By FWx Connect
Updated June 30, 2014

From the French Quarter to the Uptown District, Big Easy chefs are riffing on the classics.

Oysters on the half shell, Gulf shrimp, beignets—they’re just a few of the reasons why New Orleans is virtually synonymous with good eating (and music, culture and the arts, of course). Creative Crescent City chefs are now putting their own special spins on these and other regional specialties. Start your night on the town at one of these local gems where Southern hospitality is being served with a twist.

Hailing from Mississippi and Louisiana, chefs Slade Rushing and Allison Vines-Rushing met in New Orleans. After stints in top-rated restaurants in Manhattan and beyond, the husband and wife returned to their roots and are now serving up refined Southern fare at the much-lauded MiLa, a restaurant inspired by (and named after) their home states; it’s located in the Renaissance® New Orleans Pere Marquette Hotel in the heart of the French Quarter. The historic hotel’s glowing, modernist dining room is the perfect backdrop for bold dishes like the popular “deconstructed” Oysters Rockefeller—poached oysters with spinach, bacon chips and licorice root—and the chefs’ coconut shrimp beignets with pepper jelly sauce.

Stroll just a few blocks to the east for another French Quarter find, NOLA, located in a renovated warehouse with large French door windows. It’s a fun spot where the food and hospitality are taken seriously—but what else would you expect from owner Emeril Lagasse? Chef (and native New Orleanian) Joshua Laskay’s seafood-heavy menu features local and seasonal ingredients, and highlights include a Key Lime bread pudding as well as an amped-up Gulf shrimp and smoked cheddar grits with grilled green onions, applewood smoked bacon and crimini mushrooms.

Head to the Uptown District (rather than being located uptown, it’s really located upriver, west of the Garden District) for another taste of the New South. At Boucherie, Chef Nathanial Zimet, a native of North Carolina and a food-industry veteran, has taken some pretty serious smoked meat expertise—he ran a roving purple food truck called "the Que Crawl"—and parlayed it into this restaurant located in a homey cottage. All meats are smoked, cured and aged in-house, and seafood and produce are sourced locally whenever possible. Sample the blackened shrimp and grit cake with warm house-cured bacon vinaigrette, and don’t miss the Krispy Kreme bread pudding for dessert.

To learn about more finds in and around Renaissance Hotels all over the world, check out their online discovery tool—where you can plug in your destination city and explore discoveries from food to drink, shopping and entertainment—as well as their event listings.