Dining Al Fresco

May 06, 2014
It's hard to explain, but sometimes food just tastes better when enjoyed outdoors. Maybe it's the faint scent of foliage that fills most French Quarter courtyards or simply the open air that makes al fresco dining so alluring. Whatever it is, you're sure to discover scattered throughout the Vieux Carre picturesque patios, beautiful balconies and quaint courtyards aptly juxtaposed to both fine dining establishments and casual eateries. So, get out, enjoy the fresh air and indulge in your favorite culinary adventure al fresco style.

Bayona 430 Dauphine St, 504.525.4455
Chef Susan Spicer has been wowing guests with discerning palates for more than 20 years at her critically acclaimed restaurant. Her unique blend of Mediterranean, Asian and European flavors fused with the finest local ingredients has made her one of the most celebrated and respected chefs, not only in New Orleans, but throughout the United States. The picturesque courtyard (complete with resident kitty) is the perfect place to relax and indulge in Chef Spicer's award-winning cuisine. Appetizers here are so delicious that you'll be tempted to get them all! Take special note of the Goat Cheese Crouton slathered with mushrooms and a decadent Madeira cream (so good you'll be hard pressed not to lick the plate!), the mouth-watering Sauteed Veal Sweetbreads in Sherry mustard butter and the Grilled Shrimp over black bean cake with orange coriander sauce. For lunch, check out the Smoked Duck "PB&J" (cashew butter, pepper jelly, apple-celery salad), a titillating combination that will have you begging for more. Lamb lovers will rejoice with the Peppered Lamb Loin with goat cheese and zinfandel sauce. House made ice creams and sorbet are always satisfying and desserts are sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Doris Metropolitan 620 Chartres St, 504.267.3500
A mere glance into the window of this elegant, new hot spot will elicit a Pavlovian response (for carnivores that is) as marbled racks of beef proudly hang in a special dry aging room. A scan of the menu posted outdoors will draw you in and, with just one bite you'll immediately realize that this place is something special. Doris Metropolitan began serving premium meats in 2003 in Israel. In 2010 they expanded to Costa Rica, then charmed by the Vieux Carre and NOLA's food culture, their first U.S. location opened here last year. The global inspired menu boasts a fine selection of appetizers from the tasty Asian-style Tuna Tartar with ginger emulsion, tobiko, avocado, soy pearls and wasabi to the "to die for" Beetroot Supreme and succulent Sweetbreads with roasted poblano, pearl onion and truffle oil. Entrees include Short Rib (aptly named Falls off the Bone) cooked for 24 hours, accented with smoked tomato au jus and creamy root puree and luscious Pan-glazed Chicken thighs with mushrooms, bacon, polenta and orange zest. USDA Prime beef - from the bone in NY Strip to the Filet - is cooked to perfection and will melt in your mouth. The lovely courtyard completes this truly distinctive dining experience!

Cafe Amelie 912 Royal St., 504.412.8965
Offering one of most quaint restaurant courtyards in town, Cafe Amelie is the ideal spot for a lingering lunch or brunch. Cajun and Creole inspired cuisine is elevated with original flavor combinations and local ingredients given a modern twist. The Satsuma Pepper Glazed Shrimp showcases the perfect marriage between sweet and heat, while the signature Amelie Oysters with creamed spinach and artichoke will have your palate begging for more. For something a tad more traditional, the Louisiana Crawfish Pie won't disappoint and Shrimp and Grits with corn and Andouille maque choux is lip-smacking good. For lunch, enjoy the Lamb Burger with sriracha mayo, or the succulent Cochon de Lait on ciabatta. You'll usually find a wait for Sunday brunch, but its well worth it as tempting dishes like the Amalie French Toast with a luscious Southern pecan sauce and the Beet Salad with local goat cheese and toasted walnuts drizzled with a tangy balsamic glaze are sure to awaken your senses. On the lighter side, seasonal soups are a good choice and the Amelie Mixed Salad - a toothsome melange of grapes, apples, blue cheese, pecans and baby greens coated with a meyer lemon dressing is like heaven on a plate.

El Gato Negro 81 Market Pl., 504.525.9752
This cozy Mexican eatery offers some of the best (and most authentic) Mexican cuisine in town. Whet your palate with a Pineapple Cilantro Margarita, a mind-blowing concoction that's sure to get your palate primed for what's to come. The guacamole (made tableside) is about as fresh as you can get with the perfect fusion of lime and jalapeno. It's hard to pass up the Stuffed Pablano Pepper brimming with cheese and finished with a buttery cream sauce, pico de gallo, mushrooms, garlic and Cotija cheese. While portions are generous, you won't want to miss entrees like the aged skirt steak tacos, and Gulf shrimp quesadillas, so don't fill up on the enticing appetizers. Other tempting selections include the Mixed Grill Michoacan style - NY strip, pork loin and jumbo shrimp served with sauteed veggies and topped with a robust Mexican-style chimichurri, and the Pulled Pork Tamales are equally as tasty served with Mexican rice, pinto beans and a sweet and savory orange-oregano salsa. Al fresco seating is limited, so sip a margarita while you wait.

Gazebo Cafe 1012 Decatur St., 504.525.8899
While daiquiri shops are a dime a dozen in the Quarter, nobody does these tempting frozen concoctions like Gazebo Cafe, who's been blending them up since 1975. The delicious dollop of ice cream is what sets these titillating libations apart from all others and makes them simply irresistible. Classic flavors include Pina Colada (one of the best in town!), Strawberry, Banana, and White Russian. Or if you're feeling a tad more adventuresome, try a Dreamsicle, Mocha Almond Freeze or Banana Split. Either way, you can't go wrong. Grab one for your stroll thru the French Market or kick back with drink in hand and take in the view. Located near LaTrobe Park, the garden-like atmosphere is the perfect place to perch for people watching while listening to live jazz music. They also offer classic NOLA favorites including tasty seafood Po-Boy's, muffalettas, gumbo and jambalya.

Little Vic's 719 Toulouse St., 504.304.1238
When a day of gallery hopping and antique shopping has you in need of a pick-me-up, head to Little Vic's for a yummy bite of Italian goodness. While the charming courtyard screams classic Vieux Carre patio, complete with lots of exposed brick, hurricane shutters, colorful foliage, and cement statues, the heavenly desserts and casual cuisine are decidedly Italian. Gelatos are creamy and refreshing with enticing flavors like pistachio, lemon, chocolate mint, peach and watermelon. Desserts are pure bliss - particularly the decadent Cannoli Sicilian, (crisped fried pastry shell stuffed with sweetened, creamy ricotta filling, sprinkled with powdered sugar) which will have you begging for more. If savory Italian specialties are calling your name, look no further. Italian style sandwiches like the Muffalino Panino with ham, salami, provolone and olive salad, fried risotto balls or the Pulled Pork Ragu and Mozzarella Pizza are sure to titillate your taste buds. There's also an espresso bar for you java junkies.

Steamboat Natchez 504.586.8777
Looking for a different kind of outdoor dining experience, look no further than the Mississippi River. Climb aboard NOLA's only authentic steamboat for a unique view of The Big Easy as you enjoy a leisurely river cruise, lively libations and classic cuisine. The Sunday Jazz Bruch is a blend of the city's most coveted and beloved attributes - traditional jazz and flavorful food. Fine selections include Frittata del Giorno, a tasty Italian-style omelet with fresh vegetables, cheeses, herbs and spices; a classic File Gumbo generously seasoned and brimming with shrimp, chicken and Andouille sausage; Creole Shrimp and Pasta Salad in a rosemary-thyme vinaigrette; and Natchez Bread Pudding coated with a spirited Jim Beam Bourbon sauce. Free flowing mimosas, Natchez Punch and Bloody Mary's are sure to kick up your experience. Or, enjoy a romantic Dinner Jazz Cruise with a live performance by the Dukes of Dixieland and buffet-style dining featuring a selection of local dishes.

Other eateries with outdoor space worth mentioning include Broussard's, which boasts a lovely courtyard and fine French cuisine crafted by chef Guy Reinbolt; Dickie Brennan's Tableau offers lovely balcony dining overlooking Jackson Square along with delicious food and off-the-chart desserts; and if it's Italian you crave, Maximo's and The Italian Barrel both have al fresco dining, fine wines and delizioso cuisine.

Looking to venture outside of the French Quarter? Ride the Canal St. streetcar out to New Orleans City Park! Enjoy a cafe au lait and an order of beignets al fresco under the canopy of live oaks at Morning Call! Located in the old City Park Casino building on Dreyfous Dr., Morning Call offers a slice of New Orleans tradition and some of the city's best coffee and beignets for over 140 years! They also serve some local favorites, such as etouffee, alligator sausage, and more if you have more of an appetite and want to save the beignets for dessert! The best part" you can satisfy your cravings whenever they strike- they're open 24 hours a day!