Normally what draws people to these posts are the pictures. Talented photographers with perfectly instagrammabled photos but often mediocre suggestions in the same area of the city. Well, this article is not one of those. Here are some delectable suggestions that are all over the place (to encourage exploring on a time crunch) and absolutely no even average pictures to share. If this excites you, keep scrolling, otherwise, close the tab immediately.
Note: New Orleans is food heaven. You do not need this or any list to find good food there. Everything there is a mind blowing experience for those trying Creole food in Louisiana for the first time. If you like spices, sophisticated bases, flavors from diverse cultures melding into one, and meat/dairy, you will not be disappointed.
A hacked up map of these suggestions. But, you should probably not walk all of this because it’s far.
Cafe Du Monde
Duh! It’s a little weird to travel to a city and not visit its most iconic restaurant ever (I mean, if it’s affordable). Your beignets won’t be complete without a cup of their cafe au lait made with chicory coffee. Despite food being my only hobby, I had no idea what chicory was before this trip, but picture an earth-y/chocolate-y note to your regular medium roasted coffee.
Their first location is open 24 hours and in the French Quarter, which is the quintessential and ridiculously cute New Orleans tourist area that you cannot miss. Since I arrived at 6 AM, there was no line (and in fact, not much going on in the normally lively district), so a new friend I made on the bus and I walked to the Mississippi River and enjoyed our delicious pastries there.
A bunch of fancy jazz brunch places were recommended to me by bougie travel friends, but when traveling without money or friends or friends with money, this was a little out of the question. It’s still on the bucket list, though, so if you are in a more favorable situation than I was, I would recommend what was recommended to me hundreds of times by people who lived in/visited New Orleans – the iconic, high end Creole restaurant Commander’s Palace (aka where people like Emeril used to chef and you can feel like royalty for a day).
Instead me and my new found friend wandered down Frenchman street on recommendation from our Uber driver. It’s lined with bars/clubs, and each one is playing live jazz music! I can’t think of a place anywhere else in the world with a higher music to business establishment ratio.
It’s fun walking down the street and seeing the bands, but it’s even better walking inside, getting refreshing local beers (it was too early for sazerac, okay), and watching them play. I learned about zydeco, which is a Creole style of music and that in general, there are a ton of Louisiana music genres (seriously click the link if you want better explanations/examples). How are there so many types of music in one US state?! There’s also a few cool record stores to wander in and street art to admire.
I found out about this place because Obama visited and had the gumbo. What I loved about this place though is the history. Did you know this restaurant was where black people back in the day could meet safely and talk about social justice issues and plan civil rights movements? Cafe du Monde couldn’t even serve black people until the 1960s!
I love walking and walking to here from the French Quarter you pass by the Louis Armstrong Park, which is pretty, lively, and similarly full of a ton of history, like being the birthplace of famous jazz musicians and the meeting place for African slaves to celebrate their “day off”.
One of the friends I made here had been to New Orleans a couple of times, and this was one of her favorite restaurants. When we arrived, we found out that the wait was over an hour! Since we brown folks had braved a KKK rally (technically it was mostly counter protesters) to get to this restaurant, we were not going to back down from the wait. Once inside, it was lowkey but packed, but the jambalaya was so good, it melted the slight stressfulness away. Rabbit tastes like chicken, all.
Since this was later in the afternoon, I had the chance to finally walk around the French Quarter, stopping by to take pictures of the cute architecture mixing French and Spanish influences, veer off to random bars on Bourbon Street where you can grab alcoholic beverages to go (it’s legal in Louisiana!), wander the parks like Jackson Square, and stop by other cafes for more beignets.
Bonus (??) General tip
Mostly because I forgot what this place is called but still wanted to share a delicious story- don’t forget to try new random stuff. We were getting second breakfast and I was extremely close to ordering eggs bene as usual, but then the waiter described one of the specials which basically sounded like *food you can only get in Louisiana – food you can only get in Louisiana – food you can only get in Louisiana*.
Since we had never had this stuff before and don’t have dietary restrictions, we ordered and received corn cakes covered in magic flavorful thick sauce, fried green tomatoes with remoulade sauce, and fried catfish on top of shrimp etouffee on top of cheesy grits. And it was amazing. Some of the best things I have ever eaten.
Bonus (??) Popeye’s
If you say that you like fried chicken but not Popeye’s, you’re honestly lying to yourself. Someone told me that the locations all taste different, which I found hard to believe, because isn’t fast food still fast food? It turned out that in their birth state of Louisiana, their chicken is even juicier and more spice filled than in other locations. Actually, I was really high so that may be why.
Anyway, there are of course a few locations, but the one I went to was near my hostel, which was also near quite a few museums I wanted to check out if I had more than a day, including the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the WWII Museum (allegedly one of the top museums in the US), and Southern Food and Beverage Museum & Museum of the American Cocktail.
And that’s it for now! Of course, you can’t know all the good things to eat if you’re only somewhere for a day, especially if you went there on a whim with no research. But with recommendations from trusted friends and random people and half remembering things you read a long time ago, you can scratch the surface.