The fiery heat and deep-fried crunch of Creole and Cajun cuisine have always been central to New Orleans culture, but lately there’s something new in the air. On Magazine Street, it’s bright mint and fragrant za’atar; in the Bywater, notes of cilantro, tamarind, and guava. From a Honduran café to a fusion ramen bar, these four recently opened restaurants have put new stamps on the Crescent City’s culinary passport.
Bywater residents started jockeying for sidewalk tables not long after Alma’s 2020 opening. Here, chef Melissa Araujo combines her grandmother’s recipes with fun, modern creations. Her Arco Iris pancakes feature blueberry, lemon ricotta, and a drizzle of Hoodoo syrup, a light maple syrup she reduces with Hoodoo Chicory Liqueur. (“We’ve considered bottling it,” she says.) Whether sweet or savory—think housemade tortillas with salty refried beans, Wagyu flank steak, avocado, and gooey fried eggs—everything here should be washed down with a tamarind or guava agua fresca.
This Latin street-food spot on bustling Freret Street is both approachable and incredibly nuanced. Chef/partner Alfredo Nogueira, a NOLA native of Cuban descent, restored an old Conoco gas station, livening it up with pink outdoor chairs and an AstroTurf lawn while retaining its Mid-Century Modern, Route 66 charm. Traditional elote comes slathered in cold mayo, herbs, and chili, while the green mole chicken tacos get some serious zing from Nogueira’s “crazy hot” pickled red onions.
“I was born in the Middle East,” says Saj owner Sam Matar. “There, everything at the table revolves around our traditional saj flatbread.” Diners at this Magazine Street restaurant enjoy that bread not only with Levantine classics—housemade hummus, creamy labna, excellent baba ghanoush—but also with lesser-known delights such as muhammara, a roasted red pepper dip with yogurt, walnuts, tart pomegranate syrup, and Egyptian honey. Looking for some Big Easy flavor? Don’t miss the baked feta, which is finished with a sear from a crème brûlée torch.
In 2018, Union owners Jeff Gapultos and chef Nhat “Nate” Nguyen attended the Tokyo Ramen Show, where they learned that the only rule in ramen is the noodles. “We came home to put our own spin on it,” Gapultos says.
You won’t find a traditional pork-based broth here; instead it’s chicken-based, with a miso option for veggie lovers. There are even broth-free offerings, such as the Slap-Ya-Kimchi mazeman, featuring blackened chicken, spinach, eggs, nori flakes, and chewy noodles. “People have been really receptive to our take on Japan’s most comforting food,” Gapultos says.