Emeril has opened another Delmonico in Las Vegas.  The location on St. Charles Avenue is awkward, neither uptown nor downtown, but it is accessible by streetcar.  1300 St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70130. 504-525-4937.  Major credit cards.  “Business casual” dress.  Lunch and dinner seven days; brunch on Sunday.


Louis XVI – Together with the Rib Room, Louis XVI is at the more formal end of the New Orleans dinning spectrum.  Scenes from the movie “Double Jeopardy” were filmed in the spectacular courtyard.  Consistently high rankings for food and the sumptuous New Orleans-style courtyard earn a place for Louis XVI in our ranking. However, the cuisine is straight French with only the slightest whisper of Louisiana influence.  The restaurant dates only from 1971 and lacks some of the rich heritage of its culinary neighbors, though it can be said in fairness that many successful local chefs have learned their craft in the Louis XVI kitchen.  It is easy to recommend Louis XVI as a great, expensive restaurant in the middle of the French Quarter, but this is not the place for regional cuisine.  Expect candlelight, piano music, elaborate deserts, starched shirt waiters, and sky-high prices.  Jackets for men required. St. Louis Hotel, 730 Bienville Street.  504-581-7300 -   Major credit cards.  No lunch served.


Brennan’s – Brennan’s was opened in 1956 by Edward Brennan. It is the charter restaurant of the Brennan family and the birthplace of Bananas Foster. Brennan’s is appropriately located across from the new courthouse in the middle of the French Quarter in the strip of antique stores that made Royal Street famous.  Well-regarded and often recommended, Brennan’s is an unaltered tribute to the glory of traditional, highbrow dining in New Orleans.  All of the dining rooms have an unmistakable country club feel about them with two dozen coats of paint layered on the walls, fixtures and high ceilings.  When the chandelier-lit maitre’d station backs up with tourists, a Disney World feeling begins to creep into the proceedings.  The elaborate brunch made Brennan’s famous and if the weather is good, and you can get a table in the courtyard, you will have found the best of Brennan’s. (The courtyard lit up at night is also memorable, but not as memorable as the dinner check.)  417 Royal Street. 504-525-9711 -   Major credit cards.


Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse – There are two Ruth’s Chris in New Orleans: the Mid-City location is the charter restaurant of the nationwide chain famous for dark, masculine, politician-filled dining rooms and famous for serving brontosaurus-sized steaks and sides, with emphasis on butter coating. The steaks need no introduction except to warn again about the copious use of butter in case the reader is tempted to order a sauce on the side.  The potato dishes are particularly good for a steak restaurant.  Both locations are awkward for the uninitiated and transportation arrangements will be needed.  711 N. Broad Street, Mid-City. 504-486-0810.  3633 Veterans Boulevard, Metarie.  504-888-3600.  Major credit cards.


Antoine's  - So famous is Antoine's that it must be included here.  One of the oldest restaurants in town, a grande dame of the French Quarter, Antoine's is the quintessential New Orleans restaurant of the 1930-50 Hollywood era and it is the inventor of the famous dish Oysters Rockefeller.  Indeed, if you explore the back dining rooms, you will find a museum trove of signed photographs from Hollywood greats and near greats from days both recent and removed. The patron must decide if there is justice in deriding Antoine's for being visibly past its prime.  It continues to garner praise in numerous guidebooks.  But before you take your table, observe the faded yellow light (at Arnaud?s the light in the main dining room is bleach bright), and look at the tired fixtures  If you had a famous grandfather who had been widowed for 20 years, relying on an increasingly senile New Orleans chef, then eating lunch at grandfather's house might have similarities to eating lunch at Antoine's.  713 St. Louis Street. - 504-581-4422.

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Last update: 9/5/2006; 8:34:51 PM.