On our trip to New Orleans, we did a great deal of eating. There are just so many iconic foods, flavors and places to try. Here is a list of my favorite bites from the Big Easy. *we were staying the French Quarter, so these restaurants are all walkable to that area
Beignets & Iced Coffee at Cafe Beignet
While Cafe du Monde is the famous beignet destination to tourists, every local that I talked to told us to go to Cafe Beignet. And you never argue with the locals. Not only did we avoid the crazy crowds at Cafe du Monde, but we had some truly delicious beignets. Plus, it’s endorsed by Alton Brown and was on the Food Network’s Best Thing I Ever Ate.
We actually went twice. For around $3 you get 3 large, fresh, hot beignets. Don’t know what a beignet is? People often describe it as a doughnut, but I’m not sure that’s an accurate description. Yes, it’s fried dough, but it’s so light and airy. It’s almost like an unglazed, krispy kreme doughnut, but not as sweet, and with a crunchier exterior and covered in powder sugar. Want one yet? I thought so.
Cajun Fried Chicken (with Rabbit Jambalaya & Coleslaw) at Coop’s Place
Guys. I’m so glad we stumbled on this hole in the wall restaurant. If you’re looking for a fancy dining experience, then for the love of god, do not go here. However, if you want to experience some amazing food and eat where the local eat (you know you do) then come to Coops.
We were told about this place from a cashier at a gift shop and she told us to order the fried chicken. Now, the fried chicken was good. But the rabbit jambalaya was the best. I’ve never had rabbit before and I didn’t think I would like it. But when in Rome, right? It was hands down the best thing I had during our trip.
Muffulettas at Majoria’s Commerce Restaurant
So a Muffuletta is basically a hot italian sub with an olive relish. Sounds good right? It’s tangy, a little spicy and just plain good. We had ours at Majoria’s, which is a fantastic little deli off Canal. It’s not on the touristy side of the street and there were a number of cops eating in there when we went. Rule #1: if you see a cop eating somewhere, you eat there too. They always know the best places.
I had wanted to try a place down by the french market, Central Grocery, but we didn’t end up making it down there for lunch. They are not open for dinner, but if you’re in the area for lunch, let me know how they are!
Alligator Po’Boys & Pimms at Napoleon House
Napoleon House is also famous for their muffulettas, but we went there for their Pimm’s. Have you had Pimm’s before? It’s an English gin based drink that is usually served with cucumber, among other things. Ivan had the regular cucumber version while I opted for the strawberry. We had muffulettas for lunch, so we decided to go with the grilled alligator sausage po’boy. Like with the rabbit, this was my first experience eating alligator. Surprise, surprise, it was damn good. Po’Boy’s are a must in New Orleans, you will literally see them on every restaurant menu. They are large sandwiches (generally featuring fried seafood) served on a french baguette like bun. Oh, Napoleon House was also on Best Bars in America. So there’s that.
Napoleon House is a fun place, the walls are absolutely covered in portraits on the infamous Frenchman. We sat outside in the courtyard (which I highly recommend!) so unfortunately I wasn’t able to get any pictures of the portraits.
Red Beans & Rice at Cafe Pontalba
On our first night in New Orleans we ventured down to Cafe Pontalba. It’s right on the edge of Jackson Square and was an easy walk from our hotel. I read somewhere that it’s tradition in New Orleans to eat red beans and rice on Mondays. I guess it was the day that the ladies of the house did their laundry, so they put big pots of red beans and rice on the stove to simmer away all day.
This was our first meal in New Orleans and it was really fantastic. We also had cajun fried shrimp and gumbo, which I wasn’t super impressed with. That may have been just because I’m not a shrimp fan, but I don’t know. I can vouch for the red beans and rice though.
Classic Gumbo at ?
We also had gumbo at a few places, but I wasn’t terribly impressed with the gumbo at those restaurants… From what I was told, if you have a craving for gumbo, check out the Gumbo Shop. We didn’t have time to make it over there, but hopefully we will next time.
Lastly, No matter where you eat, make sure you embrace the local dishes and flavors. Try and branch out and give new things a try. I do not particularly like seafood, but I tried cajun fried shrimp, shrimp gumbo and alligator while we were there. I also had my first taste of rabbit. As always when traveling, ask local where to eat and check online reviews to find the best grub. Don’t get stuck at the overpriced tourist places; the food is never as good and it’s generally tempered down to please a wide range of palettes. And for the love of god, do not eat a chain! Embrace the local food!