A Saints game is the centerpiece of the week for many fans, but the action doesn’t start and stop with the whistle. Home games in particular fill downtown with people who are ready to party before heading into the Dome and, provided a good showing by the Black & Gold, eager to keep the fun rolling afterward. While there’s no lack of spots to eat and drink before or after, I’ve come up with a selection that standout from the pack for their own distinctive reasons.
601 Loyola Ave., New Orleans, 504-613-3860
Borgne is a venture from Chef John Besh, and it’s directly run by Chef Brian Landry, previously of Galatorie’s. Its location inside the Hyatt Regency hotel right next door to the Dome would make it a natural choice for a stop on game day, but the fact that it’s set back a bit inside the hotel tends to keep things a little more sane in here. It’s a place you head to on purpose rather than just stumble upon on your way around downtown. You can do up a grand meal here and explore the menu’s mix of Louisiana seafood, Spanish flavor and Creole tradition, with stuffed flounder, oyster spaghetti and drum sizzling on a metal platter. Or you can scoop up some elevated bar snacks, like the bacon-wrapped jalapenos stuffed with duck or a platter of empanadas. The bar itself is long, sleek, hung with flat-screens and stocked with what has to be the best canned beer selection in town. If you’re looking for a distinctive brew to grab on your way in or out of the Dome, Borgne has you covered. They usually even wrap those canned beers in koozies for you.
930 Tchoupitoulas St., New Orleans, 504-588-767
A casual offshoot of Chef Donald Link’s adjacent Cochon, Butcher is like a sandwich shop, butcher shop and small plates joint based around hand-crafted meats and local groceries. It’s excellent and has become extremely popular, which is why it’s surprising that the place feels like such a low-key find on game days. It just doesn’t seem to be on the brunch radar, but Butcher does serve brunch on Sundays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and when the Saints are playing at home most people inside this tiny place are wearing jerseys and fueling up for the day ahead. Thirsty? Butcher has cred as a “sWine bar.” Even though there isn’t really much of a bar to sit at, the wines, beers and cocktails they come up with here are first rate and pair well with the meats and sandwiches.
Little Gem Saloon
445 S. Rampart St., New Orleans, 504-267-4863
This is the first Saints season for the Little Gem Saloon, a combination restaurant and music hall that opened over the winter in a historic building that had been empty for many years. It’s a big, beautiful place with a classic look, a small stage in the dining room and an attractive bar lining one end of the tiled dining room. After some ups-and-downs through the spring, the kitchen has settled into a groove with a new chef, Miles Prescott of RioMar, and a distinctively Southern direction on the menu. The restaurant is right along the main corridor leading to the Dome, and on game days look for special menus, gourmet tailgating items to-go from the courtyard and live music.
Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse
716 Iberville St., New Orleans, 504-522-2467
This French Quarter restaurant is custom-cut for grand feasts and big-deal dinners – which sometimes feel in order after a clutch win in the Dome. It’s within easy walking distance at the border of the Quarter, and the restaurant even adjusts its hours around home game schedules – opening earlier to accommodate immediately post-game meals or, in some cases, pre-game meals (check their web site for the game day schedule). Deep leather banquettes make prime seating in the subterranean dining room, while the street-level bar has its own menu for a more offhand steakhouse visit, including an excellent steakhouse burger.