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Where Y’Eat: On the Trail of Hidden Gem Restaurants in New Orleans

Buffalo fried oysters at the Munch Factory in New Orleans.
Ian McNulty
Buffalo fried oysters at the Munch Factory in New Orleans.

New Orleans has many restaurants with institutional statue, and bucket list destinations for foodies. Much more numerous, though, are the casual-anytime mom-and-pop restaurants where you can get a great meal for a good price, along with some character of their respective neighborhoods, and from the people who run them too.

Finding such places is so rewarding and part of what fires up the whole ever-swirling conversation about food and restaurants in New Orleans.

Lately, Ive been revisiting some of my favorites of this type, and bringing others for their own first visits. It’s also been an eye-opening reminder of one of the pleasures we get from restaurants: sharing things that bring us joy, and seeing that joy register with others.

One example: the Munch Factory, a family Creole restaurant with a memorable name, an unforgettable gumbo and a location that’s different. It’s inside the clubhouse at the Joseph M. Bartholomew Municipal Golf Course in Gentilly.

Then it was over the river to Plume Algiers, an Indian restaurant just outside of Algiers Point, and still walkable from the ferry. It’s remarkably affordable, easygoing and stands out with dishes drawn from deep regional styles that I’ve not found anywhere else.

In the French Quarter, we visited the cocktail destination Manolito for blender drinks that give daiquiris a good name and a surprising rich array of island-influenced food from a tiny kitchen. Manolito just pulled off an expansion that opens a hidden courtyard you’ll want to check out too.

I loved returning to Zimmer’s Seafood, again in Gentilly, for one of my favorite shrimp po-boys, and showing how the maker of its seeded po-boy bread, John Gendusa Bakery, is located right next door, for sourcing that couldn’t be any closer.

Speaking of shrimp, this tour also took in Mr. Shrimp’s Kitchen, a counter in the food court at the Riverwalk Mall for boiled seafood and pasta jambalaya. Where else are you going to find a mall with a seafood boil like this? In the ranks of New Orleans hidden gems, that’s where. It’s another reminder of the rewards of exploring our restaurant scene off the beaten path.

Ian covers food culture and dining in New Orleans through his weekly commentary series Where Y’Eat.