New Orleans eats and drinks better than any othercity in North America. Many nations, includingFrance, Spain, and England, have raised their flagsover this Mississippi Riverport, and each has importedbits of cuisine that'ssophisticated, saucy, andspicy. In fact, the city boastsmore than 2000 restaurantsand bistros. And when itcomes to this city, varietybreeds friendly debate.
Locals will argue endlesslyabout which spotpours the best café au laitor bakes the best sugary beignets, which are thelocal fried doughnuts. Don't consumebeignets when you're wearing dark colors;they're dangerous. The beignets at the Café duMonde (800-772-2927; www.cafedumonde.com) gethigh marks, as does the coffee at Croissant d'OrPatisserie (504-524-4663).
VERY FINE DINING
Since both locals and visiting conventioneers areeager to support quality dining, ambitious young chefshave found that they can make a name for themselvesin New Orleans. One chef who has found this to be trueis Tom Wolfe, who operates Wolfe's of New Orleans(504-284-6004; www.wolfesofneworleans.com). Named1 of the 5 up-and-coming chefs to watch in the UnitedStates by Esquire, Wolfe has made a name for himselfboth in and outside of New Orleans.
Giving Wolfe's place a run for its money is the elegantUpperline Restaurant (504-891-9822; www.upperline.com), which regularly receives plauditsfrom for the quality of its cellar,warm hospitality, and elegant décor.
Female chefs and restaurant owners have longplayed a significant role in the New Orleans fine-diningscene, including Chef Susan Spicer. Spicer has madeher Cobalt Restaurant(504-565-5595; www.cobaltrestaurant. com) a mustvisitdestination on anytour of the town's finerestaurants. Her cuisine isregional American, andher restaurant is subdividedinto a piano lounge,oyster bar, and assortedintimate dining alcoves.
Take our advice:
Of course, you shouldknow that you'll find morethan just expensive, 3-starrestaurants in New Orleans.A good approach tofinding a decent place toeat is to ask around andfind out what the localsrecommend and wherethey eat. Try the catfish at Barrow'sCatfish Restaurant (504-486-1749), which fries up amess of spiced and cornmeal-coated catfish eachday that it serves with acreamy potato salad.
And since you're inNew Orleans, make sureyou check out the Jambalaya, which is a local delicacy.It's a hot platter made up of just about everythingin the kitchen: rice, tomatoes, ham, shrimp, sausage,chicken, celery, onions, and spices. Another "musteat" while you're in town is gumbo. The best of thesespicy stews are so thick that you can stand your spoonupright in it. Try out the gumbo at Mid City LanesRock `n Bowl, where locals eat, drink, dance to Zydecomusic, and occasionally bowl.
SWEET MUSIC AND TREATS
Of course, New Orleans is every bit as famous forits music—jazz, honky tonk, and blues—as it is for itstop-caliber cuisine. Both can be found in many diningspots downtown, memorably in the Court of theTwo Sisters. : Follow the sound ofmusic, which begins at 9 AM, and wind up enjoying ajazz brunch buffet that lasts until 3 in the afternoon.Music is also an important part of breakfast atBrennan's (504-525-9711;www.brennansneworleans.com), which is not agood place for caloriecounters, but then again,that's par for the course inNew Orleans. One of therestaurant's signature dessertsis Bananas Foster: abanana drenched in butter,sugar, and cinnamon, thenflamed with cognac andserved over ice cream.Commander's Palace (504-899-8221; www.commanderspalace.com), also runby members of the extendedBrennan family, highlightsBananas Foster on itsgrand menu as well.