It's an historic city, a port city, a city where so many culinary standards were invented or set. And yet, New Orleans continues to build on its past in creative ways that keep every bite fresh and compelling.
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Local Flavors

Justin Devillier achieves a balance so many chefs strive for — respect for tradition, celebration of local flavors, and a successful personal spin — at his flagship restaurant, La Petite Grocery. From its blue crab beignets to its rich turtle Bolognese, La Petite is a modern New Orleans icon.

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Left: La Petite Grocery | Credit: Gabrielle Geiselman
Right: Blue Crab Benignets at La Petite Grocery | Credit: Gabrielle Geiselman

New Orleans loves ritual. New Orleans loves a party. And Friday lunch at Galatoire's marries the two in the most delightfully chaotic and cocktail-fueled way, with tables often intermingling by meal's end and the occasional second line dance parade. Career servers guide you through the kitchen's best, which may include shrimp rémoulade and a flaming bowl of café brûlot. Don't even bother asking for a menu; just trust them.

The unpredictability of the menu at Coquette is part of its charm. At this high-low bistro, power duo Kristen Essig and Michael Stoltzfus showcase ingredients in their best light. If it's on offer, try the charred okra with creole cream cheese and bottarga—or put yourself in their hands for a five-course blind tasting. But don't fall in love with any one dish; you may never see it again.

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Coquette's Kristen Essig & Michael Stoltzfus
| Credit: Coquette

Italians have had a hand in this city's food scene since Sicilians arrived in the 1880s. At Gianna, executive chef Rebecca Wilcomb pays tribute to the city's (and her own) Italian heritage with rustic bites you'd normally need a passport to find: soulful pastas (spaghetti with mussels), hearty meats (roasted pork with fennel and orange), and little bites (hunks of sausage baked in bubbling provola cheese) that make you think, "I'd come back just for that."

Hidden-Gem Experiences

For a deeper sense of the European, African, and Caribbean influences that shaped New Orleans and the South as a whole, visit the Southern Food & Beverage Museum, a treasure trove of artifacts that covers everything from Acadian migration and Gulf fishing culture to the local significance of eating red beans and rice every Monday.

Dig vintage cookware? The ever-changing selection at Seasoned includes such gems as cast-iron skillets, Magnalite roasting pans, and 1940s Pyrex dishes.

A blend of tasting room, working distillery, and interactive museum, The Sazerac House brings cocktail culture to life in three stories of exhibits. And it's free.

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The Sazerac House
| Credit: The Sazerac House

Where to Stay

Awash in gingham and outfitted with clawfoot tubs and canopy beds, the cheerful 71-room Hotel Peter & Paul is the stunning revamp of an 1860s church, school, rectory, and convent. It's also home to chef Alex Harrell's The Elysian Bar, one of the country's hottest new restaurants.

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Credit: Jennifer V. Cole

Souvenirs

Tuck them in your carry-on or ask them to ship you some—just don't miss out on the chocolate chip cookies from Willa Jean. Topped with sea salt and loaded with three different kinds of Valrhona chocolate, they are perfect. Other goodies to bring home: French Truck Coffee, Cochon Abita Whole Grain Mustard, and Toups Hot Sauces.

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About the Writer

This Mississippi native and former Southern Living editor co-authored the Cajun cookbook Chasing the Gator and has been living her best life as a global vagabond for two-plus years — traveling Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Mexico, and the South. She calls both New Orleans and Sicily home. Follow her adventures on Instagram at @jennifervcole.

Jennifer V cole
Credit: Jennifer V. Cole

This article originally appeared in the April/May 2020 issue of Allrecipes Magazine.