Food & Wine Best New Chef 1999 John Besh gives an insider guide to New Orleans, from the best brunch spots to the top bars.

On New Orleans

New Orleans has made a tremendous comeback since Hurricane Katrina. We have more restaurants than we had three years ago, and the seafood industry has rebounded incredibly with more shrimp and fish than we’ve seen in years.

Restaurant August serves local ingredients with a French twist (301 Tchoupitoulas St.; 504-299-9777 or

Favorite Cultural Activity

For my wife and me, it’s all about strolling up and down Magazine Street. We don’t do malls down here, we do boutiques, like window shopping at Shadyside Pottery (3823 Magazine St.; 504-897-1710 or and Udwell Antiques (2101 Magazine St.; 504-309-2503).

Favorite Brunch Spot

There’s nothing better than to start off with a Sazerac at Galatoire’s. I never order off the menu but ask for “Cajun John,” my favorite waiter, to order for me. Chances are I’ll have speckled trout topped with jumbo lump crab (209 Bourbon St.; 504-525-2021 or

Favorite Nightlife Spot

In the Quarter, I go to the Old Absinthe House, which has been around forever. It’s a lot of fun to have an aperitif there before a meal and it’s a staple place on big days, like Mardi Gras. We still like to get dressed up in New Orleans, so you’ll see Uptowners in their seersucker suits and white bucks (240 Bourbon St.; 504-523-3181 or

Restaurant Recommendations

Ba Mien, a mom-and-pop place, does the best Vietnamese noodle dishes and dumplings (4646 Michoud Blvd.; 504-255-0500).

Commander’s Palace, for when I have friends in town, to show them the quintessential New Orleans experience (1403 Washington Ave.; 504-899-8221 or

Kim Son, a casual Vietnamese spot, is known for its salt-baked seafood, like crab and trout (349 Whitney Ave., Gretna; 504-366-2489).

Liuzza’s makes muffuletta sandwiches on a large piece of French bread and serves it warm (3636 Bienville St.; 504-218-7888 or

Pupuseria Divino Corazon, a Central American spot, for grilled cream cheese pupusa (2300 Belle Chasse Hwy., Terrytown; 504-368-5724).