Home Food Foods To Try In New Orleans – A Foodie Guide To The French Quarter

Foods To Try In New Orleans – A Foodie Guide To The French Quarter

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Jazz, iconic architecture, colour and skyscrapers - welcome to New Orleans!
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I delve into the world of beignets, po’ boys, gumbo, mufulettas and crawfish and tell you about all the amazing foods to try in New Orleans – one of the food capitals of the world!

Last month I jetted off to New Orleans, Louisiana for a week of unforgettable food experiences. I was there to shoot a video for Lonely Planet and Three, all about the city’s food scene. I’ve always found the best way to get to know a place is by delving into the cuisine – it’s totally intertwined with the history and culture of a place. It would be hard to find somewhere that this is truer of than New Orleans… or N’awlins as the locals pronounced it. It’s a multi-cultural melting pot with French, Southern, Cajun, Creole, Caribbean, African, and Spanish influences creating a wonderfully diverse menu. Plus, it’s in a great location for seafood and shellfish.

Although the primary purpose for my visit was to munch my way around the region, I had plenty of other reasons to be excited. New Orleans was somewhere I’d grown up dreaming of visiting. I adore music and was desperate to visit some of the famous jazz clubs. I’d seen endless pictures of the colourful streets and beautiful architecture, plus heard all about the legendary nightlife along Bourbon Street!

Exploring colourful New Orleans

Exploring colourful New Orleans

Crowds in the French Quarter, New Orleans

Crowds in the French Quarter, New Orleans

French Quarter, New Orleans

My New Orleans bucket list was long! I wanted to hop on a steamboat on the Mississippi, see some amazing jazz musicians, walk the pretty streets, ride the streetcar, explore the French Market, party on Bourbon Street, eat beignets, crawfish and gumbo and plenty more. All in all, I was ready for my New Orleans love affair to begin!

New Orleans Street Car on Canal Street

New Orleans Street Car on Canal Street

Travelling on Steamboat Natchez in New Orleans

Travelling on Steamboat Natchez in New Orleans

Travelling on Steamboat Natchez in New Orleans

Travelling on Steamboat Natchez in New Orleans

Check out what it was like to explore the incredible food scene in this video produced in collaboration with Lonely Planet and Three. Don’t forget to put it on full screen! Then scroll down to read about my foodie highlights from my time there.

 

If you’re planning to visit New Orleans, here are all the foods you have to try, and a few of my favourite restaurants and cafes in the city. But first, just a few words on what to expect. From the neon of Bourbon Street, to the wonderful mix of cultures, and the jazz heartbeat you hear on every corner, New Orleans is big, bold, fun and vibrant. Exactly the same can be said about the food. Portions are on the large side, meals are flavourful, spicy, colourful and represents the mix of cultures. I loved it, and I think you will too…

Foods To Try In New Orleans – Beignets

Beignets are a type of fried dough, a little like a donut. French in origin, they’re usually made from choux pastry and served warm. You’ll find the best best beignets in New Orleans at Café Du Monde… and it just so happens to be open 24/7, so you could pop down for a beignet at 3am if you fancied!

Established in 1862, it’s somewhere everyone should visit, and once you try the beignets topped with mountains of powdered sugar, you’ll see why this us one of the most famous foodie spots in the city. Just don’t blame me if you end up with a sugar all over your face after one bite – it’s worth it to try this quintessential New Orleans food!

Cafe Du Monde, New Orleans

Cafe Du Monde, New Orleans

Coffee and beignets at Cafe Du Monde, New Orleans

Coffee and beignets at Cafe Du Monde, New Orleans

 

Foods To Try In New Orleans – Crawfish

As you’ll see from the video, the crawfish culture is a huge part of this region’s heart and soul. During my trip I was lucky enough to visit Bayou Pigeon – an area of swampland where they catch crawfish! It was a picturesque, isolated town with a handful of houses, and beautiful swamps (yes really!) It was amazing to meet the locals and understand more about what this industry means to them.

Exploring Bayou Pigeon - the swamps in Louisiana

Exploring Bayou Pigeon – the swamps in Louisiana

Exploring Bayou Pigeon - the swamps in Louisiana

Exploring Bayou Pigeon – the swamps in Louisiana

Exploring Bayou Pigeon - the swamps in Louisiana

Exploring Bayou Pigeon – the swamps in Louisiana

That sense of importance was reinforced when I joined the locals at R Bar’s famous Crawfish Boil – a party that happens every Friday during the season, where the chef offers huge trays of free food to guests. It was the food that brought them all together, and in turn created an incredible feeling of community. In terms of flavour, the crawfish was boiled with lots of delicious spices, potatoes, corn, and vegetables. It had a fiery taste from the chilli, and I guess, perfectly represented the determination and ambition of the people who call this city home. Crawfish is definitely one of the city’s staples, so definitely add it to your list of foods to try in New Orleans!

Crawfish at the R Bar crawfish boil, New Orleans

Crawfish at the R Bar crawfish boil, New Orleans

Crawfish at the R Bar crawfish boil, New Orleans

Crawfish at the R Bar crawfish boil, New Orleans

 

Foods To Try In New Orleans – Po’ Boys

I had no idea what a po’ boy was before I arrived, but everyone told me that I just had to try it! A chunky sandwich made with a New Orleans crusty baguette, it’s stuffed with a generous helping of meat, fried shrimp or fish, plus salad, tomatoes, pickles and mayo. The name? Well apparently it comes from a the 1929 streetcar conductor strike when owners of a coffee stand in the French Market gave out free sandwiches to workers. When people turned up, they used to say ‘here comes another poor boy’. I tried a fried shrimp version at Pierre Masperos, but pretty much every restaurant had them on the menu! For some of the top places to dive in to this giant sandwich, check out the 20 Essential New Orleans Po’ Boys.

Shrimp po' boy in New Orleans

Shrimp po’ boy in New Orleans

Foods To Try In New Orleans – Mufuletta Sandwich

So we’ve learned that sandwiches are a big deal in this city, and the mufuletta is another one you just have to try! The Italian sandwich was popular among Italian immigrants in New Orleans, and is made on a large round bread of the same name. The bread is crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. They’re usually filled with meats and cheeses – traditionally layers of mortadella, salami, mozzarella, ham and provolone. The key flavour though is the herby Italian olive salad that sits on top flavouring the rest. It’s another chunky sandwich, and if you want to try it for yourself, I’d recommend a visit to Central Grocery and Deli (where it was invented) or historic restaurant Napoleon House.

Mufuletta sandwich at Napoleon House Restaurant, New Orleans

Mufuletta sandwich at Napoleon House Restaurant, New Orleans

Foods To Try In New Orleans – Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp and grits is a real staple of food in the Deep South, so it’s definitely one of the foods you HAVE to try in New Orleans. I first tried grits in the Caribbean and would say it’s a cross between porridge and risotto. Usually flavoured with stock or cheese, it has a creamy texture and makes a great meal for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Most commonly, you’ll find it topped with shrimp and sweetcorn. I had a particularly good one at Café Amelie – a stunning restaurant in New Orleans with outdoor seating around a pretty fountain.

Shrimp and Grits at Cafe Amelie, New Orleans

Shrimp and Grits at Cafe Amelie, New Orleans

Foods To Try In New Orleans – Gumbo

Gumbo is a flavoursome soupy stew originating in Southern Louisiana during the 18th century. Usually it contains sausage, vegetables and rice, and is sometimes topped with shrimp. Where to get the best gumbo in New Orleans? I loved the one I tried at Café Amelie along with the bowl I had on my last night at Evangeline. The only thing I wasn’t sure about was having a bowl of hot soup when it was 30 degrees outside! 

Gumbo at Cafe Amelie, New Orleans

Gumbo at Cafe Amelie, New Orleans

Foods To Try In New Orleans – Jambalaya

Not dissimilar to gumbo, and bearing a strong resemblance to paella, it’s easy to see jambalaya’s origins from the early Spanish settlement in the region, although it also has African and French influences too. Just another reason New Orleans’s food scene is so intriguing! It’s basically a big rice dish of chicken, sausage, celery, peppers, onions and other vegetables with a tomato base. Often it’ll be topped with shrimp. It’s packs a punch and is a perfect hearty meal when you’re really hungry! Best places to try it? Head to K Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen or Mother’s.

Jambalaya

Jambalaya
Photo: Family Features

Foods To Try In New Orleans – Vietnamese Food

I wasn’t sure whether to include this, as traditionally most would consider New Orleans cuisine to be about gumbo, jambalaya and po’ boys. But there’s a growing Vietnamese population that started coming over in the 70s, and as a result, there are some amazing restaurants across the city. You’ll even find that locals refer to the Vietnamese sandwich banh mi as a Vietnamese po-boy! I loved 9 Roses Café, which compared to many of the busy creole/Cajun restaurants in the French Quarter, was calm, casual and filled with locals. I tucked into a vermicelli bowl with chicken, fresh veg, pickles, roasted onions and fresh herbs. It was one of the tastiest bowls of food I had in the city, so don’t just stick to the classics! You can find out more about the Vietnamese food scene here In Search of New Orleans’ Vietnamese Soul.

Vietnamese food at 9 Roses Cafe, New Orleans

Vietnamese food at 9 Roses Cafe, New Orleans

Drinks To Try In New Orleans – Coffee

I did a bit of research about places to go for coffee in the French Quarter and there were several top recommendations. I took a trip away from the Mississippi towards the highway for a pit stop at Arrow Café. I loved the quirky interior, mugs with naughty phrases on and the casual vibe. Plus – great coffee!

Arrow Cafe, New Orleans

Arrow Cafe, New Orleans

Coffee at Arrow Cafe, New Orleans

Coffee at Arrow Cafe, New Orleans

Drinks To Try In New Orleans – Cocktails

The city’s most famous drinks are the sazerac and hurricane. Hurricanes are a sweet rum drink with fruit juice and syrup, not dissimilar to a Caribbean rum punch. The birthplace was Pat O’Brien’s but I had a great one at Pierre Masperos on my first night. Meanwhile, the sazerac may well be America’s oldest cocktail! Containing cognac and bitters (or sometimes whiskey) it’s very strong and definitely a sipper! My favourite spot for cocktails in the city was the Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone. Yes – just like a fairground carousel, it rotates!

Carousel Bar, New Orleans

Carousel Bar, New Orleans

Have you been to New Orleans? What was your favourite meal? Any other quintessential foods to try in New Orleans? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

My trip to New Orleans was part of a campaign with Lonely Planet and Three but as always, opinions are my own.

Enjoyed this post? Pin it for later…

Exploring The Food Scene In The French Quarter, New Orleans


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18 comments

Sicxpence 30th November -0001 - 12:00 am

Red Fish Bar and Grill at the top of Bourbon Street was my favourite.

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Wanderlust Chloe 30th November -0001 - 12:00 am

Oooh ok – if I go back I’ll take a look. Thank you!

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Angie SilverSpoon 16th June 2017 - 4:26 pm

I would love to explore the food scene in New Orleans! I love jambalaya and I used to make it myself.

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Wanderlust Chloe 16th June 2017 - 4:34 pm

Awww thanks Angie! It really was such a wonderful city. So much going on. Hope you enjoyed the video too! It was a lot of fun to make 🙂

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stephaniestraveldiary 16th June 2017 - 6:29 pm

If I ever get to the US I want to visit New Orleans…because the food and the french architecture looks very interesing.x

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Wanderlust Chloe 16th June 2017 - 6:35 pm

Thanks Stephanie! It’s such a cool city. I love it when cities have a really strong atmosphere. This one really was awesome!

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MsNomadica 16th June 2017 - 7:10 pm

Chloe, I grew up in Louisiana, and this is one of the best posts I’ve read about New Orleans. Most are just re-hashes of the usual cliches. The video is fabulous, too. You certainly didn’t get anything wrong, I just have a handful of things to add from a local’s perspective.

Where I grew up, in the bayous south of New Orleans, we only eat grits as a breakfast food. Still, the restaurants do have a way of doing weird things. My daughter actually worked at Amelie for a while, it really is a lovely place. I can also enthusiastically endorse your recommendation of the Carousel Bar – I had birthday drinks there a few years ago.

I’m not wild about okra, so I try to avoid it whenever possible. And though people everywhere make gumbo differently, I had never seen it served as anything but a roux based dish until I saw it in a New Orleans restaurant with tomatoes in it. That was good, but not what I’d call gumbo. If you can find a seafood gumbo with no okra, that is the best…

…Except for crawfish.

Omg, I haven’t had it in so long, but I’m headed to NOLA next week, so thank you for reminding me to look for some. In a store. I’m not going catching any, lol, but good job! Also jambalaya, though we will make that. All my old cravings are coming back.

And they definitely include poboys. When I moved back to New Orleans for a while a few years back, I had oyster poboys on each of my first 3 days in town. I always have a hard time deciding between a shrimp or oyster poboy. Fortunately, some places will let you order half and half.

Now, you gave me so many great places to try next time I’m in Hastings, I figured I’d return the favor. Next time you, or any of your readers, get to NOLA, here are a few things to keep in mind.

I lived in the French Quarter for a year in 2013/2014 and worked about ten blocks away. I walked both ways, even during the Polar Vortex, and had to pass Cafe du Monde each time. The smell of the beignets was so hard to resist on my way home every evening that I had to stop carrying enough cash to buy them because I was stopping in so often. Thank God they don’t take credit cards. But tourists need to make sure they bring enough cash when they go.

That Rouse’s on Royal St. in the photo at the top of your post was my local grocery store, and they have plenty freshly packaged food – even sushi! – that tourists might like for a change from eating in restaurants every meal. A picnic in Jackson Square when the weather is nice is awesome.

Also, my favorite coffee shop is the local chain Community Coffee House, the 941 Royal Street location. Fabulous coffee and excellent pastries, usually cheaper than Starbucks. Also free wifi.

While not food related, and though New Orleans has many enjoyable attractions, I feel I have to mention two that truly capture the essence of the city, and happen to be among the least expensive. The Katrina and Mardi Gras museums are in the same building right behind Jackson Square. They are both incredible, and don’t take much time. The Katrina Museum has a powerful impact and the Mardi Gras Museum is full of the most beautiful costumes and artifacts. One $6 ticket covers both, and kids get in free.

Sorry to hijack your comments section with what is almost a blog post of its own, especially when your own post is so excellent – as are your photos and video. But I hope some of this my prove useful to someone. It’s certainly reminded me of all the places I need to hit when I get into town, lol.

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Wanderlust Chloe 18th June 2017 - 3:05 pm

Thanks so much for your epic comment! I really love hearing locals tips and it sounds like you have plenty of good ones. If I go back again, I’ll be sure to work through your tips! I wish I’d made it to the Katrina museum actually. I read up on some of the news from that tragedy before my visit as it’s so important for the content of the city. So moving. Thanks again for reading – really lovely of you to take the time to leave a comment like this 🙂

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Siarra Chantal Turner 17th June 2017 - 4:01 pm

Needed all this in my life…I’m headed to New Orleans this year and I’m obsessed with trying the local cuisine! Thanks for this post.

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Wanderlust Chloe 18th June 2017 - 3:02 pm

Really hope it’s helpful. So much to eat there, it’s tough to cram it all in! Let me know what you fave is!

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Emma @ AdventuresofaLondonKiwi 18th June 2017 - 6:22 pm

Awww dang – this is making me want to return ao darn much!

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Wanderlust Chloe 19th June 2017 - 9:39 am

I hope you get the chance soon! Such a cool city 🙂

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Laura Jopson 26th June 2017 - 4:57 pm

Absolutely loved this video, Chloe. All though I am now STARVING! Give me clawfish now! xxx

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Wanderlust Chloe 30th June 2017 - 7:37 am

Thank you so much lovely Laura! It was an exciting one to shoot! Nola is a bit of a dream city for a foodie like meee! xx

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Ashley 21st July 2018 - 2:45 am

My go to for beignets in NoLa is Cafe Beignet at the musical legends park – best beignets. No crowd. Live jazz. Can’t top it

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Chloe Gunning 25th July 2018 - 9:28 am

Ooh I haven’t tried that one but I do remember the park – the jazz there was exceptional!

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Alexander Clayton 1st February 2019 - 6:30 am

hey! I’m from Las Vegas and visiting New Orleans next month. This blog Helped a lot I’ll definitely try some of these things there. Thank you, Keep up the good work!

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Chloe Gunning 8th February 2019 - 9:23 am

Have a great trip!

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