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Nina Compton Shares Her NOLA Favorites
The James Beard award-winning chef shares her go-to spots in the Big Easy
The flavors of New Orleans are a mix of African, Creole, French, Southern, and Cajun: The result is a truly unique cuisine. Crayfish boils, jambalaya, étouffée, gumbo, and po’boys are only some of the dishes you’ll find here.
While the French Quarter is the most famous neighborhood in Crescent City, there are many other places to explore if you want to find authentic fare. And there’s no better way of exploring a city’s cuisine than with a local chef.
Chef-owner of two New Orleans restaurants, Nina Compton runs Compére Lapin in the city’s warehouse arts district followed by Bywater American Bistro in the Bywater neighborhood. Compton, a native of St. Lucia, fell in love with New Orleans while filming a season of Top Chef. Soon after, she and her husband, Larry Miller, moved from Miami to New Orleans to open her first restaurant. The move paid off, with Compton winning a James Beard award for “Best Chef: South” in 2018.
Fast forward to today, and the chef admitted that choosing her favorite New Orleans restaurants is next to impossible. “There are so many talented chefs and so many great restaurants; it all depends on my mood, if I’m entertaining friends or family visiting, and how much time I actually have,” she says.
Here are Nina’s current go-tos in her own words.
“I love Bacchanal in Bywater. It’s like going to a friend’s backyard party. The place has very eclectic lawn chairs and tables scattered throughout. You pick all the cheeses you like and some small production wine and they put it all together for you — like your own personal picnic. If you want their help, they will guide you with pairing all of the great cheese and wine. They’ve got great live music and it’s the perfect way to spend an afternoon.” 600 Poland Ave., New Orleans.
Parkway Bakery & Tavern
“For po’boys, I love Parkway Bakery & Tavern. The roast beef po’boy is my favorite, but sometimes, I’ll mix things up and grab a catfish or an oyster po’boy. Regardless, I always order it dressed. ‘Dressed’ means you want lettuce, mayo, and tomatoes.” 538 Hagan Ave., New Orleans.
“Dooky Chase’s is an institution and one of my favorite spots to bring friends. It’s a no-frills restaurant but you cannot beat the food. It’s been around since the ’40s and is hands-down one of the most delicious meals in town. I love the stuffed shrimp and their fried chicken is out of this world.” 2301 Orleans Ave., New Orleans.
“For good pasta, pizza, and seasonal ingredients I like to go to Paladar 511. It’s got a great vibe and the food is always fresh and flavorful. If you know me, you know I love good Italian food and Paladar is my go-to.” 511 Marigny St., New Orleans.
La Petite Grocery
“Justin Devillier’s La Petite Grocery is one of those cozy little restaurants where the food shines and the atmosphere is lovely. The blue crab beignets are a must!” 4238 Magazine St., New Orleans.
“Emeril’s is a New Orleans classic. Everything here is delicious. From the barbecued shrimp to the andouille crusted drum, you just can’t go wrong with Emeril’s.” 800 Tchoupitoulas St., New Orleans.