In the Local Palate’s 2022 Restaurants Issue, our state-by-state guide highlights the new restaurants that have emerged since 2020. Here, contributor Beth D’Addono gives an overview of new restaurants in Louisiana.
Alma | New Orleans
Chef Melissa Araujo pays homage to her Honduran roots—and her grandmother’s kitchen—at her welcoming Bywater cafe. She channels culinary influences from the homey dishes of her childhood along with specialties of the Garifuna, descendants of an Afro-indigenous population from the Caribbean who were exiled to the Honduran coast in the eighteenth century.
Alma, which means soul in Spanish, was five years in the making, with Araujo popping up in various kitchens while she was running a catering business. From day one, it was wildly popular with locals, but as time went by and more visitors started coming back to New Orleans, tourists discovered Araujo’s from-scratch menu.
The Alma breakfast is a best seller—two eggs with refried beans, sweet plantains, avocado, queso fresco, and homemade crema—along with its sister dish baliadas sencilla, a mix of eggs, refried beans, and queso on homemade flour tortillas. Fried dough dusted with sugar delivers a Honduran version of beignets called bunuelo macheteadas. There’s also house-cured salmon paired with toast for a take on a bagel with lox.
Plant-based dishes are a feature at every meal, from the red beans and jasmine rice served with coconut milk and herbs at lunch to the garlic-roasted eggplant and coriander roasted carrots on the new dinner menu. Initially open just for breakfast and lunch, Araujo added dinner early this year, offering a newly crafted menu each night. Guests can dine inside and out in the sparse, elegant space, which is decorated with her grandparents’ wedding photo and a tile mural of the Mayan moon goddess Ixchel, a deity of female power and fertility.
Cocktail: The Mayan Mezcalita with Montelobos mezcal, hibiscus tea, lime, and cilantro syrup
Appetizer: Ana shrimp dip
Main: Caracol al ajillo—escargot served with garlic butter and bread for dipping
Dessert: Honduran bread pudding drizzled with cognac-infused cane syrup
More Restaurants in Louisiana to Check Out
Chemin à la Mer | New Orleans
James Beard award-winning chef Donald Link opened his French restaurant in the swanky Four Seasons Hotel in 2021. French for “path to the sea,” the fifth-floor restaurant showcases stunning Mississippi river views. The menu is seafood driven, with a touch of Parisian steakhouse thrown in for good measure. Expect dishes inspired by the Cajun and Southern cooking of Link’s grandparents prepared with technique and presentation fit for a five-star restaurant.
Tchefuncte’s | Madisonville
This date-night restaurant sits just steps from the river for which it’s named. Tchefuncte’s spotlights chef Ryan Gall’s fetching American menu, from locally foraged seasonal mushrooms to dry-aged beef. Creative starters might include local sweet potato ravioli with sage and brown butter. Chef Michael Gottlieb, whose resume boasts AAA four diamond restaurants, opened the dual property in July 2020 before moving onto other projects, but his expertise still shines here.
Area 337 | Lake Charles
Dominican Republic-born restaurant owner Gus Garden opened Area 337 in 2021 with the help of his wife, Yuliana, and his mother, Rhina Rosado. Garden and his team celebrate the flavors of Puerto Rico, Colombia, Honduras, Venezuela, and his homeland with dishes overflowing with fresh ingredients and love. From spins on the traditional mojito to Caribbean tacos, authentic flavors abound.
Bésame | New Orleans
Chef Nanyo Dominguez opened his restaurant, “Kiss Me” in Spanish, in September 2021. Born in Puebla, Mexico, and raised in Mexico City, Dominguez mines his Latin heritage on a menu that focuses on ceviche, offering five takes on the citrus-cured seafood specialty, along with tapas, tacos, and a tasty seafood paella. South American wines and spirits, including mezcal and pisco, power the creative cocktail program.
Other Spots On Our List
Dragonfly Café | New Orleans
Dragonfly Café is a restaurant with a mission, offering vocational training to students age 18 and older. The menu puts an emphasis on healthy, sustainably raised ingredients, many from general manager Thaddeus Prosper’s own farm, Sheaux Fresh, which he founded with his wife Tamara. Order the grass-fed beef burger, which comes on a house-made sweet bun or the eggs with grits and toast.
Nonno’s Cajun Cuisine & Pastries | New Orleans
When Shermond Esteen, Jr. was sentenced to thirty-three years in prison for possession of five ounces of marijuana in 1999, he could have succumbed to despair. Instead, he trained as a baker and opened Nonno’s Cajun Cuisine & Pastries less than a year after returning to his hometown in 2019. The down-home cafe serves killer fried seafood and crawfish étouffée—but it might as well be hope on a plate.
Named in honor of Vesta, the Roman goddess of the hearth, home, and family, chef Ryan Trahan’s restaurant focuses on open-fire cooking. He puts a modern take on Cajun dishes with fresh Gulf seafood and sustainably sourced proteins. The menu includes heavy French, Italian, and Japanese influences, all interpreted through a Southern lens.
Mister Mao | New Orleans
Chef Sophina Uong and her husband William “Wildcat” Greenwell named their restaurant Mister Mao for their cat. Neither anticipated that the name might conjure a Chinese restaurant. Which it isn’t. Mister Mao is a funky spot serving fun-to-eat dishes that cross global spectrums with a cocktail list to match. The menu taps into many of Uong’s favorite dishes, with bold flavors from places including Thailand, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Kashmir.
Bistro Byronz | Baton Rouge
Bistro Byronz, a Southern take on a traditional French bistro, may ring familiar to Red Stick residents. The family’s original sandwich shop, called Byronz, opened in the early ’80s. With chef John Lundin at the helm, his Poché étouffée—an open-faced biscuit topped with crabmeat, a deep-fried poached egg, crawfish étouffée, and hollandaise—is impossible to resist.
Fritai | New Orleans
Haitian-American chef Charly Pierre, a winner on Food Network’s Chopped early in his career, bring Fritai to the Big Easy. Named for the fried street snack ubiquitous on the island, Friati showcases Pierre’s classic training while staying true to Haiti’s heart and soul with jambalaya and gumbo. A mix of modern and traditional Haitian cuisine, Pierre demonstrates strong connection between Haiti and New Orleans on the plate.