If you’re looking for amazing cocktails, New Orleans is your destination. But, the food scene here is full of local delights that reflect the city’s long, diverse history. CSL has compiled some of the best restaurants, bars, cafes and local faves for you to enjoy.
1/ Deanie’s Seafood
Follow locals who have frequented this seafood mecca for over 50 years, with a visit to the original French Quarter location. A quintessential New Orleans experience, Deanie’s Seafood offers large portions of seafood prepared in different ways (boiled, broiled and fried). On a recent visit I enjoyed the deep, rich flavour of the crawfish bisque. Studded with juicy tail meat, it is made even heartier with a spoonful of rice. The charbroiled oysters have a smoky note and you’ll undoubtedly use that chunk of French bread to sop up the delicious crustacean butter in the bottom of the skillet of the barbeque shrimp. You can’t go wrong with the crab quartet – creamy and rich crabmeat au gratin, crisp and savoury crab balls, gently fried soft shell crab and a plethora of sweet, fried crab claws, each element able to sing in their own right, and together a triumphant symphony of seafood goodness.
THE BITE: Crab Quartet
2/ Cafe Maspero
There are countless New Orleans food icons including the muffaletta, jambalaya, po’ boy sandwich and red beans and rice. Try some of these classic dishes in a casual setting at Cafe Maspero located on busy Decatur Street. The veggie muffaletta, loaded with salty olive salad and melted Swiss cheese is addictive, and you can’t go wrong with Louisiana oysters fried to a tawny gold, stuffed into a French bun and served with a mountain of French fries.
THE BITE: Oyster plate
3/ Cafe Du Monde
What began as a stand in the French Market in 1862, Cafe Du Monde has grown to enjoy an enviable worldwide reputation. For a place that makes only two things, its original location is buzzing. Unmistakably pillowy beignets (or doughnuts), dusted with powdered sugar, are served alongside a steaming hot cup of dark roasted chicory coffee. On hot days, opt for the delicious iced coffee.
THE BITE AND SIP: Beignets and chicory coffee
If you’re looking for a change from traditional fare, why not opt for a twist on Asian street food? Located in southern food hall St. Roch Market, owner and chef Tung Nguyen serves up Vietnamese staples (fresh spring rolls, pho, vermicelli bowls) alongside pretzel bun sliders, roti, and Asian-American fusion crab rangoon dip at T2 Streetfood. Warm your soul with a huge steaming bowl of pho, available in three variations including ‘the cure’, a traditional beef broth with a choice of protein, and a vegan friendly version with vegan broth, tofu and mushrooms. The sweet, soft bao are addictive bites, packed with juicy roasted cage free chicken, slaw, green onions and sriracha aioli, while the crunchy banh mi with garlic aioli, cucumber pickled root vegetables and cilantro is as beautiful as it is delicious.
THE BITE: Banh Mi
5/ Dat Dog
Whether as an accompaniment to late night drinking, a late afternoon snack or full meal, Dat Dog has a dog for you – solid classic beef and pork dogs – along with creative twists: duck, crawfish, vegan dogs, grilled chicken, cod, and datburger. With four strategic locations, this local haunt has a philosophy of creativity and fun. We love the nod to poutine in the crawfish etouffe – fries are loaded with mud bugs and drenched in a rich gravy. The golden, crisp, beer battered cod in the sea dog special is stuffed with fresh onion, tomatoes and a homemade tartar sauce while the fried buffalo chicken dog, with blue cheese, celery and buffalo sauce is made for football games. Oh, and we dare you to try the alligator sausage.
THE BITE: Crawfish etouffe fries
6/ Hard Rock Cafe
Located right in the heart of the French Quarter on famous Bourbon Street, the memorabilia at this music-infused restaurant is as varied as the neighbourhood itself – a harmonica owned by Bob Dylan, a signed photo of jazz vocalist Billie Holiday and a silver trumpet owned by legend Louis Armstrong. For dinner, try the bbq shimp (juicy and cider spiked) and grits, or the Bourbon Street jambalaya with chunks of smoked chicken, grilled shrimp and Andouille sausage blended with seasoned yellow rice and Creole seasonings. For dessert, opt for the boozy Irish kiss – Jameson Irish Whiskey, Baileys Irish Cream and Monin Spiced Brown Sugar, topped with whipped cream, chocolate morsels and chocolate syrup. Don’t forget your grab and go cup to take your favourite beverage with you! hardrock.com/cafes/new-orleans
THE SIP: Irish Kiss
7/ Salon By Sucré
From the gleaming bar with mirrored panels, gold shelves and marble countertop, to the hardwood floors and exposed white brick walls, leather banquette seats and balcony overlooking the French Quarter, there are eye-catching French mid-century design elements at every turn. Not only is the decor flawless at Salon by Sucré, but the cocktails (including my refreshing Elton) and food stand up in their own right. Crisp fried chicken draped with a thin slice of cheese, encased in two buttermilk waffles and served with maple syrup is a great brunch option. The roasted vegetable salad with eggplant, red pepper, zucchini, portobello and goat cheese is a hearty accompaniment. The enormous serving of chicken poutine is dressed with a creamy velouté, warm melted gruyère, shredded chicken and a dollop of fresh salsa to cut through all that richness. Order a selection of desserts to go, and be sure to come back another day for afternoon tea.
THE BITE: Chicken and Waffles
Want to experience the best kind of mash up? Walk into this bar/ restaurant/ arcade and you’ll be greeted with electric energy, up tempo music, brilliant cocktails and friends trying to outplay each other at giant jenga, or one of several other classic arcade games. Chef Brian Bajon has reflected the high energy atmosphere in a menu that elevates casual fare, fusing it with modern flavours. Southern deviled eggs are given a kick with sriracha, creamy mac ‘n cheese is given a New Orleans spin with the addition of crawfish, burgers and sandwiches fill your craving and chicken wings are the right kind of sticky, bathed in flavours like ghost pepper buffalo and sweet ‘n spicy honey sriricha.
THE BITE: Burger (there are several to suit your taste)
9/ Hot Tin
See Crescent city glow at golden hour from the rooftop bar of the Pontchartrain Hotel, called Hot Tin, a nod to Tennessee Williams who once lived at the hotel. With views of the Mississippi river and downtown New Orleans, the bar serves up cool cocktails with witty names like the pontch de leon (pisco, allspice dram, cinnamon, lime, grapefruit and bitters), and Nova Lee (gin, galliano, luxardo, camomile, thyme and bitters) and effortlessly evokes the 1940s artist’s loft vibe of a bygone era.
THE SIP: Nova Lee
10/ Crawfish Boil
Spring (March to June) is officially crawfish season. The small, sweet, freshwater crustacean are commonly prepared by boiling in a combination of cayenne pepper, salt, onions, potatoes, corn, garlic, pepper, lemon and Creole seasoning.
THE BITE: Crawfish boil
The cocktails in this city have the just reputation of being fantastic. Want to try a native New Orleans creation? The sazerac is found at bars, restaurants and hotels across the city. It is made by combining ¼ oz absinthe, one sugar cube, 1 ½ oz Rye whiskey or Cognac, and three dashes Peychaud’s Bitters.
THE SIP: Sazerac
This original food article first appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of City Style and Living Magazine.