Despite New Orleans’ reputation for being a party city, it is also filled with romance-inspiring spots. From the strolling possibilities afforded by the lush Garden District and the French Quarter’s bountiful flowering balconies to tucked-away restaurants serving mood-setting bites, NOLA is a city as accommodating to lovers as it is to spring breakers. Leave your Mardi Gras beads at home, grab your partner and check out these ten wonderful date-night restaurants.
1. Café Degas
With New Orleans’ strong Gallic history—it was established as a French colony way back in 1718—it’s no surprise that the city is dotted with French cafés and bistros both new-wave and traditional. One of the best examples of the latter is Café Degas, New Orleans’ longest-running French restaurant; it's beloved by locals for its cozy atmosphere, romantic back patio and spot-on renditions of classic French fare. Order a bottle of vin rouge, settle in with a plate of house-made pâtés or a hearty steak-frites, and pretend you’re in Paris for the night.
When it comes to finding a good date spot, it’s hard to beat dining inside an old diner car, an atmosphere the Delachaise accentuates with its ’50s-style crimson vinyl booths and twinkling strands of lights draped over the handsome bar. Crowd inside the tiny space for an intimate meal with your beau: look for inventive plates such as smoked salmon johnny cakes topped with vodka crème fraîche and a Bangkok take on the classic Louisiana dish of shrimp Clemenceau (shrimp, criminis, peas and potatoes glossed with golden curry sauce). The wine list is a can’t-miss, dotted with out-of-the-ordinary bottles from the Basque country, Washington state and Argentina.
Just off Jackson Square in the always-crowded French Quarter, this tucked-away gastropub manages to slip under the tourist radar thanks to a nearly hidden entrance. Stroll down a narrow alleyway to find your way inside, then bask in flattering candlelight as you fill up on hearty dishes such as Buffalo-style fried veal sweetbreads, tender braised beef cheeks and a crispy pork Milanese served over creamy white beans. End the night on a sweet note with the most romantic soda float you’ve ever had, made with local Abita root beer, caramel ice cream and a ginger crisp. Perfect for sharing.
Located in Touro, Lilette welcomes diners in a spacious dining room whose elegance is exemplified by cream-colored tin ceilings and deeply romantic burgundy walls. The menu here is classic Continental: pillowy agnolotti stuffed with veal and ricotta in beef jus, delicate squab crusted in herbs and served over a bright fennel-orange salad, and juicy grilled hangar steak’s natural richness is pushed further with a bone marrow–laced Bordelaise. With an impressive wine list highlighting Old World styles bottled on small estates, the restaurant’s cocktails are equally deft: try a classic Boulevardier, or get flirty with a passion fruit Bellini.
Housed in a Creole-style cottage originally established in the late 1800s, La Petite Grocery’s name pays homage to the history of the building, which served as a tea and coffee depot, a general grocery and a European-style butcher shop over the years. The restaurant, established in 2004, maintains the structure’s link with fresh foods: Its modern Mediterranean menu emphasizes local ingredients, and the coffee is (still) roasted on site. A starter of light-as-air blue crab beignets is a must, as is the shrimp and grits with creamy corn accented by rich roasted shiitakes and smoky bacon.
6. Irene’s Cuisine
White tablecloths, votive candles and a mishmash decor—the elegant main dining room is illuminated by a stained-glass fleur-de-lis skylight, while the more casual bar is accented with wooden casks and framed photos of celebrity visitors—encapsulate the unpretentious charm of this Italian-focused restaurant. Irene’s has a sense of playfulness, but the deliciousness of its food is no game, beginning with the expertly mixed cocktails (you can’t leave here without downing a Sazerac) and extending through the decadent desserts (the Creole cheesecake, topped with Grand Marnier–soaked berries is a house favorite). The name of the game here is to please with big, bold flavors. For a main dish, try the fish amandine; the filet changes seasonally, but it’s always topped with sweet jumbo lump crab, served over creamy sweet potato mash and nutty brown butter.
7. Café Amelie
Café Amelie is anything but an unknown entity in New Orleans. From its daily-changing, Creole-accented menu, its location in an exquisite 1836 townhouse, and, above all, its lush, romantic back garden, the charming restaurant is more than deserving of its popularity. Try the signature thick-cut pork chop served over creamy grits with sweet corn maque choux, a New Orleans–style succotash studded with smoky andouille sausage. Save room for the café’s signature Doberge cake: a delicate, pudding-filled layer cake that changes nightly.
If Café Amelie is well-known, then Commander’s Palace is downright famous. One of the most storied locations in New Orleans history—the landmarked Victorian mansion, built in the late 1800s, has been in the Brennan family since 1974. It’s hard to go wrong when it comes to mealtimes—we particularly like lunch, when you can order one (or three) 25-cent martinis—but when it comes to romance, dinner is the way to go. The labyrinthine restaurant is made of seven dining rooms (all very formal, so dress accordingly), but our favorite for date night is the intimate upstairs Garden Room, which overlooks the leafy courtyard. For eats, it’s regional Cajun and Creole all the way: The signature turtle soup is finished tableside with a flourish of dry sherry, while the pecan-crusted Gulf fish is topped with crab poached in Prosecco.
Like many New Orleans restaurants, Coquette is located inside a handsome, historic townhouse, this one in the peaceful Garden District. With two beautiful, wood- and brick-accented dining rooms and an antique, refinished wood bar, the setting alone will impress your date, and the inventive New American fare from chef Michael Stoltzfus is likely to blow them away. With a daily-changing menu that emphasizes local produce such as lima beans, collards and Gulf oysters, Coquette’s fare is predictably delicious but never predictable, featuring unexpected flourishes such as carrot juice in the cachaza-based Tyler’s Ghost cocktail, whipped honey on the hot chicken appetizer, and french fries and stout served alongside donuts and chocolate ice cream on the Late Night Snack dessert plate. Adventurous couples should opt for the five-course blind tasting menu, a steal at $70.
While most of the restaurants on this list offer a level of intimacy most appropriate for an established pair, Bacchanal—true to its name—is a fun, low-commitment option for a first or second date. Wine lovers, take note: at this hopping Bywater spot, you enter the expertly curated wine shop, select a bottle from a selection of small, Old World–style producers, then head out into the spacious backyard. There, you can camp out at a table, enjoy your personally selected wine and order dishes from the produce-forward menu: think braised butternut squash with fregola sarda and pork belly ramen with mustard greens and shaved turnip. Live jazz bands play seven days a week, at noon and 7:30 p.m., plus happy-hour performances during the weekend. After a first date here, you’ll be all but guaranteed a second.