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.
O'Henrys has served baskets of complimentary salted peanuts to guests since its founding in 1982, and the floors remain whimsically festooned with shells to this day. Owner Rhonda Conley, with more than 20 years at O'Henry's under her belt, works to keep the tradition of the restaurant alive at both locations. Waiters crunch across dining rooms from midday to midnight, bearing plates of freshly ground filet mignon burgers, hearty steaks, and signature Monica cream sauce dishes. Outside, an outdoor balcony scattered with tabletops wraps around the restaurant. The eatery boasts private dining rooms for parties of up to 25 people. It also treats guests to a free new york strip steak if they can prove it's their birthday with a valid ID or by showing video tapes of them not celebrating their birthday the previous 364 days.
Sammy's Seafood Restaurant sits at the center of the French Quarter, surrounded by 18th-century buildings and iron balconies that personify the district. A candy-stripe awning shields a dining patio, filtering sunrays and airborne Mardi Gras beads while offering a view of Bourbon Street's perennial foot traffic. In this quaint setting, chefs prepare fried alligator and crawfish étoufée, just two of the seafood dishes on the creole-inspired menu. Blackened, fried, and heavily spiced dishes comprise the majority of options, hearkening Cajun preparation techniques. Patrons who dine indoors find themselves in a cozy dining room flanked by wooden walls and a brick fireplace.
On a residential street near the river, a little white cottage with a hand-painted sign hosts heaping platters of crustaceans, catfish, rib-eye steaks, and creamy Southern sides. Creamy baked macaroni and potato salad escort fried redfish, frog legs, and soft-shell crab from a kitchen praised by Lonely Planet as "working in its own rarefied air," with each dish ceremonially blessed by a mermaid. Tuesday through Friday, lunch specials pack salads and po boys with oysters and shrimp. A glass of sangria from the bar offers a refreshingly fruity counterpoint to the flavors of the sea.
Local sculptor Luis Colmenares designed the massive fish that swim overhead at Red Fish Grill. Shaped from colorful metals, the fish weave around sculpted palm trees and over plates of casually prepared seafood. The hickory-grilled Gulf redfish with sautéed Louisiana jumbo lump crabmeat is the eatery’s signature.
When it comes to Drago's signature charbroiled oysters, there are no middlemen. The restaurant employs its own fishermen to carefully choose the succulent mollusks, which are whisked directly to the restaurant and opened by hand. A daub of herb-and-garlic butter, a sprinkling of parmesan and romano cheeses, and the open flame of a grill are all they need before they're ready to enter the dining room in numbers exceeding 900 per day.