Whether you go down to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, French Quarter Fest, or just a vacation with family or friends, here are the things that you must eat.
I love food. (That's why I started a food blog.) But more importantly, I love GOOD food. New Orleans is home to some of the best food in the country! When we go to visit my in-laws, we always go back to our favorite spots - but we also love to check out the fun new spots that keep popping up.
#1. Seafood Gumbo
Seafood Gumbo: Gumbo is a big bowl of heaven. A heavenly roux, mixed with fresh shrimp and crab meat. It is a must. (I have a great recipe here - in case you want to try making it yourself!) If you are allergic to seafood, try a bowl of chicken and sausage gumbo - you won't regret it. (We hardly ever get Chicken and Sausage Gumbo at a restaurant anymore because I make it at home all the time!) Our favorite place to get gumbo is Mandina's. Mandina's is an Italian restaurant, but you can't beat their gumbo and fried seafood platters.
#2. A Dressed Fried Shrimp Po-Boy
A Dressed Fried Shrimp Po-Boy: A Po-Boy is a sandwich unlike any you have ever had before. A crunchy piece of french bread, a layer of mayonnaise, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and overflowing with little crispy shrimp. Our favorite place to get a Po-Boy is the classic, Parkway Tavern and Bakery. Parkway has been around FOREVER and the line will be out the door. It is so worth the wait. We usually get one small shrimp po-boy and one small roast beef po-boy and share them. A side of sweet potato fries or fried pickles will complete your meal. (Honorable mentions to fried oyster po-boys and roast duck po-boys, also pictured here.)
#3. Chargrilled Oysters
Chargrilled Oysters: Chargrilled oysters are one of my favorite foods now. There are so many different variations, but the classic oyster with some salt, spices, butter, and baked on cheese is the way to go. I love the chargrilled oysters at Acme Oyster House (there will be a long line so plan ahead and get there early!) Another really great place to get chargrilled oysters is Drago's.
Beignets: Although a really hard word to spell, a beignet is a must on EVERY trip to New Orleans. Beignets are light and fluffy - crispy on the outside and soft and pillowy on the inside. Coat them in powdered sugar and eat while warm - they are amazing. You can eat beignets at any time of the day, breakfast (with a Chicory Cafe au Lait), an afternoon snack, or a late-night treat. Cafe du Monde is "the place" to get them, but Cafe Beignet is also really good!
#5. Doberge Cake
Doberge Cake: This one is a little different and isn't on most "must-try" lists, but it is one of my favorite New Orleans treats. A doberge cake is a layered cake with so many thin layers, alternating with frosting. My favorites are the chocolate frosted with vanilla cake and the lemon with lemon. It is a unique cake, but oh so good. Our favorite place to get them is "across the lake" in Mandeville, at the Mandeville Bake Shop.
My pictures of a doberge cake are not the best quality, which is crazy because I love it so much. Here's a link to Southern Living's recipe so you can get a better idea.
#6. Barbecue Shrimp
Barbecue Shrimp: While I do have numbers on this list, there really is no reason why barbecue shrimp should not be at the top of your list. It is messy, buttery, and delicious. You might even get a bib to wear while eating! This is at Mr. B's Bistro and everything there was amazing.
#7. A Muffuletta
A Muffuletta: Ok, so I am going to be flat out honest here and say that I personally don't like muffulettas, but I don't like olives much. If you like olives, you must get a muffuletta! What is in a muffuletta? A muffuletta is a big, crunchy roll that is stuffed with salami, ham, swiss cheese, provolone, mortadella, and the famous olive salad. We got these at Stein's Deli on Magazine Street. They also have a ton of other sandwiches for my fellow olive haters 😉
#8. A Sno-Ball
A Sno-ball: A sno-ball is a cone or cup of shaved ice - distinguishing it from a snow CONE, which is crushed ice. A sno-ball has the texture of soft, fluffy snow and is drizzled with a flavored cane syrup of your choosing. Michael loves a creamy sno-ball, topped with flavored a syrup mixed with evaporated milk. You can find a good snoball at Hansen's Sno Bliz.
#9. A Plate of Fried Seafood
A Plate of Fried Seafood: The best fried seafood plate is a plate of catfish, oysters, and shrimp. Just do yourself a favor and share a plate of seafood with a friend. We usually get a plate of fried seafood to share and a cup (or bowl) of seafood gumbo. Mandina's has awesome fried seafood, but so do most places around town.
#10. A Crawfish Boil
Get yourself to a Crawfish Boil: This one would be higher on the list, but it is a seasonal thing so I can't insist that you go to one 😉 Boiled crawfish is an experience; a little bit of spice and a whole lot of fun. That's what New Orleans is all about! (Crawfish season can last anywhere from November to July, but the time of year to find the very best crawfish is in the spring and early summer, from late February through May. Typically crawfish season will start around the same time as Mardi Gras.)
Some honorable mentions are:
- Shrimp and Tasso Henican, Bread Pudding Souffle, or Bananas Foster at Commander's Palace.
- A hand grenade from anywhere on Bourbon Street, a hurricane from Pat O'Briens.
- Tasso Fried Rice from the Redfish Grill.
- Fried Chicken at Raising Cane's. If you can't get to Raising Cane's, I have a great recipe for homemade Raising Cane's dipping sauce.
If you don't like to cook or don't have a book of family recipes to cook from, I would also try:
- Bread Pudding
- Crawfish Etouffee
- Crawfish and Tasso
- Crawfish Ravioli
- Red Beans & Rice
- Boudin Balls
- Crawfish Macaroni and Cheese
- Shrimp and Grits
We can make all of these things at home, so the allure is not really as big to get it in New Orleans. Plus, I think the versions - especially Chicken and Sausage Gumbo and Seafood Gumbo - that we make at home are better than some restaurants 😉
So, kick back, throw on some stretchy pants, grab a beer, and eat your heart out in one of the greatest cities in the world!