Unique Restaurants in New Orleans: 12 Fun and Unusual Restaurants and Bars in The Big Easy

by Jen
Unique Restaurants in New Orleans
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Discover the charm and flavors of the Big Easy with our guide to unique restaurants in New Orleans. From historic haunts to culinary innovators, we’ve rounded up a selection of eateries that offer more than just great food. Get ready to explore the stories, tastes, and atmospheres that make these spots truly one-of-a-kind in the heart of New Orleans.

Welcome to New Orleans, a city famous for its vibrant culture and delicious food. Here, every restaurant offers a unique experience, blending history, culture, and amazing flavors. New Orleans isn’t just about traditional dishes; it’s a place where dining is an exciting adventure.

Imagine walking down streets filled with historic buildings, each one a backdrop to a world of culinary delights. In New Orleans, restaurants are more than places to eat. They are full of stories and surprises. From cafes inspired by vampires to classic spots steeped in history, this city has it all.

In this guide, we’ll explore some of the most unusual restaurants in New Orleans. Each one offers something special, whether it’s a meal accompanied by jazz music or a menu filled with creative dishes. These places capture the spirit of beautiful places in New Orleans, making each meal an unforgettable experience. So, get ready to discover restaurants that are as lively and diverse as New Orleans itself.

The top restaurants to visit in New Orleans right now

Unique Restaurants in New Orleans: 12 Incredible New Orleans Eateries

New Orleans, a city synonymous with vibrant culture and rich history, is a feast for the senses, especially when it comes to food. In New Orleans’ unique restaurants, the flavors of Creole and Cajun cuisine come alive, offering a taste of local traditions and modern culinary innovations. Here, every meal is a celebration, blending spices, stories, and the spirit of this unforgettable city.

1. Lengua Madre

Lengua Madre stands out as one of the unique restaurants in New Orleans, offering an extraordinary dining experience. Nestled in the Lower Garden District, this small yet captivating restaurant is a testament to the best food in New Orleans, blending Mexican inspiration with Louisiana’s seafood culture.

Chef Ana Castro, recognized on Food and Wine’s List of Best New Chefs in 2022, crafts a menu that pays homage to her Mexican heritage with a modern twist. The five-course tasting menu, inspired by Mexican cuisine, is a journey through vibrant and rich flavors. Each dish is a surprise, with no menu provided upfront, adding to the excitement of the dining experience.

The setting of Lengua Madre adds to its charm. An unmarked building with a neon-pink hallway leads you to a small dining room with an open kitchen, creating an intimate and inviting atmosphere. The restaurant’s commitment to a collaborative and uplifting work environment, as emphasized by Chef Castro, further enhances the dining experience.

Guests can enjoy a variety of wines paired with each course, including natural reds, sparkling wines, and dessert wines. The highlight for many is the third course, featuring crab in a creamy broth, showcasing the perfect balance of homemade masa elements like tortillas and dumplings.

Lengua Madre is one of the unique restaurants in New Orleans.
Lengua Madre blends Mexican inspiration with Louisiana’s seafood culture in the Lower Garden District. | Source: https://www.lenguamadrenola.com/

2. Mosquito Summer Club

Mosquito Supper Club in New Orleans is not your average dining spot. It’s a place where old-world Cajun cooking meets the freshness of Louisiana seafood, creating a unique blend that’s hard to find anywhere else.

This restaurant is one of the unique New Orleans restaurants that offers a predetermined tasting menu. The menu showcases the fading art of Louisiana seafood, prepared with a Cajun cooking style. The chef and owner, drawing inspiration from her cookbook, ensures each dish tells a story of tradition and taste.

Mosquito Supper Club is among the best places to eat in New Orleans for those who seek an authentic culinary experience. The setting is as unique as the menu, located unassumingly in the middle of a residential street. It feels like entering a secret club, a speakeasy dinner club, adding to the excitement of the dining experience.

The dishes, like Sweet Potato Biscuits with steen’s cane butter and Indian River Lagoon Oysters, are a burst of flavor and creativity. The Crawfish Sliders on benne rolls and the Cast Iron Royal Red Shrimp are particularly noteworthy. Each course is a celebration of local ingredients and Cajun culinary techniques. The ambiance of the house, beautifully appointed with art and farmhouse decor, complements the meal.

Mosquito Supper Club merges old-world Cajun cooking with fresh Louisiana seafood for a unique dining experience.
Mosquito Supper Club merges old-world Cajun cooking with fresh Louisiana seafood for a unique dining experience. | Source: https://deskrib.com/

3. New Orleans Vampire Cafe

In the heart of the French Quarter, the New Orleans Vampire Cafe offers a dining experience like no other. This cafe welcomes both vampires and mortals, creating an atmosphere that’s both intriguing and inviting.

As one of the themed restaurants in New Orleans, the Vampire Cafe takes its inspiration seriously. The menu, crafted by Chef Chris Dunn, features New Orleans cuisine with a lavish, vampire-themed twist. Dishes like Steak Tartar, Deluxe Charcuterie Boards, and Filet Mignon are served with a side of theatrical flair. The cafe’s unique approach extends to its dining precautions, including gold utensils to protect nocturnal guests from silver.

New Orleans Vampire Cafe is among the fun restaurants in New Orleans, especially for those looking for an immersive experience. The highlight for many is the cocktail menu, where drinks are served in blood bags, adding to the vampire theme. This novel approach to cocktails, along with dishes like Blood Orange Creme Brûlée, ensures a memorable dining experience.

Located at 801 Royal St, the cafe’s setting in the vibrant French Quarter adds to its charm. The cafe is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch, offering a range of meals to suit any time of day.

The New Orleans Vampire Cafe in the French Quarter offers an intriguing dining experience, welcoming both vampires and mortals.
The New Orleans Vampire Cafe offers an intriguing dining experience, welcoming both vampires and mortals.

4. Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop

Steeped in history and lore, a visit to the French Quarter isn’t complete without a stop at the legendary Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. This bar, a relic of the past, is shrouded in tales of pirates and secret operations.

Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop is one of the unique places to eat in New Orleans, offering more than just drinks. Built in 1722, it’s steeped in history, with stories of its original owner, pirate Jean Lafitte. By day, it was a blacksmith’s shop; by night, a hub for smuggling. Today, it stands as a testament to New Orleans’ rich and colorful past.

This bar is a must-visit for anyone exploring fun restaurants in New Orleans. Its ambiance is like stepping back in time, with only votive candles lighting the interior. The drinks menu includes classics like the “voodoo” grape daiquiri and the obituary cocktail, served in small, clear plastic cups perfect for a stroll down Bourbon Street.

The back room of Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop features live music, adding to its charm. The ghost of Jean Lafitte is said to haunt the place, often spotted near the piano bar. While the bathrooms might be a bit of an adventure, the overall experience is charming and uniquely New Orleans.

Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop is steeped in history, a legendary bar shrouded in tales of pirates and secret operations.
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop is steeped in history, a legendary bar shrouded in tales of pirates and secret operations.

5. Antoine’s Restaurant

Established by Antoine Alciatore, Antoine’s Restaurant is renowned as the oldest family-run restaurant in the United States. Antoine’s Restaurant is a cornerstone among New Orleans’s best restaurants. It’s famous for its fine Creole dining and historic ambiance.

The restaurant was initially a boarding house for immigrants and merchant seamen, evolving into a full-fledged restaurant under Alciatore’s son, Jules. He created some of Antoine’s most famous recipes, including the iconic Oysters Rockefeller, named for its richness akin to that of John D. Rockefeller.

Unusual restaurants in New Orleans for dinner often have a story, and Antoine’s is no exception. The restaurant boasts 14 dining rooms, each with its own thematic style. The Mystery Room, known during Prohibition for serving coffee laced with liquor, and the wine cellar, capable of holding 25,000 bottles, are highlights of the dining experience.

Antoine’s has been a backdrop for popular shows like Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and featured in films like JFK. It has hosted celebrities, presidents, and even Pope John Paul II. The restaurant’s Café Brulot Diabolique, a flaming coffee drink, is a testament to its culinary creativity and flair.

Antoine's Restaurant, the oldest family-run eatery in the US, is a cornerstone of fine Creole dining in New Orleans with historic ambiance.
Antoine’s Restaurant, the oldest family-run eatery in the US, is a cornerstone of fine Creole dining with historic ambiance.

6. Dat Dog

A vibrant spot in New Orleans, known for its colorful ambiance and customizable hot dogs, is Dat Dog. With three locations across the city, it’s a favorite among locals and visitors alike. The Freret location, in particular, stands out with its lively colors and casual vibe.

Dat Dog offers a unique twist on the classic hot dog, making it a standout among cheap eats in New Orleans. The menu features eight types of meat dogs, four vegan options, and over thirty toppings, ensuring a personalized experience for every customer. With meals ranging from eight to twelve dollars and a vast array of 64 menu options, it’s a paradise for hot dog lovers.

This eatery is also one of New Orlean’s most unique restaurants, catering to a diverse range of dietary preferences and tastes. The menu includes categories like “Chicken & Fish” for pesce-pollotarians and “Eat Fit NOLA” for health-conscious diners. The extensive customization options make Dat Dog a go-to spot for anyone looking for a meal tailored to their taste. The restaurant’s proximity to Tulane and Loyola University campuses makes it a popular spot for students seeking a taste of home and a break from their busy lives.

Dat Dog offers customizable hot dogs across three city locations, with the Freret spot's lively colors and casual vibe standing out.
Dat Dog offers customizable hot dogs across three city locations, with the Freret spot’s lively colors and casual vibe standing out.

7. Pirate’s Alley Cafe

Tucked away in a cobblestone alley near Jackson Square, Pirate’s Alley Cafe is a hidden gem in the heart of New Orleans. This dive bar, nestled in Pirate Alley, is a unique spot that’s not always marked on tourist maps, adding to its allure.

Its location on the site of the Spanish Colonial Prison established in 1769 adds a historical dimension to your visit. The bar’s nautical theme makes it one of the coolest restaurants in New Orleans. It’s played up with decorations and a pirate-like compass mural on the ceiling, creating an immersive experience.

This cafe is also one of the fun places to eat in New Orleans. It offers a casual, laid-back atmosphere where large shuttered doors open to blend the bar with the alley. The outdoor seating provides a perfect spot for people-watching or enjoying a to-go drink while exploring the city.

Pirate’s Alley Cafe maintains the authenticity of its historic building, offering a genuine dive bar experience. Known for serving beer and absinthe, it’s a place where history and modern-day New Orleans intersect. The bar’s proximity to Jackson Square makes it an ideal stop for tourists and locals alike, looking for a unique spot to unwind.

Pirate's Alley Cafe is a unique dive bar off the beaten path, adding to its allure as it's not always marked on tourist maps.
Pirate’s Alley Cafe is a unique dive bar off the beaten path, adding to its allure as it’s not always marked on tourist maps.

8. Napoleon House

At the prime corner of New Orleans’ French Quarter sits a historic landmark, the Napoleon House. Established in 1797, it was initially the palatial home of the city’s first freely elected mayor after the Louisiana Purchase. The name “Napoleon House” comes from the mayor’s plan to offer it as a domicile for the exiled French emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, who, however, never made it to the States

This restaurant is among the best restaurants in New Orleans, known for its warm muffuletta sandwich and Pimm’s Cup cocktails. The muffuletta, a New Orleans invention, is a sandwich featuring cold cuts, cheeses, and a unique olive salad. Napoleon House serves a warm version of this sandwich, setting it apart from other establishments. The Pimm’s Cup, a refreshing cocktail originally a “health tonic,” has become a signature drink of the house.

The restaurant’s interior, with well-worn bar and dining rooms, reflects the city’s rich history. The open-air garden courtyard, a staple of New Orleans architecture, offers a serene dining atmosphere. The walls, adorned with Napoleonic photos, paintings, and posters, make it one of the most unusual restaurants in New Orleans. The menu at Napoleon House features traditional New Orleans specialties like gumbo, jambalaya, po’ boys, and red beans & rice.

The Napoleon House serves a warm muffuletta sandwich and signature Pimm's Cup cocktails.
The Napoleon House serves a warm muffuletta sandwich and signature Pimm’s Cup cocktails.

9. Muriel’s Jackson Square

If you’re into the paranormal, the coolest restaurant in New Orleans to visit sits in the heart of the French Quarter. Muriel’s Jackson Square has a storied past, dating back to the early 1700s. The building has seen many lives, from a slave holding facility to the home of Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan. The tragic tale of Jourdan, who lost the house in a poker game and ended his life on the second floor, adds a ghostly dimension to the restaurant.

This establishment is a unique restaurant in New Orleans, embracing its spectral legacy. The second floor houses a séance room, believed to be frequented by Jourdan’s spirit. Mysterious happenings, like unexplained movements and shattering glasses, add to the mystique. The owners honor this history by reserving a nightly table for Mr. Jourdan’s spirit.

The menu at Muriel’s Jackson Square features classic Creole dishes, allowing guests to savor the flavors of New Orleans’ culinary heritage. The blend of historical charm and eerie ambiance provides a dining experience unlike any other in the city. It’s a place where the past and present merge, offering a meal to remember.

Muriel's Jackson Square, situated in the heart of New Orleans' French Quarter, offers a ghostly dining experience.
Muriel’s Jackson Square offers a ghostly dining experience.

10. Ingenue

Perched atop the Troubadour Hotel, Ingenue, formerly Monkey Board, offers breathtaking city views, making it one of the scenic places in New Orleans to eat. This rooftop bar, a recent addition to the city’s vibrant dining scene, provides a 180-degree panorama of New Orleans, complemented by cozy, cushioned seating reminiscent of Casablanca.

Ingenue is more than just a rooftop bar; it’s a culinary destination. The menu is crafted to pair perfectly with a range of drinks, from local craft beers to sparkling wines. Highlights include big ass pretzels with beer fondue, grilled veggie pita with hummus, and a pork sandwich with rapini slaw. Each dish is designed to enhance the rooftop drinking experience.

Tucked away in the Central Business District, Ingenue is a hidden gem restaurant in New Orleans. Its unique name, inspired by the narrow elevated platforms on oil-drilling platforms, pays homage to the building’s former life as an oil & gas office. The bar’s ambiance, coupled with its tasty bites and stunning views, makes it a must-visit spot for both locals and tourists.

Ingenue (formerly Monkey Board) offers stunning city views and cozy, Casablanca-inspired seating.
Ingenue (formerly Monkey Board) offers stunning city views and cozy, Casablanca-inspired seating.

11. Vessel

Vessel, located in a building dating back to 1914, was once a church and now serves as a popular dining destination. The restaurant stands out among New Orlean’s unique restaurants, not just for its menu but for its intriguing history.

The building’s past as a church adds a mystical aura, and the restaurant’s co-owner, Alec Wilder, a psychic and medium, sensed paranormal activity from the start. This history is woven into the dining experience, offering guests more than just a meal. The restaurant’s menu emphasizes locally sourced, fresh seasonal ingredients, following New Orleans’ culinary traditions. But it’s the ghost stories that add an extra layer of intrigue.

Vessel is believed to be haunted by the spirit of Micaela Leonarda Antonia de Almonester Rojas y de la Ronde, Baroness de Pontalba, a notable figure in New Orleans history. The Baroness, who once owned the land, is said to have sought refuge in the building. The restaurant has embraced these stories, adding to its unique character.

Vessel is a standout among New Orleans' unique restaurants, renowned for its captivating history and delectable menu.
Vessel is a standout among New Orleans’ unique restaurants, renowned for its captivating history and delectable menu.

12. Backspace Bar & Kitchen

Tucked away on Chartres Street in the French Quarter, a literary haven awaits at Backspace Bar & Kitchen. This spot is a source of inspiration, a nod to the literary greats, and a unique restaurant in New Orleans.

Since 2012, Backspace Bar & Kitchen has been a creative sanctuary. Its walls are adorned with framed pictures of famous New Orleanian authors like Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, and Mark Twain. This setting creates an atmosphere that’s perfect for those working on their next novel or seeking inspiration for their next character.

The menu at Backspace Bar & Kitchen is a literary journey. Dishes like the Hemingway Cuban and the Whitman Roast Beef, which features fried oysters and roast beef with debris gravy on French Bread, are not only delicious but also pay homage to literary icons. The cocktail menu, filled with timeless classics like the New Orleans Sazerac and the prohibition-era Mary Pickford, adds to the charm of this hidden gem.

Backspace Bar & Kitchen is one of the unique restaurants in New Orleans.
Backspace Bar & Kitchen serves as a unique haven that pays homage to literary greats in New Orleans.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Unique Places to Eat in New Orleans

Our New Orleans restaurant guide is here to answer your burning questions about the city’s vibrant food scene.

What is famous to eat in New Orleans?

New Orleans is renowned for its unique and flavorful cuisine. Signature dishes include gumbo, a hearty stew with a mix of meat and seafood; jambalaya, a spicy dish with rice, meat, and vegetables; and beignets, fluffy, powdered sugar-dusted pastries. These dishes reflect the city’s rich cultural melting pot, combining French, African, Spanish, and Caribbean influences. Each bite of these iconic foods tells a story of New Orleans’ diverse heritage.

What famous person has a restaurant in New Orleans?

Emeril Lagasse, a celebrity chef known for his catchphrase “Bam!”, owns several restaurants in New Orleans. His establishments, like Emeril’s New Orleans, blend the rich culinary traditions of the city with his bold, innovative cooking style. These restaurants are a testament to Lagasse’s passion for Creole and Cajun cuisine, offering a high-end dining experience that showcases the best of New Orleans’ flavors.

What makes New Orleans food unique?

New Orleans food stands out for its blend of diverse culinary influences. The city’s history as a melting pot of French, African, Spanish, and Caribbean cultures has created a unique fusion cuisine. Dishes like gumbo, jambalaya, and po’boys are not just meals; they are stories on a plate, each ingredient representing a different chapter in the city’s rich history. This unique blend of flavors and traditions makes New Orleans cuisine distinct and unforgettable.

What restaurants originated in New Orleans?

New Orleans is the birthplace of several iconic restaurants. Antoine’s, established in 1840, is the country’s oldest family-run restaurant, known for inventing Oysters Rockefeller. Commander’s Palace, another culinary landmark, has been a part of the city’s dining scene since 1893. These establishments are more than the best places to eat in New Orleans; they are culinary institutions that have shaped the city’s food culture.

Commander's Palace is a historic New Orleans Restaurant, an icon of Creole cuisine.
Commander’s Palace is a historic New Orleans Restaurant, an icon of Creole cuisine.

Is New Orleans known for French food?

While New Orleans has a strong French influence, its cuisine is a fusion of various cultures. French food is a significant part of the city’s culinary landscape, but it’s uniquely adapted. Classic French dishes are blended with local ingredients and cooking styles, resulting in Creole cuisine, a distinct New Orleans flavor. This fusion is evident in dishes like étouffée, a French-inspired stew with a Creole twist.

What is the name of the famous cafe in New Orleans?

Café du Monde is a famous café in New Orleans, known worldwide for its beignets and café au lait. Established in 1862 in the French Market, it has become a symbol of New Orleans’ French heritage. The café’s beignets, square-shaped doughnuts covered in powdered sugar, are a must-try for visitors and locals alike. Café du Monde’s enduring popularity reflects the city’s love for coffee and pastries.

Are there vegetarian options in New Orleans restaurants?

Yes, New Orleans’ culinary scene is diverse and includes plenty of vegetarian options. Many restaurants, including some of the extraordinary restaurants in New Orleans, offer vegetarian versions of classic dishes like gumbo and jambalaya. The city’s food culture is inclusive, ensuring that everyone, regardless of dietary preferences, can enjoy the rich flavors of New Orleans.

What is a must-visit restaurant for a first-time visitor to New Orleans?

For a first-time visitor, a must-visit unique place in Louisiana is Commander’s Palace. This iconic establishment, nestled in the Garden District, offers a quintessential New Orleans dining experience. Known for its Creole cuisine, jazz brunches, and the famous 25-cent martinis, Commander’s Palace is more than a restaurant; it’s a culinary journey through the heart of New Orleans’ rich food culture.

Final Thoughts On Unique New Orleans Restaurants

Exploring the New Orleans’ unique restaurants is like taking a journey through a world of flavors, history, and culture. Each restaurant in this vibrant city tells a story, not just through its dishes but also through its ambiance, history, and the people behind it. From the ghostly charm of Muriel’s Jackson Square to the literary allure of Backspace Bar & Kitchen, experiencing the stay in New Orleans intertwines with a dining adventure that goes beyond the ordinary.

Whether you’re a local or a visitor, these establishments are not just places to eat; they are destinations to experience the true spirit of New Orleans. As you leave the city, you’ll carry not just memories of great food, but also of the unique atmosphere and rich history that make New Orleans a culinary treasure.

The top restaurants in New Orleans for all types of travelers
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