Overlooking St. Charles Avenue, Mia's Balcony offers Mardi Gras revelers a central view of grand, glittering floats and shimmering beads. But the restaurant isn’t content to host a party once a year; on the other 364 days, visitors cheer on the college, professional, and sock-puppet football games broadcast over the patio's outdoor televisions, and a banquet room is available for private soirees. While watching a Saints or LSU game or just chatting, guests can share small plates of seared scallops on the half-shell or fish croquettes or dig into substantial entrees such as pepper-jelly lamb chops. On weekend mornings, the chefs prepare brunch dishes including creole omelets and veal grillades over grits.
Local artwork, exposed-brick walls, and fireplaces set an inviting scene indoors. Bartenders fill glasses with craft beers, wine, and potent cocktails such as the French 75, a champagne- and gin-based drink based on a vintage recipe.
It's no small feat to whip up one of The Olive Branch Café's gourmet pizzas. The painstaking process begins long before lunchtime, with chefs preparing dough fresh for the day each morning. There's barely a moment to rest before orders begin flying in and the pizza makers spring into action, showering crusts with housemade sauces and high-quality cheeses. Their brows furrowed in concentration, their hands blurs, they layer pizzas with fresh garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and fine spanish olives. Once the pies arrive triumphantly to the dining room, the chefs turn their attention to thick muffuletta subs, plump meatball calzones, and the jambalaya pastas that caught the attention of Gambit’s Best of New Orleans guide.
Out in the casual dining room, beneath warm red walls peppered with abstract art, guests clink glasses, feeling more content than a robot in a microchip factory. There, owner Russell "Rusty" Autry often strolls around the room, greeting newcomers and exchanging jokes with regulars.
Featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Katie’s Restaurant & Bar’s head chef and native New Orleanian Scot Craig celebrates traditional and modern creole dishes at the nearly 30-year-old establishment. Cochon de lait plays a key role in the cuisine, and for good reason: Chef Craig spends hours rubbing down the pork with dry-spice rub, reading it pig-themed nursery rhymes, and then smoking it to a luscious finish in the small smoker behind the restaurant. You’ll find the tender pork atop a Brooklyn-style stone-baked pizza, which was Lauded by Best of New Orleans as “hard to resist.” It also dons Tabasco mayo in the restaurant's barge-sized po' boys, and weekends finds the meat sitting daintily atop a poached egg and English muffin drenched in hollandaise.
The chefs at Sukho Thai evoke the streets and kitchens of Thailand with balanced dishes that spotlight fresh and exotic ingredients. In addition to bowls of sinuous egg and rice noodles, they craft panang curry filled with strips of pan-fried duck breast, fresh coconut milk, and kaffir lime leaves. Waterfall beef mingles with chiles, roasted rice powder, and mint, and the steamed fish of the day swims in garlicky lime or whiskey ginger sauce. Sukho Thai also rotates seasonal specials—including a recent collection inspired by Bangkok street food—through their menu on a regular basis.
Sukho's original Marigny location is housed in a vibrant-yellow building bedecked with red and blue trim. The Uptown location resides in a polished warehouse-style space, where exposed-brick walls surround long, buttery banquettes. Beneath a peaked ceiling, glowing paper lanterns hang in a cluster from metal beams.
"Owner Madison Curry's warm, smiling presence is underscored by baked goods that all but dare not to be ordered." This quote from a NOLA.com article hints at Il Posto's charm. But it only encapsulates a fraction of what makes the cafe so interesting. Italian cuisine forms the backbone of the menu, which features paninis such as the Bologna with mortadella, roasted red peppers, and balsamic dressing, as well as fontina grilled cheeses with inventive add-ins such as tuna, honey, and walnuts. Antipasti spreads can be built from a choice of meats or cheeses. In the mornings, on the other hand, the restaurant brews and serves its own house-blend coffee. Their java complements bagels, organic granola, and a rotating selection of pastries that can't stay long, as they have to get back to starring in peoples' dreams.
Pots of bubbling water cook freshly made pasta until it’s ready to join meatballs and calamari on plates doused in zesty sauces. Nearby, pizzas are loaded with prosciutto, shrimp, and roasted garlic, while fresh mozzarella rains over a pizza crust headed for a wood-fired oven. Leonardo Trattoria forgoes local New Orleans food influences, instead maintaining “a focus on Sicilian dishes and cooking styles,” as Ian McNulty of Gambit writes. The full-fledged Italian atmosphere continues in the dining room, where flat-screen TVs mounted on brick walls play Italian mobster movies or hours of footage of Dante’s writing desk. Outside, lush foliage hangs from a second-story balcony, adding to the ambiance that helped the eatery snag a diners’ choice award for outdoor dining from OpenTable readers.