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From the local chef bringing modern culinary techniques to classic Creole cooking to the dives and cocktail joints that make up what is easily the country’s coolest bar scene, New Orleans is an incredibly dynamic place that — like any great food city — is constantly evolving. Whether you’re in town for the Super Bowl, an insurance convention or just planning to head down (and go H*A*M) in the Big Easy, we’ve got the right move for you. Here are 18 of our favorite places to eat and drink incredibly well — and not feel like a complete tourist.

From the local chef bringing modern culinary techniques to classic Creole cooking to the dives and cocktail joints that make up what is easily the country’s coolest bar scene, New Orleans is an incredibly dynamic place that — like any great food city — is constantly evolving. Whether you’re in town for NBA All-Star Weekend (this Thursday-Sunday, by the way), a Super Bowl, an insurance convention or just planning to head down (and go H*A*M) in the Big Easy, we’ve got the right move for you. Here are 18 of our favorite places to eat and drink incredibly well — and not feel like a complete tourist.

Reported by Matt Rodbard, Gabi Porter, Emily Saladino, Linnea Covington

Cochon
Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski are two guys who don’t mess around with their small plates.  There’s no pussy footing around with salads either. Case in point, their fried boudin with pickled peppers at their flagship restaurant Cochon. It’s decadent, as are the pork cheeks with corn grits and fried alligator with chili garlic aioli. (A must order, even if the idea of alligator sort of grosses you out.) We love Cochon for an early, hazy afternoon lunch. Long and gluttonous, which can lead you right into cocktail hour. 930 Tchoupitoulas Street New Orleans, LA 70130 504-588-7675 cochonrestaurant.com

Coop’s Place
When noted cocktail expert Dave Wondrich won a Spirited Award at Tales of the Cocktail, he thanked his family, friends and closed with the message that he would see everybody later at Coop’s. Dave likes a good dive bar, and Coop’s is one of the best around, cracking bottles of Abita Abbey Ale late into the night. But to many, Coop’s is a morning destination (well, early afternoon; there is no morning in New Orleans) for Cajun fried chicken and rabbit jambalaya. The chicken, served since the spot opened in 1983, in our eyes is the grand inspiration for Popeye’s slightly peppery golden birds. After breaking through the golden crust, the juicy dark meat hints of a briny beginning. But it’s the jambalaya that keeps people coming — and coming and coming. Expect a short line and please wait on it for a big bowl of this traditional rice dish that is often bastardized in the north. This is the real deal — a deeply flavorful marriage of tomato, smoked Andouille and gamey bits of boneless rabbit meat.  1109 Decatur Street New Orleans, LA 70116 504-525-9053 coopsplace.net

Bellocq
New York City vets Neal Bodenheimer and Kirk Estopinal, partners at award-winning bar Cure in Freret, were asked to open a cocktail lounge  to the remodeled Hotel Modern located on the edge of the Central Business District. And bring a bar they did with a menu that focuses on the art of the Cobbler. (Plus an insane dedication to amaro and vermouth.) Cobblers are typically sherry-based, but Estopinal stirs his with left-field bases like Sauternes and Chartreuse. Plus, make sure to ask for their latest bottled cocktail. We sipped an excellent pisco punch on my visit. 936 Saint Charles Avenue New Orleans 70130 504-962-0911

Maurepas Foods
A local favorite in hip Bywater, Maurepas Foods has a real Bushwick-on-the-Bayou quality. But all the Edison light bulbs in the world could not prepare you for chef Michael Doyle’s mind-blowing menu of Southern-inflected cooking at outrageously low prices. Priced at just $8 for dinner, the goat tacos with pickled green tomatoes and harissa will inspire you to either find or lose your religion. And the cocktail list, developed by bar star Brad Smith, includes a rotating cast of punches as well as sips like the Gent & the Jackass, made with bourbon, paprika and peach bitters. 3200 Burgundy Street, 504-267-0072 maurepasfoods.com

Sazerac Bar At The Roosevelt Hotel
Our cocktail columnist wisely pointed out the brilliance — and history — behind the Ramos Gin Fizz in a loving story. It’s a frothy, heavenly marriage of Old Tom gin, citrus, heavy cream and egg whites. It was invented at the wood-paneled Sazerac Bar at The Roosevelt Hotel. You must go there, order a couple of these and that’s it. No food, no other drinks. Just the Ramos in all its glory. You will not be sad. The Roosevelt New Orleans Hotel 123 Baronne St. New Orleans 70112

Café Du Monde
All the hype surrounding the French doughnuts and steamy mugs of café au lait served at this 150-year-old establishment proved completely warranted. Admitting that is easy, the hardest part is finding a table among the locals and tourists also hunting for a spot. Once there an apron-clad worked will take order and deliver a plate full of beignets coated in an exorbitant amount of airy confectioners sugar. It’s pretty much the best thing. 800 Decatur St., New Orleans, LA, 504-525-4544, cafedumonde.com

Port Of Call
This is the best kind of dive. Off the path a bit. Filled with locals. Limited menu. Good music. Go for two things: A grilled burger topped with shredded Cheddar cheese with a baked potato on the side and the Neptune’s Monsoon. It’s a mix of white rum, pineapple juice, industrial fruit punch and sour mix, served in giant plastic cups. We dare you to finish one and not fall off your stool. And if you do, the cycle just starts again. 838 Esplanade Avenue New Orleans, LA 70116 504-523-0120

Mother’s 
When in NOLA you’ve gotta have a po’ boy. They might not let you out of the city until you’re able to prove you ate one. The list of places to go for a classic po’ boy is as long as a pretty long arm, but a great place for the novice is Mother’s. Order the house specialty, the Ferdi Special, or you will be disappointed when you see other people getting their sandwiches. We know: one guy at our table ordered collard greens and jambalaya and he looked very very sad. Don’t make the same mistake. It’s a roast beef po’ boy with ham, “debris” (in this case beef) and gravy. 401 Poydras Street  New Orleans, LA 70130 504-523-9656

Sylvain
It’s late and the punch bowls are out on the bar at Sylvain, a French Quarter industry bar turned celebrity haunt run by Sean McCusker and Robert LeBlanc. (Read our profile of McCusker). We dropped by late and downed a glass of McCusker’s Champagne punch chased with a textbook Sazerac (Sazerac Rye Whiskey, Herbsaint, Peychaud’s bitters). A clearer mind would have led me toward some of his more creative drinks like the Fuzzy Nudge (made with soju, apricot liquer, Luxardo, ginger syrup, lemon) or a rye, Green Chartreuse and ginger drink called the Superfly Snuka. There’s thoughtful, slightly upscale French-Creole cooking going down as well.  625 Chartres Street New Orleans 70130 504-265-8123

Felix’s
Most people/tourists flock to Acme on Iberville for New Orleans’ famed oysters, but we beg to differ. The lines are long and it’s just OK. Go across the street to Felix’s for oysters with no wait and infinitely better atmosphere. Cozy up to the counter and you will be asked, “Are you ready for oysters?” And you better saddle up, because they won’t stop shucking until you cry uncle, handing them to you straight on the counter. If you’re in need of a real hangover helper (something greasy and buttery and salty) order the chargrilled oysters. Your salivary glands will kick into overtime when you see the guy behind the counter pouring ladles full of garlic butter over oysters on the half shell sitting on the grill. 739 Iberville Street New Orleans, LA 70130 504-522-4440 felixs.com

The butcher counter at Cochon.

Square Root
Coming soon to the Lower Garden District, Square Root is already a restaurant of superlatives: most ambitious, most hotly anticipated, most likely Michelin-bait, etc. The follow-up to chef Phillip Lopez’s playful Warehouse District hotspot Root will open this April. At Square Root, Lopez’ globetrotting take on Creole traditions featuring molecular gastronomy will be served in nine- or 10-course tasting menus. Locals are already lining up around the block to get a glimpse of the space, which will combine a 15-seat dining room and open kitchen, with an upstairs bar serving cocktails, Root’s incredible charcuterie and four house-made cheeses. 1800 Magazine Street, rootnola.com

Swizzle Stick
Another hotspot from the Brennan family of Commander’s Palace and SoBou fame, this Central Business District lounge serves elegant cocktails in a piano bar setting. You’ll forgive the awfully on-the-nose name when you sample drinks like local favorite Lu Bar’s contribution, the Wild Magnolia. It’s a dangerously delicious combination of Plymouth gin, St. Germain and house-made magnolia bitters. 300 Poydras Street, 504-595-3305,cafeadelaide.com

Central Grocery
The muffaletta is synonymous with New Orleans and there is no finer place to get it than Central Grocery, where it all started. This grimy little market has been serving these sandwiches for over a century and they are so popular, often times the shop runs out of the special rolls. No wonder, the soft round bread goes wonderfully with thinly sliced salami, pepperoni, ham, coppa, Swiss and provolone, and briny bite green olive salad that decks the sandwich. It’s like an Italian hero, with a sweet, southern kick. 923 Decatur St., New Orleans, LA, 504-523-1620, centralgroceryneworleans.com

Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop
Reputedly one of the oldest bars in America, it was never actually a blacksmith, but a front for pirates…or so we heard every time a donkey-drawn carriage full of tourists passed by. Order a few rounds of Abita and enjoy the quieter side of Bourbon Street. At night this place is just as rowdy as the rest of ’em, but in the daytime it’s rather civilized, and if you’re especially lucky a certain Mr. Cody Blaine Booth will be at the piano. 941 Bourbon Street  New Orleans, LA 70116 504-593-9761lafittesblacksmithshop.com

Jacque-Imo’s
You go to this eclectic Creole and Cajun restaurant for one thing: alligator cheesecake, a dish many have travelled hours and hours to sample. But first off, this isn’t actual cheesecake — instead, owner and chef Jacques Leonardi makes this crustless quiche to cradle firm, slightly spicy alligator sausage. The egg part comes out so creamy that it easily justifies the name. We followed by a classic NoLa dinner of blackened red fish, collards and a salad laced with fried oysters. 8324 Oak St., New Orleans, LA, 504-861-0886, jacquesimoscafe.com

Dat Dog
If you go to New Orleans the phrase “who dat” is thrown around without a care and often gets chanted by Saints fanatics. The fans of Dat Dog get just as excited — so much so, that the once-tiny shop decided to relocate across the street to a space 10 times its original size in order to cater to the masses. The crawfish version is particularly pleasing with its piquant kick and savory juices that flowed out of the crisp skin, only to get soaked by the buttered, toasted bun. Plus, you can get any topping under the sun including cheese, guacamole, sauerkraut, jalapenos, wasabi and more. If you can’t decide, I suggest going for the chef’s choice. Just make sure to snag a pile of napkins. 5031 Freret St., New Orleans, LA, 504-899-6883, datdognola.com

SoBou
Short for “South of Bourbon Street,” SoBou is run by the same local family behind Garden District institution Commander’s Palace. Always swinging, it’s located within the recently remodeled W French Quarter and has a New Creole menu heavy on bar-friendly snacks. Nobody with a brain in their head should leave Nola without trying their ludicrously indulgent duck beignets in foie gras fondue. (Listed among the “Small Bites,” natch.) There are also 30 wines by the glass, and cocktails by Abigail Gullo. 310 Chartres Street, 504-552-4095, sobounola.com

Twelve Mile Limit
Opened in late 2010, this Mid-City bar from the founder of Garden City bistro Coquette brings a pleasantly high-low blend to New Orleans’ cocktail culture. T. Cole Newton’s top-shelf liquors are infused with the same esoteric ingredients as other mixologists’ (why, yes, there are notes of honey and hot sauce in that bourbon cocktail); but, here, they’re paired with down-to-earth prices, great barbecue and a solid jukebox. 500 Telemachus Street, 504-488-8114