Food & Drink

5 Super Tasty Foods In New Orleans (& Where To Find Them)

Beyond the Mardi Gras spectacular and year-round Bourbon Street vibes, New Orleans is a foodie paradise with something new and delicious around every corner. It also happens to be home to one of the most regionally distinct food scenes in the United States, so you won’t find anything like it anywhere else. I spent a week eating my way through this vibrant city and asking locals about their favorite spots at every opportunity. Here are some of the best recommendations I received for foods in New Orleans you must try before leaving, and the best spots to find them:

1. Po-Boy

A po-boy is a sandwich made with French bread and typically some sort of fried seafood (shrimp, oysters, or soft-shell crab), sausage, or roast beef, and dressed with lettuce, tomatoes, mayonnaise, and pickles. You can find them everywhere throughout New Orleans, from more upscale establishments to corner shops, and it’s hard to find one that isn’t absolutely delicious. A po-boy is best served alongside an ice cold Coke or root beer, and the general rule of thumb is the messier, the better.

This sandwich dates back to the 1920s when brothers Bennie and Clovis Martin began feeding them to striking workers. According to the story, every time a striker would walk up, someone would yell, “Here comes another poor boy!”, which eventually evolved into ‘po-boy’ and began to describe the simple yet delicious sandwich. After Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005, po-boy shops were some of the first establishments to return to the city, continuing the vibrant tradition of comfort foods in New Orleans.

Best local favorite spots to grab one: Mahony’s Po-Boys (Uptown and French Quarter locations), Guy’s Po-Boys (Uptown), Parkway Bakery and Tavern (Mid-City), Melba’s (French Quarter—also has great daiquiris).


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2. Gumbo

Louisiana has a long, multi-cultural history that is reflected by the variety of foods in New Orleans, and gumbo is a prime example. There is no set recipe for the traditional New Orleans stew, but the base seasonings include sassafras and bay leaves (introduced to settlers by Native Americans) and the dish includes okra, a vegetable brought over by West African slaves. The dish can include a variety of meats, ranging from seafood, chicken, sausage, or ham, depending on what’s available and of course, personal preference. It also typically contains what Louisianans describe as the ‘Holy Trinity’ of vegetables: celery, onions, and bell peppers, is made with a dark, strongly-flavored roux, and is traditionally served over rice.

The dish was first described all the way back in 1802, and has many cultural influences, including French, Spanish, German, West African, and Choctaw, making it truly unique to New Orleans and the surrounding area.

No two gumbos will be the same, but here are some of the best spots to try some: Liuzza’s By the Track (Mid-City), The Gumbo Shop (French Quarter), Herbsaint (Central Business District), Li’l Dizzy’s (Tremé), Dooky Chase Restaurant (Tremé—vegetarian friendly!)


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3. Jambalaya

The word jambalaya comes from the French word balayez, which literally means to throw things together. This traditional Louisiana rice dish is made by doing just that—it’s a combination of rice, meat, vegetables, and spices. According to legend, it originated as a French and Spanish attempt to recreate paella in New Orleans without saffron, its key spice.

Jambalaya is made with a lot of the same seasonings and ingredients as gumbo, including celery, onions, bell peppers, but also includes other vegetables such as carrots, tomatoes, chilis, garlic, and others. It differs from gumbo in that gumbo is traditionally served on top of white rice, whereas jambalaya is a one-pot meal where everything is cooked together. There are two primary varieties: Creole jambalaya (also known as ‘red’ jambalaya) and Cajun jambalaya.

Creole jambalaya originates from the French Quarter of New Orleans, so you really can’t go wrong with any of the restaurants there if you want to try some.

Here are a few of the best spots: The Gumbo Shop (French Quarter), Mother’s Restaurant (Central Business District), Cafe Maspero (French Quarter).


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4. Beignets

Beignets (pronounced ben-YAYs) are not originally from New Orleans, but they are popular in the city due to its strong French influence. The deep-fried dough is topped with powdered sugar and is typically served as either breakfast or dessert. They’re also the official state donut of Louisiana (who knew?)

The most famous place to get them by far is Café Du Monde, located in the French Quarter, but you can find them throughout the city. Café Du Monde is open 24 hours, but you’ll likely be greeted with long lines if you go around lunchtime. If the weather cooperates, you can grab your beignets and coffee to go and enjoy them in nearby Jackson Square, in front of St. Louis Cathedral.

Other good spots to try beignets: Café Beignet (French Quarter / multiple locations—they also serve alcohol!), Commander’s Palace (Garden District—they have savory beignets too), Restaurant R’evolution (French Quarter—very upscale but delicious)


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5. Oysters

Due to its proximity to the water, oysters in New Orleans are cheap and plentiful. Whether you’re going for raw, deep fried, or a mixture of both, you won’t be disappointed by the quality of fresh, delicious oysters and seafood available. New Orleans is known for oysters Rockefeller, a decadent oyster dish topped with butter, parsley, and other green herbs. However, you can find oysters of any variety in the city year round.

For a great oyster experience (and a fantastic happy hour), you should be sure to visit Superior Seafood. You can get 50 cent raw oysters and 2 for 1 drinks from 4:00pm-6:30pm…what more are you looking for?

Here are some other great spots to get oysters and other fish foods in New Orleans: Acme Oyster House (Central Business District), Royal House Oyster Bar (French Quarter), Felix’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar (Central Business District), Oceana Grill (French Quarter), Antoine’s (French Quarter—home of the original Oysters Rockefeller), Red Fish Grille (French Quarter—home of the best oyster po-boy).


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Suggested next reading: 9 Things To Do In New Orleans For People Who Love Local Color

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