By the way, these are listed in no particular order.
1. Soft-Shell Crab Pappardelle
My handsome husband-to-be used to live in New Orleans, so he already had a few spots in mind when we started planning this trip. Irene's Cuisine was an old favorite of his that we knew would be on the list. After driving furiously, we miraculously made it to Irene's in time for our 9:45 p.m. reservation. The restaurant graciously provides a rustic bruschetta starter, which I proceeded to devour in seconds. While the Oysters Irene (baked oysters with pancetta, Romano, and shrimp) were scrumptious, the real star is the Soft-Shell Crab Pappardelle. I know people fall on either side of the fence when it comes to soft-shell crab, but trust me when I say you will absolutely love this dish. Deep fried and left intact, the crab sits atop an enormous bowl of buttery, fresh-made pappardelle that I'm sure is still making its way through my arteries right now. Definitely make a reservation, because this place gets packed with locals and tourists alike.
2. Catfish with Pickled Greens + Chili Broth
Absolutely everything at Pêche is fantastic. I promise I'm practicing such restraint by including only two dishes on this list. Full disclosure: If we'd had time to go back again, I definitely would have. Not only is all of the seafood extremely fresh, but it's also treated with the utmost care. You won't see any heavy sauces or flavor-masking ingredients here. My entree was healthy grilled tuna, so obviously our appetizer needed to be fried (it's all about balance, people). Even though the catfish is served sitting in a bowl of broth, the fried coating stays perfectly crisp (is it magic? possibly). And those pickled greens? Good LAWD. Each bite had the exact right amount of vinegar.
Yup, this one is from Pêche too, #sorrynotsorry. We had every intention of skipping dessert, but what can I say, I'm easily swayed by salted caramel. You would think seven layers of cake would come out dense and thick, however, this slice was the exact opposite. So light, so fluffy, and so damn good, I turned away to order another glass of champagne and Will basically devoured the entire thing. With any dessert, I normally regret not getting something chocolate-y, but not this time around. This cake's mix of salty-sweet did the trick.
As a Cuban, I understand it's semi-sacreligious to eat paella without heaps of shrimp, yellow rice, and chorizo, but hear me out: Cane & Table's vegetarian version packed with maitake mushrooms, crispy brussels sprouts, and capers is the perfect dish to start a night full of drinking. You won't feel overly stuffed and your stomach will thank you for giving it some sustenance before you punish it with alcohol. Not to mention, the texture of the shredded cauliflower will seriously trick your brain into thinking it's rice.
5. Saltimbocca Pizza
I'm pretty sure Reginelli's Pizzeria is a chain, but after a night of poor choices, pizza was the only thing I wanted. This spot was another one on the beau's approved-eats list, yet I was pleasantly surprised when the dough and toppings were actually good. Like really good. It took me a hot minute to decide which pie to stuff my face with, but ultimately the Saltimbocca won out. Slathered with a garlic-herb sauce, then topped with fresh spinach, marinated chicken, and prosciutto with fresh lemon, I may never get another pizza combination again. Let me tell you, lemon on pizza is pure genius. This next-level addition really brightened each bite, and it wasn't overwhelming in the least.
Commander's Palace is another spot where everything on the menu was absolutely delicious. My Louisiana blue crab appetizer (upper left) was mind-blowingly good, but since it's only a seasonal item, I won't tease you with all the details. The Pecan-Crusted Gulf Fish, however, is a dish you can—and should—get year-round. This top-seller is served over crushed corn with Prosecco poached blue crab. Smooth, buttery, and full of flavor, we both couldn't resist ordering it for our main meal.
This decadent dessert is a true New Orleans classic. Although it is also from Commander's, it deserves its own listing—yes, it's that good. The dessert is so popular, in fact, Commander's has an employee whose sole job is to make these puppies. The light-yet-moist pudding has hints of nutmeg, vanilla and cinnamon, but the whiskey sauce is the real gem of this dish. It's poured into the center of the soufflé tableside, and it is life-changing. I dare you not to slurp it up and ask for seconds.
You absolutely can't leave New Orleans without a po' boy of some sort. Personally, I'm all about oysters, but Mother's Restaurant has po' boys of all kinds. Not a seafood fan? Get the roast beef piled high with debris and gravy aka all of the yummy parts at the bottom of the pan. Either way, dip your choice in any of Mother's homemade sauces for even more zing in every bite. This place doesn't go through 175,000 pounds of roast beef and 1,500 gallons of Creole mustard a year for nothing.
Did I miss one of your favorite spots? Tell me about it in the comments!