Anyone who has been to New Orleans will know that while visiting, you eat until your stomach hurts. Then, you have a drink (might I suggest a Hurricane?) and then you eat some more.
Why is New Orleans called the crescent city, anyway? I don’t see what this has to do with pre-packaged ready to bake dinner rolls. (I’m kidding. And I’m really sorry for the corny joke.) In any case, I’d like to make a proposal for it to be re-dubbed the city of food.
Fearful of feeling like a beached whale? Too bad. It’s gonna happen, and you’re going to love every minute of it. Despite that growing feeling of fullness in your stomach, you won’t be able to resist having “just one more bite.”
Having grown up in New Orleans, I’m very familiar with this feeling. Spoonful after spoonful, I just keep eating until my plate is clean. I moved out over a decade ago, but whenever I go back, I rarely leave a plate unfinished.
If you’re uninitiated to the classic dishes of New Orleans, or just wondering what to eat on your visit, you’re in for a treat. I’ve compiled this list of my top five things to eat in New Orleans, along with some food photography for good measure. Please try not to lick your screen. (It’s unsanitary.)
Must-Eat #1: Seafood Gumbo
“What do we want? Gumbo! How do we want it? Now!”
Does anyone else remember that episode of The Proud Family, or is it just me?
I’m starting this list strong with my childhood favorite: seafood gumbo. If you only have time to eat one dish while in New Orleans, this is it. Open wide for a big spoonful of that hot, rich broth lovingly made from a roux. Big pieces of blue crab, gulf shrimp and other bits of seafood – like oysters – are often tossed in.
Or, try a variation with chicken and andouille sausage. Both are great options, if you ask me. Top it with a scoop of hot rice and… excuse me. I’m drooling. Nearly every restaurant in New Orleans will feature gumbo, so you have no excuse.
Where to eat it:
Must-Eat #2: Fried Seafood Platter
Fried seafood served on top of french fries. How can it be wrong if it feels so right?
Many of my childhood memories are attached to fried seafood platters. Countless times, my eyes would scan over the menu for a moment, wondering if I should try something new. Who was I kidding? Every single time, I’d go back to my tried and true: the fried shrimp platter.
If you’re at a joint that’s serving up fried shrimp, you’ll likely also find fried catfish and fried oysters on the menu. Hell, if it comes out of the Gulf, you can probably find it fried when in New Orleans.
You’ll leave feeling like you need to eat nothing but undressed salads for the next two months to compensate for the over-indulgence. But it’ll be oh-so-worth-it.
Where to eat it:
Must-Eat #3: Charbroiled Oysters
I have frequent, vivid dreams about this delicious dish. It is by far the New Orleans dish that I crave most often – mainly because it’s been impossible to find a good copy-cat outside of the city.
Take a dozen Gulf oysters, smother them in seasoned garlic butter, and throw them on the grill for a good cookin’. What you’ll have is one of the most decadent things you’ve ever tasted in your life: charbroiled oysters.
When they come off the grill, they are incredibly hot, still steaming when brought to your table. You’ll be tempted to dive in right away, but patience is a must. (Otherwise, you might burn your tongue biting into the center of the oyster!)
Have a few good sips of your drink while you wait for the oysters to cool. Your patience will pay off with a bite that’s tender, garlicky, and indescribably good. Plus, any time you order these babies, they come with a side of french bread, used for soaking up all of that residual garlic butter. Don’t leave a single drop in the shell – put that bread to good use!
Where to eat it:
Must-Eat #4: Po Boy
Alright, I have to get something off my chest: I’ve never photographed a traditional po boy. What you see pictured above is a fancy-pants po boy that was ordered from a hotel restaurant. Ordinarily, you will probably not see arugula and red cabbage on top of your sandwich. It’ll also be about two times larger than what I photographed above.
But hey, I’m working with the photos I already have in my library. Guess this means I have the perfect excuse to go back soon, huh?
With that out of the way… the po boy is another dish that you will be able to find in most New Orleans restaurants. Your seafood of choice (often fried), served on a french baguette and dressed with lettuce, tomato, and all the other fixings. Giant, delicious, and filling… it’s no wonder that the po boy is the most popular sandwich of the Crescent City.
Where to eat it:
Must-Eat #5: Beignets
Last but certainly not least. I give you the beignet: a classic treat that can be eaten for breakfast or dessert. (Or any of the meals in between, for that matter.) It’s an airy fried pastry that’s piled with a mountain of powdered sugar, and it’s almost too good to be real.
Nothing screams “New Orleans” to me more than ordering up some beignets at Cafe du Monde, in the heart of the French Quarter. There’s something magical about the covered outdoor seating, where you can people watch while sipping a cafe au lait. Cute pigeons hop around underneath the tables, hoping to get a crumb of fried pastry here and there. Live music can often be heard from your seat. All of these aspects come together to make an unforgettable dining experience that screams, “Only in NOLA.”
There’s also a certain amusement in trying to eat a beignet without spraying the powdered sugar everywhere. The biggest rookie mistake? Wearing black to Cafe du Monde. Just trust me.
Where to eat it:
- Cafe du Monde. Don’t miss it. I recommend going here for the overall experience, history and location right in the heart of the French Quarter.
Or, get a taste of Cafe du Monde at home with their beignet mix or chicory coffee.
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This post contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase a product using my link, I receive a small commission. All opinions are my own.
Have you been to New Orleans, or are you planning on visiting soon? What are you going to eat while you’re there?
Let me know in the comments below!
Nice, love the beignets 🙂 – keep up the good work! And congrats on launching the blog – it looks lovely.
A smile from a fellow international blogging day class of 19 🙂
Happy International Start a Blog Day, Ioana. Cheers, thank you and congrats to you as well 🙂
The beignets are truly heavenly and I’m wishing I had some right now!
O my gosh, all this food looks so yummy! Po boys are my favorite along with beignets! Great post! I hope you have an awesome week, and your blog is so cute!!
Thanks for stopping by, Kate! HOW good are beignets? I am so sad I can’t seem to find even a half-decent imitation in Los Angeles. Guess I’ll just have to open the beignet shop myself…