New Orleans has a flavor all its own and boasts a culinary scene just as expansive and impressive as its aural soundscape. Creole gumbo and jambalaya, literal melting pots of flavor, are the most iconic dishes to come out of this cultural diverse region.
The French-inspired beignet, fried dough shaped like a square are ubiquitous, and chicory-infused coffee and milk can be found almost anywhere, and Yaka mein, a native descendent of Asian beef noodle soups, helps keep locals and visitors warm when the winter weather dips in the 40s. And we'd be remiss not to mention the oysters, crab and crawfish that show up in many local dishes.
There's no shortage of dining option in NOLA, but here's a small sample of a few places we've enjoyed during past visits. Please leave your own recommendations in the comments section. We're always game to try new things.
1. Coop's Place: There's a reason Coop's Place is high on the list of almost all New Orleans travel guides. Since 1983, this divey joint on Decatur Street has served up some of the city's most sought after jambalaya and blackened cat fish, and we suggest you shell out the $13 it costs to try their eponymous sampler, which includes seafood gumbo, shrimp creole, red beans and rice, and rabbit jambalaya. There will likely be a wait, but it will be worth it. (1109 Decatur St; 504-525-9053)
2. Stella!: Owner/Chef Scott Boswell is meticulous when his curates this upscale restaurant's ever-changing prix fixe menu. One typical second course finds rich veal sweetbreads paired with spicy andouille, while a third featured butter poached lobster and carmelized cauliflower. This is a refined, and pricey ($85 for four courses), dining experience, but definitely one you should consider for special occasions. (1032 Chartres St; 504-587-0091)
3. Muriel's Jackson Square: Another fine dining experience can be had at Muriel's, a French-inspired, ecclectically-decorated (image below) joint in the Quarter. Their three course prix fixe menu runs for a reasonable $38 and includes shrimp and goat cheese crêpes, Gulf seafood stew, pork chops and pan seared redfish cakes, plus desert. There's also an expansive gluten-free menu for those of you avoiding wheat. (801 Chartres St; 504-568-1885)
4. Domilise's Po-Boy: All you need to know about Domilise's in Uptown is that locals are willing to pay nearly $15 for one of their po'boys, a regional sandwich that can be found almost anywhere else, and very often for less than $8. Basically, it's one of the best in the city and definitely worth checking out. (5240 Annunciation St; 504-899-9126)
5. Café Beignet: You can get a beignet almost anywhere in New Orleans, but we suggest you grab one ($3) with your crawfish omelette ($9) or croissant sandwich ($8) at the affordable Café Beignet's Bourbon Street location, where the Steamboat Willie Jazz Band performs nightly at 6pm. And definitely try their chicory-infused cafe au lait. (311 Bourbon St; 504-525-2611)
6. Napoleon House Bar and Cafe: Built 1797 and later owned by city mayor Nicolas Girod, who, in 1821, invited French Emporer Napoleon to use the home as a pied-à-terre, Napoleon House today serves up some of the city's best and most affordable local dishes, like boudin sausage for $5.00 and seven buck jambalaya. (500 Chartres St; 504-522-4152)
7. Meauxbar: Another upscale New Orleans restaurant, Meauxbar on Rampart Street serves up traditional dishes with a contemporary, purely NOLA twist. The blood sausage appetizer, for example, is drizzled with sugar-cane creole mustard ($9), while the poisson en papillote is infused with Cantonese flavor, including shiitake, soy sauce and jasmine rice (market price). (42 N. Rampart St; 504-569-9979)
8. Lüke: In New Orleans's Central Business District you'll find Lüke, Chef John Besh's brasserie dedicated to French and German culinary traditions. We suggest you try the daily $15 specials, like Tuesday's "Maultaschen" — slow cooked veal, crispy pasta, creole tomato sauce — or Friday's "Court-bouillon," redfish, crab, shrimp, oysters, Louisiana popcorn rice, or perhaps the grilled lemon fish ($28.00) or the jumbo Louisiana shrimp "en cocotte," which consists of McEwen & Sons’ creamy white corn grits & Poche’s andouille for $22.00. (333 St. Charles Ave; 504-378-2840)
9. Mena's Palace: Budget-conscious travelers will more than likely want to have more than a few meals at Mena's, an affordable hot spot on Chartres St. Try the alligator sausage po'boy ($10.75) or the $8.50 veal parmesan, but make sure you do it in the morning or early afternoon: Mena's closes at 3pm. (200 Chartres St; 504-525-0217)
10.Café Maspero: A New Orleans institution for four decades, Café Maspero specializes in casual, affordable local provisions. Their French onion soup costs a mere $4 and their sandwiches, including their beloved chopped sirloin burger and alligator sausage on a baguette, are under nine dollars, while their gumbo will run you about $9.25. This is a go-to for travelers who have both a budget and a discerning palette. (601 Decatur St; 504-523-6250)