The heartening, maybe even amazing, thing about New Orleans is that there still is a New Orleans, deeply wounded, to be sure, but still kickin' and filled with extraordinary people who are rebuilding this most historic city. Already the core of our dining scene is back – more than 360 of the 565 restaurants last featured by Zagat have reopened, and 83 percent of surveyors are eating out as much as or more than they did before Katrina.
Good Times Are Rolling: The French Quarter and most of Uptown ("the sliver by the river"), both of which dodged the flood, have bounced back in style. While we mourn the loss of culinary jewels Bella Luna, Bistro at Maison de Ville, Cobalt, Louis XVI, Mandich and Sid-Mar, to name a few, we're thrilled that Commander's Palace has returned, more beautiful than ever. Among the city's shining stars, John Besh's August continues to delight the most demanding gourmets, Galatoire's is still packed for long, leisurely lunches and New Orleans Grill is sizzling once again. For a nightcap, Maple Leaf remains tops for big bands, and the new Chickie Wah Wah and Jin Jean's are shaking up the music scene.
It's a Brave New World: A number of post-Katrina openings defied the odds, chief among them Vizard's on the Avenue by veteran chef Kevin Vizard, the Cajun-reviving Cochon by Donald Link and buzzing Alberta's by up-and-comer Melody Pate. Hot on their heels, Todd English opened the brasserie Riche as his first venture in the Crescent City.
Challenges Ahead: While travelers who stick to timehonored tourist sites might be lulled into thinking the whole city's back on its feet — aside from staffing shortages at restaurants and other businesses — the truth remains that much of New Orleans is still uninhabitable and many working-class people have not been able to return. To view the hardest hit areas and learn what the city is doing to move forward, visitors can take one of several educational bus tours; see page 140 for more information.