On our first day we had lunch in the French Quarter at the touristy Acme Oyster House. The food was quickly declared salty and overpriced. We switched our focus to those places where locals eat and took a close look at the recommendations from a friend who lived in New Orleans for years. Over the next three days I ate some of the best food I've ever tasted in my life.
Here's where we ate:
Sylvain: Pan-fried pork shoulder comes with creamy grits. Buttermilk-fried chicken breast is accompanied by homemade pickles. Crispy duck confit is served with black-eyed peas. This is down-home food made with the best ingredients and served in a historic carriage house lit only by flickering candles. You might not expect to find a place like this in the French Quarter but it's right there on a quiet stretch of Chartres Street.
Lilette: This tiny restaurant tucked inside a former 1880s corner drugstore has the casual elegance of a French bistro with white tablecloths and black-and-white tiled floors. You could easily go here in nice jeans but you'll feel more comfortable if you dress up a little. Chef John Harris has earned all sorts of awards and glowing magazine reviews for his French-Italian menu. We sampled many dishes but our favorite was a delicate hearts of palm salad and a rich toasts piled with wild mushrooms and drizzled with white truffle oil.
Le Petit Grocerie: The food here's a little fussy. Exquisite little bites, beautifully assembled and displayed, on big white plates. But everything we tasted at brunch was delicious and flavorful. The fried green tomatoes, creamy burrata cheese, and country ham made for a brilliant combination. The buttery grits topped with sauteed shrimp and shitaki mushrooms melted in your mouth.
Cochon: Among locals and food snobs, this large, airy Warehouse District restaurant is the hottest spot in New Orleans. It's bustling and busy and downright noisy, and the food is great. As the name suggests, the menu focuses on pork and Chef Link gives it a local twist by mixing in Cajun flavors. Try the smoked ham hock served with red beans and the pork ribs accompanied by tangle watermelon pickles. And be sure to order the mushroom salad tossed with leafy herbs and deep-fried beef jerky (photo above). Yes, we were hesitant to order it but it ended up being the most delicious and unusual thing we ate on our entire trip.
What are your favorite local spots in New Orleans?