Where Tom went:
Best known for one of the most extravagant breakfasts anywhere, a spread that might start with brandy milk punch and conclude in flames with bananas Foster, this dowager French Quarter restaurant emerged from a $20 million facelift last year looking pinker, greener and lusher than ever.
417 Royal St.
Cane & Table
The saying that New Orleans is the northernmost part of the Caribbean rings true at the rum-fueled Cane & Table, whose tropically inspired back patio gives patrons the sense they’ve landed in Havana. Peas and rice are meaty with local andouille; “Hilter’s Jitters” adds a note of chocolate to the classic daiquiri.
1113 Decatur St.
Time stands still in this Italian market in the French Quarter, where the bestseller is the definitive muffuletta sandwich, a round loaf of bread stuffed with layers of ham, Genoa salami, provolone, mortadella and chopped olive salad. Flying out? There are few better souvenirs than a “boxed and bubble-wrapped” muffuletta.
923 Decatur St.
Brett Anderson, the restaurant critic for the Times-Picayune, counts the French-Creole venue as one of his favorite dining destinations. You may, too, after a night of crabmeat salad, sauteed baby drum and lemon icebox pie delivered by ace-but-amusing servers in tuxedos. Ask about the sketches gracing the walls and a waiter might crack of the VIP regulars, “They’re all bad tippers!”
6100 Annunciation St.
A one-stop shop for carnivores and a spinoff of the popular Cochon around the corner, this pungent storefront calls to our inner piggies with display cases of house-made boudin, duck pastrami and deer sausage and a sandwich menu featuring Cajun pork dogs, Moroccan-spiced lamb and Le Pig Mac: two all-pork patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese ... you get the idea.
930 Tchoupitoulas St.
In a city that takes its libations seriously, Cure, a former firehouse, stands out with menus devoted not just to classic drinks, but to seasonal, “obscure” and even reserve cocktails. The “bonded” Sazerac relies on rye whiskey from E.H. Taylor and Nouvelle-Orleans absinthe for its greatness. Sip slowly; the splurge costs $20.
4905 Freret St.
Three compelling reasons to explore the watering hole inside Arnaud’s restaurant: a handsome bar dating to the late 1800s, master mixer Chris Hannah, and a swirl of Courvoisier, sugar, lemon juice and Champagne – the signature French 75, of course.
813 Bienville St.
The recipe for fun at Galatoire’s: show up early for the chance of a Friday lunch table on the ground floor; ask for a waiter named Bryan; ease in with a Sazerac and souffle potatoes; trust the server to bring you whatever fish looks best; and revive yourself with cafe brulot. The people-watching alone is worth the effort. (The hats!)
209 Bourbon St.
High noon finds a crowd of cops, construction workers and the occasional suit or two in this cramped, cash-only po' boy shop in Uptown, its walls painted in stars-and-stripes colors. Rib-stickers include dense rolls packed with peerless grilled shrimp and cayenne-spiked pork chops.
5259 Magazine St.
“There are no shortcuts to quality” reads a sign on the cinderblock wall of the city’s most beloved shaver of ice and maker of syrups. Which means you are likely to wait for the pleasure of a creamy-textured snowball, made using a contraption developed in the 1930s by Ernest Hansen and based on sweeteners created by his wife, Mary. Flavors run from old-fashioned cream of nectar to trendy ginger-cayenne.
4801 Tchoupitoulas St.
The senior restaurant in the empire of Acadiana native Donald Link (Cochon, Cochon Butcher, Peche Seafood Grill), Herbsaint in the Warehouse District salutes France and other ports of call while staying true to its community. Expect to find dirty rice alongside duck confit and chili vinaigrette lacing grilled jumbo shrimp with creamed corn.
701 St. Charles Ave.
Christmas lights wind through a treasure trove of old and new food-related books, many carrying the names of local chefs — Besh, Link, Prudhomme, Spicer — and restaurants. In the mix: vintage church cookbooks (“Angel Food”), “vacation” glasses (to-go cups) and hundreds of record albums.
631 Toulouse St.
La Petite Grocery
Named for the market that preceded it, La Petite Grocery in Uptown calls to food fanciers with golden crab beignets, rabbit served like a schnitzel and pasta draped with zesty turtle Bolognese. The only thing holding a diner back from another round on the burgundy banquette beneath the pressed tin ceiling: the roar of the inevitable crowd.
4238 Magazine St.
Food lovers with a taste for what’s old and exquisite have plenty to peruse at this antique store in the heart of the French Quarter. Finds include an Edwardian-era plated silver meat dome, Italian lace tablecloths and French belle epoque bistro saucers.
610 Chartres St.
Chef-owner Michael Gulotta served as chef de cuisine at fine-dining August before opening this hipster Vietnamese retreat in Mid-City last year. His skill reveals itself on a whimsical menu that embraces kicky chicken wings and pho in a handful of flavors but also po’ boys stuffed with “sloppy roast duck” and banana barbecue sauce.
514 City Park Ave.
Parkway Bakery & Tavern
The Baskin-Robbins of local sandwich makers, this family-run watering hole in Mid-City offers 20 or so flavors of po' boys. “Surf and turf” packs gravy-splashed shrimp and roast beef in a sturdy roll, while “Caprese” is mindful of customers who don’t eat meat. A covered patio in back makes room for everyone, pets included.
538 Hagan Ave.
Go for oysters shucked at a bar dating to 1913 and stick around for barbecue shrimp. Bibs go around the necks of diners who order the house signature, a Creole-Italian classic featuring whole shrimp in a hot bath of butter and pepper. Crusty French bread makes an excellent mop for any remains.
1838 Napoleon Ave.
Peche Seafood Grill
The best fishing hole for miles may be the Warehouse District’s kind-of-rustic, sort-of-industrial dining room, where the great catches include catfish with pickled greens, a Louisiana shrimp roll and a model caramel cake. Small wonder that the James Beard Foundation presented Peche with awards last year for both Best New Restaurant and Best Chef: South.
800 Magazine St.
The buzziest restaurant in town is the handiwork of Alon Shaya, the James Beard award-winning chef whose menu proves a valentine to modern Israel. Among the seductions: avocado and smoked whitefish on rye toast, curry-spiced cauliflower in a well of lush hummus, slow-cooked lamb with fruited tabouleh. Try, if you can, not to fill up too early on Shaya’s world-class pita.
4213 Magazine St.
Southern Food & Beverage Museum
A must-see for anyone who enjoys food history and the pleasures of the (Southern) table, the museum brims with enticements. Check out the machine Popeye's founder Al Copeland used to measure the heat in chili peppers, an absinthe collection, Prohibition posters and, just a block way, a collection of more than 17,000 cookbooks and pamphlets. A demonstration kitchen and restaurant, Purloo, round out the scholarship -- and fun.
1504 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.
St. James Cheese Company
The name of the city’s best source for fromage is a nod both to the neighborhood in London where the owners began their cheese careers and the London hospital sung about by the trumpeter Louis Armstrong. Go for a cheese sandwich at lunch; cheese with wine at happy hour; or for the occasional lesson on the glories of cheeses from Spain or Sonoma.
5004 Prytania St.
St. Roch Market
Shuttered by Katrina, the one-time seafood market reopened this spring as a pristine food hall with more than a dozen vendors and abundant counter seating throughout. Among the draws are crab cakes from Elysian Seafood, daiquiris and other cocktails from the Mayhaw and local pecans, okra and raw honey sourced by St. Roch Forage.
2381 St. Claude Ave.
Hospitality veterans Isaac and Amanda Toups (he cooks, she handles wine) have a winner in their contemporary Cajun outpost in Mid-City. Loosen your belt for barbecued goat delivered with pickled peppers and a wedge of cornbread, and fennel-topped lamb neck rising from a tasty swamp of black-eyed peas.
845 N. Carrollton Ave.
Now ubiquitous, the duo of fried green tomatoes and shrimp remoulade originated in this rambling townhouse-turned-restaurant in Uptown. The other classic to seek out is hostess extraordinaire JoAnn Clevenger, a gracious presence in the art-filled dining rooms since she introduced Upperline more than three decades ago. Theme dinners keep her dining destination fresh. Traditions including duck in peach-ginger sauce and grilled drum fish with hot sauce make for lasting memories.
1413 Upperline St.
Willie Mae’s Scotch House
A tarp shades the crowds that routinely show up for lunch in what began life in Treme as a bar in 1957 and morphed into a restaurant in the early ‘70s. The pork chops and smothered veal are pure comfort, but what keeps Willie Mae’s on the food map is the kitchen’s hand-battered, fried-to-order, finger-lickin’-luscious chicken.
2401 St. Ann St.