I was talking to a friend recently and asked what restaurants were on the top of her list to eat on the Northshore. Being a fellow foodie I figured she had a hidden little agenda she would share with me. Her response surprised me. She said, eh, if I want high end food we just go to New Orleans.
Don’t get me wrong, I am in New Orleans several times a week. Proximity to the city was one of my requirements when we bought our home. I love New Orleans and all if has to offer but I also LOVE the northshore and we definitely bring something to the table in the culinary world.
I started doing some research and what I found is that we have a lot more award winning restaurants that I realized. I decided to make it easy for you all and list out the top five.
In the heart of Covington you will find Del Porto Ristorante owned and operated by the Chef team of David and Torre Solazzo. Their modern interpretation on Italian Cuisine is both innovate and delicious. Both educated in New York they brought their concepts back to Covington and were voted best new restaurant when they opened in 2003. The now expanded restaurant was named one of the Top Ten Restaurants in New Orleans by the Times Picayune for several years in a row. They are a top rated restaurant by Zagat and were also semi-finalists for Best Chef of the South with the James Beard Foundation 2009 – 2011. Most recently they have were voted on of the Top Ten Restaurants again in 2018 as well as Open Table’s Diner’s Choice in 2015 and 2016.
Ox Lot 9
On the corner of the Southern Hotel there is a sweet spot called Ox Lot 9. Known for their American Faire and Seafood I can tell you that I, personally, have never had the same dish twice. Innovation is their middle name from the entrees to the cocktails. If you make a reservation make sure to add in time to visit the bar inside of the restaurant and have the mixologist reinvent your signature cocktail. If you visit their press page you will see that they have been featured in everything from the Times Picayune to Eater.com to Garden and Gun Magazine. Most recently, Executive Chef Jeffery Hansell was honored as one of the Small Town Chefs by Country Roads Magazine. Chef Hansell has been nominated as Food and Wine’s Best New Chef and peer reviewed for Best Chefs of the South and Best Chefs in America.
Former Commander’s Palace Chef Luke Hidalgo and his wife Marcie opened Hambone in the Lakefront area of Mandeville in 2018. Buzz of their exciting take on breakfast, lunch and brunch spread quickly through the area and I was one of the first people to try the menu the day they opened. The food is good, interesting and feeds your soul. You can see a lot of flurry going on in their small kitchen as they prepare their not-so-small entrees. Their menu is involved and there is so much flavor packed into a plate. They started offering dinner service in 2019 and now are open for lunch and dinner in during the week and brunch on the weekends. In their short time in operation they have been noted as a restaurant to watch by Nola.com, recognized for their outstanding gumbo by NOLA Eater and Chef Luke won Small Town Chef by Country Roads Magazine in 2019.
If you don’t go for the food, go for the ambiance. LOLA‘s main dining room is part of the former Covington train station. This past year they restored an old train car to it’s original glory which is now the second dining room. Chefs Keith and Nealy Frentz are preparing a fresh, locally sourced menu with a southern flair. The menu changes often and all of the entrees will be seasonal in nature. The food is always exceptional. They don’t even do French fries basic finishing them with things like parmesan or truffle oil. The Frentz team have acquired accolades like Chefs to Watch by Louisiana Cooking Magazine, and they have finished 3rd (2011) and 1st (2012) in the Louisiana State Seafood Cook Off.
You will not find another restaurant like bacobar. They are innovative and surprising with their choices. They themselves claim that they are making food that chefs want to eat. They tell us on their website: “It’s international street food with South Louisiana Soul.” When I describe bacobar to people who have never had it before I say it is Asian fusion on steroids. The food is solid. The flavor profiles are on point. It’s just really good. Also, they make fresh fruit daiquiris daily. I know you are probably thinking you don’t like daiquiris, but these are on another level. In 2017 Chef Carl Schaubhut was recognized as Chef of the Year by Eater NOLA. They have been profiled by Country Roads Magazine and Eater NOLA.
I hope this helps all of you realize that you don’t have to cross the lake for an amazing meal from an award-winning restaurant. Even better? These are just a few of the fantastic restaurants on our side of the lake. So save some gas money and try something new–you might be surprised how much you enjoy it.