Settling into a brand new school and routine can be overwhelming for first-semester college freshmen. There is so much to explore, especially in the city of New Orleans. Now that the halfway point of the semester has passed, and you may find yourself desperate for a break from the dining hall, here are 10 restaurants in New Orleans that every freshman needs to try during their first semester.

1. Bearcat Cafe

Olivia Winnick

Bearcat Cafe is home to one of the best brunches in New Orleans. Located a walking distance away from campus on Freret Street and also in the Central Business District downtown, Bearcat cleverly divides the menu into two sections.

"Good cat" features an array of lighter, healthier options including yogurt bowls, chia pudding, and vegan quesadillas, while accommodating all dietary needs. "Bad cat" is where you will find indulgent classics like the bearcat breakfast, pancakes, and hashes.

Bearcat Cafe prides itself on its high-quality meals and its wide variety of coffees, teas, and beverages made in-house. Whether you consider yourself to be a good cat, a bad cat, or somewhere in between, Bearcat does not disappoint.

2. Dat Dog

Olivia Winnick

What started off as a small hot dog stand years ago has evolved into one of the most popular, critically acclaimed spots in New Orleans. Dat Dog is famous for its hot dogs, sausages, and burgers. The menu features more than thirty topping options. You can create your own meal or choose from the menu of creative house specials. All of the buns are vegan (and there is a variety of vegan sausages). They even provide the option to go bun-less and wrap your hot dog in romaine lettuce instead.

Dat Dog has three locations in New Orleans, each providing a colorful, casual, and fun atmosphere for guests with great outdoor seating options. The Freret location is walking distance from campus, so every freshman should be sure to check out Dat Dog this semester.

3. St. James Cheese Company

Olivia Winnick

This family-run retail shop and cafe is home to a wide assortment of farmhouse cheeses, cured meats, and charcuterie. Stop by to purchase gourmet grocery items or dine-in to indulge in some of the best sandwiches and salads in New Orleans. They serve classics like grilled cheese and mac and cheese, as well as a variety of vegan and vegetarian options. With the uptown location being only a short drive away from campus, make sure to give St. James Cheese Company a try. 

4. Willa Jean

Olivia Winnick

Willa Jean is hands down one of the most iconic restaurants in NOLA. Award-winning pastry chef Kelly Fields opened this popular brunch spot and bakery in 2015 and has specialized in putting a modern twist on traditional southern cuisine ever since.

Their menu rotates to feature seasonal offerings, but be sure to try the biscuits, avocado toast, and of course, the legendary cookies (trust me, they live up to the hype). The restaurant has a trendy, yet charming atmosphere and is located in the heart of the Central Business District. Though it is a little further from campus and you will likely need a reservation, it is totally worth it. 

5. Shaya

Olivia Winnick

Look no further than Shaya for some of the best Mediterranean food in New Orleans. This restaurant specializes in contemporary Israeli cuisine featuring seasonal and locally sourced ingredients. It is famously known for its wood-fired pita bread, hummus, falafel, and roasted cauliflower. Shaya offers a variety of healthy options, many of which are vegetarian and vegan-friendly.

There are individual and sharable portions, and so it is a great place to bring friends or family. Between its convenient location on Magazine Street, its stylish and sophisticated atmosphere, and its absolutely delicious food, add Shaya to the top of your restaurant bucket list.

6. Vals

Olivia Winnick

One of the newest additions on Freret Street is Vals, a fun, casual venue serving some of the most authentic Mexican food in town. Their simple menu features classics like house-made tortilla chips with guacamole and an array of tacos. You can choose to mix and match your tacos or stick to one flavorful variety of your choosing.

Either way, the food at Vals will not disappoint. The outdoor patio area makes for a great dining experience, and there is a walk-up window to order from while you wait to be seated. It is one of the hottest new restaurants and it is located a very short distance away from campus.

7. Goodbird

Olivia Winnick

Also located on Freret Street close to campus is Goodbird, one of the most popular lunch spots famously known for its rotisserie chicken, sandwiches, salads, and wraps. Everything is made with the freshest ingredients, and the menu offers healthy options as well as vegetarian and vegan options.

You can't go wrong with anything from Goodbird, especially the "green bird" sandwich. They also make incredible potato chips in-house. Goodbird is the perfect casual eatery walking distance away from campus (you can't miss the bright blue exterior of the building). It is currently open for take out and delivery.

8. The Camellia Grill

Olivia Winnick

If you're in the mood for comfort food, The Camellia Grill is the place for you. This diner-style, landmark restaurant of New Orleans opened its doors way back in 1946 and has been a "must-try" place for local foodies and visitors alike ever since. It is most known for its breakfast selection including omelets, waffles, pancakes, as well as other favorites.

The retro design and traditional counter seating make for a vintage dining atmosphere unlike any other eatery in town. It is a short drive away from campus and serves classic diner cuisine at a reasonable price-point.

9. Josephine Estelle

Olivia Winnick

Josephine Estelle is a southern-Italian hotspot located in downtown New Orleans inside the Ace Hotel. It is definitely on the fancier side but is the perfect place for families or larger groups. Pasta-lovers are sure to indulge in favorites like the cacio e pepe and the bucatini. 

If you're feeling adventurous, step outside the box and try the brussels sprouts salad, the redfish, or one of the many other mouth-watering options on the menu. The award-winning chefs put a homemade, southern twist on traditional Italian recipes and serve brunch and dinner in a classy, lively atmosphere. You do not want to miss out on a meal at Josephine Estelle.

10. Satsuma

Olivia Winnick

Last but certainly not least is Satsuma, a community-based cafe serving local foods made with organic ingredients. There are three locations in New Orleans, with the one on Maple Street being very close to campus. The menu offers a variety of breakfast and lunch options, as well as a selection of cold pressed juices. They have seasonal favorites and vegan options, like the delicious vegan curry scramble and the vegan grilled cheese. Satsuma is the perfect casual dining spot for a weekend brunch or a quick bite between class. 

The list of "must-try" restaurants in New Orleans could seriously go on forever. If one thing is for sure, this town is home to some really good eats. Get started on your food tour with these ten places and continue to explore your way around the city one bite at a time.