New Orleans is unlike any city in America. Its cultural diversity is woven into the food, the music, the architecture – even the local superstitions. It’s a sensory experience on all levels and there’s a story lurking around every corner.
Hey, you! Listen.
What’s that sound?
a) a light jazz band playing soulfully in the streets
b) you, weeping because NOLA food is so amazing and you’re not there right now or
c) my stomach growling
It’s safe to assume that no matter where I go — a big reason why I’m there is to eat.
Tasting your way through a destination is not only one of the most enjoyable aspects of travel, it’s also a great window into the culture, the history, and the spirit of a place. New Orleans is no exception to this. In fact, it may be the best way to experience the city.
I recently read a news article proclaiming NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) the number one destination for “foodie vacations.” The truth is that New Orleans has been top of my travel wish list in the entire world, and certainly my number one in the U.S…
So, what are the classic must-eats on your foodie vacation there?
Here’s the list of New Orleans eateries I wish someone had given me before I arrived.
Where to Eat in New Orleans
Café Du Monde
Why It’s Cool: Open air seating in the heart of the city, some of the best treats for your mouth in the world.
What To Get: Beignets and a cafe au lait. Extra points if you wear black (get ready to get powdered sugar everywhere.)
Why It’s Cool: open air market (with ceiling fans overheard) equally home to NOLA eats and NOLA treasures (souvenirs.) Don’t miss the wall of hot sauce (it looks to have every hot sauce ever created by man.)
What To Get: Louisiana hot sauce (extra points if you carry it around in your pocket or purse to restaurants,) Gator Dog if you are so inclined, pralines!
The Court of Two Sisters
Why It’s Cool: The wisteria covered courtyard is one of the most beautiful outdoor spaces I’ve ever seen. Delicious Creole/Cajun food for days, soothing jazzy tunes, and even made-to-order benedicts.
What To Get: Jazz Brunch! Crawfish and shrimp for days! Specialty salads, duck a l’orange.
Why It’s Cool: Tucked away from the French Quarter, a great Creole spot that’s one of the most unique places to dine I’ve ever been.
What To Get: Alligator cheesecake (just trust me,) Redfish, Carpetbagger steak, BBQ shrimp.
Why It’s Cool: This might be the most awesome restaurant ever, in the history of American restaurants. It is also the oldest operating restaurant in the country. There are literally rooms upon rooms of New Orleans history, stately beauty, and secret passageways that will have you yearning for the NOLA of yesteryear. In short, don’t miss it. Ask your waiter for the tour.
What To Get: Oysters Rockefeller (another thing invented here, the house recipe is a secret!), any entree, Baked Alaska for dessert.
Why It’s Cool: Classic, historic New Orleans. There’s even a Mardi Gras museum.
What To Get: The French 75, the signature cocktail of their bar. Eat? Of course, the Creole food and classics: turtle soup, crawfish etoufee, bananas foster.
Why It’s Cool: Another classic New Orleans spot. Why not try them all! Jackets required!
What To Get: Shrimp remoulade, anything with crab in the title, Cafe Brulot for dessert.
Why It’s Cool: Chargrilled and fried oysters
What To Get: Chargrilled oysters
Acme Oyster Bar
Why It’s Cool: Go for the great seafood and the great setting, if you didn’t already get your fill at Drago’s.
What To Get: Oysters on the half shell, more chargrilled oysters
Why It’s Cool: “pig-heavy, dressed up Cajun fare.” Enough said.
What To Get: The whole menu is great, but people swear by the grilled alligator. Also the Boudin. And make sure to get something with pork.
Why It’s Cool: Low-key French Quarter place, serves a “Taste Plate” which is a great introduction to NOLA specialities.
What To Get: They’re known for their jambalaya! Get it.
Why It’s Cool: It’s where the President dines in NOLA, Emeril used to be head chef here before he was cool, the food is bomb.
What To Get: turtle soup, 25 cent martinis (lunch only), bread pudding, really anything
Pictures (from top to bottom): Antoine’s, The French Market, The Court of Two Sisters
Drinks (Because what is NOLA without a cocktail in hand?)
The Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone
Why It’s Cool: Have you ever sat at a beautiful bar and had it rotate you around the room while sipping a beautiful cocktail? The ultimate.
What to Get: The Ramos Gin Fizz (it’s rumored it was created here), a Vieux Carre.
The Sazerac Bar at The Roosevelt Hotel
Why It’s Cool: It’s beautiful, awesome 1930s murals, you feel like you’ve stepped back in time, it’s where the Sazerac was invented.
What to Get: The Sazerac. Also, their Ramos Gin Fizz might be the best in town.
Why It’s Cool: Cozy spot with excellent mixologists
What to Get: Whatever is on special, or something made with their excellent bourbon whiskey collection.
The Spotted Cat
Why It’s Cool: Cited by nearly everyone as the must-stop jazz spot in town
What to Get: Doesn’t matter, just enjoy the jazz!
Why It’s Cool: The courtyard, the lit up fountains, great people-watching, home of the Hurricane!
What to Get: The Hurricane (duh!)
Why It’s Cool: Classic NOLA mixology, a local’s favorite
What to Get: Gunshop Fizz
Get: off the beaten nightlife path, check out the local Frenchman Art Market while you’re there.
Get: caught up in a flash mob or street dance party
Try not to get: hungover (I dare you.)
Best New Orleans Cheap Eats
Where to Eat on a Budget in NOLA
- Coop’s Place
- Fiorella’s Cafe (fried chicken!)
- Dat Dog
- Melba’s Po Boys
- Just fill up on more beignets
Other Things to Do in New Orleans, Besides Eat (If You Must):
- Visit the Garden District
- Take the historic St. Charles street car line
- Audubon Park (you can also picnic here!)
- Visit the Ninth Ward (respectfully, please)
- Visit Jackson Square + wander the French Quarter
- Check a calendar for a local festival (there are many.)
- Eat more beignets (I regret nothing.)
(See more suggestions via my favorite NOLA guidebook.)
I wish for you many days of happy Nawlins dining and room enough in your stomachs for more.
And may you even have the time of your life and a few #NOLAConfessions to share…like that time we took a photo in the mirror with our waiter Jeff at Antoine’s.
Also check out the map and list I’ve created on Pinterest (uses Foursquare, is awesome) of where to eat in New Orleans. It’s a quick fix resource for my favorite places in a city.
I have created boards for Santa Barbara and Barcelona as well. Follow along to be the first to see the additional cities!
Have you been to New Orleans? Or any place in the world just to eat?
Additional Reading for Your New Orleans Trip:
Eat Dat: A Culinary Guide to New Orleans
Where to Stay in New Orleans:
<< more food guides >>
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Jenny | A Thing For Wor(l)ds says
Such a good, extensive list!! NOLA is my #1 destination I’ve been dying to get to in the U.S. I think my stomach would explode from all their crazy cajun cuisine, but so worth it.
I’m particularly intrigued by alligator cheesecake (wtf??) and those 25 cent martinis at the Commander’s Palace.
Question–is eating in NOLA a lot cheaper than other major US cities? Or has it become so popular that prices are relatively similar? Just wondering how much to start saving before I eat my way into oblivion 🙂
Hahaha – girl, we’ve gotta prep your stomach before you take on NOLA. I bet there’s somewhere in SF that we can find gator! But probably not 25 cent martinis…shucks.
As for your question, it’s not that much cheaper to eat there (except that anywhere is cheaper than SF…hello $4 toast!) You won’t need more saved to eat there than what you’re used to in Spain (except for the free tapas in Granada.)
I can’t believe I’ve never been to NOLA either! I love this guide, you get right to the point. But how do you fit in all the great food spots in a short trip?? Too many options!
Haha it’s true! There are so, so many good options. My trip was only three days, but that’s twelve meals if you eat four times a day! 🙂
I created the Pinterest board with my ‘essentials.’ It’s for 24 Hours in NOLA, for the traveler with very little time 🙂
Michelle Rae says
Great list! I’ll pin just in case I ever get to make it back to New Orleans.
I hope you do – soon! 🙂
Lindsay @ Frugal Frolicker says
Aaaaaaand this is me bookmarking, pinning, tweeting, saving, salivating over this list. Been DYING to get to New Orleans, and when I eventually do make my hideously overdue long weekend trip there, I’m going to pull up this list and go all #fatasscentral on this town. Brilliant!
No better place to use that hashtag. I’ll join you. Haha!
I want to go to there.
You need to go. Like, yesterday.
Adrienne @ AdrienneAway says
MMmmm, such good food in NOLA!
THE BEST! 🙂 Glad you also enjoyed.
Nothing better than Cafe Du Monde! I don’t drink coffee and I was hesitant about the hot chocolate (we were there in January – cold) and it was surprisingly good! Heaven!
I am going to go ahead and make a confession: I’d go to Cafe Du Monde every day if I lived there. Dangerous.
Chanel | Cultural Xplorer says
OH MY GOSH! I love eating in NOLA! So much wonderful food that I too wrote about it! I have never heard of The Sazerac but I definitely want to try it! Should we plan a BH reunion trip to NOLA?
BH NOLA trip, yes please! Your first Sazerac is on me 🙂 Isn’t NOLA food the best? I want to read your post!
Paul (the Travelling Boomer) says
The quote at the beginning of your post says it all: New Orleans is completely unique. It’s probably my favourite U.S. city, though a bit expensive to visit often — and that’s certainly true of a few of the restaurants on your list. But there’s good food everywhere, and I’d go just for the jambalaya and crawfish etoufee.
Hey Paul, I totally agree with you! I’d go just for the crawfish anything! And certainly a few of the restaurants listed here are splurges, in more ways than one. Each is such a unique dining experience particular to NOLA that I couldn’t leave them off.
Too bad we only have so much time, money, and calories to spend! I could spend them all in NOLA and be perfectly happy.
The GypsyNesters says
Looks like you hit all the hot spots! We would add Central Grocery to the list, for the original, and best, muffuletta.
Ah, yes! The muffuletta is key! It was my full intention to get there…but as you can see, my hands (and stomach) were full. Next visit for sure. Thanks for chiming in 🙂
Ryan O'Rourke says
All I can say is: yum! I’ve always known that Louisiana had some unique cuisine, but wouldn’t have imagined that it was so eclectic. NOLA has been the American city I’ve most wanted to visit for a long, long time. Now I have several more reasons 🙂 Thanks for sharing, Anne.
Hope you get to go soon, Ryan! It really is all it’s cracked up to be, both as a city and a place to eat.
Sirott Stuart says
Daisy Dukes was my first taste of New Orleans the food was good and the bloody Mary’s were awesome – next I hit both Felix’s and Acme and if you’re an oyster lover it’s hard to choose between the two – but my absolute favorite was a restaurant called Pechi – 800 Magazine St. The oysters were awesome, the seafood was great and the desert were to die for – went to many other places and I’m not sure if you could find a bad meal in New Orleans
Anne Lowrey says
Agreed!! Need to add Pechi to my list for next trip. Thank you!
Mindi Hirsch says
Oh how I miss New Orleans! I want to eat and drink everything in this article!
Anne Lowrey says
Me too lol I want to go back!