New Orleans is a town of decadence, and pretty much everyone knows it (hell, there’s even a festival called “Decadence”). And when people think about the food of the Crescent City, they’re apt to mention po-boys, muffalettas, and a slew of non-sandwich classics. But NOLA doesn’t stop with the entree, not by a long shot. Desserts in the Big Easy are as iconic as the streetcars, live oak trees, and shirt-soaking humidity. Here are the most iconic desserts in town, and where you can get your hands/face on them.
7 quintessential New Orleans desserts and where to find them
1. Bread pudding
Where you’re getting it: Bon Ton Café
Central Business District
Just about every restaurant in New Orleans seems to have a version of this dish, and for good reason. It’s a classic. An amazingly delicious classic. For a great representation of one of NOLA’s most treasured sweet treats, head to the Bon Ton Café for their bread pudding with whiskey sauce.
Where you’re getting it: Pralines by Jean
First of all, New Orleanians pronounce it PRAW-leen. Say “PRAY-leen” and you’ll get funny-yet-somehow-not-condescending looks from the locals. Second, what’s not to love about creamy, sweet cookies made out of butter and sugar? Answer: nothing.
3. Lemon ice
Where you’re getting it: Angelo Brocato’s
Yes, a classic Italian lemon ice is also a classic NOLA dessert. Why, you ask? Because there was large influx of Italian immigrants in Louisiana around the turn of the 20th century, and of course that only added to the city’s culinary landscape. Also, the pleasant things it does to your tastebuds.
4. Creme brulee
Where you’re getting it: Tableau
Sure, creme brulee is a quintessential French dessert, but it’s been adopted and raised by New Orleans’ loving arms. Options abound around the city, but don’t miss the version at Tableau, which uses a dinner plate instead of a bowl/cup in order to maximize the sugar-to-custard ratio. Plus, any dessert made with a blowtorch is just inherently awesome.
5. Bananas Foster
Where you’re getting it: Commander’s Palace
If blowtorch desserts are awesome (see above), desserts that are engulfed in flames tableside are freaking EPIC. The original was at Brennan’s Restaurant, which is now very sadly closed. However, Commander’s version -- “a tableside flambé of bananas with Caribbean rum, brown sugar, banana liqueur & vanilla bean ice cream” -- gives this classic its due. Pro tip: wait until your dessert has ceased flaming before consuming.
6. Pecan pie
Where you’re getting it: Upperline
Here’s a bit of New Orleans logic for you: there are plentiful pecan trees in Louisiana. Hence, there are plentiful pecans, and therefore plentiful pecan pies. QED, sucker. And it’s pronounced “pu-KAHN” 'round these parts, not “PEE-can,” FYI (everything is pronounced differently here). Make sure to add a scoop of ice cream on top for the full experience, which is one you do not want to miss.
7. Doberge cake
Where you’re getting it: Debbie Does Doberge
Various restaurants, available by order
Again with the pronunciation (!): doberge (“DOUGH-bash”) is one of those things that New Orleanians love to hold close to the vest, because it’s so good, and so quintessentially NOLA, they can’t stand the thought of it being made anywhere else. Imagine a dessert made of up to 11 alternating layers of cake and pudding (usually chocolate or lemon), all held together by a buttercream or fondant shell. Are you imagining it? You're welcome. That, friend, is doberge.
1. Pralines By Jean1728 Saint Charles Ave, New Orleans
2. Bon Ton Cafe401 Magazine St, New Orleans
3. Angelo Brocato's214 N Carrollton Ave, New Orleans
4. Tableau616 Saint Peter St, New Orleans
5. Commander's Palace1403 Washington Ave, New Orleans
6. Upperline Restaurant1413 Upperline St, New Orleans
PbJ bakes up creamy, sweet cookies made out of butter and sugar, pralines. And they're awesome. They make a myriad of other confections, but you gotta try their pralines before anything else.
Established in 1953, BTC offers a number of Cajun/Creole favorites, but they're most well known for their etouffees, which can be made with shrimp or crawfish.
This renowned ice cream shop is a Mid-City dessert institution, and has been scooping housemade gelato, fruity granitas, and its bestselling lemon ice for over a century. Though the storefront was totaled by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, it was restored to full capacity just a year later, having lost none of its devoted fan base. Today, the space draws regular lines with tourists and locals clamoring for its freshly piped cannoli and Italian cakes.
Tableau captures all the magic and pizazz of the French Quarter: bistro-style balcony seating overlooking Jackson Square, situated in a historic townhouse spanning 3 stories and decorated with gilded fleur-de-lis and crystal chandeliers for optimum class. Another outpost in Dickie Brennan’s Southern dining empire, the kitchen serves authentic French fare with bold Creole flair, resulting in standout dishes like creamy crawfish au gratin and craft beer-spiked barbecue shrimp and grits -- both of which can be paired with several selections from their curated wine list.
Executive Chef Tory McPhail was named the 2013 Best Southern Chef by the James Beard Foundation, so there's a good chance you'll enjoy his Cajun fine dining.