Nina Compton

In Caribbean and Creole folk tales, Compère Lapin is the name of a mischievous rabbit. In New Orleans, it’s the name of Nina Compton’s polished Caribbean restaurant that draws on her memories of growing up on the island of St Lucia in the West Indies. Some will know Compton as a James Beard award winner. Others will recognise her from her runner-up finish on Top Chef. Readers of The Local Tongue, meanwhile, will come to know her as their go-to for eating and drinking advice in the Big Easy.
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Feels Like Home

Brigtsen’s is a very special restaurant for me. It was one of the first places we [my family] ate at when we moved to New Orleans. The owners, Frank and Marna Brigtsen, welcomed us immediately and are still dear friends. It has a lovely, cosy atmosphere. It’s in a charming Victorian cottage in the Carrollton neighbourhood. It’s always a lot of fun going there and we always have plenty of laughs. Frank is cooking some incredible Creole and Acadian food. I love everything on the menu, but the dishes that really stand out for me are the panéed rabbit [breaded and shallow-fried rabbit], mustard and cornmeal catfish and the pork chop. Oh, and you must save room for the pecan pie.

A Local Favourite

Marjie’s Grill is nothing fancy, but it’s one of the best local spots in the city. It’s great for both lunch and dinner. The setting is very relaxed. The food is great. You can’t go wrong with anything you order. I love the sticky riblets, roast shisito peppers, grilled shrimp and cracklings. 

Crawfish at Marjie’s Grill. Photography: Courtesy of Marjie’s Grill

The Best Sandwiches In New Orleans

Turkey and the Wolf has some of the best sandwiches in the city, and I love going there for the really chilled vibe. The Cuban sandwiches at Manolito in the French Quarter are a must. It also serves great Cuban cocktails and delicious snack-like croquettes. I lived in Miami for a while so it’s nice to have a place where I can get Cuban goodies and Manolito is definitely that place. Willa Jean is one of the best places in town for breakfast: the breads and pastries are amazing.

Game-Changing Chinese And Dim Sum Cooking

Chinese restaurant Dian Xin recently opened and it’s a game-changer for the French Quarter. It’s doing amazing dim sum. The chive cakes, bao, jianbing (fried Chinese pancake), and shumai (pork and prawn dumpling) are some of the best in town.

Cane & Table. Photography: Courtesy of Cane & Table

The Perfect Night Out In New Orleans

If friends are visiting and I want to show them the best of New Orleans, I love to start off with a cocktail at Arnaud’s French 75 Bar – a quintessential cocktail bar in the French Quarter. Then for dinner I’d take them to Emeril’s, a New Orleans classic. Everything on the menu is delicious. From the barbecued shrimp to the andouille-crusted drum, you just can’t go wrong with Emeril’s. After dinner, we’d make our way toward Frenchman Street – where there are tons of bars with live music – first stopping by Cane & Table for an amazing craft cocktail. After hitting all the bars, I’d say we would be pretty hungry so I’d take them to Dat Dog. It’s open very late [until 3am on Friday and Saturday] and serves amazing hot dogs; perfect to soak up all the alcohol.

Comforting Italian For Brunch And Dinner

Italian restaurant Paladar 511 opened a few months before Compère Lapin [June 2015] and I’ve been going there ever since. It’s a great bustling atmosphere and you can’t go wrong with any of the dishes for dinner or brunch. I can’t get enough of the fluffy and delicious lemon ricotta pancakes.

Dat Dog. Photography: Courtesy of Dat Dog

Where You’ll Find Me On My Day Off

I love going to Bacchanal Wine whenever I have a day off. It’s in Bywater – my neighbourhood – and it’s like going to a friend’s backyard party. There’s a great cheese selection that you can choose from to make your own cheese platter, plus an incredible selection of small production wine. The staff are really good at guiding your cheese and wine selection and are happy to share their knowledge on unfamiliar products. I always learn something new when I’m there. There’s also a cocktail spot upstairs with a full food menu, but I’m usually content to sit outside with some wine and cheese, listening to the live music. It’s very relaxing.

My New Orleans Fix

I love a good po’boy [traditional Louisiana sandwich]. Since there’s no other place in the world that does it like New Orleans, I usually find myself craving one after travelling extensively. Depending on my mood, I’ll either go for a roast beef po’boy, a catfish or oyster po’boy. Regardless, I always get it the New Orleans way: dressed with mayo, lettuce and tomatoes. My favourite spot was Gene’s Po-boys, but it has closed recently so now I like to go to Parkway Tavern.

Arnaud’s French 75 Bar. Photography: Courtesy of Denny Culbert

Profile Photo: Courtesy of Denny Culbert

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