Finding good food in New Orleans is a no-brainer -- after all, this is one of the world’s best food cities. When everyone and their mama is a good cook, it should come as no surprise that even the most unlikely places produce delicious dishes. From gas stations to airport food courts, you can eat well in some seriously unexpected places. Eat outside the box and add these spots to your next round of dining options.
Jetgo gas station
Fill up your car and then your belly at this mom-and-pop shawarma shop. Tucked inside the convenience store of this neighborhood gas station on Magazine St, the stand-alone Shawarma on the Go takes gas station food to the next level. Here, you’ll find great chicken shawarma and lamb/beef gyros carved right from the spit onto locally baked pita or as the main go on a platter. The cooks’ banter is entertaining, the fries are fantastic, and the sauces are homemade -- we recommend the garlicky “tum” to accompany your pita, plate, or fries -- and the falafel have excellent crunch, tooth, and tenderness.
Bayou St. John
This 90-year-old grocery store has well-stocked shelves of local and specialty items -- many with an Italian accent -- and everyone knows about the great butchery and brilliant house-made Italian sausages. Stop by on Saturdays, when Terranova's sells a limited quantity of stunning muffulettas piled high with meats, cheeses, and giardiniere-laced olive salad on airy rounds of seeded Italian loaves. Order the Christmas tree-shaped hogshead cheese for your holiday party and, if stuffed artichokes are in on display, do the smart thing and order a few. Don’t miss the burritos and order a chicken with artichoke stuffing.
Louis Armstrong Airport
Forget that sweet, nutty goodness of a praline (or grab some to go from the candy shop and food store just before you go through security). Midway down Concourse B is a no-frills airport food-court, overpowered by the heavy smells of a Subway sandwich kiosk. Waltz past and soothe your weary soul with Praline Connection’s Cajun-Creole goodness. Praline’s greens, gravy, and crisp-crusted fried chicken livers will beat anything you can get in flight. Livers not your thing? The fried chicken is just this side of heaven, or go vegetarian with a soulful plate of greens, beans, and rice.
Radisson Hotel New Orleans Airport
Visible from the airport terminal, across the runway, is a Radisson Hotel. Tucked inside is The hotel’s restaurant, 4Corners Bistro, which secrets an Eastern Indian chef who rocks a robust list of Indian specialties. Enjoy properly spiced Masala dosa (a crisp lentil pancake with potato filling), creamy Chicken Tikka, fresh-baked naan, palak paneer (spinach with fresh cheese), and finish it off (or start) with mango lassi. If Indian isn’t your thing, 4Corners Bistro also serves up a variety of local Creole/Cajun favorites.
While there’s a multitude of Ideal Market locations around the Metro area, we have special love for the large Airline Dr store. Here, a fired-up indoor grill is continuously cooking marinated beef and chicken barbacoa for great on-the-fly tacos. Brush up on your Spanish or simply point and smile to choose stews, rice, chicharrones (meat and skin, skin only, or seasoned), pupusas, roasted corn, and more. Skip the flan, get the tres leches, and gawk at the store’s expansive stock.
This Vietnamese market is well-known for its banh mi (with meatballs, please), breads, and desserts (and now liquor!) -- but it’s all about the char siu pork and peking duck. Ask the counter server to chop the meats, grab a bag of lotus buns, some scallions, and chili oil to cobble together bao for warm and delicious football watching food. Get a sixer of Tiger beer, then walk across the parking lot to the beef jerky store (Kho Bo Ngoc Quyen) to get snacks. Lots and lots of snacks.
This corner convenience store a couple blocks off St. Charles Avenue serves its neighborhood for chips, sodas, and cigs. But it also houses decorated Chef Crispin Pasia and a broad menu of expertly prepared, home-style Filipino dishes. Start with a pile of crispy, slim cigar-thin lumpia, then hit the rich, peanut butter-shot oxtail stew called kare kare. Ask for sharp and salty shrimp paste to zip up things, and an eating tutorial from the chef -- he’s happy to oblige. Folks also go wild for the and crispy pata, deep-fried pig trotters or knuckles with a black vinegar dipping sauce.
This beloved Bywater grocery has been operating since 1968 and is a great example of old New Orleans neighborhood joints where food and service reign, and little has changed. Check out the excellent plate lunches and old-school po-boys -- we love the dressed French fry po-boy with beef gravy. Get their divine homemade deviled eggs, and do not miss the carrot souffle, meatloaf and mashed potatoes, or homemade meatballs. Bring cash, this place does not do cards.
Near the airport, just off Williams Blvd, is a plain-jane strip center that is home to two gems. At Falafel King, all the food is Halal and falafel are indeed king. Crispy on the outside and properly seasoned, the falafel make a great dish or sandwich (the homemade pita has a great chewy texture) on their own, but we think it’s just a bit of morning-meal genius to order the breakfast special that includes hummus, foul (fava beans), and mutabal (eggplant dip). For dessert, get crunchy, sticky sweet shredded phyllo dough kunafa with cream, and a spiced and sweet Turkish coffee.
Immediately next door to Falafel King, is the second gem in the crown of this strip center. Yes, it is a great resource for Brazilian ingredients, foodstuffs, and local event information. Yes, there is a TV blaring (usually soccer or a telenovela). Order to stay or to-go, but know that the food is phenomenal. Pao de Queijo (Brazilian cheese breads) resemble over-sized gougeres, all buttery, cheesy, and surprisingly gluten free. There is also a decadent acai breakfast bowl made with syrupy, sweet condensed milk, and on Saturdays only, the must-get bean and meat stew feijoada, is where it’s at.
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1. Shawarma On The Go3720 Magazine St, New Orleans
2. Terranova's Supermarket3308 Esplanade Ave, New Orleans
3. 4Corners Bistro1501 Veterans Memorial Blvd, Kenner
4. Ideal Market4421 Airline Hwy, Metairie
5. Hong Kong Supermarket925 Behrman Hwy, Gretna
6. CK's Hot Shoppe, New Orleans
7. Frady's One Stop Food Store3231 Dauphine St, New Orleans
8. Falafel King, Kenner
9. Brazilian Market and Cafe2424 Williams Blvd, Kenner
Tucked inside the convenience store of a neighborhood gas station on Magazine Street, Shawarma on the Go kicks gas-station food up a notch (or 10) with its surprisingly fantastic Middle Eastern classics. You're in for chicken shawarma, falafel that strikes an ideal balance of crunch and tenderness, and lamb/beef gyros carved right from the spit onto locally baked pita. A side of crisp fries is a must, which are paired with your choice of homemade sauce (go for the the garlicky “tum"). There's also a burger made with ground beef & lamb on the menu and, because this is NOLA, shrimp po-boys make an appearance, too.
Located in Bayou St. John, this decades-old corner grocery store has well-stocked shelves of Italian-influenced local and specialty items, plus a beloved butchery with authentic house-made Italian sausages that locals adore. You'll want to drop by on Saturdays, when Terranova sells a limited quantity of muffulettas piled high with meats, cheeses, and olive salad on airy rounds of seeded Italian loaves. If stuffed artichokes are in on display while you're there, do yourself a favor and order a few of those, too.
Believe it or not, this restaurant tucked inside the Radisson across from the New Orleans airport has an incredible Eastern Indian chef at its helm cooking up a robust roster of Indian specialties, plus dishes with international influences that range from Thailand to Louisiana. Skip the questionable food-court eats across the runway, and treat yourself to 4Corner Bistro's properly spiced masala dosa (a crisp lentil pancake with potato filling), creamy chicken tikka, fresh-baked naan, palak paneer (spinach with fresh cheese), and finish it off with mango lassi. Or, if you're craving something local, there's a variety of Creole and Cajun favorites on the menu as well.
Airline Drive’s Ideal Market location is known not only for its colorful grocery selection of both American and Mexican fruits, vegetables, seafood, meat, cleaning products, and frozen items, but it’s also known for its Mexican to-go counter, which serves up melt-in-your-mouth carnes asada with white or yellow rice, beans or salad, two tortillas, and plantain or yucca. Or, opt for a breakfast sandwich with refried beans, crema, eggs, meat, veggies, and avocado to fuel you all day.
Stock up on baked goods, to-go po-boys, and a huge selection of Asian groceries at this unassuming supermarket by the Crescent City Connection. It's an ideal spot to grab all the makings for your next home-cooked meal, but the hot food selections are well-worth your time, too, including authentic banh mi sandwiches with either crispy roasted duck or pork that are prepared in-house -- and that fans swear are some of the best in the city.
Vinegar and pork are the most ubiquitous ingredients on CK’s Hot Shoppe’s menu, a laundry list of traditional Filipino dishes, like the Crispy Pata, a pig’s leg (served with the hoof intact) that’s fried and flavored with garlic, pancit, a mixture of cabbage, green beans, and scallions, and the fresh lumpia, with spiced veggies enclosed in a lettuce wrap, topped with sweet garlic sauce and ground nuts. Dishes are listed on a chalkboard, making them feel eerily temporary, especially since there aren’t any physical menus; but fear not, CK’s is a NOLA favorite, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
Step inside Frady’s One Stop Food Store, the bright yellow Bywater shack beloved in the neighborhood for its impeccable po-boys. Served on a fresh Leidenheimer roll, the fried oyster po-boy is buried in a pocket of shredded iceberg lettuce and smothered in Frady’s special sandwich sauce, made with mayo, hot sauce, horseradish, and ketchup. Enjoy your sandwich on one of the porch chairs, and wash it down with a cold beer as you chat with the heaps of locals stopping in.
Thanks to Falafel King, Middle Eastern culinary royalty exists in New Orleans, and it can be found at a Kenner strip mall. Falafel King’s menu offers appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, and entrees, and the star of the show is the falafel, steaming and cooked to crisp perfection on the outside, moist and exploding with flavor on the inside. You’ll order your falafel with doughy pita bread, and inevitably you’ll be tempted to shmear Falafel King’s other dipping options onto your sandwich. Try the foul, made with mashed fava beans, parsley, jalapeno peppers, olive oil, and lemon juice, or the mutabal, with smashed eggplant, tahini paste, lemon, and olive oil.
Operating out of a Kenner strip mall is Brazilian Market & Café, a Brazilian deli that is as authentic as it is tiny. The menu of breakfast, appetizers, meals, sandwiches, salads, and desserts is dotted mainly with simple dishes, like sirloin steak with one fried egg, grilled chicken breast, and grilled fish. These are all served with a heaping pile of golden fries (upgrade to fried yucca or fried banana to supplement all that savory meat with some sweets), a plate devoted to rice and beans, and a salad. But the café’s true main event is a Saturday spectacle; served once each week, the Feijoada is an immense draw for New Orleanians who are both part of and friends of the city’s Brazilian community. A thick black bean stew is a swimming pool of dried beef and pork morsels, like sausage, tail, hocks, ribs, and shoulder. Accompanied by rice, collard greens, farofa, and sliced oranges (with Brazilian flan in caramel sauce for dessert), this rib-sticking feast will be with you all week – until next Saturday’s stew, of course.