When Travel & Leisure ranked America’s Top 10 Food Cities, it was no shock to us that New Orleans came in at No. 1 on the list.
Being a food and beverage agency in the greater New Orleans area, our days are split between singing the gospel of great cuisine through marketing, branding and design development …while also looking for the best the city has to offer when we dine out.
Alex Harrell is a lauded chef in New Orleans. He’s at the helm of Angeline, which opened in 2015. Known for its elevated take on Southern fare, Angeline was named one of the Top 5 Best New Restaurants by the Times Picayune and The Food Network featured it on a Guide to Local New Orleans this past winter.
“The whole idea behind Angeline was to give the French Quarter a neighborhood restaurant that was really accessible for people to have a glass of wine after work, all the way up to visitors who want a full experience,” Chef Harrell says. “Our cuisine is approachable, contemporary Southern, and we are excited to head into citrus season, as well as the weather dropping and those heavier braised stews and soups coming on soon.”
As for New Orleans being named Travel & Leisure’s No. 1 Food City, he, like us, is not surprised.
“I think this city is unique for food because of the overall blend of history and culture,” he says. “It’s a special place to the entire United States. You have that old world sensibility and European influence, but you blend that with the laid back lifestyle of the Caribbean, too. You can’t beat it for music and food, and it’s just that the entirety of the city revolves around celebration. It really is true, that old joke: any excuse for a party or a parade. I think people are drawn to that. New Orleans has also grown from a food standpoint. For so long prior to Katrina, it’s my opinion that we held very strongly to traditions. After the storm, a sense of progressiveness came through. It added the ability for chefs to branch out and try different things. We now have amazing Vietnamese and Ethiopian, an influx of outside ideas, blending with our old food ways. I think this is a main reason we are being recognized now.”
Definitely dine at Angeline this winter when you are in the city. Beyond that, we asked his suggestions for holiday food and beverage options around town.
Here is where Chef Alex Harrell plans to book a reservation or find a walk-in table this season.
Best Place for Classic, New Orleanian Dishes Like Jambalaya and Rice & Beans
“I would say if you want that neighborhood experience, go to Liuzza’s By The Track in Mid-City by Fair Grounds Race Course. It is the quintessential Nola neighborhood café. I love it. It’s a cross section of our population, and I order a cup of seafood gumbo with half a fried shrimp Po-Boy.”
Best for Appetizers / Tapas
“I think one of the coolest environments to hang out and get some snacks is Bacchanal in the Lower Ninth Ward. You dine outdoors and the food’s great. The chef is a good friend, and I think he’s not celebrated enough for what he does down there. I think it’s still paper plates.
Sitting out in that courtyard is an experience, especially right now when the weather is wonderful.”
Best Place in the French Quarter
“Sylvain. I’m eating whatever Martha Wiggins has on special. I have some standards, like the Chick Sylvain. It’s a play on a Chick-fil-A sandwich. It’s pretty close. It’s just chicken, house-made pickles and a bun.”
Best Place for Drinks Before Dinner
“The Black Penny on Rampart is a new, favorite neighborhood spot. It’s one of those places you can pop in and get a great cocktail, but it’s still pretty low key. I don’t want to say dive-y, but worn and weathered nicely.”
Best Place for a Big, Fancy Splurge Meal
“Patois in Uptown. Chef Aaron Burgau is one of the first people I ever met and worked with here. He’s incredibly talented. I love the way he cooks. It’s a mix of old, New Orleans sensibility and also pushing the envelope. He mixes in some Southeast Asian and Sicilian flavors, which are beautiful.”
Best Place to Eat International Cuisine
“Close to my house, I like Mopho. It’s not traditional Vietnamese, but it plays on all of that. It also has that kind of New Orleans flair. I get the curried lamb necks with cream cheese roti. Then he does a vindaloo play on Nashville hot chicken, that’s a fried vindaloo chicken bahn mi sandwich. It’s killer.”