It’s that time again, time for a listicle! Even though I generally hate them, every now and again I’ll get a hankering to write one of these “best of” lists. Why all the hate? Well, what is “the best,” really? It’s just an opinion, an opinion that changes quite frequently depending upon who’s offering it, their life experiences, if their astrological sign is passing through Mars, how healthy their poop was that morning, etc. Opinions change, experiences change, feelings change and people change. It’s the only constant! So how can anything really be undeniably “the best?”
Although I have a relative distaste for this kind of thing, I get an itch because I’ve seen someone else write it and think “What the hell are they thinking?” Naturally, my choices are better because my opinion is superior to theirs.
One thing I do know for sure is I adore breakfast. Yes, I know I love all things edible, but breakfast has forever been my most favorite meal of the day. Just the thought of breakfast conjures up visions of my mother whipping up massive Easter morning feasts, roadtrippin’ stops at Denny’s for an All-American Slam, or ritual last-day-of-vacation breakfasts at Heidi’s Pancake House in Lake Tahoe. Everything about breakfast is a joy, from the chocolaty, rich aroma of coffee brewing to having both sweet and savory components melding on your plate; bacon sitting in pancake syrup or butter and jam on a fluffy, warm biscuit.
New Orleans is packed with great restaurants and, obviously, many of them serve breakfast. Here’s a small sampling (in no particular order) that I believe are well-worth your time and money. Disagree? Feel free to write your own blog!
Ever since Cara & Evan Benson opened the first location 7 or 8 years ago on Laurel Street, I have been a big fan of Toast. Since their first incarnation did such an incredible job serving amazing breakfast, they’ve since opened two more Toasts, one in Gentilly near the Fairgrounds, and another, dubbed French Toast, in the French Quarter. In fact, I just heard they’re about to open a fourth location on the Westbank. While each location has a similar menu, they do have their own specialties. The Gentilly version offers more waffle dishes while the French Quarter location features . . . you’ll never guess it . . . French toast (duh!). I’ve only been to the original and Gentilly locations, but I’ve been longing to try the one in the Quarter, specifically to taste the coconut cream-stuffed French toast with brûléed pineapple and candied macadamia nuts.
Chef and owner Conrad Chura opened the first Wakin’ Bakin’ on Banks Street in Mid-City back in 2011 after doing pop-ups for a year, and you know what? The neighborhood loved it! What’s not to love? Other than a peace, love and breakfast kind of vibe, they use simple, fresh ingredients and offer a bunch of breakfast sandwiches and burritos that are perfect for those on-the-go. I love the Surf & Turf Burrito with shrimp and chorizo, or the BBQ Shrimp & Grits with poached eggs, but my usual go-to is their Biscuits & Gravy (once dubbed the “Gravy Train”) with two huge buttermilk biscuits smothered in sausage gravy and served with eggs and bacon. Wakin’ Bakin’ had two locations, Mid-City on Banks Street and Uptown on Prytania, and is about to open a third in the French Quarter on Dumaine Street.
Technically, Marigny restaurant Paladar 511 doesn’t serve breakfast, they do brunch, but in the large scheme of things does it really matter? How about this, go eat there on Sunday and don’t drink any booze. See? Now it’s breakfast. Regardless, you should eat a morning-ish meal (any meal, really) at this all-around excellent, Italian-ish eatery owned and operated by Jack Murphy, Susan Dunn and Ed Dunn. The trio has kept this place rockin’ for six years and all of those who have experienced its wonder hope it’ll never stop. Anything you order is going to be a win, and I’m not just quoting Emeril, but you should definitely try the fluffy, tangy, make-your-mouth-high lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberry compote. I would also add the Farm House Egg Pizza, but you’ve heard about that already, haven’t you?
Molly’s Rise and Shine, which opened a few years ago inside an old corner store on Magazine Street, is basically the breakfast extension of acclaimed chef Mason Hereford’s Turkey and the Wolf. One sandwich — the Grand Slam McMuffin (honestly McDonald’s, imitation IS the sincerest form of flattery) an English muffin monster with sausage, fried hash browns, griddled onions, American cheese and lots of ketchup — was the launching point for Molly’s. Following Hereford’s #gethighandcomeonby philosophy, Molly’s food is supremely munchable, hitting all of the best dining while elevated experiences with lots of flavor and mouthfeel. No matter how hip this place might be, I can’t help but love the carrot yogurt with Nini’s granola, fruit, carrot marmalade and “other fun stuff.” At one point they also served a deviled egg tostada which was spicy enough to strip the skin off of my tongue, and I loved every minute of it.
Launched just about four years ago just off Freret Street, Bearcat is the creation of James Reuter IV who sought to offer all diners a great place to eat with vegan, gluten-free and even paleo options. Open for breakfast and lunch on Freret Street and their second location (which opened about a year ago) in the CBD, the menu is split in two — you can be a “good cat” or a “bad cat,” but either way the eating’s good. Naturally, I am typically a “bad cat,” and as such I have a difficult time avoiding orders like Chai Pancakes with pumpkin cream cheese and candied pecans or their house made ricotta with fresh, seasonal fruit and honey. One note, this place is always packed on the weekends and they don’t do reservations, so be prepared to wait. Don’t worry, it’s worth it!
While Blue Line doesn’t lie inside the city (anymore), I’m more than willing to venture into the dreaded burbs for this kind of breakfast. Created by chef/owner Brad McGeehee, formerly head at Ye Olde College Inn, this Old Metairie breakfast and lunch spot is all about farm to table, and you can taste it. Just try the famed “Broken Yolk” sandwich with a fried egg, house corned beef, Swiss and grilled onions on toasted 7-grain or a simple side (only $5!) of their house made biscuits and sausage gravy.
Everyone was excited when Chef Lindsey McLellan of Lola’s fame opened his own digs in the Broadmoor neighborhood six years ago, and we’re all ecstatic they’re still open, especially me. Located in a former drug store on that wonky, three-way intersection/corner of Broad, Napoleon and Fontainebleau, El Pavo Real is an uber-casual neighborhood joint with great Mexican food with breakfast available all day long! I encourage you to indulge in the breakfast burrito featuring their killer pork shoulder carnitas, or the uber-dreamy, queso-loaded chilaquiles (who else hears Pete’s voice when I typed that word?). John, my sexy SO, loves this place . . . and it’s not only because they have tacos.
*Note: El Pavo Real is closed till August 4th, seeing as the family’s on vacation.
**Another Note: I could include a breadbox-full of bakeries in this list, who doesn’t love a chocolate croissant in the AM now and again? But I feel like they should have a list of their own, don’t you?