As if you needed one more reason to visit New Orleans, we've got two words for you: Creole Christmas.
The reveillon, inspired by a French Christmas Eve tradition, is a luxurious meal of Creole dishes such as oysters, pork belly, duck confit, foie gras beignets, grits, grillades, gumbo, cakes, pastries, and other indulgences.
Dozens of New Orleans restaurants offer fixed-price reveillon-inspired meals throughout the holiday season, with some even serving a feast after midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and after midnight on New Year's. (The word reveillon is derived from the French, meaning "awakening.") Fixed prices range from $35 to $90 per person, varying from restaurant to restaurant.
While the tradition dates back to the early days of New Orleans, three centuries ago, it gradually became overshadowed by American holiday activities and by the mid-20th century had all but disappeared except in some traditional homes. The modern-day resurgence of the feast began with French Quarter restaurants in the 1980s as a way of enticing diners during the holiday season, when restaurant business was slack. Now, the city has a committee of culinary authorities who do their best to ensure that cooks are serving traditional meals with authentic ingredients.
Here, a few of the standout New Orleans restaurants serving reveillon dinners. For a comprehensive list, visit French Quarter Festivals Inc. (fqfi.org):
Tujague's Restaurant has been serving traditional Creole food since 1856; its reveillon includes beef brisket and shrimp remoulade (823 Decatur St., 504/525-8676).
Zoe Bistro, at the W Hotel, offers a modern riff on the traditional feast, serving filet and crab ravioli (333 Poydras Ave., 504/207-5018).
The Grill Room, at the Windsor Court Hotel, serves an authentic reveillon that includes braised pork belly with Gulf shrimp (300 Gravier St., 504/523-6000).