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New Orleans is one of the great culinary cities in the United States. We have been known to fly in for the weekend to just go eat, especially the fried chicken at Willie Mae’s Scotch House.
Alicia of the blog Miles Less Traveled shares her favorite places to eat in New Orleans.
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You know when you’ve arrived in New Orleans. People always say things about the city, things like “there is a culture all its own, here” or “it’s like stepping into another country”. And to some degree they’re right, it is truly different than anywhere else you’ll visit in the U.S. When you get there, you know immediately that there is nowhere else you could be other than NOLA.
The culture here is unique, certainly—the norm here is to throw a parade for a funeral—and the locals are some of the very best a traveler can meet, but it is the food that keeps me coming backto the city.
What started as a French territory during colonization was enhanced by the African, Caribbean, and Spanish influences that came with it. Throw in the Southern foundation, mix in Creole and Cajun culture, and you’ve got some of the best food known to the culinary world that you can’t find anywhere else–don’t judge by your local cajun or creole food, it is different here.
After 3 visits, I’ve put together the short list of where to eat the best of the best in the city from a tourists perspective. These are the well-known, tourist hot-spots that actually stand up to the hype. The important thing to remember when eating your way through NOLA is that there is no wrong way to do it. Show up hungry, ask around–people here are VERY friendly–wander, and pop in everywhere for a bite. You’ll rarely be disappointed with any food that passes your lips in this fine city.
Most of these are pretty popular with locals and visitors alike, meaning you can expect to wait in line to get into them. This can usually be avoided by going at off times or heading in on bad weather days, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Sandwiches and Po’ Boys
Po’ Boys really are different here than anywhere else you’ve had them before. It might seem simple to fry some meat or fish and pop it on bread, but it’s an art form that you can not fully appreciate until you visit New Orleans. Trust me, this is not just a sandwich. It’s more of transcendence into what a sandwich could be.
The NOLA po’boy is what happens when you take fresh, delicious protein, dip it in a heavily seasoned batter, and pile it high with sliced tomato, lettuce, before laying it to rest between soft, pillowy french bread and smothering it in a decadent sauce. It may sound like I’m being dramatic, but come back to me once you’ve had a proper Po’ Boy and tell me something didn’t change for you on a deep personal level.
Two spots for great Po’ Boys:
- Parkway Bakery, 538 Hagan Avenue New Orleans, LA 70119
- Verdi Marte, 1201 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70116
Muffaletta’s are a whole different animal and actually pre-date Po’ Boys in terms of New Orleans food. They originated as cheap food for Italian immigrants and have carried on for over 100 years since.
A muffaletta has layers of mortadella, salami, ham, and provolone stacked into a nice little, mouth-watering pile. The meats are topped with a marinated olive salad–chunks of crispy celery, cubed carrots, and oily olives–and all of it lives happily together on a moon-shaped seeded Italian bread. Even non-olive lovers–not judging but kind of judging–tend to love these sandwiches
Find the classic muffaletta here:
- Central Grocery, 923 Decatur St., New Orleans, LA 70116
Bars (with food)
There are so many bars in New Orleans. Homey, divey, some of them downright filthy, but they are also where you can potentially have some of the most fun nights of your life, watch incredible musical performances, and meet all of your new NOLA friends.
Some of the bars have food and some of them don’t. Some I wouldn’t recommend eating at, but most of it is probably pretty good. If you want to head somewhere with a great atmosphere, food, and a big, cheap bar, here’s the spot for you.
- Bayou Beer Garden, 26 N Jefferson Davis Pkwy, New Orleans, LA 70119
The fine dining scene in New Orleans is, in a word, superb. The restaurants are defining not just how the city eats but how the country does, always innovative and on the edge, yet classic and elegant.
Some have been open for well over a century and require a jacket to sit, some are run by millennial-aged chefs wearing ripped jeans in redone warehouses. There is so much to eat and explore over dinners here, notably at the below spots.
- Commander’s Palace, 1403 Washington Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130
- Pesche, 800 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130
- Coquette, 2800 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115
Coffee Shops and Breakfast
The South arguably does breakfast better than anywhere else in the U.S. There is so much comfort and coziness in a home-cooked Southern breakfast. New Orleans, as usual, takes it one step further.
But it’s not all biscuits and gravy in this Southern city. I’d be remiss if I did not mention the one item that most people know out of New Orleans food long before they ever step foot in the city: beignets. The deep fried dough is almost unidentifiable underneath the mounds of powdered sugar it comes in and is best eaten alongside a hot, fresh cup of chicory roasted coffee outside the shop.
- Ruby Red Slipper, 200 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130
- Café Du Monde, 800 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116
General Tips for the New Orleans food scene
-If visiting during crawfish season, be sure to find a spot for it! The best crawfish boils are in someone’s backyard, but providing that doesn’t come up for you—don’t discount it, people here are super warm and welcoming—all of the restaurants will be featuring it.
- Some of the best food I’ve eaten in New Orleans was at Saints tailgates. NOLA takes it’s football very seriously in classic New Orleans style. The tailgates can start on Friday night for a Sunday game, with people sleeping in their back seats or the beds of pickup trucks. Don’t be afraid to show up and walk around trying to make new friends. You may be surprised by how easily you’ll integrate into a tailgate with a full pig roasting on a spit.
- Reservations are important for the places that take them. Restaurants like Commander’s Palace might need to be booked way in advance to ensure you get a table.
About The Author:
Alicia Raeburn is a travel and food blogger. When she’s not writing, she chases her passions for running, hiking, and all outdoor activities while traveling around the world. Alicia Raeburn is one half of the Miles Less Traveled duo, a blog focused on local eats and adventures around the world. You can also find them on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.
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