It is said that you will know a place best through its food, and I can say I have done that fully in the months that I’ve stayed in New Orleans. The food in New Orleans is as full of character as the city itself, influenced as it is by its French, Spanish, African, and Cajun roots.
I’d stuffed myself silly with po’boys, ate grits and biscuits for breakfast, scarfed down one beignet after another, and of course, gorged myself on gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice, and grilled oysters, among many other NOLA favorites.
Yes, I gained quite a few pounds in my 4-month stay in New Orleans, but #noregrets. New Orleans is worth it!
Your visit to the Crescent City won’t be complete without fully appreciating its cuisine. So when you do go, even for a just a couple of days or so, make sure to have a taste of some of the food in New Orleans listed here. You’ll see why this place is a haven for foodies!
Po’boy at Crabby Jack’s
Even before I visited New Orleans, I already knew about po’boys — that traditional Louisiana sandwich that’s as delicious as it is carbs- and calorie-heavy. There are meat, seafood, and vegetarian po’boys, and my favorite is the shrimp and oyster combination at Crabby Jack’s. Each serving is HUGE; the regular one costs $11.95 and I was able to eat only half.
I’ve eaten po’boy in other places, too. I’ve had the shrimp po’boy at Avery’s on Tulane Avenue and at Parkway Bakery in Mid-City, the soft-shell crab po’boy at Origami Restaurant along Freret, a turkey po’boy at Freret Street Poboy and Donut Shop (which closed down in November 2017; it was sorely missed!), and a cochon de lait (pulled pork) po’boy during the Po’boy Festival.
My favorite remains the one at Crabby Jack’s (my thanks to local friend Becca Fisher for taking me there!). The shrimp is fried perfectly, crunchy on the outside and soft and juicy inside. It’s not oily, too, unlike other po’boys I’ve tasted (pro tip: don’t order po’boys from convenience stores! Or if you do, lower your expectations drastically.) Order it dressed, which means with ketchup, mayo, and pickles.
Shrimp and Grits at Cafe Amelie
Prior to arriving in New Orleans, I never had grits before. Sure, we have corn in the Philippines, and we do (in some places, at least) use it as substitute for rice.
However, it was only in New Orleans that I got introduced to grits for breakfast. My first breakfast was actually at Freret Street Poboy and Donut Shop, where I had the “Budget Breakfast” for $5.99, consisting of grits, 2 fried eggs, pork sausage, and toast.
But the best grits I’ve had was at Cafe Amelie in the French Quarter. I attended a writing marathon during the Tennessee Williams Festival, and the workshop facilitator, Prof. Richard Louth, brought the whole group to the restaurant and bought us lunch.
I ordered Chef Jerry’s Shrimp and Grits ($13), and I tell you, if I could have licked the plate clean, I would have! It was that delicious!
Given that I didn’t have the budget to sample all the best that New Orleans has to offer, I asked fellow travel bloggers to give their favorite food in New Orleans. Here are their recommendations.
Bananas Foster at Broussard’s
One of the absolute best New Orleans dishes is a classic choice, bananas foster. Not only is this dessert incredibly delicious, but its preparation is highly entertaining to watch.
Make sure to go to Broussard’s Restaurant during their Jazz Brunch for a classic take on Creole food. Along with your entree, order yourself the following two sweet treats: a Brandy Milk Rum Punch to drink and bananas foster for dessert.
It’s not the cheapest item on the menu, with an order of bananas foster coming in at $9, but the taste will be well worth your while. Similar to table-side guacamole at a Mexican restaurant, a cart will be brought out and the waiter or waitress will prepare the bananas foster in front of you with a bit of explanation about the preparation.
The final product, composed of bananas and vanilla ice cream and a sauce of butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, dark rum, and banana liqueur will be lit on fire using a cooking technique called a flambe. Sugar with a hint of pyrotechnics…can you indulge in a better dessert than that?!
Recommended by Jennifer Aspinwall of World on a Whim.
Beignets at Cafe du Monde
When you’re visiting New Orleans, you shouldn’t miss out on the classic beignets (fried fritters). These are iconic for NOLA, and the place to go is Cafe du Monde. A beignet is essentially an ancestor to today’s donuts with a hole in the middle. The beignet doesn’t have a hole, and they are traditionally made from square-cut pieces of yeast dough, which is fried and covered with powdered sugar.
They’re best served hot, and best eaten with cafe au lait ($2.73). One order of beignets (3 pieces) costs $2.73. Bring cash as they don’t accept credit cards and pay the server as soon as they bring your order (which is quite quick). A lot of people eat beignets for breakfast but you can basically eat it any time!
Aleah’s Note: One important tip — it’s pronounced “ben-yay.” Don’t ask me how I pronounced it when I first ordered it at Cafe du Monde. I’m amazed the waiter didn’t laugh (actually, he had no reaction whatsoever); he must have heard various mangling of that word already. There’s a lot of places where you can buy beignets; aside from Cafe du Monde, I’ve also had it in two Cafe Beignet branches (Decatur and Royal streets) and at Cafe NOMA inside City Park. Cafe du Monde remains my favorite although I hung out more often at Cafe Beignet along Royal St since it’s beside the NOLA Police District, and they have two senior cats residents there begging to be petted!
Recommended by Alexander Waltner of Swedish Nomad.
Boudin at Cochon
Known as “the King of Cajun food,” boudin is a traditional Louisiana-style sausage more commonly associated with Acadian culture than with the more Creole-centered cuisine of New Orleans.
Chef Stephen Stryjewski, however, who co-owns New Orleans hotspots Cochon and Cochon Butcher (and won “Best Chef South” from the prestigious James Beard Foundation in 2011), arguably makes the best boudin you’ll find outside of Lafayette.
The savory sausage is traditionally made from a mixture of pork (including organ meat), rice, seasonings, and various vegetables, such as onions and green peppers. It can be braised, grilled, or simmered, and every chef has their own unique twist on the dish.
Unfortunately, Stryjewski — like most boudin masters — refuses to divulge the recipe for his fried version. Regardless, it’s available for $9 at his restaurant (and by the pound at the butcher shop next door), and it’s the kind of local delicacy people are willing to travel hundreds of miles to sample.
Recommended by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett of Green Global Travel.
Cajun Seafood Boil at Crazy Lobster
Boiled crawfish and other seafood are a must eat for seafood lovers in New Orleans.
In a traditional seafood boil, crawfish, other shellfish, potatoes, and corn are boiled in a mixture of garlic and spicy Cajun seasoning and when cooked, eaten dipped in melted butter…definitely heavenly!
While you can get good seafood boil at most places in Louisiana, the boiled crawfish in the Crescent City are super fresh since they are in great demand. Most of the crawfish boil restaurants have a casual, family-friendly atmosphere and the laid back meals are a highlight of any New Orleans trip.
A few great places to try Cajun boiled seafood include Cosimo’s in the French Quarter, J&J Seafood on the West Bank, and the Crazy Lobster Bar and Grill near the Riverwalk Outlet Mall. If you happen to visit the city during crawfish season, make sure to try some of the delicious Cajun boil.
Recommended by Ketki Sharangpani of Dotted Globe.
Char-grilled Oysters at Desire Oyster Bar
Many have not even heard of charbroiled or char-grilled oysters, but let it be known, if you haven’t had one (or a dozen), you are missing out!
The places to eat the best ones in New Orleans are Acme Oyster House, Felix Restaurant and Oyster Bar, and Desire Oyster Bar, but Desire Oyster Bar won out when comparing the three restaurants.
Don’t be discouraged about going to Desire Oyster Bar because it is on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter inside the Hotel Royal Sonesta. It is not like the typical establishments on that (in)famous street, plus the open window seats of the restaurant make it so that people watching is still a great pastime.
When you’re there, order a dozen grilled oyster and a cold beer. Enjoy them with the bread they give you, as you will need it to sop up the herb/lemon butter garlic sauce that they pour on the oysters with cheese.
It is the flavor and the texture of cooked oysters that you will love, especially if you just can’t eat them raw! Each oyster costs a dollar, and you can order by the half dozen or the dozen.
Aleah’s Note: Another great place to eat char-grilled oysters is Neyow’s Creole Cafe in Mid-City. Well-known for its authentic Creole cuisine, and frequented more by locals than tourists (if you go there at lunch time, for example, it will be full of police officers on their lunch break), their oysters are to die for. A half-dozen costs $11.99, so get a dozen oysters for a better value of $19.99. Order their homemade bread pudding, too, for dessert ($5.75)!
Recommended by Cacinda Maloney of Points and Travel.
Burgers at Port of Call
Nothing is more classic than a burger, so when you are looking for food in New Orleans, you must try one of the burgers at Port of Call.
Opened in 1963, this shipwreck-themed bar and restaurant serves up an award-winning burger highly recommended by Zagat, Citysearch, and the Gambit Weekly. The burger is certainly a messy one, but it is totally worth it. Layer up on those napkins and dig into the juiciest cheeseburger you will ever try.
Each burger is a half-pound of ground beef and comes with a baked potato with butter. Extra toppings for the potato include sour cream, cheddar cheese, or mushrooms. You get all this for under $10.
The burger is flavored perfectly; there is no need to add salt or pepper and you can wash it all down with one of Port of Call’s famous cocktails like Neptune’s Monsoon, an old recipe used frequently as a last request by pirates condemned to walk the plank.
Recommended by Gina Bambinelli of Jet Set and Forget.
Fried Chicken at Willie Mae’s
Willie Mae’s Scotch House is easy to pass over when you’re deciding where to eat in New Orleans, if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
Located in a small building in the historic Treme neighborhood just outside the French Quarter, Willie Mae’s boasts world-famous, Food Network-featured, incredibly delicious fried chicken (3 pieces with one side costs $15) in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it setting.
In addition to the classic fried chicken, you’ll find a whole array of traditional New Orleans side dishes available as well — fried okra, kidney beans, cornbread muffins, and candied yams are just a few of the offerings available.
No trip to New Orleans would be complete without a plate of Willie Mae’s incredibly moist and perfectly spiced fried chicken…just be sure to show up early!
The modest restaurant is small, and especially in high season, it’s not uncommon to see people lined up around the block waiting for a chance to taste this incredible fried chicken. It’s definitely worth the wait.
Recommended by Kate Storm of Our Escape Clause.
Fried Green Tomatoes at Ernst Cafe
A southern culinary staple also makes the list of one of the the best dishes you must have in New Orleans — Fried Green Tomatoes. While not thought of as a classic Bayou dish in the way that po’boys or beignets may be, the Fried Green Tomato is famous in New Orleans because of it being a classic example of how great things become even better in Cajun country!
Fried Green Tomatoes, through the rest of the south, are a simple delicacy made from young, unripened tomatoes that are sliced and fried in a cornmeal breading. The way they’re done in classic southern cities like Nashville, Savannah, and Charleston is limited in variation and classic in presentation, but New Orleans turns up the heat. The key for the kickin’ version of this southern treat? Shrimp Remoulade — and lots of it!
One of the best places to find this creative classic is also the spot of one of the oldest Fried Green Tomato recipes in New Orleans — Ernst Cafe in the Financial District.
Here, the classic recipe is completed to a golden brown perfection before being smothered in the remoulade, which is a mixture of mayonnaise, dijon mustard, paprika, cayenne, garlic, cloves, and a host of other vibrant flavors that include, of course, Louisiana hot sauce.
Hot shrimp is tossed in the concoction before bathing a plate-full of the delicious tomatoes, and served hot!
Recommended by Justin and Tracy of A Couple for the Road.
Gumbo at Galatoire’s Restaurant
Gumbo is one of those dishes that just screams New Orleans and there is no better place to try it than Galatoire’s Restaurant.
Gumbo is a traditional Creole dish that starts with a roux (flour and bacon drippings) that is slow cooked until it turns a dark golden brown color. There are different varieties of Gumbo but the best one at Galatoire’s is a seafood gumbo with Louisiana shrimp, oysters, shellfish stock, and okra.
The seafood gumbo costs $8.50 for a cup and $9.75 for a bowl of soup. They also have a duck and andouille sausage gumbo which has andouille sausage, shredded duck, the trinity (onions, carrots, celery), duck stock and a dark roux. There is more flavor in one bite of this gumbo then on most plates and it is the depth of flavour that I like most along with all of the seafood in the gumbo.
Galatoire’s was established in 1905 and has a prime location on Bourbon Street and is a place that is consistently serving up delicious Creole food.
Aleah’s Note: While I’ve had gumbo in several places, my personal favorite is the shrimp, duck, and andouille gumbo usually cooked by my NOLA family Bob Marshall and Marie Gould. Bob, aside from his prowess in the kitchen, is also a 2-time Pulitzer Award winner. I wish you could have a taste, too, but Bob, a New Orleans native, only makes it on special occasions!
Recommended by Nicole LaBarge.
Jambalaya at Coops
Coops is one of those restaurants that not many people know about, but always recommend once they do. Head there for the jambalaya to taste a local New Orleans favorite at its best.
The rabbit jambalaya will stand out, but scroll down the menu and you’ll find the pasta jambalaya — this is the one you want. With shrimp, sausage, and Coops’ own Creole sauce, the pasta jambalaya is a simple dish for the $9 price tag but it’s one you’ll go back for again and again.
Coops isn’t the cheapest place in New Orleans, but the cozy atmosphere and good-humored staff make it a must-visit. It’s a well-known secret among locals, so head there during off-peak times (mid-afternoon is always a good option) if you don’t want to wait outside.
If you happen to pass in the early evening, you’ll spot Coops from the end of the street as you won’t be able to miss the line. But even if you do have to wait in line for a while, it will be totally worth it once you taste that jambalaya!
Recommended by Jodie Dewberry of Ala Jode.
Mile High Pie at The Pontchartrain Hotel
When in New Orleans, don’t miss a chance to stop into the newly refurbished, historical Pontchartrain Hotel in the charming Garden District.
Inside, the legendary Caribbean Room has been reborn as Jack Rose. It serves up modern takes on NOLA classics including their iconic, signature dessert, the Mile High Pie.
Take note of the huge painting in the restaurant showing New Orleans born rapper, Lil Wayne devouring this sweet concoction. The tower of goodness was created here decades ago and has been a favorite for generations of guests at the Caribbean Room.
Made with pie crust, multiple layers of ice cream, marshmallow or meringue and chocolate sauce, the $14 Mile High Pie is not only a fun, decadent treat, it’s pretty cool to Instagram as well!
Recommended by Lisa Lubin of LL World Tour.
Muffuletta at Napoleon House
One of the most recognized sandwiches worth trying in New Orleans is the muffuletta which you can find the best at Napoleon House in the French Quarter. This signature dish at Napoleon’s pays tribute to Italian heritage.
Italian immigrants brought it with them when they came to New Orleans and opened up delis in the riverfront areas of the city. The muffuletta at Napoleon House’s is a hearty sandwich filled with cheese, cured meats, and an olive salad dressing on a sesame seed Italian bun. The sandwich is then heated up to meld and intensify the wonderful flavors of this delicious sandwich.
One whole sandwich (serves 2 people) costs $16.50. You can buy half for $9.50 or a quarter for $5.25 (which is more than enough). A vegetarian version is also available.
Recommended by Noel Morata of Travel Photo Discovery.
Pralines at Laura’s Candies
There is no shortage of great food in New Orleans. Around every corner in the French Quarter you will find places that offer signature Cajun and Creole dishes such as red beans and rice, po’boys, gumbo, and jambalaya. But, what about the sweets?
A popular sweet treat in New Orleans is pralines. Pralines consist of nuts, sugar, and cream. You can enjoy traditional pralines or creamy pralines which are a bit softer. Pralines also come in different flavors such as coconut, rum, and chocolate. Although they are very sweet, this treat is a must when visiting New Orleans.
There is often a debate as to which confectionery store makes the best pralines. Here are 3 recommendations in the French Quarter — Magnolia Praline Co. on Decatur Street, Laura’s Candies on Chartres Street, and Loretta’s Authentic Pralines on N. Peters Street.
You can buy pralines by weight or individually for about $3 each. Prepackaged boxes of pralines cost about $15 and up. Here is a suggestion — sample different flavors from all 3 places and bring boxes home as gifts!
Recommended by Nadeen White of The Sophisticated Life.
Red Beans and Rice at Acme Oyster House
My favorite go to food in New Orleans is the red beans and rice from Acme Oyster House in the French Quarter. It’s a simple meal but it smells and tastes oh, so yummy. The side of grilled smoked sausage adds a perfect amount of flavor. Even though Acme has gotten more touristy over the few years, I still love the restaurant’s atmosphere and delicious smells.
The best way to enjoy this meal is with one of Acme’s famous Bloody Mary’s. I can’t spend a weekend in New Orleans without one, it’s just such a tasty combination (and always brings back great memories). The cost is reasonable at just above $10. The only problem: the line. Acme always has a long line of customers waiting to get in. It’s worth it, though.
Recommended by Lori Fitzgibbons of Fitz 5 On the Go.
Seafood at J’s Seafood Dock
Name a seafood and you’ll find it dished up in New Orleans.
From mouth-watering oysters to crawfish boils, lobster, crab, and shrimp, the freshest hauls from the Gulf can be found at J’s Seafood Dock in the French Market.
The food is cooked to order in a friendly and efficient way, and prices are reasonable. We had fresh oysters and shrimp tacos and they were really good — the oysters were the best we had in NOLA and we could tell they were very fresh.
They don’t serve drinks at J’s, though, so you have to go to a nearby stall to pick these up. We bought our wine from nearby Alberto’s.
J’s is just a little stall but a great place for a casual lunch in the buzzy atmosphere of the outdoor market. Find a bench nearby to eat your seafood with the added bonus of epic people-watching potential and the ‘bad motha shuka’ who is fabulously entertaining as he shucks the oysters. J’s Seafood Dock closes at 6pm.
Recommended by Suzanne Jones of The Travelbunny.
Vietnamese Crawfish at MiMi Seafood
Crayfish, crawdads, mountain lobster, or mudbugs…whatever you call them, there’s no denying crawfish is the pride of Louisiana, and you’ve just gotta try it when you’re in New Orleans.
The little crustaceans blush a bright red when they’re boiled in a traditional crawfish boil, which in New Orleans, usually means seasoning the boil with bay leaves and garlic, later adding potatoes, corn, and homemade sausage or boudin. Once you twist and wrangle them out of their shell, and grab the small bite of meat as the prize, you can’t stop eating them.
If you’re a crawfish fan but are craving a new twist on this traditional dish, head across the river to Gretna in south NOLA and try the Vietnamese crawfish at MiMi Seafood and Banh Mi. Also called Viet-Cajun crawfish, the addition of garlic, onions, hot peppers, orange wedges, lemongrass, and sometimes lime to the steamed crawfish elevate this dish to new heights.
It’s a natural flavor fit, and if you love Vietnamese cuisine, you’ll never eat crawfish any other way again. Mimi’s has the best in town.
Recommended by Lori Sorrentino of Travlinmad.
Have you been to New Orleans? What’s your favorite food and restaurant there?