French Quarter Festival debuted in 1984 to bring locals downtown after improvements had been made in the historic district prior to the opening of the Louisiana World Exposition. This year, festivalgoers may see some new and renewed dining establishments in the French Quarter and beyond.
The most conspicuous renovation is that of Brennan's (417 Royal St., 504-525-9711; www.brennansneworleans.com), re-opened by Ralph Brennan and Terry White in November 2014. Now, passersby can peer in the kitchen and watch James Beard Foundation Best Chef: South-nominee Slade Rushing at work. The menu updates some Brennan's classics, and there are more contemporary approaches. Besides eggs sardou and turtle soup, Rushing's breakfast menu includes egg yolk "carpaccio," in which a warm egg yolk serves as a thin bed for grilled shrimp, sweet potato sticks and andouille vinaigrette.
The recently opened Angeline (Hotel Provincial, 1032 Chartres St., 504-308-3106; www.angelinenola.com) occupies the space that formerly housed chef Scott Boswell's Stella!. Chef Alex Harrell, formerly of the gastropub Sylvain, offers a refined, lighter, brighter vision of Southern cooking, finding common ground with the simplicity of Italian cuisine. Mississippi rabbit Milanese is served with smoked carrot puree, spoon bread, bacon-braised collard greens and tomato gravy. Much of the menu focuses on Gulf Coast seafood, including local oysters, crab and shrimp. The restaurant serves dinner daily.
On the edge of the Quarter, chef Kristen Essig's spring menu at Meauxbar (942 N. Rampart St., 504-569-9979; www.meauxbar.com) features a host of French bistro classics — hanger steak au poivre with Parmesan fries, moules frites, duck a l'orange — as well as Gulf fish amandine and fried oyster salad.
Faubourg Marigny has seen a host of new restaurants open in the past year. The latest additions include Press Street Station and Paladar 511 (511 Marigny St., 504-509-6782; www.paladar511.com). Opened in an airy converted warehouse space in the building that used to house the alternative library known as the Iron Rail Book Collective, Paladar aims for refined cuisine and cocktails in a relaxed ambience, with seating at heavy wooden banquettes, a communal table and a food bar. The small menu features several pizzas topped with ingredients such as house-made sausage, and there are a few salads and appetizers and some house-made pastas and entrees. Press Street Station (5 Press St., 504-249-5622; www.pressstreetstation.com) was opened by the NOCCA Institute and is staffed by professional chefs and NOCCA culinary students. From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., it offers the same inexpensive menu, including baked goods, eggs, bacon, a burger, salads and some creative salads and entrees.
The Franklin (2600 Dauphine St., 504-267-0640; www.thefranklinnola.com) is a stylish-on-the-inside (with art by Mitchell Gaudet and Dan Tague), unassuming-on-the-outside corner bistro with a boutique wine and spirits list. It emphasizes local produce and indulges in some culinary flourishes, such as "steak a la mode," or seared steak with foie gras ice cream. The kitchen is open for dinner until midnight daily.
The CBD and Warehouse District also have welcomed a diverse group of new restaurants. Chef Justin Devillier of La Petite Grocery opened his second restaurant Balise (640 Carondelet St., 504-459-4449; www.balisenola.com), a sleek bistro with seating in the barroom and cozy back and second-floor dining rooms. The relatively small menu focuses on local seafood and produce and includes artfully presented chilled seafood appetizers and small plates, such as roasted beets with ricotta and shrimp fritters in charred pepper sauce. There are sides such as hand-cut fries or blistered shishito peppers, and several entrees, including Gulf fish. It's open for lunch Monday through Friday and dinner Monday through Saturday.
Chefs John Besh and Aaron Sanchez's colorfully decorated gourmet taqueria Johnny Sanchez (930 Poydras St., 504-304-6615; www.johnnysanchezrestaurant.com) serves whole grilled fish and lamb enchiladas, but tacos comprise the largest section of the menu. They're served in pairs, with fillings including cabrito (roasted goat), Mangalitsa pork belly, carne asada, carnitas, beer-battered mahi-mahi and cauliflower with pecan chipotle.
Wood Pizza Bistro & Taphouse (404 Andrew Higgins Drive, 504-281-4893; www.woodpizzaneworleans.com) is a casual spot with outdoor seating and it's open late. There are a couple of salads and a few seafood appetizers, but the bulk of the menu focuses on wood-fired pies. Some of the classic pizzas include margarita, bianca, a four cheese pie and one loaded with sausage and salumi. Taps are devoted to American craft beers, particularly from Louisiana and Mississippi brewers.