Chef Nina Compton on Where to Eat in New Orleans

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Nina Compton in CL Kitchen Photo Credit Denny Culbert
Photo Credit: Denny Culbert

James Beard Award-winning Chef Nina Compton knows good food. After years of working in some of the finest restaurants in the country, Chef Compton joined the "Top Chef New Orleans" cast, and while she was there, she fell in love with the Crescent City. Flash forward a few years later and Chef Compton owns two critically acclaimed spots in New Orleans, Compère Lapin and Bywater American Bistro. When she's not in the kitchen, infusing modern, comforting dishes with Caribbean flair, she spends time with her family, friends, and colleagues and explores the best of her city. Below are some of her favorite spots to eat and drink when she's not at work.

Her Night-Off Manifesto

"Dining out in New Orleans is an activity imbued with friendliness and excitement, by both the staff at restaurants and the diners they serve. People here are very proud of the food scene and want to share it with everyone."

How She Gets the Most Out of Her Nights Off

"My days tend to be long, so I like to wind down with a nightcap. I also love salty food, so Doritos Cool Ranch or spicy Zapp's Voodoo chips are always on hand. My usual crew is comprised of my two husbands: Larry (my real husband) and Levi (my chef at Bywater American Bistro). We are all very close, so my days off are normally spent with them."

Her New Orleans Picks

Cold-Smoked Tuna Tartare from Compère Lapin.

Compère Lapin

"The inspiration for this restaurant was to bridge the gap between New Orleans and Saint Lucia. There are so many similarities between the two; I wanted to be very respectful with the traditions of the city and also bring some exciting, uncommon food twists. The people of the city love to eat and explore, which makes my life easier: I can get so creative and people love the adventure. If you're coming on your night off, get the marinated shrimp and the curried goat. Both are my comfort foods."

Paladar 511

"I love going to Paladar 511 for brunch. Their lemon-ricotta pancakes are heavenly, and the atmosphere in the restaurant is great."


"Bacchanal is the perfect place to go relax when I’m off. They have a great selection of wines and cheeses, and they get some great live music. While the cheese selection changes all the time, I indulge in a triple-cream and love a rose from Provence. Bacchanal has a very laid-back vibe and is a great place to go to with friends."

French 75

"For a quintessential New Orleans cocktail experience I go to French 75. I adore this cozy bar tucked away in the bustling French quarter, and the décor is to die for. It is very intimate and the service is warm and friendly and makes me want to come back again and again. The cocktails are also perfectly prepared and it’s a great spot to bring friends who are visiting for the first time."


"I lived in Miami for a while so when I get a craving for some good Cuban food and drinks I like going to Manolito. The cocktails are great and I love their croquettes and Cuban sandwiches, which are made with good bread, great ham and cheese, and are, of course, perfectly toasted."

Gene's Po Boys

"My go-to place for po' boys is Gene’s Po Boys. They’re only $9 and they are huge! Everything is delicious; my order just depends on my mood. I love the hot sausage and cheese po' boy, with spicy sausage and melted cheddar cheese. This is a perfect stop for late at night, or actually any time of day. You can’t beat it!"

Marjie's Grill

"Marjie’s Grill is great for both lunch and dinner. The setting is chill and the food is great. You can’t go wrong with anything you order. I generally go with the sticky riblets, roasted shishito peppers, grilled shrimp, and the fresh cracklings. The restaurant is very unassuming and welcoming. That no-frills setting paired with great food makes it one of my favorite spots to bring out-of-towners."

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