The French Quarter is kind of like a ball pit from when you were a kid - it’s fun while you’re in it, but once you leave, you’re just glad you got out alive. Between the number of bars and restaurants, it can be a bit overwhelming. However, if you know where to look, you can find the good spots between the fake voodoo shops, kitschy galleries, and everything on Bourbon Street. Check out our favorite places to eat and drink in the French Quarter and whatever you do, go easy on the Hurricanes.
Check out our complete list of New Orleans restaurants and bars here.
Meauxbar is located on the very edge of the Quarter and it’s more likely filled with locals from the neighborhood than it is visitors in town for a convention. They serve a mix of French dishes, like chicken liver pâté and hanger steak au poivre, along with non-French dishes, like gnocchi and yak-a-mein, a local noodle dish topped with stewed beef and eggs. It’s a great option for when you want to split a few plates, drink some interesting cocktails, and get some recommendations from a couple who came down for Mardi Gras in the ’70s and never left. In case you can’t get enough of Meauxbar, they also serve brunch Friday through Sunday.
Friday lunch at Galatoire’s is a New Orleans right of passage. To do it right, you need to sit in the downstairs dining room, which requires getting in line on Bourbon Street before it opens at 11:30am. Once you’re in though, it’s basically an upscale party where the servers wear tuxes, drinking is definitely encouraged, and you can eat old school classics like shrimp remoulade and gumbo. If you’re looking for a proper “Yes, I’m definitely in New Orleans” way to kick off your weekend here, start at Galatoire’s.
It’s hard to tell if Cane & Table is a restaurant with great drinks, or a fancy cocktail bar that serves surprisingly good food. Either way, it’s one of our favorite spots in the French Quarter and their big back courtyard is the perfect place to escape the chaos of nearby Bourbon Street. They have one of the most diverse cocktail menus in the city and serve a mix of great small plates and entrees, like green gumbo and a whole roasted fish. Whether you need a place for a big group or somewhere for a date, Cane & Table has you covered.
Down a picturesque alley just a block and a half from Bourbon Street is Green Goddess, a little outdoor restaurant that serves a mix of vegan and vegetarian dishes, along with cheese, charcuterie, and some very nice cocktails. It’s a great date spot, or the perfect refuge from the overcrowded bars nearby, and if you’re eating with someone who always makes specific requests when they order, Green Goddess is a place that has something for everyone.
The po’boy might be the most famous sandwich in New Orleans, but the muffuletta - a giant Italian sandwich that can easily feed four people - is a close second. You can find it across the city, but it was invented at Central Grocery in the French Quarter and that’s where you should go for one. This Italian specialties shop looks like it’s from another century, which makes sense since it opened in 1906. There’s always a lunch crowd, but the muffulettas are constantly being made so the line moves quick.
The French Quarter gets packed on the weekend, and especially when you’re looking for a good date spot, most of your options are crowded dining rooms or small back patios filled with one too many tables. Rather than deal with all of that, have dinner on the upstairs terrace at Cafe Sbisa instead. This vintage French-Creole restaurant is one of the few places in the area where you can have cocktails and eat some barbecue shrimp and crab cakes outside, while the crowd below stays comfortably out of earshot. After dinner, grab a drink at the bar inside, which dates back to 1899 and is the last refuge before you reenter the madness.
What the Quarter lacks in po’boy options, it makes up for in quality with two locations of Killer Poboys. While most po’boy shops stick to the classics, this place serves a few more gourmet options, topped with things like glazed pork belly and smoked salmon. If you’re looking for classics like grilled shrimp or roast beef, however, they have those too. Head to the main shop for the full menu, or go to Erin Rose for a beer with your po’boy if you’d rather keep barhopping.
Sylvain is a semi-upscale neighborhood spot that you’ll wish was around the corner from where you lived. Located just off Jackson Square in the French Quarter, this place serves some of our favorite all-purpose dishes, like pork milanese, little neck clams, and a truly great fried chicken sandwich. Besides food, Sylvain is equally great just for drinking cocktails on their back patio, in case you’ve already eaten for the fourth time that day and need a break before dinner.
If you only have brunch once in New Orleans, it should be at Brennan’s. This place opened more than 70 years ago and is known for both its excellent service and classic food, like eggs Benedict, gumbo, and a crawfish omelette. Make sure to try the brandy milk punch as well, if morning drinking is in your future. If you don’t feel like battling the plethora of bachelorette parties that flock to Brennan’s earlier in the day, then come for dinner instead. Make sure to save room for the Bananas Foster, though, which is set aflame table-side and which you should not try to make in your kitchen at home.
Whether you need a mid-afternoon pick-me-up or a post-bar snack at 3am, Cafe Du Monde is always open. This place has been serving coffee and beignets in the same location on Jackson Square since 1862. It’s about as vintage New Orleans as you can get, and while it’s one of the most touristy spots in the city, the coffee and beignets - which are available 24/7, everyday except Christmas - are worth showing up in the background of people’s vacation photos.
In the very center of the French Quarter is Pat O’Brien’s, a bar famous for three things: inventing the Hurricane, late-night dueling pianos, and a flaming fountain. While it gets packed at night, it’s an ideal spot to grab a few afternoon drinks, and theorize about why someone thought, “You know what that fountain needs? Flames.” Even when you’re trying to keep things low-key, Pat O’Brien’s is a classic and somewhere you should still check out for a drink or two.
Bar Tonique is a cocktail spot just three blocks from Bourbon Street where you can sit at a big U-shaped bar, enjoy a well-made drink, and breathe for a minute. The bartenders here take their cocktails very seriously and, as a result, each drink requires a few minutes to make. At the same time though, they have a daily $5 cocktail, meaning you can have two mai tais or Moscow mules before paying the same amount for one daiquiri at your next stop down the street.
There are roughly 582 bars on Bourbon Street, and most of them aren’t worth your time, unless your goal is to end up on stage with an AC/DC cover band. Rather than give your friends the pleasure of watching you do that, head to Lafitte’s instead. It’s one of the oldest bars in America, and their frozen daiquiris provide all the energy you’ll need to bob and weave through the mix of bachelor parties, college kids, and tourists that clog the street each night.
Yes, this bar is built into an actual moving carousel inside the Hotel Monteleone and also yes, it’s a little gimmicky. That said, it’s still a fun place to grab a drink. At all hours of the day, you’ll find a mix of tourists draped in beads and hotel guests pre and post-gaming weddings, all of whom are enamored with the bar that spins slowly enough to barely notice until you’re actually seated on one of the stools.