5 Foods You Must Try When You Visit New Orleans
Anything else is lagniappe (a little something extra).
In a city with as rich of a culinary tradition as New Orleans, the question isn't where to eat but how many of its storied restaurants you'll have time to visit. You can always find reasons to eat classics like beignets at Cafe du Monde, muffulettas at Central Grocery, soft-shell crabs at Galatoire's, fried chicken at Willie Mae's Scotch House, jambalaya at Jacques-Imo's, po' boys at Acme Oyster House, and gumbo at Dooky Chase's. But if you have to narrow down your list of the must-eat places in New Orleans, go for the following five dishes first. Just make sure you have another trip planned to eat everything else.
1. Shrimp Arnaud at Arnaud's
Arnaud's Restaurant, just off Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, has been serving Creole cuisine for 102 years. Basically, anything the restaurant serves will taste incredible. Its Shrimp Arnaud, though, is in another stratosphere. Its beauty lies in its simplicity: chilled Gulf shrimp marinated in signature spicy remoulade sauce, made with horseradish and Creole mustard. The sauce has become so popular that it's sold by the bottle. Find it at culinary gift shops around the city and online.
2. Whiskey Bread Pudding Soufflé at Commander's Palace
If you visit New Orleans without ever eating at Commander's Palace, you haven't really visited New Orleans. This legendary Garden District restaurant has been filling bellies (and emptying wallets) since 1893. It's the pinnacle of refined Creole cuisine. Commander's even launched the careers of celebrity chefs Emeril Lagasse and Paul Prudhomme. The entire menu is excellent, but you cannot miss the Creole Bread Pudding Soufflé — rich bread pudding baked with an airy soufflé on top and finished with a whiskey cream sauce.
3. Char-Grilled Oysters at Desire Oyster Bar
A signature New Orleans food, char-grilled oysters grace many menus in the city. Order them at Desire Oyster Bar, which sits at the oft-photographed corner of Bourbon and Bienville. Freshly-shucked Gulf oysters are topped with garlic, Parmesan, and butter then grilled and served sizzling hot with crusty French bread. Grab a seat at the raw bar, order a dozen, and get ready to order a dozen more. Think you don't like cooked oysters? These will change your mind.
4. Bananas Foster at Brennan's
You'll never regret dining at Brennan's, another French Quarter institution, especially in the morning. Wear your stretchy pants. Brunch at Brennan's should consist of three courses. Start with turtle soup, then move on to Eggs Hussarde — poached eggs, coffee-cured Canadian bacon, and hollandaise on a house-made English muffin, all atop mushroomy marchand de din sauce. For dessert, you're all but obligated to order Bananas Foster, which Ella Brennan invented at the restaurant in the 1950s. Your server will prepare this cinnamon-spiced dessert at your table flambé-style with rum and banana liqueur for a dramatic, fiery finish. Eat it over vanilla ice cream.
5. Oyster BLT at Gris Gris
Gris Gris is a relative newcomer to the New Orleans food scene. This modern Southern restaurant has received raves since it opened in 2018. Though the Oyster BLT sounds like a sandwich, it's not. This appetizer consists of fried Gulf oysters, smoked pork belly, tomato jam, and micro arugula, all dressed in sugarcane vinegar. It's everything decadent about New Orleans cuisine, but in a preparation that feels (and tastes) modern. Side note: Gris Gris lies on Magazine Street, so you can walk off the dish as you explore the area's antique shops and boutiques.