Casual Dining, at Its Best!

February 05, 2015
In a city where revelers engage in non-stop partying and celebrations, where one event seems to just roll event into another, guests and locals alike need to be prepared for the onslaught of wall-to-wall activities with the French Quarter acting as party-central.

After all, who wants to miss a parade, an incredible club performance, Happy Hour at a favorite watering hole, the pop-up band on the next street corner that sounds sooo good, and so many more spontaneous attractions!

In this hurried, environment, with time at a premium, a serious dress-up, sit-down, grand dinner or 3-hour lunch may not be in the cards"... for this visit. Plus, getting that last-minute reservation during a seasonal time like Mardi Gras or French Quarter Festival or even on a regular Saturday night may not be possible.

With all the renowned restaurants in the city that draw thousands to their tables, there are many more that aren't as fancy, or expensive, with menus offering more casual options for dining that is just as delicious and satisfying. Plus, walk-ins are welcome. And, all of the following are open 7 days a week, several until 2 a.m. on weekends.

On the corner of Bourbon and Bienville, the Desire Oyster Bar in the Royal Sonesta New Orleans offers revelers a wonderful assortment of delicious dishes in a comfortable setting "... without missing any of the action on lively Bourbon Street. The feel and pace of the always-hopping French Quarter are just outside the always-open front door. Besides, window seatings along Bourbon Street are available.

The popular hotspot has been recently renovated and is even more upbeat and exciting than ever! However, the charm of the restaurant's iconic period decor has been enhanced, yet remains intact to dazzle both newcomers and returning guests.

To begin, fresh-shucked raw oysters on the half shell, along with several new oyster preparations, including charbroiled oysters, are offered. The extensive new menu features a wider variety of Gulf seafood selections and many of New Orleans' most beloved specialties, emphasizing fresh local ingredients. In addition, the breakfast menu boasts new items like the Crawfish and Fried Green Tomato Benedict with a delicious Crawfish Hollandaise.

Executive Chef Corey Jacobs, a New Orleans native, has put together a number of new creations that are destined to become classics! Diners can expect fresh seafood from the Gulf, locally favored selections such as shrimp and grits, barbeque shrimp, and many popular Mew Orleans-inspired dishes. The Creole Trio - a cup of the restaurant's award winning seafood gumbo, jambalaya, and red beans and rice-- remains on the menu as a crowd favorite.

In addition to the menu changes, the bar team has added more artisanal cocktails and other libations to keep the energy - and the liquid refreshments - flowing!

Desire Oyster Bar, Royal Sonesta New Orleans, 300 Bourbon St., (504) 553-2281 "


Another terrific establishment for great food and people or sports watching is just two blocks away. That craving for a burger and a beer may just be impossible to resist and Bayou Burger is the place to make it happen.

At the corner of Bourbon Street and St. Louis, hungry patrons can dine at Bayou Burger's sports bar on the first floor, while viewing their favorite sporting events on more than a dozen screens, or upstairs on the eatery's comfortable balcony overlooking all the action on colorful Bourbon Street.

While the sports stakes, stars and stats, and the commanding view of the Vieux Carre are alluring attractions, the best bet of all is the food! The burgers, made from house-ground meat, and other fantastic fare rank at the top of the game. For starters, the crawfish beignets would be hard to beat. They arrive dusted with both a touch sweet'n savory Tabasco powdered sugar.

While looking over the extensive burger menu, other intro choices include battered and fried all-beef hot dog bites; Cochon Nachos with house-made tortilla chips, pulled pork, melted cheeses, slaw and sour cream; thin-sliced crispy onion straws; smoked chicken wings; bread'n butter pickle chips; and many other choices.

Besides, The Bayou, Cowboy, Gator. Bourbon, Engine #29, Hunter (venison), Debris, Veggie Bean, Philly, Home Team, and Dat's Bologna, there's The Ultimate Cure - a grilled cheese and bacon sandwich between two burger patties on a brioche bun. The 5th Quarter Challenge involves a 6 lb. feast"... if you dare! A "build your own" burger is also available in which patrons can choose from 7 "meats," 5 buns, 7 sauces, 8 veggies, and 10 "sleeper picks of prime toppings such as pulled washtub chili, BBQ pulled pork, fried egg, seasoned bacon, roast beef debris, avocado and grilled mushrooms.

In addition, The Thai Breaker features a house made shrimp patty with Thai spices, shredded cabbage and Sriracha mayo on a brioche bun. The Croquer, inspired by a French classic, is composed of two burger patties with grilled ham and melted Gruyere cheese on pressed brioche, topped with a fried egg.

Besides the much-adored burgers, creative renditions of dogs, a brat, and an amazing chicken club sandwich, minus the third brioche slice, is served. Other Main Event choices: Crawfish Etouffe, BBQ Shrimp, Blackened Fresh market Fish, Mac'n cheese Wedge, Chicken and Andouille Gumbo, Cobb and crawfish, roast chicken, or grilled shrimp salads.

Stay through the sweet end for Beignet Fries slathered with decadent chocolate sauce and powdered sugar; Gone Bananas, a house-made Bananas Foster bread pudding served with ice cream and house made pecan Praline sauce, or request Any Given Sundae, fresh baked dark chocolate chip cookie souffle topped with vanilla ice cream and chocolate ganache.

Bayou Burger, 503 Bourbon Street, New Orleans, LA 70130, (504) 529-4256


Just below the French Quarter, Frenchmen street in the city's Marigny Triangle beckons with its live music venues, bars, artsy flair and funky vibe. The area also boasts several dozen eclectic eateries within the walking area where partying pals can take a time-out with some delicious, authentic, down-home cooking goodness.

The place that comes to mind first and foremost is The Praline Connection, renowned for its award-winning Creole Soul food.

Established by co-owners Gloria and Curtis Moore and Cecil Kaigler 25 years ago, the restaurant began as a home delivery service targeting career women who were unable to prepare home-cooked meals for their families. Over the years it has amassed a following that return again and again.

They come for the appetizers like fried chicken livers, hogs head cheese with garlic toast, spicy chicken wings, alligator sausage, BBQ oysters, fried okra and pickles, bite-size catfish and gumbo.

For entrees the choices are luscious barbeque pork ribs, slow-cooked in the restaurant's special seasonings and spices served with house made barbeque sauce, candied yams and greens; and the baked, fried or stewed chicken with a side order of greens, beans, mac'n cheese, potato salad or corn bread.

Other much-desired dishes include stuffed crab, fried farm-raised catfish filet, crawfish or shrimp etouffe, or jambalaya with a side of greens - the diner's choice of collards, mustard or cabbage. The Seafood Combo platter features fresh fried oysters, shrimp, catfish strips, stuffed crab, French fries and salad.

On "A Taste of Soul" platter, diners are likely to find file gumbo, red beans and rice, jambalaya, greens, pork ribs, catfish strips and bread pudding. More delightful comfort food can be found in the home-style meatloaf, the Spaghetti and meatballs served with toasted garlic bread, po-boys, smothered pork chops, turkey necks or wings and smoked sausage.

Don't miss the Praline Connections' Candy Store within the restaurant, where fresh made delicacies, seasonings and gifts can be found year-round.

Like just about every restaurant in the Marigny, the attractive artwork on the walls is beguiling, that is, if you can take your eyes off the food, and the fascinating clientele that come from all over the globe to dine divinely on this authentic, southern cultural cuisine.

Praline Connection, 542 Frenchmen St., (504) 943-3934


Back in the Quarter, just steps away from the major street scenarios on Decatur and Bourbon streets, to a quiet block on Bienville Street, Mr. Ed's Oyster Bar and Fish House has recently opened. This is good thing, partly because 1.) Not everyone knows about it yet; 2.) The food is wonderful; 3.) The newbie setting is kind of like an upscale, updated diner; and, 4.) The ambience is pleasant, relaxed and easygoing.

Mr. Ed, AKA Ed McIntire -- a local businessman, operates 6 restaurants in the outer New Orleans area, with this being his first in the French Quarter. For bivalve lovers, the oyster bar will be just the place for devotees of fresh-shucked ice cold big ones served on the half shell with house made cocktail sauce.

Other oyster preparations are the traditional charbroiled with garlic and parmesan; Southwest charbroiled with jalapeno; Bienville, baked with shrimp, green onions and mushrooms sauce; and Crawfish Rockefeller with a topping of crawfish, bacon and spinach.

More appetizing starters on the menu include Louisiana crawfish bread, baked fresh to order; calamari with Marinara sauce; fresh cut onion rings; BBQ shrimp served over hot French bread; crawfish spinach and artichoke dip; fried green tomato Napoleon with shrimp Remoulade; crab cakes; seafood or chicken and andouille gumbo.

Featured salads encompass fried shrimp, crawfish or oysters, blackened chicken, Caesar - with optional grilled chicken or shrimp, bleu cheese wedge with bacon and seafood with boiled shrimp and lump crab.

And that's just the beginning! Mr. Ed's offers fabulous dishes such as Redfish Orleans topped with Crawfish Etouffe; Paneed Trout under a pile of lump crabmeat and lemon butter; Crab Cakes with fried oysters and Cajun Alfredo; Trout Amandine with Creole Meuniere sauce; and Chicken Parmesan with angel hair pasta.

The list continues: Shrimp and grits; grilled, or breaded pork chops prepared with smothered cabbage and cornbread or jambalaya; and a Southern Sampler with fried catfish, jambalaya, crawfish etouffe, and red beans and rice with andouille sausage. Fried seafood platters are available as well.

Mr. Ed's Oyster Bar and Fish House, 512 Bienville St., (504) 309-4848


Another new casual spot that still earns "under the radar" status is just off Bourbon Street in the middle of Toulouse Street. At first glance, if you notice it at all, Little Vic's Sicilian Street Food Cafe looks like a door with perhaps a small counter on the inside. You may be thinking, "nothing there that I could possibly want, and no place to even sit down" but you would be wrong!

While Little Vic's can certainly qualify as a "grab-and-go" cafe, its merits range far beyond that description. Appearances are deceiving! First of all, upon entering, a case containing breadstuffs and bakery treats adjacent to a 16- flavor gelato counter greets guests just inside the door.

However, directly to the left, another much bigger room with a long bar with two big-screen TVs, seating, and dining tables along the opposite wall, opens into an absolutely thoroughly charming courtyard, where guests can enjoy beautiful foliage, quiet moments and dine "al fresco."

Owned by Vic Caracci, the place pays homage to his Sicilian roots and the lifestyle in his family's native land where his uncle owned a restaurant.

For quick bites or even to sit and stay awhile, Little Vic's manager Matthew Condon suggests the street food case with warm, ready-to-eat items like daily house made croissant wrapped hot dogs, arancini, grilled cheese calzones, spinach and feta encased in focaccia dough, house made pizza slices, Panini's with house-baked ciabatta bread and stoglia, a savory puff pastry filled with prosciutto or other stuffings. Plain croissants are also available.

According to Matthew, the baking goes on all night with pastry making as well as the savory options. Cinnamon biscotti slices; blueberry almond, cranberry white chocolate, and bananas Foster muffins; cannoli; chocolate peanut butter balls rolled in pecans or almonds; miniature red velvet cakes; tiramisu; and decorated sugar cookies; along with King cakes, by the slice, miniature or whole are offered.

Little Vic's full service bar offers beer, wine and cocktails. In addition, the charming courtyard is available for private brunch, parties and other gatherings. The cafe also provides free delivery within the French Quarter.

Little Vic's Cafe, 719 Toulouse Street, New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 304-1238