There are restaurants in New Orleans tracking their histories back to the 1800s. There’re well known by travelers and rightfully so. You don’t carry your business across the changing of two centuries without knowing how to cook.
Joints like Tujague’s and Antoine’s have been Big Easy mainstays in the French Quarter since before the city actually managed to pull done that monicker. They’re world famous for their classic regional menus and seemingly endless staying power.
But, there are other New Orleans favorites frequented by locals in the know, and I managed to spot a couple of them during a recent trip to the steamy south.
Bayona hides away on Dauphine Street, across the street from the Dauphine Orleans Hotel. It’s celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, offering an intimate dining room and a classic courtyard. Owner and Senior Check Susan Spicer is a New Orleans veteran and brings a skillful blend of local favorites and original creations to her menu.
You can play it classical with a Creole Tomato and Crispy Okra Salad followed by the New Orleans Style Barbecue Shrimp or go crazy Bayona Blue Salad (Farm Greens, Balsamic Vinaigrette, Crumbled Point Reyes Blue Cheese and try out the Smoked Duck PB & J (above).
The place looked to be doing a huge dinner business with some savvy tourists sniffing it out, but the locals know it as a prime lunch spot with daily specials. It’s delicious food and friendly service, sans pretense.
Perched on the edge of the French Quarter on Rue Dumaine, Marti’s was a major local hotspot in decades passed. Now, it’s back on the map with a mix of new attitude and the classic New Orleans cuisine the place was beloved for years ago.
Closed Sundays and Mondays (a not uncommon feature in a good classic town like New Orleans), Marti’s is dinner only — opening its doors at 5 p..m. You’ll be greeted by the friendly, attractive staff at the Peristyle Bar out front before heading to a warmly lit version of the classic Crescent City dining room.
The menu is straight on classic, French-influenced New Orleans classics. Start with the Friend Green Tomato and Crab Remoulade or the fresh Oyster Stew. If the stew isn’t enough to calm your passion for shellfish — and if you have the cash — share the $130 Grand Plateau Fruits de Mer (above — a whole Maine lobster, 12 chilled shrimp, jumbo lump crab salad, 18 half shell oysters and scallop ceviche).
Shellfish can also make up your main course, or you can step away from seafood and take on the delicate Stuffed Texas Quail (above) or the hearty Chappapeela Farms Bone-In Pork Chop.
Locals tell me Marti’s was always considered itself New Orleans’ improvement on the famous Sardi’s in New York. That means you’re always in for outstanding and highly attentive service with a little more southern charm.