In the Where to Eat: 25 Best series, we’re highlighting our favorite restaurants in cities across the United States. These lists will be updated as restaurants close and open, and as we find new gems to recommend. As always, we pay for all of our meals and don’t accept free items.
Modern New Orleans Creole
Restaurants that last a long time go through phases, and Brennan’s has gone through more than most. In the mid-20th century, it helped put New Orleans on the culinary map. The sprawling, opulent, coral-pink restaurant in the French Quarter has been on a roll since Ralph Brennan, a descendant of the restaurant’s founder, reopened it in 2014. There is a clean-lined sheen to the chef Ryan Hacker’s curried crab roulade, turtle soup and Gulf fish amandine, interspersed with welcome innovations like the cochon de lait with roasted peanuts and pickled peaches. If the strategy sounds familiar — a historic restaurant with one foot in the past, the other in the present — that’s because it is. What sets Brennan’s apart? It’s fun.
417 Royal Street, New Orleans; 504-525-9711; brennansneworleans.com
Cajun, New Orleans Creole
Frank Brigtsen spent his early professional years learning that Louisiana food outside his native New Orleans — notably the Cajun food of his mentor Paul Prudhomme — was also worthy of attention. The result is a fusion cuisine that rarely crosses state lines, and it has been on display at the restaurant Mr. Brigtsen has run with his wife, Marna, since 1986. Brigtsen’s is a white-tablecloth restaurant in the literal sense, but inhabiting an unpretentious Uptown cottage, near a bend in the Mississippi River. Dishes like butternut shrimp bisque, puppy drum amandine and roast duck in pecan gravy merge Cajun cuisine and urban Creole cooking in a style that has become as uniquely New Orleans as James Booker’s slippery rhythm and blues.
723 Dante Street, New Orleans; 504-861-7610; brigtsens.com
Modern Caribbean, Italian
New Orleans is as much the northernmost outpost of the Caribbean as it is a city of the Deep South. Nina Compton has proved that adage for nearly a decade, by simply cooking what she knows. Ms. Compton is from St. Lucia. At Compère Lapin, which opened in 2015, the food of the chef’s youth takes center stage, while the Afro-Caribbean voice at Bywater American Bistro, her newer restaurant, is part of a larger chorus of influences. Meals here proceed from a tête de moine tart to a spicy seafood stew with fry bread, or…