We visited New Orleans during Mardi Gras, the craziest time to be in the city. During those four days, we ate our way through the Big Easy, made a few culinary missteps but overall emerged victorious in our quest for great food! So here is my New Orleans dining guide for all your first timers out there or simply those trying to have a good time food wise. This is by no means a comprehensive guide because we were there only for a few days and the restaurant scene keeps on evolving as is the norm with any big city. For a really in-depth guide to visiting this vibrant city, here is a local’s guide on things to do in New Orleans. What this New Orleans dining guide provides is a flavor of the culinary landscape in NOLA, along with the must visits and some tourist traps that should be avoided at all cost. I have divided this post into budget dining, must visits, cafes and market places and also pointed out vegetarian choices because we did end up having several vegetarian meals. So without further ado, let’s get started!
NOLA lived up to her name of being a show girl, but did not disappoint in terms of food either. In this New Orleans food guide, I will point out all the places where we had Catfish po-boy to Calla cakes (the long forgotten cousin of Beignets), from étouffée to moqueca (Brazilian stew), from Ghanian cuisine to gumbo. We also made a quick trip to the French market and sampled its various fares. From the famous Herbsaint to the quirky Carmo, the 5-course vegetarian tasting menu at Coquette to the charming Old Coffee Pot, from yummy sandwiches at Vite Marte to the last minute find Croissant D’Or Patisserie, there was lip smacking food everywhere. Here are some of my recommendations
New Orleans Dining Guide. Must visit restaurants
1.Coquette, where we had an excellent 5 course vegetarian dinner-a modern take on southern cuisine.
2. Domenica, celebrated chef John Besh’s take on Italian food
3. Herbsaint, the restaurant which brought NOLA chef Donald Link his first James Beard award in 2007. Food was a contemporary take on NOLA classics and was extremely delicious.
New Orleans Dining Guide. Budget dining
Stop by the tiny Bennachin Restaurant serving Gambian and Cameroonian cuisine for some delectable dishes hard to find elsewhere. Lots of vegetarian options available. Plus this is one rare place open for lunch on Mardi Gras. Another great place is the funky Brazilian restaurant Carmo, which is great for vegetarians and vegans. Another great place to grab a bite or sample local fare is the New Orleans French Market.
New Orleans Dining Guide. Cafes
Every tourist worth his/her salt flocks to Cafe du Monde, the iconic 24/7 cafe selling beignets and coffee but what about Calla cakes, precursor to beignets and now completely forgotten? Go to the Old Coffee Pot restaurant tucked away in one of the narrow lanes of the French Quarters to savor just that, a forgotten slice of New Orleans cuisine. It is ironically famous for its gumbo. Croissant D’Or Patisserie is another excellent cafe in the French quarters to grab some breakfast/brunch.
New Orleans Dining Guide. Avoid at all costs
I am talking about the Courtyard of two sisters, which offers a lunch buffet and is an absolute tourist trap.Never have I had such bland, watery food that tastes like cardboard. It is full of tourists that know or care for nothing better and is a sad excuse for food. Barring the courtyard itself, there is nothing good about it. They also have a sister franchise store in French Quarters which makes a killing during Mardi Gras night since nothing else is open then. Avoid that place like plague and buy some extra sandwiches from Vite Marte, a grocery/deli selling the best sandwiches ever!
This brings me to the end of the New Orleans food guide. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did gobbling those delicacies down! NOLA has a unique food culture and offerings, distinct from any other place in USA and is a must visit for all food aficionados. Read my other foodie adventures in Madrid here where I took a food tour and my ultimate food guide to Oaxaca city.
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