Chef Adolfo Garcia, A Mano, Rio Mar Seafood, La Boca Steakhouse, New Orleans, LA, Louisiana, Seafood, Local Chef, Panama, Panamanian, South American, Ceviche, Recipe, Where to eat in New Orleans, Chef’s Recommendations, New Orleans Restaurants, Donald Link, South American Influenced, 70130


A Mano | La Boca Steakhouse | Rio Mar Seafood | Gusto - New Orleans, LA


Chef Adolfo Garcia is one of New Orleans’ most acclaimed chefs. His four restaurants and cooking are influenced by his Latin heritage.

RioMar, serves Spanish & Latin American Seafood; La Boca is an Argentine Steakhouse; a Mano is a Central & Southern Italian Trattoria; and Gusto is a Cafe and Bar with Mediterranean dishes.

Q & A with Chef Adolfo Garcia

Q. For visitors, can you tell us about your restaurants and how they differ from other places in New Orleans?

A. When people come to NOLA, they are looking for a unique cultural experience be it food music, architecture, etc. My restaurants provide a unique take on food with Louisiana ingredients and New Orleans sensibilities from a Latin perspective. My experience as a Latino born in New Orleans is a not so common take on our much-loved ingredients and culinary idiosyncrasies.

Q. You family is Panamanian, you grew up in New Orleans, and studied in London, Madrid, and New York. How do these experiences influence your current cooking?  

A. RioMar, for me, represents my life and experiences on a plate. Every dish on the menu has a connection to a past experience in my life. Be it the Panamanian Style Ceviche I grew up eating or the baked oysters RioMar which I draw from early family dinners at the legendary Mosca’s: eating baked oysters Mosca’s style and then injecting the cultural contributions of my dual cultures.

Q. A Mano features house-cured artisanal salumi. What is it that you love about curing meat? 

A. My chef/partner Joshua Smith at A Mano inspired me as a chef to include salumi. That’s why I like to bring the next generation into the fold. I get ideas from them. We’re honoring the traditional cuisines of Central and Southern Italy and house-made salumi heightens the dining experience at a Mano. Besides respecting culinary tradition hundreds of years old, we like the challenge of creating endlessly delicious options. And while pork and salt are mainstay ingredients, spices, vegetables, herbs, nuts, wines and fruit are inspiring flavoring additions.

Q. What local Louisiana ingredients are the most interesting for you to cook with and why?

A. Oysters have been abundant to the point that we almost took/take them for granted. We fry them, stew them, bake them, eat them raw and more. I love Louisiana oysters and everything about our culture that creates a whole lifestyle around the consumption of our bounty.

I love crawfish boils, shrimp boils, trucks on the side of the street selling shrimp, the shrimp lot in Westwego, the seafood restaurant with octogenarians eating their Friday dinner during Lent at 4:30pm to catch the early bird special at Bozo’s... please stop me.

My essential non-Louisiana ingredient is olive oil

Q. With so many sources of information coming out about the BP oil spill, people are confused about the seafood situation in Louisiana. Since seafood is a staple on your menus, can you share a local’s perspective?

A. We know our seafood suppliers. We know exactly where it comes from and know that the seafood that is available is unquestionably safe to serve and enjoy. Not all fishing areas are closed, so while there is less supply available, with the exception of very few oysters, we’re still able to offer many local seafood dishes at RioMar and a Mano.

Q. Are you turning to other areas to fill in?

A. We have not yet had to turn to other seafood sources. Of course, we have the option to serve seafood from other places and other proteins. Chefs are creative enough to still offer dishes guests will enjoy.

This isn’t ideal as a chef and restaurant-owner. As a New Orleanian, it breaks my heart that the livelihood of our oyster farmers, shrimpers and fishers is threatened. We are concerned for these folks and their families. I hope this never comes to the point that we lose a generation of fishers - who is going to teach a lost generation how to fish again?

Q. What is the current spirit like in Louisiana since the crisis?

A. We will prevail and hope that people will come visit and experience everything they’ve ever loved about New Orleans.

Q. New Orleans has been through some really trying times in the last five years.  What’s been the biggest change in the culinary industry since Katrina?

A. Hard work is nothing new to us and this industry. And, yes, it was a difficult undertaking re-opening so soon after Katrina. It was so worth it, however, to be part of the rebuilding. It’s been a highlight of my career to have a warm hospitable setting in which we could once again take care of our guests, and to serve them meals that made it easier for them to forget for just a little while their very real burdens.

Initially after re-opening, we had trouble getting regular seafood deliveries. This was a little more than a month after Hurricane Katrina and the infrastructure was fragile. We thought we’d need to change our menu. Pork was easier to source. We added a five-hour roast pork to the menu at RioMar (that has proven so popular, that we haven’t been able to pull it from the menu since). But otherwise, we didn’t have to make changes. Our guests returned and wanted to dine. Our signature dishes and seasonal specials helped make them feel at home.

Q. You worked at Lucky Cheng’s - an iconic place where boys were girls. What was your experience like cooking at a drag queen destination?

A. The drag queens were a hoot to work with. Some were crazy. Some were crazier, but in the end the driving factor for all involved was the quality of the experience for guests. I focused on establishing myself as the new kid on the block, and I got full support from the whole staff, from the general manager to the guy in the mini dress and high heels.

Q. Is there a cookbook that is like a bible to you, vintage or new? 

A. Published in 1984, chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen has been a great inspiration for me early in my road to becoming a cook. He was the first to put traditional Louisiana cuisine on the map, and he modified it some from fine dining. He put chefs on the map for the right reasons: he’s a real chef and food is his priority. Paul Prudhomme opened doors for a lot of chefs that came behind him, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s humble. He’s a great ambassador for Louisiana, and I love his restaurant.

[See details.]


Q. What are the must-go to places in New Orleans and why?

A. My life is my restaurants, my job is running restaurants and my hobby is eating at restaurants. I like many chefs in the city and we have a very close knit community which makes it an honor to be a chef in NOLA. We all know about Frank Brigtsen, Susan Spicer and Donald Link, great reputations in our city.

Here are a few unsung stars in our galaxy:

- Tan Dinh and Pho Tau Bay in nearby Gretna for fantastic Vietnamese food, our best ethnic choice from a culinary standpoint.

- Ristorante Da Piero in Kenner Rivertown is a traditional family run restaurant with stellar homemade pasta from Romagna.

- The Crab Trap in Frenier, just 15 minutes outside of New Orleans, for picnic table style seafood feasts.

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Q. Are there local markets in New Orleans that you could recommend for visiting?

A. Crescent City Farmers Market (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday markets) - stellar produce and farmers that we’ve befriended over the years.

Hollygrove Market & Farm -- the name says it all. They have a farm in addition to selling produce from area farmers. Our young chefs flock to this farm.

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Q. There are many places we’ve heard and read about in New Orleans, but where do the locals go to eat and what should we order?

A. Lilette: wild mushroom toast and the goat cheese dessert.

Tujagues: the chicken bonne femme (not on the menu).

Mahoney’s Po-Boy Shop: chicken liver po-boy with coleslaw.

Angelo Brocato’s: Sicilian pistachio gelato or Zuppa Inglese gelato, oh and squeeze in a cannoli, trust me.

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Q. Where do the locals go for great cocktails and why?

A. The Hermes Bar at Antoine’s has a classic feel and old-school cocktails.

Iris also has top notch hand-crafted cocktails and a great dinner after.

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Q. Are there food markets around the world that you love and why? 

A. The streets of Chinatown in Manhattan and Queens. Thousands of options great quality and the quest for the best ingredients make it feel like a safari in a jungle of ingredients.

Q. Who else in your field is doing interesting things that you think should deserve more praise?

A. One of the future shining stars of the city I am sure will be Joshua Smith my partner and chef from A Mano and he will bring along another generation of committed craftsmen like Kris Doll, the salumi mastermind, and James Ponder, sous chef at A Mano.

Ben Wicks the owner of Mahoney’s Po-Boy Shop is a fine dining chef who made the decision to dedicate his time to elevating the bar for our beloved po-boy. He’s on mark for doing that and gives a breath of fresh air to an old and essential part of our heritage.

Emmanuel Loubier of Dante’s Kitchen. He and his right-hand Brian Armour’s menus are clear cut examples of a farm to fork approach that champions small farmers and artisanal purveyors. You’ll find an interesting mix of traditional and innovative culinary approaches ingredient inspired.

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Q. Restaurants that are worth going out of your way to eat at (anywhere in the world, casual or fancy) and what do you love about them?

A. The places I mentioned in New Orleans are mostly casual places that some “gourmands” may by-pass, but should not be overlooked by the committed foodie.

[See details.]

Q. Any current favorites places in Madrid, and New York and what you love about them?

A. Spain:

Restaurante Guria in Bilbao, Spain is the mecca of bacalao. I was surprised we didn’t have to confess in the bar before we sat and ate their bacalao four ways. It’s a true culinary gem paying tribute to bacalao’s stature in Spanish cuisine.

New York:

I can’t stay away from Katz’s Deli.

But I love Peasant in Nolita, an impressive restaurant with wood burning ovens as the centerpiece of the menu, with a chef/owner dedicated to the craft working on the line.

[See details.]


Details of Adolfo Garcia’s recommendations on where to eat and drink in New Orleans, Manhattan, and Bilbao, Spain.


- Panamanian Style Ceviche



French Quarter


870 Tchoupitoulas Street

New Orleans, LA 70130 (view map)

T: 504.208.9280 (make a reservation)



Mon - Sat: 6pm - 10pm

Fri: 11:30am - 2:30pm


Warehouse District

Argentine / Steaks

857 Fulton Street

New Orleans, LA 70130 (view map)

T: 504.525.8205 (make a reservation)



Mon - Wed: 6pm - 10pm

Thu - Sat: 6pm - 12am


Warehouse District

Spanish/ Seafood

800 South Peters Street

New Orleans, LA 70130 (view map)

T: 504.525.3474 (make a reservation)



Mon - Fri: 11:30am - 2pm

Mon - Sat: 6pm - 10pm


French Quarter


The Theatres at Canal Place

333 Canal St, Third Floor

New Orleans, LA 70130 (view map)

T: 504.363.1117



Daily: 11am - until



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Q & A


Recommended By

- Chef Donald Link (Cochon & Cochon Butcher in New Orleans, LA)


Adolfo Garcia’s recommendations on where to eat and drink in New Orleans, Manhattan, and Bilbao, Spain.