Fall for Al Fresco Dining

September 30, 2021
As the heat and humidity give way to cool, crisp evenings, autumn is the perfect time to dine al fresco in New Orleans. Whether you’re seeking brunch, beignets or burgers, we’re bringing you the best places sip and dine outdoors. From tempting tailgate tidbits to nocturnal noshing, you’re sure to fall for these distinctly Big Easy eateries.

Café Beignet
Multiple Locations; cafebeignet.com

Although the weather may be turning cooler, things continue to be hot, hot, hot at Café Beignet! Locals and visitors alike flock to this casual, family and pet-friendly hot spot to enjoy freshly fried beignets, a steamy cup of coffee, and sizzling live jazz music. Need a boost? Grab a robust cup of locally sourced chicory coffee, café au lait, espresso, cappuccino, or Americano. And it goes without saying that once you get a whiff of the café’s namesake fried dough delicacy, designated in 1986 as the official Louisiana state doughnut, it’ll be hard to keep from ordering some of these pillowy, powdered sugar-topped treats. All four locations, three sprinkled about the French Quarter, with the newest location at 622 Canal Street, serve up tasty New Orleans specialties like red beans and rice with Andouille sausage, fried shrimp po-boys, Creole-style jambalya, chicken and Andouille gumbo, and muffalettas layered with salami, ham, provolone, Swiss and Italian olive salad. For breakfast, there are copious omelette options, from Andouille to veggie, or indulge in the french toast dusted with cinnamon sugar and maple syrup. For those looking to kick it up, try one of their signature eye-opening cocktails like Treme au Lait made with pecan vodka, chicory liqueur, and coffee topped with whipped cream and nutmeg. Or a Cajun Bloody Mary with spiced green beans and house-made brine. Whether you dine indoors or al fresco, you’re sure to leave with a pleased palate and a warm heart.

Café Sbisa
1011 Decatur St; cafesbisanola.com

Several owners have operated this iconic NOLA eatery since the Sbisa family first turned it into a restaurant in 1899. Today, it is in deft hands with chef and co-owner Alfred Singleton at the kitchen’s helm. The New Orleans native honed his culinary skills in top local restaurants, including Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse and Desi Vega’s Steakhouse, before returning to Café Sbisa. Renowned for their weekend jazz brunch, Chef Alfred’s menu focuses on locally sourced, French-Creole cuisine with selections like Eggs Sbisa (poached eggs, grilled Andouille, wilted spinach, and smoked tomato basil Hollandaise), shrimp and grits with Andouille sausage, Bananas Foster pain perdu with toasted pecans, and crawfish etouffee omelette with popcorn rice and cheddar cheese. Panko-dusted Louisiana crab-cakes with citrus aioli, or crispy fried pickles with remoulade, are terrific starters. Indulge in bottomless mimosas for a true New Orleans brunch experience. For dinner, the Oysters Sbisa (flash fried Louisiana oysters nestled atop creamed spinach, finished with Tabasco Hollandaise, bacon and Parmesan) is pure heaven! Other favorites include Courtboullion, classic bouillabaisse teeming with fresh seafood, and barbeque shrimp swimming in a traditional New Orleans butter-based sauce. The handsome main dining room, highlighted by the stately mahogany bar, hosts a grand painting by acclaimed French Quarter artist George Dureau. There’s mezzanine seating that overlooks the main dining area, outdoor balcony seating, and private event spaces. This lively local favorite is ideal for groups and those looking for satisfying New Orleans-style fare served in a casual, jovial setting.

Copper Vine
1001 Poydras St; coppervine.com

Dome-bound fans of the black and gold are familiar with this casual eatery, as it’s the ideal spot to kick off game day or celebrate post-game. Ample outdoor dining space, complete with an intimate courtyard and an upstairs balcony overlooking Poydras Street, makes Copper Vine the perfect spot to enjoy a delightful autumn afternoon. Start with sharable snacks like jumbo lump crab deviled eggs, crispy black truffle fries (with black peppercorn and Parmesan aioli), or pork belly and corn fried oysters (with hot sauce glaze, pickled okra, blue cheese crumbles, and buttermilk dressing). The ancient grains salad is a delectable marriage of golden beets, crispy bacon, dried fruit, pumpkin seeds, and hearty greens with sugarcane vinaigrette. If you are seeking decadence, opt for the heavenly herb-roasted mushroom fettuccini with Cognac-Parmesan cream topped with a perfectly poached egg. The cochon de lait Cuban—slow-roasted pork, ham, Gruyere, house-made bread and butter mirliton pickles, aged hot sauce, and yellow mustard—is sure to please. Don’t miss the mouthwatering fig and goat cheese flatbread, made with fig preserves, goat cheese, and micro arugula with a balsamic glaze that can easily stand in for dessert. Pop in for happy hour weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m. for Flights & Bites: enjoy $8 artisanal wine or local brew flights. Complete your tasting experience with tasty tidbits like Brussels sprouts with Parmesan cheese and garlic aioli or bacon-wrapped dates with rosemary honey, cream cheese, and pecans.

The Italian Barrel
1240 Decatur St; theitalianbarrel.com

If you’re craving authentic Northern Italian cuisine, then The Italian Barrel is sure to please your palate! Chef and owner Samantha Castagnetti, hailing from Verona, Italy, perfectly crafts house-made plates of pasta, tempting salads, enticing entrees, and decadent desserts at this charming French Quarter trattoria. Chef Sam has been wowing locals and visitors since opening her intimate eatery in 2008. Warm and inviting with exposed brick walls and a distinctly Italian vibe, the restaurant dishes out heartfelt cuisine all day long, seven days a week, making it the ideal spot for a late lunch or pre-theater dinner. Al fresco dining offers great people-watching, or sit outside during a New Orleans Jazz Museum outdoor concert for free entertainment. Chef Sam sources most of her ingredients directly from Italy, so starting with an imported Italian cheese or cold cuts platter is a terrific choice. Don’t miss the “polpette di vitello,” a tender Italian-style veal meatball in red sauce and the exquisite pumpkin ravioli sautéed in butter and sage. Veal dishes range from the hearty osso buco over fresh polenta to the classic veal piccata. For something on the lighter side, opt for the Ahi tuna salad with cherry tomatoes, avocado, mango, and cilantro lime vinaigrette. One of the stars of the show is the porcini and truffle ravioli—house-made pasta filled with porcini mushrooms and truffle, topped with a lavish white wine cream sauce finished with white truffle oil. Do save room for Miss Patricia’s (Chef Sam’s mom) fantastic secret recipe Tiramisu. Buono!

Vampire Café
801 Royal St; vampirecafe.com

Dying for an otherworld dining experience? Step into this bewitching bistro complete with spirited cocktails and food with a bite. You’ll be seduced by the restaurant’s intimate feel and alluring vampire vibe including the elegant chandeliers and gold cutlery—as we all know, silver and vampires do not mix! There’s also sidewalk dining available for those ready to brave the daylight. Grab a Blood Bag Cocktail filled with fangria, or a Type O blackberry mojito. Feeling the need to feed? Start your Sunday brunch with a Bloodiest Mary made with Vampyre Vodka, then indulge in lush shrimp and grits with Andouille sausage and tasso, or a vampire breakfast burger—a succulent 50/50 blend of bacon and beef, topped with candied bacon, fried egg, and maple aioli. For nocturnal dining, try first bites like fried deviled eggs topped with caviar, or warm, creamy baked brie slathered with honey, peaches, and basil. Main bites such as pan-seared salmon with caper butter over cauliflower rice, blackened alligator po’boy with vampire cream sauce, and seared scallops (with roasted corn maque choux, bacon and browned butter) are all tasty toothsome options. Don’t miss the decadent after-bites like Death by Chocolate, or the blood orange crème brulee. Leave with a heightened sense (and a complimentary teacup) after a proper high tea with a magical twist. Sip bubbly and tea while snacking on finger sandwiches, scones, and petit fours all while having your tea leaves read. Now, that’s something to sink your teeth into!