Let the Good Wines Roll: 9 Top New Orleans Restaurants

These Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners have wine programs as bold as their flavors
Let the Good Wines Roll: 9 Top New Orleans Restaurants
Maintaining its Grand Award to this day, Commander’s Palace opened in 1893 in New Orleans' Garden District. (Michael Palumbo)
Mar 1, 2018

Updated Feb. 11, 2021

Founded by France, relinquished to Spain and acquired by the United States through the Louisiana Purchase, New Orleans has centuries of history behind its rich culinary identity. But in recent years, the city has enjoyed a dynamic revitalization. Chefs are building on the Creole traditions that draw from Native American, African, Caribbean and the early European influences, combining them with the food of later waves of arrivals—German, Italian, Vietnamese, Cajun and more. They have built a global food destination, and one with a passion for great wine.

Today, the city’s indoor dining is limited by pandemic restrictions, and noticeably missing from this list are the lauded destinations of New Orleans’ best-known chef, Emeril Lagasse, which are still temporarily closed. That includes his eponymous flagship, a Wine Spectator Grand Award winner since 1999. Still, these nine restaurants carry on the Crescent City’s culinary reputation, while also offering Restaurant Award–winning wine programs.

To check out more wine-and-food destinations around the world, see Wine Spectator’s nearly 3,800 Restaurant Award–winning picks, including all 33 New Orleans Restaurant Award winners and the 100 Grand Award recipients worldwide that hold our highest honor.

Do you have a favorite you’d like to see on this list? Send your recommendations to restaurantawards@mshanken.com. We want to hear from you!

Note: Opening hours and menus are subject to change as the industry continues to adjust to evolving regulations.


Commander's Palace

1403 Washington Ave., New Orleans, La.
Telephone (504) 899-8221
Website www.commanderspalace.com
Grand Award

Opened in 1893 in the Garden District, Commander's Palace is a culinary icon and Grand Award–winning wine destination. Wine director Dan Davis’ 2,900-selection list shows strength in a range of regions: Burgundy, California, the Rhône, Bordeaux, Italy, Spain, Germany, Loire, Languedoc-Roussillon and Austria. Legendary cooks like Emeril Lagasse and Paul Prudhomme have led the kitchen, and in October 2020, Commander’s made history with the appointment of its first female executive chef, Meg Bickford. She executes the fine-dining approach to Creole cuisine with dishes such as white shrimp curry, boudin-stuffed quail and turtle soup finished tableside with a dry Sherry. In response to the pandemic, the restaurant added a takeout-only spot next door called Le Petit Bleu, in addition to shipping dishes nationwide via Goldbelly.


Brennan's Restaurant

417 Royal St., New Orleans, La.
Telephone (504) 525-9711
Website www.brennansneworleans.com
Best of Award of Excellence

Outdoor dining area at Brennan’s Restaurant
With a welcoming courtyard for outdoor dining, Brennan’s Restaurant serves stellar wines to complement robust dishes. (Courtesy of Brennan’s Restaurant)

Brennan's Restaurant was established in 1946 in the French Quarter before moving to its current location in 1956. The wine cellars once served as an adjacent carriage house with stables; now they house nearly 23,000 bottles to support wine director Braithe Tidwell’s list, which specializes in Burgundy to commemorate the city’s historical French ties. The Bordeaux and Rhône sections also stand out, as do California and Italy. There are dozens of verticals from top producers such as Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Château Lafite Rothschild and Harlan Estate, and Champagnes that date back to 1970. The menu features local staples such as turtle soup and seafood gumbo, as well as signature dishes from chef Ryan Hacker like pomegranate-braised short rib and Creole-spiced speckled trout.


Clancy's

6100 Annunciation St., New Orleans, La.
Telephone (504) 895-1111
Website www.clancysneworleans.com
Best of Award of Excellence

A dish next to two wine bottles at Clancy’s
Clancy’s doesn’t skimp on decadent flavors for its mostly traditional menu. (Charlotte Latham)

Clancy's is a neighborhood bistro beloved by locals, with an 800-wine list that's held a Best of Award of Excellence for more than 15 years. Selections from California, France (especially Burgundy and the Rhône) and Oregon are strongest on the list managed by co-owner Brad Hollingsworth. The program features plenty of bottles under $100 along with splurges like a lengthy vertical of Opus One going back to the early 1990s. Hollingsworth tends to keep the selections fairly constant from year to year, focusing on regions he feels pair best with the Creole fare. Co-owner Brian Larson also serves as Clancy’s chef, creating plates such as sweetbreads with Dijon and green-peppercorn cream and fried redfish with crabmeat and meuniere sauce.


Galatoire's

209 Bourbon St., New Orleans, La.
Telephone (504) 525-2021
Website www.galatoires.com
Best of Award of Excellence

A bowl of seafood gumbo at Galatoire’s
Gumbo is a constant on the menu at Galatoire’s, with both a seafood version and a duck-and-andouille version. (Courtesy of Galatoire’s)

Though it’s located on a street known for chaos, Galatoire's is a peaceful fine-dining oasis. Now open in addition to an extensive takeout selection, the elegant dining room transports guests away from the buzzy neighborhood for a world-class wine-and-food experience. Managed by wine director Rene Sudduth, the 950-label list highlights Champagne, Bordeaux and California, with particular breadth and depth in Burgundy selections. More than 30 wines by the glass and nearly 50 half-bottles offer an accessible taste of the program. Chef Phillip Lopez adds an extra dose of French influence to traditional Creole cuisine, with menu highlights including soufflé potatoes, shrimp etouffée and a gumbo with duck and andouille sausage.


Bywater American Bistro

2900 Chartres St., New Orleans, La.
Telephone (504) 605-3827
Website www.bywateramericanbistro.com
Award of Excellence

Interior shot of Bywater American Bistro
Chef Nina Compton’s Bywater American Bistro serves top-notch cuisine in a welcoming environment. (Josh Brasted)

St. Lucia–born chef Nina Compton shares her take on American cuisine at Bywater American Bistro, the newer sibling to her Award of Excellence–winning Compère Lapin. Bywater is open with limited indoor seating, but there are also private outdoor yurts available for booking, adorned with New Orleans' signature Spanish moss. Overseen by wine director Rosie Jean Adams, the list of more than 100 labels is strongest in French and Californian wines like white Burgundy and Napa Cabernet. There are also options from Italy, Germany, Spain, Greece and farther abroad, plus a diverse range of rosés. Many of the list’s wines are well-matched to Compton’s lighter dishes like roasted octopus, cabbage salad and a ricotta tart. And guests can sip reds alongside heartier items like curried rabbit and roasted pork belly.


Effervescence

1036 N. Rampart St., New Orleans, La.
Telephone (504) 509-7644
Website www.nolabubbles.com
Award of Excellence

A spread of dishes with glasses of Champagne at Effervescence
The wine-friendly menu at Effervescence brings modern and global inspiration to local cuisine. (Denny Culbert Photography)

With a wine list emphasizing bubbles from France, especially Champagne, Effervescence offers an Award of Excellence-winning wine experience near Louis Armstrong Park and the French Quarter. Wine director Edouard Majoie’s list of nearly 300 labels features a vast array of Champagnes from top wineries like Krug, Pol Roger and Billecart-Salmon, as well as options from smaller houses like Egly-Ouriet. The list also has a healthy selection of sparklers from Italy, Spain, California and Germany. Pair them with dishes by chefs Brenna Sanders and Evan Ingram, like aged blue cheese–crostini, Brussels-sprouts kebabs and a weekly changing menu of large plates. For now, Effervescence is only open Fridays through Sundays, but there’s seating in the dining room as well as in the outdoor courtyard.


Jack Rose

The Pontchartrain Hotel, 2931 St. Charles Ave., New Orleans, La.
Telephone (504) 323-1500
Website www.jackroserestaurant.com
Award of Excellence

Interior shot of an art-filled wall behind a seating area at Jack Rose
A playful collection of paintings fill a wall at Jack Rose. (Christian Horan)

Jack Rose provides contemporary New Orleans dining in the Garden District’s historic Pontchartrain Hotel. French and American wines form the core of wine director Alexandra Minton’s 170-label, Award of Excellence–winning list, and there’s a diverse selection of dessert wines like Sauternes and tawny Port. Chef David Whitmore’s menu presents a range of pairing choices for these wines, emphasizing local Southern cuisine. This includes options like shrimp with gnocchi, pork cheeks and mushroom pâte. Though the indoor-dining capacity is currently limited in New Orleans due to the pandemic, Jack Rose has also been serving guests on its rooftop for several months now.


Josephine Estelle

Ace Hotel New Orleans, 600 Carondelet St., New Orleans, La.
Telephone (504) 930-3070
Website www.josephineestelle.com
Award of Excellence

View of the bar area inside Josephine Estelle
Josephine Estelle’s sunny, high-ceiling space is a draw, but the restaurant also has to-go packages for those who prefer dining at home. (Courtesy of Josephine Estelle)

It would be tough for someone to eat their way through New Orleans without dipping into Italian classics, and Josephine Estelle serves up plenty of those in the Warehouse District’s Ace Hotel. Wine director Ryan Anderson’s Award of Excellence–winning list contains more than 200 labels, strongest in picks from Italy and California, with some lesser-known whites like Verdicchio di Matelica and Garganega. The reds are largely sourced from Tuscany and Piedmont, with some California Pinot Noir for good measure. Whether dining inside or outside, guests at Josephine Estelle can match picks from the list with chef Chris Borges’ menu of several meatball options (made from duck, lamb or beef) and pastas like Canestri cacio e pepe, acorn squash–tortellini and crab cannelloni.


The Pelican Club

312 Exchange Place, New Orleans, La.
Telephone (504) 523-1504
Website www.pelicanclub.com
Award of Excellence

A crusted meat dish with asparagus at the Pelican Club
A family-owned business, the Pelican Club has been serving up New Orleans staples for more than three decades. (David L'Hoste)

After operating a Southern restaurant in New York City, Richard Hughes returned to his birthplace of New Orleans in 1990 to open the Pelican Club with his wife, Jeanne. He's now co-owner, wine director and chef, overseeing both the regional menu and the Restaurant Award–winning wine list. The 260-selection wine program is strongest in California and France. Expect major names like Louis Latour and Chateau Montelena alongside lesser-known picks from around the world. The moderately priced menu lists classics like gumbo and rack of lamb crusted with mustard and herbs, plus inventive plates like a duck-sausage corn dog.


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