When planning a trip to New Orleans, anyone who has been there will likely make you a long list of recommended places to eat. It’s a foodie paradise where dozens of styles of cuisine come together to form one melting pot. The city has influences from Africa, Spain, France, and beyond. There are many must-eat dishes, but these are just a few that visitors can’t miss. You’ll find that king cake and crawfish are left off this list because they are only available seasonally. And boudin was left out because it’s more native to other parts of the state. What is your favorite dish in New Orleans? Let us know in the comments!
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Every culture has their own version of the humble sandwich and the po boy is Louisiana’s. Named for the poor men who ate them in the 1800s, the po boys of New Orleans almost all use the same Leidenheimer French bread. There are dozens of places to eat them, topped with everything from fried oysters to shrimp to pork belly and everything in between. They often come “dressed” with lettuce, tomato, and mayo and can be purchased at white tablecloth restaurants or gas stations, usually for under $10.
Where to Eat It: Everyone has their own favorite po boy spot, but some of mine are Johnny’s and Killer Po Boys, both in the French Quarter. Mother’s is another popular choice for its baked ham sandwiches, but expect to wait in line.
Ask anyone who has ever visited New Orleans what their top recommendation is and it will probably be beignets. The French doughnuts come topped with a mountain of powdered sugar, best paired with chicory coffee. There is one really famous place in the city for beignets, but it’s not the only show in town so don’t let the lines deter you.
Where to Eat It: Cafe du Monde is by far the most famous place for beignets, set across from Jackson Square in the heart of the tourist district. It’s open 24 hours and usually has a wait, but you can go to the to-go window for faster service. Morning Call in City Park doesn’t have as much of the crowds, apart from when tour buses stop by, but they also have more to the menu than just sweets. It’s also open 24-hours and is cash only. Cafe Beignet has a few locations as well.
For something sweet, chow down on a signature dessert in New Orleans, the Bananas Foster. Created at Brennan’s in 1951, it’s made up of vanilla ice cream with bananas flambeed in a sauce made up of butter, sugar, cinnamon, and rum. Sometimes it is then topped in whipped cream and nuts. It’s usually a crowd pleaser for its exciting tableside service.
Where to Eat It: While it’s on the menu of many New Orleans restaurants, there’s nowhere better to start than Brennan’s, the original home of the dish. Arnaud’s, Galtoire’s, and The Court of Two Sisters have their own versions as well.
The potatoes in New Orleans are like French fries up a notch. Officially known as pommes de terre soufflées, these potatoes are made by partially cooking them to the point where they expand in the center, creating a pocket of air. Now popular at the old-school white tablecloth restaurants in town, they’re highly addictive.
Where to Eat It: The recipe was brought over the pond to Antoine’s, so this is definitely the place to try them. Arnaud’s and Galatoire’s also have their versions.
Don’t let the name fool you. Barbecue shrimp has nothing to do with barbecue sauce found in the rest of the South. Instead, the delicious Creole-style sauce is made with butter, lemon juice, and a broth made from shrimp shells and other seafood. Typically, the shrimp is served with plenty of sauce, mopped up with French bread.
Where to Eat It: Pascal’s Manale is considered to be the creator of barbecue shrimp, dating back to 1913. But Commander’s Palace is also known for their version. I enjoyed my plate of barbecue shrimp at Superior Seafood, pictured above.
Yes, this soup is traditionally made with turtle meat. But the Creole-style stew has also adapted into “mock” varieties as the meat becomes harder to find, substituted with veal and other ingredients. Made with a roux and topped with sherry, it gained popularity at local restaurants in the 1980s, spreading to many restaurants.
Where to Eat It: Brennan’s is believed to be the originator of this now-popular dish, but a similar recipe now exists elsewhere, including Commander’s Palace, Galatoire’s, and Muriel’s.
New Orleans is famous for its oysters, raised naturally in the Gulf of Mexico. They are low in salinity and are a good introduction to the bivalves. You can enjoy them in countless ways, from raw on the half-shell to chargrilled to Oysters Rockefeller, a dish created by Antoine’s in 1889. You can’t go wrong with any sort of seafood in the city.
Where to Eat It: Antoine’s is where Oysters Rockefeller was born, but you’ll find this dish in most of the seafood restaurants in town. Arnaud’s created Oysters Bienville, a similar preparation. Acme Oyster House and Felix’s are also popular for oysters, but Harbor Seafood and Oyster Bar in Kenner was recommended by a friend.
The po boy isn’t New Orleans’ only famous sandwich. The Italian-made muffuletta sandwich features layers of sliced meat and cheese topped with an olive salad. It’s based on a sandwich popular in Sicily, usually eaten on Day of the Dead. While originated in one place, the sandwich can now be found at a number of Italian delis in town.
Where to Eat It: Known as the inventors of the sandwich, Central Grocery is the best place to try it. It’s a large sandwich, so take it to go and share with a friend in one of the nearby parks. Cochon Butcher makes a modern version.
Gumbo, Jambalaya, and Etouffee
While gumbo, jambalaya, and etouffee are different dishes, they have similarities, namely a roux base, and are often found on the same menus. These dishes are Creole and Cajun in origin but have many versions and are usually served with rice. Gumbo is made using the “holy trinity” of celery, onion, and bell pepper and often contains sausage and shellfish. Etouffee comes from the word meaning “to smother,” which the rich sauce does over rice to soak it up. It usually has a seafood base, typically crawfish, to form the roux. Jambalaya is less of a stew and more of a rice dish, similar to an African jollof or Spanish paella. It is usually cooked with meat as well as the same “holy trinity.”
Where to Eat It: It’s rare to go to a restaurant in New Orleans that doesn’t have one of, if not all of, these dishes. I enjoyed the etouffee at The Praline Connection, but Bon Ton Cafe has a shrimp version. For gumbo, visit the beloved Gumbo Shop and Dooky Chase. Gumbo Shop and Coop’s Place also have highly praised jambalaya.
Looking for a New Orleans hotel? The Pontchartrain is one of our favorites, but the Eliza Jane is another great option. Learn more about the city’s culinary scene with The Classic Cocktail Tour in New Orleans or New Orleans Culinary and Cocktail Walking Tour. Check out our weekend guide for more suggestions.