Foodie’s Guide To New Orleans

August 31, 2016 8:00 AM

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Consistently named one of America’s greatest culinary destinations, New Orleans is quite simply, a food lover’s paradise. Internationally acclaimed for its superb local cuisines, this fascinating city with multiple nicknames features more than 1,400 restaurants, many of which are multi-award winners and led by high profile celebrity chefs. But because New Orleans is such a unique food mecca, it can pose a pleasant challenge for some foodies when deciding upon which place to go and what classic foods to try. Regardless of one’s budget, here is a practical and thoughtful guide to some of the best restaurants, cafes, food stands and food trucks to consider while on an unforgettable visit to the city of New Orleans.

Fine Dining

There are so many exceptional local restaurants in this category that just a top 10 would be a disservice to visiting foodies and to the city’s many upscale dining establishments. Even by doubling the recommendations to 20, this list still omits some exceptional restaurants known for remarkable cuisine, ambiance and service. Nevertheless, all of these following restaurants are legendary, such as the four Grand Dames, while many others have highly acclaimed executive chefs, such as Bayona with chef Susan Spicer, Restaurant August with chef John Besh and chef Emeril Lagasse and his famed namesake restaurant. Each of these celebrated chefs are James Beard Award winners, as are others in the local culinary scene, like Frank Brigtsen and his namesake Brigtsen’s, Tory McPhail of Commander’s Palace, Sue Zemanick of Gautreau’s and 2016 winner Justin Devillier of La Petite Grocery and Balise. The James Beard Award is the highest honor bestowed upon food and professionals in the U.S. and is often described as the “Oscars of Food.” Except for those noted, all of the following restaurants are located in the Vieux Carré, the oldest neighborhood in the city and better known as the French Quarter.

Related: 48 Hour Guide To New Orleans

Mid-Range

Much like the fine dining category, this list of moderately priced restaurants could easily be expanded to 20 or more. Moreover, some of these phenomenal restaurants are among the best in New Orleans and feature James Beard Award-winning executive chefs such as Donald Link with Cochon Butcher and Pêche, Alon Shaya at Domenica and his namesake Shaya, and the beloved Leah Chase at Dooky Chase’s. Although a few of these selections are often described as fine dining, the majority of menu items actually fall into the moderately priced category. In May, Shaya, featuring modern Israeli cuisine, was named the Best New Restaurant in the U.S. and Leah Chase, the “Queen of Creole Cuisine,” was awarded the coveted Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2016 James Beard Awards.

Cafe du Monde Beignets (credit: Randy Yagi)

Cafe du Monde Beignets (credit: Randy Yagi)

Budget

Even for foodies on a shoestring budget, the city of New Orleans is filled with excellent spots for low cost fare. Heading the list is the iconic Café du Monde, world acclaimed for its café au lait and its delectable beignets. Although there are eight Café du Monde coffee stands in the metropolitan area, the one that visiting foodies should visit is the original location founded in 1862, in the French Market area of the Vieux Carré. But the Crescent City is also well known for dozens of other affordable dining spots featuring delicious traditional food items such as Po-Boy sandwiches, muffulettas, gumbo, red beans and rice and jambalaya. The following is just a small sampling of the best places to try some of the best and most famous dishes from New Orleans, as well as many other culinary delights for budget-minded visitors.

Po-Boy Sandwich (credit: Randy Yagi)

Po-Boy Sandwich (credit: Randy Yagi)

Food Trucks

As with other notable culinary destinations in America, New Orleans has a number of food trucks to complement the seemingly endless sit-down dining choices. Not surprisingly, the largest concentration can be found in and around the French Quarter neighborhood, particularly near Jackson Square and along the Mississippi River. But food trucks make appearances at other popular neighborhoods, such as the Warehouse District, Central Business District, Uptown and Faubourg Marigny neighborhood. The food truck businesses is becoming so popular in the city that there are websites and a mobile app that are completely devoted to the local street food scene. 

Traditional Local Cuisine

No foodie trip to New Orleans would be complete without sampling some of its traditional local cuisine. Many of these dishes have achieved legendary status, such as jambalaya, gumbo and red beans and rice. A few others on this list are signature dishes at some notable dining establishments, such as the blackened redfish at K-Pau’ls and oysters Rockefeller, first presented at Antoine’s in 1899. Many of these dishes feature vegetables that are known as the Holy Trinity: onions, bell peppers and celery.

  • Andouille (French-styled smoked sausage)
  • Bananas Foster (bananas and ice cream dessert)
  • Beignets (French pastry)
  • Blackened Redfish (Cajun seafood dish first introduced by legendary New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme)
  • Bread Pudding (New Orleans-styled baked dessert with bread, eggs and other ingredients)
  • Calas (dumplings made of rice, yeast, sugar and eggs)
  • Couche Couche (cornmeal mush)
  • Crawfish Étouffée (Cajun and Creole dish with shellfish served over rice)
  • Eggs Sardou (Creole dish made with poached eggs, artichokes, spinach and Hollandaise sauce)
  • Gumbo (Cajun stew with vegetables and meat or shellfish)
  • Jambalaya (Creole dish with rice, meat and vegetables)
  • King Cakes ( colorful cake typically offered during Mardi Gras season)
  • Maque Choux (braised vegetables including the Holy Trinity)
  • Muffuletta (sandwich using round Sicilian sesame bread, meats and cheese)
  • Oysters (charbroiled, Rockefeller, en brochette)
  • Po-Boys (traditional Louisiana sandwich typically with roast beef or seafood)
  • Pralines (confection primarily made of nuts, cream and sugar)
  • Red Beans & Rice (classic Creole dish typically served with vegetables)
  • Shrimp Creole (spicy Creole dish made with the Holy Trinity, chili powder and tomatoes)
  • Turtle Soup (soup with turtle meat or substitute, the Holy Trinity, garlic and tomatoes)

Related: Best Seafood Cities In America

 

Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer covering national/international travel for CBS Local and all things San Francisco for CBS San Francisco. In 2012, he received a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. He may be contacted via Twitter or Linkedin .

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