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New Orleans and the year in food 

2016 saw the rise of barbecue and expansion of casual restaurants

click to enlarge French-inspired Bywater cafe N7 is one of the brightest new restaurants to emerge in New Orleans in 2016.

Photo by Cheryl Gerber

French-inspired Bywater cafe N7 is one of the brightest new restaurants to emerge in New Orleans in 2016.

More than 70 restaurants opened in New Orleans over the past 12 months, making 2016 a blockbuster for the local restaurant industry. While 2015 ushered in a wave of fine dining restaurants, 2016 brought many casual dining concepts. Sandwich shops Turkey and the Wolf and Part & Parcel showed what can be done when fine dining sensibility is put to use in playful, informal settings; family-friendly barbecue spots opened up to great acclaim; and several new casual Vietnamese concepts met with praise, including the much anticipated opening of Pho Tau Bay in its new space on Tulane Avenue.

  A number of established chefs opened new restaurants in 2016. Susan Spicer opened her elegant comfort food spot Rosedale in Lakeview. Top Chef contestant Isaac Toups opened his second place, the Southern-inspired Toups South inside the Southern Food & Beverage Museum. Chefs John Besh and Chris Lusk revived the historic Caribbean Room in the Pontchartrain Hotel, and Emeril Lagasse opened Meril, his first new restaurant in the city for 18 years.

  Several restaurants closed in 2016, including beloved Creole Italian icon Tony Angello's in Lakeview, Ryan Hughes' Purloo, Mid-City's Milkfish, Frenchmen Street's Yuki Izakaya, Uptown's Saveur and Tryst and sushi favorites Kyoto and Horinoya.

  Here, a look at some of 2016's best new restaurants, dishes and trends:

Best new wine bar:
Maple Street bistro Chais Delachaise opened in June, bringing a more sophisticated version of its St. Charles Avenue flagship to Uptown. Chef Daniel Volponi's international culinary chops shine in refined dishes like mussels bathed in coconut, lemon grass and ginger broth.

Runner-up: PJ Rosenberg and Mark Latter's modern wine haunt on Freret Street, Bar Frances, offers a long list of wines and an innovative vegetarian-heavy menu to match.


Best new sandwich:
The fried bologna sandwich at Lower Garden District newcomer Turkey and The Wolf is stuffed with potato chips, oozing American cheese and hot mustard — a whimsical creation that's addictive.

Runner-up: The rotisserie roasted chicken sandwich with salsa verde, aioli and romaine at Good Bird in St. Roch Market is equal parts salty, fatty and crunchy all at once.


Hottest revival:
Following a $10 million renovation, the historic Pontchartrain Hotel reopened in June with chef John Besh reviving the St. Charles Avenue Hotel's beloved Caribbean Room. Executive chef Chris Lusk showed diners there's still room for elegant dishes like crab Remick, trout Veronique and Mile High pie.

Runner-up: Decatur Street's Cafe Sbisa reopened in October. Chef Alfred Singleton's French-Creole dishes include oysters Sbisa, topped with Herbsaint creamed spinach, Tabasco hollandaise, bacon and Parmesan.


Best new barbecue:
The barbecue scene exploded in the city in 2016 (see "Pit Stops,"). But the most successful barbecue opening was Blue Oak BBQ, which has been busy since day one, with folks lining up for brisket, smoked chicken and an overall laid-back atmosphere.

Runner-up: Frey Smoked Meat Co. opened in November in Mid-City and already is drawing diners for its smoked pork belly, beef ribs and tongue-in-cheek milkshakes.


Best architectural renovation:
Cavan opened inside a 19th-century mansion in February on Magazine Street. The redesign highlights the structure's original beauty with moldings, layered patina and crimson banquettes.

Runner-up: The maritime-themed Seaworthy is in a historic Creole townhouse dating to 1832 and imbues a Victorian theme with nautical accents and the allure of fresh oysters.


Wild card:
Who would have thought that a spare restaurant tucked off St. Claude Avenue in Bywater and specializing in imported canned fish would garner so many accolades? N7, the Francophile bistro from owners Aaron Walker and Yuki Yamaguchi, surprised and wooed diners with its romantic atmosphere, eclectic selection of imported canned seafood, natural wines and sleek French menu punctuated by Japanese accents. Critics lauded the restaurant and magazine Bon Appetit called it one of the country's top 10 new restaurants. Sadly, the owners closed their long-running and beloved Frenchmen Street restaurant Yuki Izakaya in October.

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