723 Dante St., 861-7610
Chef Frank Brigtsen’s award-winning restaurant (it was recently given top billing for both food and service in the 2009 Zagat), boasts innovative contemporary Louisiana cuisine and outstanding service. The quaint, homey cottagelike feel of Brigtsen’s and the cheerful atmosphere coupled with his sublime upscale comfort food, make this one of the most beloved eateries in New Orleans. Although the menu changes regularly, a few previous outstanding starters include sautéed sweetbreads with potato leek cake, shiitakes, capers and lemon-roasted garlic sauce and the pan-roasted quail with a corn maque choux griddlecake topped with a sweet and savory pepper-jelly glaze. Seafood lovers will be bowled over by the seafood platter, which is a masterpiece of fish and shellfish prepared every imaginable way, except fried.
La Crêpe Nanou
1410 Robert St., 899-2670
This intimate neighborhood bistro offers delightful classic French favorites such as a to-die-for les moules marinières (fresh mussels steamed in white wine, cream and garlic), salade Niçoise, soupe à l’oignon, house-made pâtés and les escargots de Bourgogne. As its name suggests, La Crêpe Nanou also serves crepes—more than 20 types, both sweet and savory, including crepe à la crabe (jumbo lump crab with creamed spinach); crepe aux ecrevisse (Louisiana crawfish tails in lobster sauce); and crepe Bourguignonne (filet of beef tips with mushrooms in red wine). Cap off your evening with a traditional crepe Suzette with Grand Marnier flambé, crepe au chocolat or the signature crepe Nanou, made of chocolate, vanilla and coffee ice creams topped with chocolate sauce and almonds.
322 Magazine St., 587-9001
Elegant, refined and distinctive yet comfortable and approachable, Cuvée is one of our city’s restaurant gems. At the helm of the kitchen is executive chef Bob Iacovone, who has received numerous accolades from local foodies to national media alike, including the New York Times and Gourmet magazine. While the menu changes periodically, there is never a shortage of mouthwatering selections to tempt your taste buds, including creative starters like “Spaghetti and Meatball,” a unique combination of spaghetti squash with sea scallops, caper berries and tomato brunoise. Entrees run the gamut from chicken and waffles with bacon (pancetta, coq au vin blanc and boursin) to jambalaya risotto-stuffed redfish with fried green tomatoes and Louisiana barbecue butter and veal osso buco with parsnip-marrow puree, green olives and roasted tomato vinaigrette.
2600 Chartres St., 945-2222
One can hardly mention romantic restaurants without including this historic, local favorite in the same breath. From the picturesque, bricked courtyard to the cozy piano bar, Feelings is brimming with old New Orleans charm and the romance of yesteryear. Richly flavored dishes with classic sauces are the norm here, with selections such as veal D’Aunoy (sliced and grilled veal topped with mushrooms and hollandaise sauce), tournedos au poivre (crushed peppercorn-coated prime filet finished with a cream sauce) and chicken Clemenceau (diced potatoes, mushrooms and peas sautéed in garlic butter). Be sure to save room for the legendary peanut butter pie, for which the restaurant is known, as it is truly one of the most sinfully delicious desserts in town!
8324 Oak St., 861-0886
If you’re looking for quiet, reserved and low-key, then this is definitely not your spot. But if it’s an energetic, lively, hip vibe and an eclectic, funky feel coupled with delicious “real Nawlin’ food,” then you’ve found your place. This bustling, folk-art-filled eatery is the perfect reflection of its colorful and wacky owner, Jacques Leonardi, who may be comedic (he’s usually found entertaining guests in a classic chef’s jacket paired with flashy, multicolored shorts and clogs) but serves up some seriously tasty food. His creative yet familiar home-style food blends Creole and Cajun influences with a focus on Louisiana ingredients. Famous for its fried chicken (using the recipe of the late Austin Leslie of Chez Helene), Jacques Imo’s also offers a mean rendition of chicken livers in a rich, flavorful sauce. Your experience starts with a wicked butter-soaked mini cornbread muffing and a simple spinach salad drizzled with balsamic vinegar and topped with one yummy fried oyster.
718 Orleans Ave., 523-1930
Nestled in the heart of the French Quarter sits this charming wine bar and restaurant. While locals adore it for its cozy, vintage atmosphere and eclectic wine list, the food is definitely not an afterthought. The menu consists of several tempting appetizer selections that are ideal for sharing with your special someone. Start out with the sweet and savory mixed green salad topped with port-poached pears, Roquefort cheese and a delicious port wine vinaigrette. Other winning starters include prime Black Angus medallions with Marsala and mushroom cream sauce and bacon-wrapped pan-seared scallops with a blackberry beurre blanc. For entrees, don’t miss the sensational seafood bouillabaisse (fish, mussels, crawfish and shrimp in a saffron lobster broth) served with tarragon garlic bread for sopping up every tasty bite.
4224 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 467-2930
This sophisticated, polished restaurant offers exceptional service, a stellar wine selection and exquisite food in an upscale yet inviting and comfortable setting, a combination that makes it the ideal place for a refined and romantic interlude. Chef Christopher Cody has crafted a menu that embraces intriguing flavor combinations, unique ingredients and a restrained use of heavy sauces. He has a deft hand when it comes to creating distinctive dressings and sauces, which have a pleasant ethereal quality about them and can be experienced in dishes such as the jumbo lump crab wrapped in filo with Meyer lemon zest and champagne-avocado vinaigrette. Other winning selections include grilled Caribbean lobster served with lemongrass, asparagus and crab succotash with a roasted fennel vinaigrette and the pepper-rubbed Colorado lamb rack with Israeli couscous and gorgonzola cream.
The Bistro at Maison de Ville
727 Rue Toulouse, 561-5858
While the Bistro is certainly one of the most intimate restaurants in town (the kitchen is about the size of my closet!), there is nothing small about chef Greg Picolo’s cuisine, either flavor-wise or size-wise. Charming and cozy, right down to the lush courtyard, this European-style bistro is the ideal place to wine and dine your sweetie. Signature dishes include mussels with pomme frites served with mayo, of course, bouillabaisse (an absolutely divine saffron, fennel, Italian sausage butter broth teeming with seafood) and frog leg grillades with apple-smoked bacon and cheddar grits. Picolo’s food is stylish and sophisticated yet approachable, from his Louisiana oyster and escargots en brochette atop grilled brioche to the venison osso buco served with spinach and reggiano risotto. Picolo is masterful when it comes to soups, so be sure to try his soup du jour, and by no means should you miss his heavenly classic crème brûlée, which is sure to impress even the staunchest critics