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River Eats Essential Dining Guide: 20 Places We’re Eating in 2020

2020 is here, and a New Year brings on reflections of our past year. At River Beats, we’re looking back on all the delicious meals we’ve had in 2019, and all the places still yet to be eaten. This has been a great year to watch the restaurant scene grow in New Orleans, with fresh spots and hot eateries opening at a clip. As the new decade dawns, we’re setting our sights on all the restaurants we can’t wait to visit in 2020. Read on for River Eats Essential Dining Guide for 2020

Bearcat Cafe

Bearcat Cafe is a vegetarian and vegan-friendly cafe which has offered healthy breakfast and lunch options to Freret St. diners since 2017. Now, the Uptown dining spot is settling into some new digs at 854 Carondelet. This new CBD location of Bearcat will offer an expanded menu with dinner options. A full bar, called Rotary Ten will operate in the restaurant space, offering beer, wine, and cocktails to the sprawling courtyard space where Bearcat has opened.

Bearcat Café // 2521 Jena St. & 845 Carondelet St. // (504) 309-9011. 

Tsunami Sushi

Tsunami sushi bills itself as a restaurant serving “LA flair with southern care.” If that sounds like a sushi joint perfectly matched to New Orleans, that’s because it is. In terms of creativity, Tsunami offers rolls that are a cut above the rest. Unique ingredients, like spicy crawfish and panko-crusted alligator, are scattered across the menu. However, it’s not just great sushi that strikes a craving for Tsunami; it’s a great Happy Hour too. 25% off a large selection of rolls and steep discounts on cocktails keep us coming back for more. And more.

Tsunami Sushi // 601 Poydras St., Suite B // (504) 608-3474


Em Trai Sandwich Co.

Em Trai Sandwiches is the stand-alone restaurant from St. Roch’s Market chef Tung Nguyen. Like Nguyen’s T2 Streetfood, which has operated in St. Roch’s since 2016, Em Trai is trailblazing in New Orleans Vietnamese cuisine. This is a can’t miss spot for our Essential Dining Guide. Menu options have roots grown all over New Orleans. There is pho, featuring meat from Central City BBQ. Also, Patton’s sausage and Hi-Do Bakery Bahn mi bread coming together for– you guessed it– an insanely good looking hot sausage Bahn mi. Em Trai, we’re coming for you.

Em Trai Sandwich CO. // 2372 St. Claude Ave. // (504) 302-7772

Palm & Pine

A visit to Palm & Pine can deliver an array of different experiences. Have a fine-dining meal without the frills or use the pre-theatre menu to get dinner before a show at the Saenger. Additionally, visit P&P during  “after-hours” for their exclusive pop-up inspired late-night menu, full of heaters like the Upper Quarter Pounder, and Crab Claw Cocktail. These dishes are waiting to be paired with one of the several beer & shot combos on the Late Nite list, or a fair selection of cocktails. If you’re overwhelmed by all these choices, then don’t read this next part. Palm & Pine also offers brunch. So, get your Sunday fix with some Chilaquiles and a morning marg. Palm & Pine has it all, a crucial spot for our Essential Dining Guide 

Palm & Pine // 308 N. Rampart St. // (504) 814-6200 

Picnic Provisions and Whiskey 

Think about your favorite chicken sandwich. Got an image? Popeyes? Maybe Chickfila? Picture that sandwich close. Now… think again. Because if you’re not talking Picnic as the fried chicken heavy-hitter, we don’t wanna’ talk. Without a doubt, this is one of the most absurdly flame sandwiches you can put your chicken fingers on. The Crawfish boil sandwich has stacks of fried white and dark meat, topped with mirliton dill pickles and a miso mayo that doesn’t drip nearly as much as the mouth does when you see it coming. Order for pick-up, delivery, or eat in. Picnic has tons of options to take outside, and catering choices for every occasion. Grab a picnic basket and a Provisions bucket of fried chicken.

Picnic Provisions and Whiskey // 741 State St. // (504) 266-2810


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Golden goodness 💛 Crawfish Boil HOT Fried Chicken #freedelivery #wheresyourpicnic #friedchicken #picnic #nola #magazinestreet

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What goes better with a shot of mezcal than fresh, homemade tortillas? At Galaxie, you can have that pairing, and more. This Bywater spot is one of the newest locations on the list. But, in a city that seems to have taco shops popping up every few blocks, it can be tough to narrow down your choices. Galaxie makes the decision easy by sourcing black bean and corn straight from Oaxaca, Mexico; that authenticity extends across their whole menu. With over 20 mezcal options to choose from Galaxie is the taqueria for a good time.

Galaxie // 3060 St. Claude Ave. // (504) 827-1443

Blue Oak BBQ

Like others on this list, Blue Oak isn’t the newest of the restaurants on the block. However, when you’re looking for barbecue, nothing comes close. The brisket is full of flavor, the pulled pork is tender as anything we’ve tried, and the fried chicken sandwiches are dripping with sauce. Certainly, Blue Oak is a spot that delivers the meat sweats just by remembering your last meal there. And, they do it even better when you’re enjoying your next one there. Keep an eye on their social media for can’t miss specials, order some potato salad, and tell them their fans at River Beats sent you.

Blue Oak BBQ // 900 N Carrollton Ave. // (504) 822-2583

Marjie’s Grill

Marjie’s Grill is a Southeast Asian-fusion restaurant, which pulls flavors from that region and combines them with flavors of the South. This restaurant is a small, locally focused, Mid City gem with global offerings. As such, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another restaurant like it anywhere. The menu is split between fried meats, like Des Allemandes catfish battered in heirloom cornmeal, and grilled meats, such as Mississippi Beef Cheek. The environment is casual and creative; the flavors incomparable. Grab a loyalty card, it’ll be punched out in no time.

Marjie’s Grill // 320 S Broad St. // (504) 603-2234


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Did y’all hear it’s cold out? Smoked Short Rib & Wild Oyster Mushrooms Noodles are here for you! #putaneggonit #sendnooods #soupweather

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Jewel of the South

Despite opening just this year, Jewel of the South is a bar already steeped in rich history. It is named after an 1800’s establishment which went by the same title. Additionally, the anchoring drink on the cocktail list, the brandy crusta, is from the same heritage. Such a magical revival is a Crescent City Essential Restaurant Guideclassic, so it makes total sense to see it happening in the French Quarter. The stand-alone cottage boasts a beautiful black walnut bar, and a tavern atmosphere that is intimate, sophisticated, and laid back– just like the big jewel of the south, New Orleans. Have some Murder Point Oysters, Veal Sweetbread, or Bourgeois Blood Boudin (among other stellar options).

Jewel of the South // 1026 St. Louis St. // (504) 265-8816


Similar to Jewel, Justine is another Vieux Carre restaurant committed to elevating the historic sector of the city. Offering modern French fair, table traveling burlesque dancers, and a blue leather-bound notebook menu of beer, wine, and cocktails, Justine is a great location to visit as Mardi Gras season pulls you closer to the Quarter. Start with steak tartare or escargot, then fall into one of the daily Plats Du Jour. 

Justine // 225 Chartres St. // (504) 218-8533


Thalia is a neighborhood restaurant which can be found on–tell us you saw this coming– Thalia Street. Technically, Thalia is on Constance (but these are little details). The menu mirrors the casualness of the joint: Yakamein, 1/2 Pan Roasted Chicken, and Beans and Rice make up regular dining options. Tuesday through Saturday presents a “Ritual Menu” of weekly specials left open to interpretation: Tuesday is Schnitzel, Wednesday is Herbivore Club, and so on. Pick your favorite night, and make it a thing.

Thalia // 1245 Constance St. // (504) 655-1338


Sofia is coming off what might be the hottest year for any spot on our Essential Dining Guide: The Gambit and Where Y’at both ranked Sofia as the Best New Restaurant of 2019, and New Orleans Magazine set Sofia apart as the Best Restaurant of the Year.  The environment is fresh, and the food done traditionally well. Look out for the succulent Osso Bucco, though it’s the smooth sounding Alla Vodka Pasta that’s got our eye. Sofia // 516 Julia St. // (504) 322-3216 


Mediterranean food is popular around New Orleans. Some of the best restaurants in the city, from Saba to 1000 Figs, have made their mark serving up this cuisine. Rockrose brings Greek Mediterranean to the International House Hotel, albeit in a contemporary and sharp way. The fresh environment serves classic flavors, from roasted eggplant spread to spanakopita and Grilled Octopus. However, its dishes like the Whole Speckled Trout that glows like a Greek god Adonis, making this spot an unbeatable add to our Essential Dining Guide.

Rockrose // 217 Camp St. // (504) 369-3070 


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Grilled octopus is on point today!

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Turmeric opened in November of 2019. Though it’s the new kid on the block, Turmeric’s arrival is already reigniting the conversation on Indian food in New Orleans. As such, it’s a crucial addition for our Essential Dining Guide The menu is affordable, they offer a buffet for lunch, and they focus on classics like naan, Butter Chicken, Fish Tikki, and Tandoori. Nothing cuts through the cold like some curry.

Turmeric // 1025 Westbank Expy, Gretna // (504) 354-1422

Arabella Casa di Pasta

Arabella’s dedication to quality pasta is apparent from the moment you walk in the door, which opens onto a vivid painting of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Clearly, this is a Pastafarian house. The menu allows you to pray your own way: build out plates from seven different pasta and sauce options (including gluten-free choices), and a larger selection of toppings, meats, and veggies. Wine, beer and spirits are available along with some stellar movies on the tube. Bless up for this Casa di Pasta.  

Arabella // 2258 St. Claude Ave. // (504) 267-6108


Essential Restaurant GuideIn 2016, Bon Appétit called N7 “the most romantic restaurant in the world”. Anyone who has visited the French wine bar would likely agree, which is why it’s an important pick for our Essential Restaurant Dining for 2020. Behind the wood fence that blocks the patio from street view is a dining environment, unlike any other, and food which rises to the uniqueness. The romaine salad is the best in the game; savory, salty anchovy dressing drenches lettuce that’s impossibly crisp. If the basics are this good, imagine the entrees, desserts, and beyond.

N7 // 1117 Montegut St. // contact@n7nola.com 

Sneaky Pickle

If there was any restaurant that’s had a hard year, it is the Sneaky Pickle. After experiencing a fire that knocked out the kitchen, the vegan & vegetarian favorite was forced to close while repairs began. Thus started a series of pop-ups across the city, with a related GoFundMe campaign as well. Now, the Sneaky Pickle seems ready to return after a few test-runs in the reconstructed kitchen. Which is good, considering the heinous ways we’ve schemed to get our hands on some Sneaky Pickle vegan mac. No word yet on official hours yet.

Sneaky Pickle // 1017 St. Claude Ave. // (504) 218-5651


Any Essential Dining Guide has to include great ramen. Kin is a seasoned veteran of New Orleans’ restaurant scene, but an essential part of any “places to eat” list, new or old. Because of what kin does, and how they do it, it can be hard to get into this tiny ramen shop. Regardless, the wait is always worth it. The daily dumplings are inventive and flavorful but don’t fill up before you’ve made it to the homemade noodles, and the richest broth you’ve ever had.

Kin // 4600 Washington Ave. // (504) 304-8557 


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Gianna is the newest addition to the Link Restaurant Group’s portfolio and the first since Pêche opened in 2013. Accordingly, the Italian concept was hotly anticipated. Since opening in April, reviews have been as positive as one would expect from the city’s preeminent restauranteurs. Go in for the “Feed Me” offering, a $50 family-style meal in which four-courses are selected by the Chef.

Gianna // 700 Magazine St. // (504) 399-0816


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You ready? We’re ready. Doors: 11am. #lunch #happeningnow #antipasto #pasta #basta #mangiabene #vivebene #eatingnola

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Bao & Noodle

Bao and Noodle is a homey spot, despite having only resided on St. Claude since August of this year. In fact, the new digs haven’t appeared to disrupt the tried and true “casual Chinese” shop at all. Schezwan & Cantonese flavors are available in all their spicy and subtle glory, especially in dishes such as the Hongshao Zhu Ti Pang (Red Braised Pork Belly), making Bao & Noodle one of most creative picks for this River Eats 2020 Essential Dining Guide 

Bao & Noodle // 2266 St. Claude Ave. // (504) 272-0004

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