There are plenty of established eateries and bars that have perfected New Orlean’s rich culture in their dishes and drinks. While old-standing establishments such as the Napoleon House are staples when it comes to grabbing a bite to eat, New Orleans’ dining has evolved from Jambalaya and the Muffuletta, although the classics are still revered.
New Orleans is continuously witnessing new restaurants and bars popping up with fresh takes on dining experiences. These notable destinations that were added to NOLA’s radar in 2016 might not have celebrated their first birthdays yet, but they are already packed with the same amount of enthusiasm and culture that originally turned New Orleans into a foodie’s utopia.
The Caribbean Room
Photo by Rebecca Ratliff
After a $10 million renovation of the Pontchartrain Hotel, the Caribbean Room, which was first introduced to the Hotel in 1948 by E. Lysle Aschaffenburg, returned on June 17 with elegance. While the Caribbean Room closed in 1994, chefs Chris Lusk and John Besh decided to reopen the Caribbean Room and revive its charm. Keeping with the restaurant’s past grace and virtue, jackets for gentleman are required while the restaurant features rattan furniture and Charles Reinike murals. Bringing new energy to the area, a portrait of Lil’ Wayne eating their classic Mile High Ice Cream Pie is the focal point when you enter. Continuing with the new pizzazz, chef Lusk infuses a contemporary vibe with classic dishes featuring the Crab Remeike with bacon and chili sauce and the Trout Veronique. A meal wouldn’t be complete at the Caribbean Room without their iconic Mile High Ice Cream Pie that is layered with chocolate, vanilla and peppermint ice cream topped with fluffed marshmallow and melted chocolate sauce poured tableside. If there is a portrait of the pie with Lil’ Wayne, it has to live up to its expectation, which it does.
Hot Tin Rooftop Bar
Photo by Christian Horan Photography
When the Pontchartrain Hotel was constructed in 1927, the building was full of ritzy residential apartments. However, it seemed to be missing a penthouse. Local lawyer Colonel Deutsch asked the original hotel proprietor, Aschaffenburg, about the availability of a penthouse and why there wasn’t one, Aschaffenburg responded by saying he would build one, which he did.
On June 17, 2016, the penthouse became home to Hot Tin Rooftop Bar, which provides a 270-degree view of the Mississippi River and Downtown NOLA. As you enter Hot Tin after getting off the golden elevator, you walk into a 1940s artistic studio. Lounge chairs, couches and possessions from the past including old photos and postcards line the shelves of the establishment. In relation to its name, a ceiling similar to a tin roof is above the bar as the bartenders perfect their mixology. Peacock rattan chairs and a classic Christmas Story leg lamp complete the speakeasy sensation. The bartenders create cocktails like the Blanco y Blanco with tequila, ancho reyes, lime, creme de cacao and chili-bourbon tincture. Sipping one of these drinks while peering through the glass accordion doors or enjoying the breeze from the balcony is a sure way to have a memorable, or possibly a forgotten night.
Photo by Rebecca Ratliff
You may already know him from Top Chef: the fearless chef Isaac Toups didn’t end his culinary expertise after opening his restaurant Toups’ Meatery, where he has been honored by the James Beard Foundation. On Oct. 5, Toups opened Toups South with a menu of southern fine food and cocktails. Toups South is located in the Southern Food & Beverage Museum and features small or large plates for brunch, lunch and dinner. Drinks like Porkchops and Applesauce and a Toups Julep are served atop the historic 19th century wooden Bruning’s bar, one of the oldest bars in New Orleans. Dishes of Grilled Gulf Tuna, Confit Duck Leg and Brown Sugar Glazed Pork Belly pair well with their selection of wine at the bar where an imperial shaker is standing.
Photo courtesy of Meril
BAM! Chef Emeril Lagasse opened his fourth restaurant on Sept. 24 in New Orleans’ Warehouse District featuring a casual restaurant interior, an open style kitchen and a large comfortable U-shaped bar area. Meril is named after Lagasse’s daughter and showcases some of his favorite contemporary dishes. From Korean short ribs to upside down cornbread served with house bacon marmalade to shrimp and grilled pork spring rolls, Meril has something everyone will want to munch on. Chef de cuisine Wilfredo Avelar works closely with Lagasse to deliver flatbreads, pasta and tapas packed with bold flavors. Specialty drinks are listed by numbers including the No. 11 featuring vodka, Aperol, lemon juice, house made lavender syrup and Lindemans Peche. Classic cocktails are featured with a modern twist while the restaurant holds a vast selection of wine.
Central City BBQ
Photo courtesy of Central City BBQ/Instagram
Central City BBQ debuted just before the new year thanks to the collaboration of chefs Rob Bechtold and Aaron Burgau. After meeting many years ago while working together at Bayona, they parted to work on their own projects before connecting again over barbecue at Bechtold’s NOLA Smokehouse. Bechtold, Burgau and partners purchased the building that is now Central City BBQ in historic Central City across from Paradigm Gardens. The menu features the Pig Cheesy Sandwich with pulled pork, pimento cheese, pickled mustard seeds and spicy micro greens. If you are more of a plate person, pithouse plates include a choice of pulled porks, brisket burnt ends or half chicken and the traditionally twisted sides of pithouse beans, umami pickles and emoulde potato salad. Central City BBQ starts serving the soul food at 11 a.m. until they sell out.
Lauren Spiler is a freelance journalist based in Athens, Georgia. Most call her Spiler.