New Orleans has the unique distinction of being home to the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the United States. Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that we are now home to more restaurants per capita than almost any other similarly sized city in the country. There’s no doubt about it, eating well is king here, and we strive to do it as well as we can. Here are some of the oldest restaurants in New Orleans, and the stories behind them.
1) Antoine’s Restaurant, 713 St. Louis Street, 1840
Widely known as the oldest restaurant in New Orleans, and in turn, the oldest continually operating restaurant in the United States, Antoine’s easily sets itself apart from the rest. Many world famous dishes, like Oysters Rockefeller and Eggs Sardou were allegedly ‘invented’ here, and they are also known for their amazing ability to host VIP guests—including Pope John Paul II. There are 14 dining rooms here and a 25,000 bottle storage capacity for wine, making any dining experience here truly one to remember.
2) Tujague’s, 823 Decatur St., 1856
Proudly known as the second oldest restaurant in New Orleans after Antoine’s, Tujague’s offers a myriad of cozy, old school dining rooms that still serve up traditional French specialties in a no-frills, flavor focused style. Their famed shrimp remoulade served up with “cap” bread is certain to bring a smile to your face.
3) Café du Monde, 800 Decatur St., 1862
In some ways this café is the heartbeat of New Orleans, a 24 hour place where you can enjoy delicious café au lait and beignets that are truly unlike any other in the entire world. Plus, it’s the place to see and be seen throughout the French Quarter. It’s easy to imagine what this place felt like in 1900, since it truly doesn’t feel remarkably different as you sit at the tables and soak up all the hustle and bustle around you. For me, a visit to Café Du Monde can transform a bad evening into a beautiful one in a matter of minutes.
4) Commander’s Palace, 1403 Washington Ave., 1893
This iconic New Orleans culinary institution has served as a beacon of fine dining in the city for over a century now. The restaurant has earned six James Beard Foundation awards, as well as a served as home for some of New Orleans premier chefs, including Emeril Lagasse and Paul Prudhomme. Now lead by Tory McPhail, the restaurant continues to set the standard for fine dining in the city.
5) Galatoire’s, 209 Bourbon St., 1905
Founded by Jean Galatoire, this culinary institution was infused with French village life from the very beginning. It is now a fifth generation family owned institution, although the Louisiana businessman John Georges is also a majority owner of what is now a group of three restaurants. Individuals still line up at peak days and times to ensure a seat at this amazing place.
6) Arnaud’s & the French 75 Bar, 813 Bienville ST., 1918
While the food here is nothing to snub, it’s truly the cocktails that keep guests coming back again and again. The attention to detail found here is truly spectacular. Perhaps that’s why Arnaud’s has been operating since before WWII and still continues to offer a beautiful atmosphere in which to soak up what New Orleans fine dining has to offer.
7) Broussard’s, 819 Conti St., 1920
This New Orleans institution offers up old world Louisiana cuisine inside of a gorgeous, recently renovated building. The restaurant has operated for many generations and still maintains a unique New Orleans charm.
8) Mandina’s, 3800 Canal St, 1932
Sebastian Mandina immigrated to New Orleans in 1898 and opened an Italian grocery where Mandina’s sits today. Eventually his sons opened a restaurant there, and today it is still being operated by the fourth generation of the family. Guests can rely on the delicious Italian-cajun cuisine that highlights the best from the New Orleans seafood bounty.
9) Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, 2301 Orleans Ave., 1941
Originally a sandwich shop and lottery ticket outlet, Dooky Chase’s blossomed under the leadership of the legendary Leah Chase, who is known both for her delicious food and excellent taste in African-American art, which she hung throughout the restaurant as a showcase for outstanding black artists in the city. For decades now, this restaurant has been a center for culture, entertainment, and civil rights, playing host to many leaders, including Barack Obama. Not to mention the delicious food.
10) Camellia Grill, 626 S. Carrollton Ave., 1946
This New Orleans institution opened in 1946 and became one of the most popular and beloved restaurants in all of New Orleans. The legendary wait staff, along with the chocolate freezes and delicious and fluffy omelets make it the kind of place you can’t wait to return to over and over. The minimal menu changes, and the early 50’s style of the place seals the deal.
11) Ted’s Frostop, 3100 Calhoun St., 1950’s
At one time, Ted Sternberg owned 15 Frostop diners throughout the city, but eventually, as time went on, the Calhoun street location was the only one to survive. The upside down mug in the middle of Claiborne Ave. became an iconic symbol of Hurricane Katrina, and the complete restoration of the restaurant following the storm—complete with free pinball machines---has made this the perfect place for diners looking for a blast from the past.
12) Court of Two Sisters, 613 Royal St., 1963
While the official Court of Two Sisters restaurant didn’t open its doors until 1963, this location has been the site of many cultural activities in New Orleans since well before the Civil War. The spot gets its name from the well-known sisters Emma and Bertha Camors, who came from a prominent Creole family. They opened a notions shop at the spot in 1886, calling it “the Shop of the Two Sisters.” Following World War I, the site became, at different times, a speakeasy, café, and sandwich shop. Its current incarnation is one of the most gorgeous courtyards in New Orleans.
Wow. It’s amazing the history that is locked behind the walls of some of the oldest restaurants in New Orleans. And of course, there are many historic spots that didn’t make this list. What would you add? What experiences have you had in these places? We love to hear from you!