Along with the neighborhood bar culture, the New Orleans neighborhood restaurant scene is one of our most beloved features of the city. There’s something so very “New Orleans” about walking a couple of blocks to an establishment that feels damn near as familiar as your own home. During our time in New Orleans, we’ve been fortunate to live close to a quintessential neighborhood restaurant: Liuzza’s by the Track (hereon called Liuzza’s). From our home in Faubourg St. John, the walk to Liuzza’s is short and pleasant, on brick sidewalk-lined streets dotted with shotgun houses and Creole cottages. For us, taking in the scene and walking there is nearly half of the fun!

The New Orleans Neighborhood Restaurant Scene

While each neighborhood restaurant is unique, the defining characteristic of a neighborhood restaurant is that it’s comfortable, relaxed, and rather casual. The place doesn’t have to be a dump, but it won’t have white table cloths or china. Of course, Liuzza’s fits this bill. It’s not fancy, at all, but it’s comfortable and homey. It’s the kind of place where you can watch a Saints game on Sundays while eating potluck food (the bar is cash but the food is free since the kitchen is closed). Watching Saints games at Liuzza’s is even better than at home because you’ve access to a full bar and the best fried chicken in New Orleans (McHardy’s on Broad St.). It’s also the type of place where locals gather to watch Jeopardy each weekday, just before the evening news. For 30 minutes, the jukebox goes silent and all attention is focused on the answers as they appear. It’s the most fun way to watch Jeopardy, period.

The New Orleans Neighborhood Restaurant Scene

A second significant attribute of a good neighborhood restaurant is that it’s often filled with people who actually live in the neighborhood. A good neighborhood restaurant, like Liuzza’s, has a robust roster of regulars. Since Liuzza’s has a bar along one side of the restaurant, it lends itself well to being a bar-restaurant hybrid. At most hours of the day, you’ll find people who live within a block or two on their usual stools, having their usual drinks and their usual meals. We have one neighbor who eats dinner there every night. He runs through a roster of stalwart dishes and has a Barq’s root beer. Once he’s done, he transitions to his nightly cocktail. This attractiveness to locals is yet another way that Liuzza’s excels and is a key reason it’s in the top echelon of neighborhood restaurants.

The New Orleans Neighborhood Restaurant Scene

A third defining characteristic of the neighborhood restaurant is familiar food done well. It’s not enough that these culinary gems reside among the houses and homes of a particular neighborhood. Meaning, proximity is a key aspect, but the restaurant must also deliver tasty food. Of course, Liuzza’s has this one in the bag. They serve an all-star lineup of New Orleans classics including dishes like BBQ shrimp, various po-boys and seafood platters, and even turtle soup and a to-die-for gumbo. Best part? They do all of these things very well. Nothing at Liuzza’s is “okay.” They even manage to make one of my favorite burgers in the city (seriously!). There’s nothing better than being greeted by a friendly server who’s eager to give you her favorite dishes of the day. When my server says “get the turtle soup,” guess what, I get the turtle soup!

The New Orleans Neighborhood Restaurant Scene

Finally, the best part of neighborhood restaurants: getting home. After filling our bellies with delicious food and frosty chalices of Abita Amber, we simply saunter home. We don’t have to think about driving or parking or logistics when eating at Liuzza’s. We simply exit and leisurely walk home. While the neighborhood restaurant is conveniently located and packed with people we know, the real advantage is that it serves as home away from home, even if it’s only for a meal or just a couple of beers.

  • Cathy Frank

    Can’t wait be be there to watch The Masters in a in about a week. The Jeopardy watching with a bowl of Gumbo will be an added bonus.

    • Indeed! Jeopardy + gumbo = perfect way to spend an afternoon! Have fun when you’re here! 🙂

  • Julian Brooks

    Pre-Katrina, I was one of those regulars! It was, and still is a wonderful place. The Barbecue shrimp po-boy is a gift from God! Thanks for the memories!

    • No problem, Julian! And thanks for your comment. Liuzza’s is such a gem!

  • Kevin R. Roberts

    Good story. I should know — I invented and published “The New Orleans Neighborhood Restaurant Guide” in 2002, when Liuzza’s was a hidden gem. The other attribute of a good neighborhood restaurant is good, old fashioned bartenders that know your name. I miss the neighborhood and my old hangout. Galveston Island — my new home — has but a few of these joints. New Orleans is a rarity, but as more and more neighborhood restaurant owners pass on, the city will look more and more like America. It was a good run.

    • Thanks for your comment, Kevin. Jeremy and I were just talking last night about how New Orleans is looking more and more like your average American city, which is sad, especially for those of us who enjoy it as it has been, more or less. And you’re right, it was a fantastic run! Let’s hope places like Liuzza’s keep the city’s charm and quirkiness going for years to come! 🙂