November 5, 2018
A Food Lover's Guide to New Orleans
Posted by: Mae Mayeux
When you travel to the Big Easy, make sure you come with a big appetite. New Orleans is a foodie’s paradise. You could spend every day of your trip stuffing your face and only taste a small portion of the rich culinary diversity the city has to offer. Its incredible mix of influences, from French and Spanish to African and Central American, combined with its proximity to the Gulf and its freewheeling creative spirit make New Orleans a truly unforgettable dining destination. You can find everything here, from high-concept French cuisine to finger-licking good fried chicken. To help you plan a one-of-a-kind culinary tour of the city, here is our Food Lover’s Guide to New Orleans.
New Orleans’ location near the Gulf of Mexico means it has easy access to some of the freshest and tastiest seafood in the country. It isn’t hard to find delicious seafood in New Orleans, but there are a few spots that are worth seeking out.
Fried seafood, boiled seafood, blackened seafood, grilled seafood-you’ll find it all at Harbor Seafood and Oyster Bar. They also have a market on site where you can buy high quality seafood like crab, shrimp, lobster, crawfish, and even alligator for yourself. Harbor Seafood is located near the Louis Armstrong International Airport in Kenner, making it the perfect kick-off meal to your time in New Orleans. If you love it enough, you might even hit it on your way back out of town too.
Casamento’s is a tiny, hole-in-the wall type restaurant that has been shucking salty, fatty Gulf oysters since the 1920s. This family-run institution works hard to preserve the restaurant’s early 19th-century charm. That means keeping its original, floor-to-ceiling cream and green tiling as well as its pre-refrigeration tradition. We recommend trying their oyster loaf, which is basically a po’boy with fried oysters nestled between two slices of thick bread.
Peche Seafood Grill is the type of place that delivers a whole fish straight to your table, scales and all. But that doesn’t mean your food won’t be elegant and delicious. The dishes at Peche are deceptively simple and exquisite. Here you’ll find menu items like catfish with pickled greens, steak tartare with oyster aioli, jumbo shrimp with fried eggplant, and grilled tuna with tomato and crispy rice salad. Named one of the Top 10 Restaurants in New Orleans and winner of numerous James Beard Awards, Peche is the perfect place to go if you want a more upscale culinary adventure.
Classic Cajun and Creole Cuisine
No trip to Louisiana is complete without tasting some Cajun classics like jambalaya, blackened fish, and po’boys. Cajun and Creole cooking abound throughout the state, but you will find some of the best examples of it right in New Orleans. Li’l Dizzy’s Cafe specializes in affordable, no-frills Creole soul food. The cafe closes at 2 p.m, so plan on coming for a tasty egg and grits breakfast or their highly popular lunch buffet. Their fried chicken is especially mind-blowing. Dooky Chase Restaurant also serves a tasty, downhome lunch buffet Tuesdays through Fridays in their vibrant, art-filled dining room. Come on Friday nights for Dooky Chase classics like fried chicken, shrimp clemenceau, chicken creole, and stuffed shrimp. Craving po’boys? Go to Parkway Bakery and Tavern for some of the best in town.
When you’ve had your fill of jambalaya and oysters, head to Toups Meatery, where you’ll find a meat-centric menu steeped in over 300 years of Cajun family traditions. At Toups, they serve it all: foie gras, rabbit liver, lamb neck, or for the less adventurous, classic dishes like duck breast, beef, and pork chop.
Brennan’s Restaurant has been a NOLA institution since 1946. They serve elegant French and Spanish inspired Creole cuisine in their beautiful, colorfully decorated dining room. Their menu is filled with tasty twists on classic dishes, such as shrimp creole kimchi, Florida frog legs, and New Orleans BBQ lobster. After your meal, grab a cocktail at the exquisite Roost Bar & Courtyard next door.
New Orleans is a city with deep French roots, so you are guaranteed to find incredible French cuisine while you are here. Cafe Degas is a traditional French bistro serving classics like french onion soup, mussels and frites, and escargot. We love Cafe Degas for its cozy and eclectic dining room, which features a live pecan tree growing indoors as well as metal tables and chairs that came from the Louisiana World Exposition in 1984.
Arnaud’s holds the distinction of being the largest restaurant in New Orleans as well as one of the best. Since its opening in 1918, Arnaud’s has been serving elegant French-Creole cuisine in the heart of the French Quarter. But Arnaud’s is so much more than just a restaurant. It is also a jazz bistro, a cocktail bar, and a Mardi Gras museum, where you can view more than two dozen lavish Mardi Gras costumes and learn a bit more about New Orleans’ most iconic festival.
For a true New Orleans fine dining experience, book a table at Gautreau’s Restaurant, where you will enjoy elegance and sophistication without an ounce of pretension. This lush garden spot is regularly cited as one of the best restaurants in the city. Their duck confit, served with grilled peaches, is among the best you’ll find anywhere.
New Orleans is a cosmopolitan city with a diverse population hailing from all around the world. While you are here, you will likely hear a lot about the city’s French and Spanish heritage, but the city is also home to large Southeast Asian, Central American, African, and Middle Eastern populations that all bring their rich culinary traditions to the melting pot.
Don’t let Ba Mien’s drab strip mall exterior fool you. This restaurant mixes flavors from Northern, Central and Southern Vietnam for truly mouthwatering soups, noodle bowls, and other authentic Southeast Asian dishes. At Beraca in Metairie, you can try a little known culinary treasure, Honduran food. For over a decade, Beraca has been serving simple Honduran classics to both the local Honduran population and other curious New Orleans foodies. Beans and rice have never tasted so good.
For something a little more upscale, try Shaya. This restaurant was cited as one of the best new restaurants in the country when it first opened and continues to deliver world-class Israeli cuisine in their trendy, brightly lit space. From their lamb kofte to their curried cauliflower, every menu item is thoughtfully prepared and delicious. Even simple dishes like falafel, hummus, and pita bread go above and beyond. This James Beard Award winning establishment is well worth the visit, even if you don’t typically like Middle Eastern cuisine.
We weren’t exaggerating when we said the Big Easy calls for Big Appetites. Eating your way through NOLA is a true cultural experience. We hope our guide will help you find some of the best spots in the city, from local secrets to world-famous institutions. Let us know your favorite New Orleans restaurants in the comments. Happy eating!
Planning a culinary tour of New Orleans? Book a stay at one of the Louisiana Bed & Breakfast Association's many unique and charming properties located all across the city.