A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of returning to the vibrant city of New Orleans for a fun-packed trip with family. New Orleans, or “Nawlins” as many locals say, has some of the best food in the US, and I’m here to tell you about my favorite places.
If you’re flying to New Orleans as I did and are renting a car, I’d suggest stopping at this small restaurant on the way to town that is recommended by and filled with locals. At Port Side Restaurant you get all the delicious flavors and traditional types of cajun foods that can be found in the city for only a fraction of the price. The chicken and andouille sausage gumbo I got there was the best I’ve had in all of Louisiana.
When it comes to food, the famous Café du Monde is a must, and this list wouldn’t be complete without it. Though it may seem overrated and impossible to live up to your expectations, it always does (at least it’s never let me down). See the picture below for what to expect from Café du Monde.
Here we enjoyed french doughnuts called beignets (on a daily basis) paired with chicory coffee which is strong but delicious, and just the kick of energy you may need to get through a day of exploration.
**Insider tip: On any given day of the week, a long line of tourists stand outside of Café du Monde waiting for a table. What many don’t know is that you seat yourself and can literally walk right past the line of tourists and sit at whichever open table you find. The menu and prices will be listed on the napkin container.
Mother’s is a laid back cafeteria-style restaurant with delicious po’ boys, omelettes (like the red bean omelette below), and cajun food of any kind really. This is another joint where you shouldn’t be intimidated by the long line outside–it can’t be skipped but moves quickly. Mother’s is near the French Quarter (the main square in the city) and makes a good place to stop for a quick but tasty breakfast or lunch.
If you really want to splurge, I’d suggest Arnaud’s French 75 Bar. It may be a bit pricier but it’s a lot of bang for your buck. You can go for brunch and either dine a la carte or pay a fixed price for a three course meal. Fresh bread, breakfast, salad, an entree, dessert, and all the chicory coffee you can drink will be waiting for you with this option. The best part: talented jazz musicians play for each and every table live, taking song requests as they go. For the entree, you can even mix and match eggs benedict styles as I did (shown below).As far as traditional cajun food goes, you can find something delicious everywhere you go. My personal favorites, however, include Gumbo Shop (630 St Peter St, New Orleans, LA 70116) and Oceana Grill (739 Conti St, New Orleans, LA 70130), pictured below. My dad’s favorite there is the blackened catfish po’ boy while my mom and I always get the red beans and rice, as it’s some of the best we’ve had in New Orleans. Also while at Oceana, don’t forget to try the gator bites!
WHAT TO DO (quick tips):
Wander around the French Quarter and Jackson Square, making sure to take in the beautiful architecture, acrobatic street performers, mule-drawn carriages, a myriad of artists, and talented street musicians. The main roads, especially Bourbon Street, will be full of people and energy at just about any time of the day and night. Don’t be afraid to hop in and out of bars for live jazz music and hand grenades (a typical drink consisting of gin, grain alcohol, rum, melon liqueur, and vodka–be careful with this strong but tasty mixture!). It’s always easy to find places with a balcony where you can just sit and people watch or go wild and toss down some beads. Either way, you’ll find a great view wandering in and out of these places.
Also, if you don’t get a chance to go for Mardi Gras, check out Mardi Gras World to see several floats and learn about/see how they’re made. You can find it here: 1380 Port of New Orleans Pl, New Orleans, LA 70130.
Don’t forget to spend some time at the best little bookstore: Faulkner House Books at 624 Pirate Alley, New Orleans, LA 70116. It’s just
off of the French Quarter and the woman working knows the place inside and out–she’ll give you great advice for the perfect find! I could’ve spent hours in here.
It’s also always fun to wander into one of these stores (though touristy) to find some of the best hot sauce you’ll ever have. It can get a bit pricey, but if you buy several at once you can normally find a pretty good deal. Even if you’re not looking to buy, it’s fun to take a look around and dare yourself or others to try the hottest ones, since they’re already out and ready to be sampled!
Lastly, for a fun night in New Orleans, go to the Cat’s Meow and sing karaoke loudly and off-key with everyone else. And don’t forget to stop by the bar Tropical Isle, home of the famous Hand Grenade.
I hope this helps and that you enjoy your trip in New Orleans! It’s one of my favorite places in the US, and it’s definitely a city where you can always expect to have some fun.