Some suggestions for places that I've enjoyed over the years. I assume they are all still open. You'll need to research dress codes and prices on your own. Unless I otherwise mention it, it's probably not a cheap place, and it's probably in the French Quarter. They are listed in no particular order (Image above: Crawfish Etoufee):
- Muriels -- Jackson Square. Awesome Bar downstairs, séance room upstairs, and a balcony overlooking the square. I think they take reservations. I'd call it contemporary New Orleans cuisine.
- K-Paul’s -- In a word....awesome. My dad and I ate there on a weekend evening, and they had a live band playing in the street outside. Occasionally, the band would come inside and start playing for a while. Another contemporary Cajun/Creole type thing. They are closed on Dec. 30th. Call for reservations.
- Irene's -- This is what you get when you cross Italian and Cajun. Located well into the Quarter away from Canal. They don't take reservations, and the line is long. The Duck is the best I've ever had. I've also had a "sweet potato soup" which buckled my knees.
- Palace Cafe - Located on Canal, this is a dressier venue than the above suggestions, but not a jacket required type thing. It's a more "accessible" place than it's big brother -- Commander's Palace. I've probably eaten here four times, and every experience was positive. Another Contemporary Cajun/Creole place. I'd get reservations if I were you.
- Commander's Palace and Emerils -- If you're going to blow it out and go Jacket Required (or really close to that), these are two of your better options. Commander's is a massive old house in the Garden District. Take a cab over there. I wouldn't bother with lunch there. The drop-off in the overall experience is just too much. Emeril got his start at Commander's as a Chef (I think). I've never been to any of the Emeril's in NOLA. However, I've been to them in other towns. The service is usually off the charts, and the food is exceptional. Personally, I think the cost vs. the experience isn't worth the price difference between the other's listed. But the experience is more over the top from a service standpoint.
- Breakfast at Brennan's -- There can't possibly be a more outrageous breakfast experience than this. It's obscenely expensive ($70 or so each), but it's a once in a lifetime type blow it out. When I went there this Spring, I looked at my dad and said, "Are they kidding with this meal? Damn." I'm sure the regular restaurant is awesome for dinner, too. But the breakfast is legen---wait for it---dary. If you want breakfast, you damn sure better get reservations.
- Court of Two Sisters -- They are best known for their Jazz Brunch. However, I've always enjoyed their dinner more. The best Turtle Soup in New Orleans. If you've never had Turtle Soup try it. It's like better gumbo. This place is less dressy and probably less expensive than some of the other options listed above. It's on Royal Street closer to Canal.
- Gumbo Shop -- Spectacular lunch place. Affordable, real New Orleans food. Actually, it's pretty damn awesome for dinner too, but it's best known for lunch. No reservations. Just a damn long line at times.
- Dickie Brennan's - I think I've eaten a great steak here once or maybe twice. But my general rule of thumb is..."I can get steaks back home." Granted, I'm not going to get a steak topped in crawfish and some redonkulous sauce, but I can get a great steak elsewhere. Regardless, if you're dying for beef -- this is for you.
- Mr. B's Bistro - This place took a very long time to reopen after Katrina, and I haven't tried it yet since the reopening. It's owned by the Brennan's so that's a good sign. From a cost standpoint, the menu was priced like Court of Two Sisters (ie: between K. Paul's and Gumbo Shop but closer to K. Paul's).
- Arnaud's in the Quarter
- ACME Oyster House - if you like Raw Bars and Cold Beer, this is for you. It's not really my bag, but tourists love it.
- Mother's - Closer to the Superdome. It's an cheap/quality southern breakfast place. The line is very, very long.
- Also our readers recommend -- Jacquimo, Petunia's, Camellia Grill, and Tujaques. However, I can't vouch for any of those because I haven't been.
Dive Bar to Close the Evening:
- The Lafitte's Blacksmith Bar -- The oldest bar in New Orleans. It's on Bourbon Street past the college beer barns, past the Gay Bars and about 1 block past what you think might be safe at around midnight. Barely has electricity, but the piano bar is a blast.
-- Sugar Bowl Tickets starting below face value -- Stubhub