The Big Easy, a town that can fill your body and soul with new life and purpose. Famous for its drinking debauchery but like any good city what brings you back are the locals, the music, and of course the food. New Orleans has an attitude towards life is unmatched. Through even the worst tragedies the good times keep rolling. For me New Orleans is more than just the drinking and Bourbon street though. For me, when I dream of New Orleans I dream of the food. I dream of that French, West African, and Caribbean influenced Creole cuisine native to Louisiana. When you first get to New Orleans the city can be overwhelming. I recommend starting in the French Quarter because even though it is touristy there is still plenty of good food you can get there. Make sure you branch out though because it is easy to get caught up in the quarter.
So here are some food that you should not miss out on when you eat local in New Orleans.
You can’t take a trip down to New Orleans and not eat these delicious little morsels, those slightly sweet and salty buggers, that you slurp down and it reminds you of the ocean. That is what I live for. You can get them anywhere and you can get them in many different ways. I always prefer going raw so I can taste all the goodness. If you are a beginner to oysters you should try one raw as you have learn how to confront it face on. Throw yourself into the fire and slurp it down as your life is about to change. Once you have slurped it down raw, start to explore the BBQ oysters or fried oysters. If you don’t like oysters eat them anyways because they are good for you and I find it quite foolish not to like them. Just ask Ash about the hard time I give her. I still get her to eat at least one. A great place to get them is at the ACME Oyster House in the French Quarter. There is always a long line but it is well worth it. It is one of my favorite places to indulge on this treat and their BBQed oysters are legendary.
Every city has their sandwich and they all claim theirs to be the best. I think a New Orleans Po’Boy is in the top five sandwiches if not the best of them all. The basics of the sandwich is New Orlean french bread, lettuce, tomato pickles, mayonnaise. Now what should be your main ingredient, that is the tough part. Should you go with the original roast beef? I tend to find that boring and go with some kind of fried seafood. Fried shrimp, oysters, catfish, and softshell crab are all great choices. If it is the season go with fried crawfish and if you are a veggy go with a fried green tomato Po’Boy. They are pretty darn good considering the lack of meat but in all honestly it is the bread that makes this sandwich. When I am in New Orleans I have to control myself on how many of these I eat because they are far from healthy. I say at least two a week just keep you happy though.
There are plenty of places to go for these sandwiches and everybody has their favorite. I really enjoyed the one from the ACME Oyster House. Yes, I do love this place and they are not giving me anything for promoting them, believe me they don’t need us. Again the line is worth the wait so do not let that put you off. If ACME is not your place ask around they will point you in the right direction. I also heard that Parkway has great ones but I was not able to make it.
This a classic dish that you can get all over the states but the only time I truly enjoy this dish is when I am in New Orleans. Now it is not originally from New Orleans. The claim is that it is from New York but I am not going to let a technicality like that get in the way. You can eat eggs benedict throughout New Orleans and it fits right in with the rest of the cuisine. The basics of eggs benedict is an english muffin with bacon and poached eggs topped with Hollandaise sauce. Every place has its twist adding fried oysters or topping it with fresh blue crab. In New Orleans I recommend you get it with fried oysters. It is a classic dish for brunch so wash it down with some kind of champagne cocktail.
Go to Brennans, yes I know it is pricey and is filled with tourist but it is an institution in the french quarter. The food is fantastic and you are in an old french quarter building. It is definitely a little bit more formal so you will need to dress up a bit but jeans and a collared shirt will do just fine. The price is up there but you will not be disappointed. The other place I would recommend, also in the French Quarter, is Stanley Restaurant. They have a range of breakfast options besides just eggs benedict and they also have iced irish coffees which is a perfect way to start your morning buzz.
Since I have already mention Brennan’s, I might as well as talk about Bananas Foster. While you are at Brennan’s enjoying your Eggs Benedict I recommend saving some room for dessert. If you have ever wondered where this flaming dish comes from then wonder no more. If you order Bananas Foster at Brennan’s than you will be eating it in the very spot it was invented in the 1950s. You will get the whole story while you are there and believe me it is the best Bananas Foster that you will ever have. So what are the basics of this wonderful dish? You start with a split banana with Vanilla ice cream, which is easy enough. But it is the sauce that truly makes the dish: butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, dark rum and a banana liqueur. When you order Bananas Foster at Brennan’s they cook the dish table side for you so you will be able to get the whole tradition of this little slice of heaven.
Crawfish is a must have in New Orleans, if you are there during the right season. So I suggest that you go during March through June. It fluctuates when the season is at its best but you should be good during that time. So what are crawfish you may ask? Well, they are crustaceans like shrimp and lobster. They actually look like little red lobsters but are about the size of a shrimp. The meat is also similar to both but in my opinion so much better. If you can get invited to a local neighborhood boil as crawfish boils are a big part of the culture. There also are bars that are outside the French Quarter that have boils as well.
We went to Clesi’s in Midcity and it was the best crawfish that we had that trip. To prep them you boil them in heavy seasoning until they are nice and red and then serve them with corn on the cob, cajun sausage, and potatoes and you are set. How do you eat a crawfish? Twist the tail off and suck out the meat from the tail and then suck on the head to get all that fat and seasoning. Toss to the side and continue. It is a messy business and just wear clothes you don’t care about. They tend to be spicy so a good beer on the side goes well. Other ways you can eat crawfish is fried, etouffee, put in a pie, or served as bisque or soup. There is plenty of ways to eat these creatures and all of them are delicious but boiled are my favorite.
Let stick with the sea and talk about catfish. I love catfish and I love it in every form and I tend to get where ever they have it. It is a big ugly fish with whiskers, hence the name, but the flesh of the fish is just delicious. My favorite way to eat this fish is fried. the best fried catfish that we had was at Clesi’s. Ashley describes it as, “ fucking magic deliciousness.” It was damn good and I know that the next time I go back it will be one of the first stops. Catfish is a must, getting it on a Po’boy is a good way to go about it as well. Just eat the ugly suckers you will thank me later.
Let us stick with Clesi’s since you are already eating crawfish and fried catfish and dig into some of the best jambalaya I have ever had. Jambalaya is a creole dish that really shows how much influence the Spanish had in the creole cuisine. The most simplistic way to describe it is to call it paella; it is the creole version of paella. There is no denying that fact and in my opinion jambalaya is the superior dish. Don’t get me wrong, I love paella and eat it every chance I get but it just does not have that wonderful spice to it like jambalaya. In New Orleans, red jambalaya is king. The basic ingredients are as follows; celery, peppers, onions, garlic chicken, sausage (andouille), shrimp or other seafood, an assortment of other vegetables, tomatoes, rice, and some kind of stock. It is easy to find different type of recipes online but if you are like me I would go where it is made best.
As Jimmy Buffet once said, “I will play for Gumbo!” It is one of the best stews/soups that one can eat that has a spice that keeps you coming back. Gumbo has African and Native influences but it is a true creole dish. How to make gumbo tends to vary from house to house but it will have some basic ingredients. The main ingredients are; roux, okra, filé powder, meat &/or shellfish, celery and bell pepper. The soup is generally served over rice and get ready for a mouth full of creole flavor. Open a nice cold local beer and dig in. It is one of the best things you can eat while you are drinking and, in my opinion, if you get a nice spicy one it will help you cure that pesky hangover. This last time in New Orleans I had Gumbo at Coop’s Place which is famous for their fried chicken but does an amazing gumbo as well. It was everything I wanted out of gumbo; it was flavorful, spicy, and filling. Make sure you do not miss out on this classic dish.
Red Beans and Rice
Since I already have you sitting at Coop’s Place in the quarter you might as well try their red beans and rice. The dish is as easy as it sounds and the simplicity is what makes it so good. This is one of the most well known dishes for New orleans style cooking. Traditionally red beans and rice was served on Mondays so you will often see it as a special on Mondays. You can find it everyday though if that is what you want to enjoy and I would not blame you. This dish is an assortment of red kidney beans, vegetables, spices, pork bone, sausage or ham all cooked down and then thrown on some rice. Like I said, a simple dish that is filled with New Orleans flavor that is still a favorite of the locals.
Now let us end all this delicious eating with desert and a cup of coffee. I am positive many of you have heard of these fluffy, golden puffs of fried dough covered in powdered sugar. If you have not you need to drop what you are doing and hop on a plane to New Orleans. Once you land head straight to Cafe Du Monde and buy a bag of these heavenly creations. We will wait….. After all it does not matter what time you get there it will be open. Yes it is open 24 hours so when the craving hits, you just have to make the trip. You can try beignets at other locations if you want to try and be hip by not eating at Cafe du Monde, but if you go to a less touristy place and they are not as good it is not my fault. I told you were to get them. Also make sure you get a coffee to go with them. It just makes the whole experience better. Beignets are also the perfect 2:00 am snack after drinking in the quarter and there won’t be a crazy mad line.
So there you have it, these are my 10 meals that you should not miss out on while you are hanging out in the Big Easy. Take it easy on you liver and do some damage to your waistline for once. The food that is being cooked down in New Orleans is unmatched and I have barely scratched the surface of everything that you can enjoy while you are down in New Orleans. I do have a couple more food items that I believe should be mentioned. Try a muffaletta which is another New Orleans style sandwich that is huge! So make sure you have some people willing to indulge with you. Also go backs to Coop’s Place and eat the fried chicken. It is Ashley’s favorite fried chicken. When you are in New Orleans just explore and talk to the locals. Get out of the quarter for a bit as well. Ask what other neighborhoods you should explore. It is a great city with a lot of soul and pride in what they do. Start in the quarter but make sure you branch out a bit.
If you think I missed anything on this list please let me know. Whether it is food or a place to eat just list it on the comment below. I am always looking for new places to eat while I am in New Orleans. I know a lot of this is preference so I am more than open for suggestions. If you enjoyed reading our blog please follow at the top. Like always thanks for reading!
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