If you’re headed to the Crescent City for a visit, there’s a good chance you’ll want to check out some of the major sites. There are about three hundred years of them, so that’s totally understandable and admirable. But you’ll probably also get hungry at some point, and the good thing is that the food in New Orleans is everything it’s cracked up to be and more. Here are some of the very finest things for you to try, should you be nearby these famed local landmarks.
The Mercedes-Benz Superdome: any of the seafood
Central Business District
You can’t go wrong with the seafood selection here at the hands of Chef Brian Landry, but you absolutely must pair it with their phenomenal duck poppers loaded with jalapeño and bacon.
Crescent City Connection: a banh mi
These twin bridges spanning the mighty Mississippi are quite a sight. And if you happen to find yourself driving on one of them (particularly headed to the West Bank), a stop at the HKM is a must for amazing produce, giant vats of kimchi, and, naturally, their house-made banh mi sandwich which costs less than four bucks. And grab some roasted duck for the road, because who doesn’t love roasted duck?
Lee Circle: citrus-glazed jumbo shrimp with Cajun grain rice, bacon, and almonds
Central Business District
It’s unclear how long this traffic roundabout (formerly Tivoli Circle) will be named after General Lee, but the fact still stands that there are too many amazing restaurants in the CBD to even count. Donald Link’s flagship is a perennial favorite, though, and you should go there for the amazing, elegant Southern fare.
Audubon Park: smoked, fried soft-shell crabs (in season)
This joint is a heralded favorite of the well-heeled Uptown set, the kind that like to order Jeroboam-sized bottles of wine on the corporate card and make sure everyone notices. But don’t let the crowd fool you; Clancy’s is a favorite for good reasons, not the least of which is a plate of smoky fried soft shells that have no equal in the Big Easy.
French Market: burger with veggies on an English muffin
Oh, so you thought we’d go with a muffaletta at the Central Grocery here, didn’t you? Well, that’s a classic, but Chef Matthew Kopfler’s pop-up at Molly’s is still one of the best edible secrets in town. The menu changes seasonally, of course, but the burger with veggies on an English muffin is a clear winner every time.
Frenchmen St: grilled yellowtail neck
Oddly for a neighborhood as lauded as the Marigny, there aren’t a ton of “destination restaurants” (certainly not compared to the Quarter). But if you’re having a night out on Frenchmen, Yuki offers some surprisingly refined Izakaya-style fare along with their live music, excellent fuel for what will clearly be a long and fun night.
Jackson Square: beignets and cafe au lait at CDM, and eggs Sardou at Tableau
TIE: Cafe du Monde (address and info) and Tableau (address and info)
This is a seriously difficult call, but it’s similarly difficult to resist the siren song of hot beignets at Cafe du Monde, particularly when paired with milky coffee spiked with chicory. However, there’s also the killer Creole brunch menu at Tableau, where you can dine on the balcony overlooking the square like the regent you are. Both are wonderful enough that choosing isn’t an option.
Armstrong Park: seafood gumbo
There are obviously too many fantastic restaurants in the vicinity of Armstrong Park to even list, but should you find yourself in the Treme, the gumbo at Li'l Dizzy’s is a city-wide favorite.
City Park: fried P&J oysters with pickled blue cheese salad and nuoc cham mayo
It’s difficult to suggest anything but Bud’s Broiler when you’re near the park, but if anyone’s gonna best those grease bombs with hickory sauce, it’s Michael Gulotta. There are myriad fried oyster dishes in this city, but the Fried P&J oysters with pickled bleu cheese salad and nuoc cham mayo is a masterful combo of Asian and Gulf Coast influence, exemplifying what makes MoPho so great.
Bourbon St: the Galatoire's goute
Forget the horrible pizza and fried chicken losers on Bourbon. You’re better than that. If you’re dining on one of the most famous streets in NOLA, you need to hit Galatoire’s for the celebrated “goute,” a classic Creole combo of shrimp remoulade, Crabmeat Maison, and oysters en brochette (yes, those are fried oysters wrapped in bacon). Everything else on the menu is just fine, fine gravy.
Crescent Park: a slice and whatever special pasta's on the menu
It took two frustrated Yankee Tulane grads to finally bring true NYC-style slices to the Big Easy, and thank goodness for those wonderful gents. Their authentic, foldable slices are the real deal, but don’t miss out on the house-made pastas, one of the best dining steals around, which would easily cost twice as much at a joint with white tablecloths instead of a Bywater slice shop.
The New Orleans Museum of Art: escargot
It’s weird to think that in a city with such a storied French history, there are so few continental-style French eateries around. But at least we have Cafe Degas and its excellently buttery snails, perfect for sopping up with a crusty baguette.
The National WWII Museum: house-made potato gnocchi with blue crab and black truffles
Central Business District
Chef John Besh has become one of the most notable cooks in NOLA, a lot which has to do with his restaurant business savvy (not to mention that TV-perfect smile), but also with his actual skill in the kitchen. You can and should find this plainly evident in the famed crab and truffle gnocchi at his flagship, Restaurant August.
Lafayette Cemetery No. 1: shrimp and tasso Henican
Should you find yourself in the Garden District admiring the old live oaks and the famous cemeteries, you’d be a fool not to stop into Commander’s for a bite, especially when it comes to one of their most brilliant, complex, and refined dishes, Shrimp Henican. Just make sure to wear a jacket (or cocktail attire), or they WILL turn you away at the door. It’s that kind of classy.
Fair Grounds: the Frenchuletta
This Italian-Creole spot is famed for serving up pre-Jazz Fest cocktails and post-race beers, but don’t ignore the menu, which includes a heart-stopping muffaletta served on toasted garlic bread, the kind of sandwich that would make your cardiologist wet himself. Totally worth it.
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY): boiled crawfish, crabs, and shrimp
If you need just one last taste of NOLA before heading to your next destination, consider hitting this joint in Kenner before you fly for boiled crawfish, crabs, and shrimp.
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Scott Gold is a writer in New Orleans who could spend and entire day and an entire paycheck at the Hong Kong Market. Follow him on Twitter: @scottgold
1. Borgne601 Loyola Ave, New Orleans
2. Hong Kong Supermarket925 Behrman Hwy, Gretna
3. Herbsaint Bar and Restaurant701 Saint Charles Ave, New Orleans
4. Clancy's6100 Annunciation St, New Orleans
5. Molly's at the Market1107 Decatur St, New Orleans
6. Yuki Izakaya525 Frenchmen St, New Orleans
7. Café Du Monde800 Decatur St, New Orleans
8. Tableau616 Saint Peter St, New Orleans
9. Lil Dizzy's Cafe1500 Esplanade Ave, New Orleans
10. MoPho514 City Park Ave, New Orleans
11. Galatoire's209 Bourbon St, New Orleans
12. Pizza Delicious617 Piety St, New Orleans
13. Cafe Degas3127 Esplanade Ave, New Orleans
14. Restaurant August301 Tchoupitoulas St, New Orleans
15. Liuzza's By The Track1518 N Lopez St, New Orleans
16. Fisherman's Cove3201 Williams Blvd, Kenner
17. Commander's Palace1403 Washington Ave, New Orleans
Named after a lake on the coast of Louisiana, Borgne serves up inspired seafood that does not disappoint. Stop by during happy hour (3-6pm) for half-price beer, wines by the glass, and bar food specials.
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.
James Beard award-winning Herbsaint is the flagship restaurant of Chef Donald Link, who gained notoriety for some of his other restaurants such as Cochon Butcher and Pêche. This fine-dining establishment located in the Warehouse district mixes French and Italian flavors into its Southern dishes. Its selection of small plates create the perfect opportunity for sharing, and the elegant atmosphere paired with the impeccable service will have you coming back to try the whole menu.
This former po-boy joint plays host to a classed up crowd eager to dine on cajun favorites like gumbo, crab salad, and turtle soup, in a white tablecloth setting. The crowd can veer toward the ritzy, but rest assured that sticky favorites like lemon icebox pie and peppermint ice cream -- served year round -- will make a child out of everyone.
This French Quarter bar has all the makings of a divey Irish pub, plus so much more. Molly's is known for its frozen Irish coffee, an alcohol-laden coffee milkshake that's decidedly better than regular Irish coffee. It's the perfect place to day drink in NOLA as you watch the Decatur Street wildness ride past you.
Yuki may be small and loud, but they dole out some of the best Japanese small plates in the city, including yakitori, salmon sashimi w/natto, and more.
Originally established in 1862, Café Du Monde is the place to go for a quintessential New Orleans pick-me-up in the form of a beignet and cafe au lait. The patio, marked by a striped green-and-white awning, is a landmark in itself and the perfect place for people-watching in the French Quarter. The café gets busy during peak lunch and dinner hours, but its 24-seven schedule allows for plenty of opportunities to stop by, whether it's for a late-night sugar fix or an early-morning breakfast. Take-out orders can be placed through a quick-serve window, just be sure to take extra napkins -- those sugar-coated beignets are messy.
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.
This is a perfect spot for a variety of NOLA cuisine. They do a killer fried chicken, but you'd be advised to also try their bread pudding, gumbo, and catfish.
This Mid-City eatery is run by former chef from John Besh's August, and the quality is apparent. It combines the flavors of the Gulf with the flavors of Vietnam making for a fresh exploration into classic Vietnamese dishes. The drink program is just as eclectic as the eats, with house cocktails and spiked boba teas. The space feels modern and trendy for a strip mall spot, with a blue and orange color palette and wooden accents. On Saturdays, they roast a full pig, meaning you should probably cancel your other weekend plans.
Established in 1905, Galatoire’s has remained a Bourbon Street bulwark of French Creole cuisine. The restaurant blends tradition with curiosity as it juxtaposes gumbo, shrimp remoulade, and oysters Rockefeller with deep-fried zucchini sticks, (which you’re meant to plunge into a mix of Tabasco sauce and powdered sugar) and duck crepes with homemade Boursin cheese, Port-cherry reduction, and pistachios. Galatoire’s keeps things elegant with its forest green walls, lace curtains, and mirrored walls, a glimpse into a past worthy of a Faulkner novel.
Located on Bywater's Piety Street, this New York-style slice shop was started by two Long Island guys who, surprisingly, had never made pizza before. The menu incorporates local produce and features daily pizza specials like an Italian sausage pie with caramelized onions and peppers.
A romantic bistro by the Fairgrounds, Cafe Degas offers lovely interpretations of classic French cuisine. The restaurant takes its name from the Impressionist painter who once lived down the street. Dine in their al fresco space on Escargot Bourguignons , moule frites, and nicoise salads. Degas also offers rotating daily lunch and dinner specials based on what's fresh and in season.
Grab your nicest suit or cocktail dress and head to this Central Business District establishment for an elegant night out for fine dining. Chef Josh Besh gained national fame from his appearances on Food Network and Bravo, but this flagship restaurant put him on the culinary map in New Orleans. Try the famed gnocchi with blue crab and black truffles, but only after you pick the perfect glass or bottle from the restaurant's extensive wine list. If you want the most complete (and expensive) culinary experience, opt for the prix fixe degustation meal.
Situated inside a shabby corner house in Fairgrounds, this homey neighborhood joint is serving up classic New Orleans dishes like gumbo, fried catfish, oysters, and po-boys, specializing in a BBQ fried shrimp po-boy that's a local favorite. The fresh, crispy shrimp are lightly battered and well-seasoned before being stuffed into a homemade French-bread pistolette.
Doing business for more than 30yrs, Fisherman's Cove is top-notch when it comes to ordering the freshest seafood.
This notable New Orleans spot offers refined Creole fare in a historic setting. The Garden District landmark has been around since 1893 and has since won six James Beard Foundation awards, in part due to its seamless execution of its "dirt to plate within 100 miles" policy, which strives for 90% of ingredients to come from within 100 miles of the back door. Come in for inspired (and environmentally-friendly!) offerings like cypress smoked Muscovy duck and shrimp and pork belly carbonara.