As you know from my previous post, I loved New Orleans. The crescent city has beautiful architecture, a great nightlife and rich culture. There is so much to do and see in New Orleans, that it quickly captured my heart. But most of all, it has amazing food! The New Orleans food scene is a mix between Southern comfort food, creole and Cajun Louisiana cooking and multicultural culinary excellence.
The melting pot of cultures that is New Orleans has produced some amazing dishes. There is a reason it’s pronounced New ORleans, not New OrLEANS 😉 One of my tour guides joked that tourists put on a pound a day there. Of course, I did my best to try all the iconic foods of New Orleans and let you know exactly which dishes are the best things to eat in New Orleans:
Devour a Po’Boy
Po’boy is so much more than just a sandwich. They were originally known as “oyster loave”, and filled with fried oysters. As the story goes, the name po’boy comes from “poor boy”. During the 1920s streetcar strike one Louisiana restaurant started serving free sandwiches to the strikers. In the Louisiana accent, poor boy becomes po’boy.
Po’boys come with all kinds of fillings. There are roast beef po’boys, boudin sausage po’boys, fried oyster po’boys and other seafood po’boys. Whatever your fancy, there is a po’boy for you. A po’boy is always made with New Orleans style French bread (which isn’t nearly as good as actual French bread imo) and often dressed with tomato, lettuce, pickles and sauce. The sauce varies depending on the filling.
I generally don’t eat meat or seafood, but luckily there are also vegan and vegetarian po’boys these days. I tried the delicious eggplant Po’Boy at Seed, a great plant based restaurant in New Orleans.
Dive into some Gumbo
Another staple of Louisiana cuisine is gumbo. It’s made from local ingredients such as tomato, okra and bell pepper. Traditional gumbo has seafood and sausage and often rice mixed in. All this is stewed into a delicious, spicy goodness. Gumbo is perfect comfort food.
The gumbo I tried wasn’t exactly traditional, as it was a vegan one from Meals From the Heart Cafe at the French Market. This little restaurant has some amazing healthy vegan versions of New Orleans classics, including crawfish.
Get your hands dirty at a Crawfish Boil
If you only do or eat one thing in New Orleans, let it be a real crawfish boil. Crawfish are pretty much the most popular ingredient in New Orleans. You’ll find crawfish dishes everywhere, from pasta to po’boys to Lula’s amazing crawfish mac n cheese. Not only do crawfish taste like a delicious mix between lobster and shrimp, they look pretty cute too. The traditional way to cook crawfish is to boil it with cajun seasoning lemon, onion, garlic, sausage, corn and potato. The result is briny, spicy and awesome!
Although I mainly eat vegan and vegetarian, I do sometimes makes exceptions for iconic local dishes. To me, it’s a vital cultural experience when traveling. And I am so glad I made one such exception for crawfish.
Boiled crawfish is served all around the city, but the best way to experience it is with a fresh boil. In a traditional crawfish boil, the seafood is spread over a table and everyone just digs in. Unfortunately, I had to settle for the next best thing. Every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday there’s a big tub of boiled crawfish behind Bayou Beer Garden. Grab a steaming box, take it into the bar, order a beer and start peeling those crawfish. It’s messy, but so worth it!
Indulge in Soulfood
Aside from Cajun and creole dishes, there’s also a lot of classic southern food in New Orleans. You can find good BBQ and soul food places throughout the city. One of my favorite things were the BBQ trucks. These are pick up trucks with a grill or two on the back that people park outside big venues. You can sometimes find them on Frenchman street or in Uptown at night.
Of course, I tried the famous vegan soul food place Sweet Soulfood. But to be honest, I found it pretty bland and underwhelming. The best food I had was at Cochon Butcher, a hip little bistro close to the WWII museum. Their mac n cheese was the best I’ve ever had and I still dream of that gooey, cheesy, crispy goodness! The roasted brussels sprouts and cornbread were lovely too. And according to my friends, the fried chicken is amazing.
Taste some Beignets
After all those hearty meals, you’re probably craving something sweet. Don’t worry, New Orleans has you covered. Real sweet tooths should try pralines (basically pure sugar), Magnolia Sugar and Spice has samples and an amazing hot sauce tasting bar. It’s really good fun.
But the best dessert (or mid day snack) in New Orleans are beignets. These are soft, chewy pillows of fried dough sprinkled with a very liberal amount of powdered sugar. they are one of the most iconic things to eat in New Orleans. The most famous place to eat beignets is Cafe du Monde. At 3 for 3 dollars, they’re a great deal, but you’ll probably have to wait in line. I personally prefer the ones from Cafe Beignet.
Bonus: drink all the drinks
New Orleans doesn’t just have amazing food, it has the drinks to go with it. This is a city that parties hard and loves to get wild. There’s the signature hurricane cocktail and the black-out inducing handgrenade. Frozen daiquiris help you beat the Louisiana heat. If you don’t like sugary cocktails, try the local Abita beer, it’s great. The best way to recover from all that drinking is with a spicy creole Bloody Mary. My favorite is served at the Gumbo Shop, but I found their gumbo disappointing.
The diverse culinary influences and high-quality ingredients make New Orleans a foodie heaven. If you’re a fan of seafood, stiff drinks and sweet deserts, you will love it here. But even for vegans and vegetarians, there are plenty delicious things to eat in New Orleans.
Of course, there is so much more to taste around the city! What were your favorite dishes you ate in the Big Easy? Let me know in the comments and share this post on social media.