Local culinary lion and former Iron Chef contestant John Besh's concept for Luke was an old-fashioned, unpretentious brassiere – an homage to the legendary, now-defunct Old World New Orleans restaurants, like Gluck's and Kolb's. Besh, who had his first date with his wife at Kolb's, describes the offerings at Luke as "Alsace meets New Orleans," mixing the influence of French, German, and Jewish immigrants with fresh local food and Cajun flair. The resulting menu is large and impressively diverse – everything from gumbo to matzo ball soup, hearty German specialities like the slow-cooked beef brisket with horseradish ravigote sauce, the simple elegance of the French Bistro Meunière sauce on locally caught fish, and an extensive raw bar. The emphasis is on big portions and well-prepared food, whether you want a burger and fries or duck cassoulet. "This is everyday food," Besh explains. "It may not be special occasion fare per se, but it's comforting and wholesome." Start your meal with the unrivaled charcuterie plate, which includes a refreshingly subtle hog's head cheese and a duck-rabbit pate so rich it could pass for dessert, along with a variety of house-made garnishes like watermelon pickles and pepper marmalade. End your meal with the bread pudding, a New Orleans classic done right; it's dense, piping hot, and rum-generous [333 St. Charles Avenue, 504-378-2840, lukeneworleans.com]
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