In the Local Palate’s 2023 Restaurants Issue, our state-by-state guide highlights the new restaurants that have emerged since 2022. Here, local writer, Beth D’annono, showcases 12 new restaurants in Louisiana.
Chef Serigne Mbaye could have opened his restaurant anywhere. After circumnavigating the globe on a culinary quest, stopping along the way at kitchens including Michelin-starred restaurants L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in New York and Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, the classically trained chef planted his roots in New Orleans, opening Dakar NOLA in November 2022.
Situated in an Uptown cottage, the 30-seat restaurant is spare and warmly elegant, rich with African art and artifacts. Dakar Nola’s debut was two years in the making, following a series of pop-ups and chef partnerships that solidified Mbaye’s New Orleans roots.
“New Orleans is the closest American city to Dakar,” says the 29-year-old chef, who was recently nominated as a semifinalist for Emerging Chef by the James Beard Foundation. Growing up, he went to school in his home country of Senegal and also spent time with his mom, a caterer with a business in Harlem. “My idea is to show how much West African and specifically Senegalese cultures have inspired Creole cuisine. There’s no other city that understands that like here.”
Although that connection usually includes a mention of the enslaved Africans who were forcibly brought to New Orleans, carrying their culinary heritage and culture with them, Mbaye frames the conversation differently at his new restaurant in Louisiana.
“When I think of my ancestors, I think of royal kings and queens. That’s who they were,” he says. Growing up around his mother’s restaurant business, he took it for granted that Senegalese cuisine was well-known everywhere. “West African cuisine is as evolved, as complex, as French, Japanese, Italian cuisine,” he says. With the help of his business partner, Effie Richardson, his dream of showcasing that truth at his own restaurant is now a reality.
Dakar Nola’s seasonal chef’s tasting menu, priced at $150, features seven courses, a mix of elevated Senegalese dishes using local ingredients and Gulf seafood. Every Wednesday, a three-course $55 chef’s menu brings added value to the table. The crossover between Creole and African cultures is clear in dishes like jollof, the country’s staple rice dish and a kissing cousin to jambalaya, and soupa konja, a Senegalese precursor to the New Orleans version of seafood okra gumbo. “My goal is to illuminate and strengthen the connection between our two cultures,” Mbaye says.
Can’t Miss at Dakar Nola
The chef’s menu rotates seasonally, but these sample dishes give you a taste of what to expect.
Large, head-on Gulf shrimp are grilled and lined up in a row, perched atop a smear of tamarind syrup. Locals will feel a tug of recognition as if New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp were treated with a dose of the tropics.
Fonio is an essential West African staple, a cousin to quinoa with a nutty, toasty flavor. Here, the tiny grains are crispy and golden, delivered over greens that pop with tart citrus.
Fluffy and aromatic, this homestyle comfort food renders the flavor of tomato down into its grains.
Ataya: Tea Service
The Senegalese custom of sharing a tea-drinking experience, known as ataya in Wolof, closes out each meal. Bittersweet gunpowder green tea with mint and sugar is served hot—it’s best enjoyed while lingering.
Get the Jollof Recipe Here
New Restaurants in Louisiana on Our Radar
Childhood feasts in Mexico City inform chef Ana Castro’s menu at Lengua Madre, which means “mother tongue,” a reference to how she learned to cook as instinctively as anyone learns their native language. Her sexy Garden District space showcases a five-course, $80 chef’s tasting menu rife with ingredients that speak to her Mexican roots, wanderlust, and obsession with Japanese cuisine. From a white mole studded with the ancient grain amaranth to a crispy roasted pork belly pibil burnished with local citrus, her cuisine is revelatory.
TAP 65 | Baton Rouge
When owners Rick and Needhi Patel opened Mid Tap in 2019, they absolutely killed it. Now, with the advent of Tap 65 on Government Street, they’ve upped their game. Tap 65 delivers creative, South Asian-influenced cocktails along with 65 kinds of whiskey and the same number of beers and wine, all at self-service taps. But the cuisine is the game changer: Boards of Indian street food, baskets of papadum and puri, a naan short rib sandwich, and butter chicken are just a few palate-pleasing options.
Chef Jacqueline Blanchard is well aware that in patriarchal Japan, crafting sushi is considered a man’s job. Never mind. Blanchard, whose resumé includes French Laundry and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, opened Sukeban, her own Uptown Japanese tavern, or izakaya, after traveling Japan extensively in search of knives for her shop, Coutelier. Her menu is a study in simplicity, a changing array of small tapas-like plates and divine handrolls tucked into nori sourced from Japan’s Ariake Sea.
Parish Line Bistro | Old Metairie
Date night just got a lot better in Jefferson Parish. What was once a dive bar at the railroad tracks is now a stylish American bistro with a rooftop terrace. Chef Chris Wilson, a manager of Emeril’s restaurants for years, delivers a menu of regional American specialties from a scratch kitchen committed to the smallest details. The menu hopscotches from his native New England, with terrific clam chowder and a buttery lobster roll, to global tapas including Mexican street corn, Wagyu sashimi, and hearty sandwiches and salads. There are great cocktail options, too.
The Gloriette | Covington
Imagine a French bistro with creole riffs in a setting that evokes a verdant garden club. That’s the Gloriette at first blush, the fine dining restaurant in the Southern Hotel in downtown Covington. Steven Marsella is at the helm, a longtime New Orleans chef with a passion for classic French technique and Louisiana ingredients. His velvety crab gumbo is divine, swimming with lumps of sweet crabmeat, and the rustic pork and clams Alentejana are built from a garlicky tomato sauce, plumped with white beans, briny littleneck clams, and slices of pork tenderloin. Familiar French bistro classics round out the elegant menu at this new restaurant in Louisiana
The Bekery | Lake Charles
Lake Charles is about as far away from Paris as it gets. Yet the Bekery from Rebekah Hoffpauir is an authentic French patisserie seemingly transported from the streets of Saint-Germaindes-Prés. A dream long in the making, Hoffpauir’s pretty new restaurant is awash in chandeliers and rattan bistro tables. Cases of oversized croissants, shiny with butter, include flavors like almond cream and deep, dark chocolate. Towering layered biscuits, both sweet and savory, keep company with fancy muffins, sticky buns, and cookies. There are soups and sandwiches, plus baguettes so authentic they might as well come with a beret.
Lemar Flukers, a contractor with strong community ties, opened Up For Brunch to serve Southern comfort breakfast and brunch in the Far End District, an underserved area of Shreveport with a struggling commercial community and a hole in the local restaurant scene. Flukers, who lives up the street from the restaurant, remembers when the Far End was once considered part of downtown. Now, thanks to the likes of brunch egg rolls filled with eggs, cheese, veggies, or meat; cornbread waffles; and biscuits and gravy, the Far End is one tasty destination.
Afrodisiac is a gastronomic union between Shaka Garel’s Jamaican roots and the foundation in Southern Louisiana cooking his wife—Lafayette, Louisiana-born chef Caron “Kay” Garel—brings to the table. A business that started with a purple food truck in 2017 has become a hugely popular Gentilly dining spot, thanks to the chef’s solid repertoire of recipes grounded in local seafood, Jamaican jerk spice, and layers of bold flavors. From stewed oxtail to Rasta pasta and crawfish étouffée, Afrodisiac is a marriage made in heaven.
Restaurants in Louisiana Worth Watching
This all-day, Parisian-style cafe in Algiers Point serves a menu of upscale bistro classics like French onion soup, jambon beurre, and escargot Bourgogne.
Shirley and Tang Lee, formerly of Royal China in Metairie, have returned to the restaurant business, along with their daughter Carling Lee—and lines are out the door.
- by TLP's Partners
- by Erin Byers Murray
- by TLP's Partners
- by TLP Editors