You can’t walk very far in New Orleans without finding delicious food. There are so many great restaurants in New Orleans, how in the world do you narrow it down? You could wing it, and many do. Spontaneity is the spice of life, right? But if you’re reading this it’s probably because you’re a bit Type A like I am and enjoy planning out all the little details of your trip. Why not? This might be your only time in New Orleans and why would you want to waste a meal on mediocre food in a city known for its amazing dishes? Am I reading your mind? Good, read on my organized friend!
This list of the best food in New Orleans is one that I’ve been keeping for a few years. Every time I visit New Orleans, I try to eat at different restaurants. Some are duds, but some I absolutely love. So keep in mind this list is by no means a complete, but it’s a great start for anyone planning a trip to the Big Easy.
If you don’t have your NOLA hotel yet, make sure you check out my number one tip for accommodations in New Orleans at the end of this post! If you still need some inspiration to book your first NOLA trip, check out my post on 10 Reasons Why You Should Visit New Orleans.
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The Best Food in New Orleans—French Quarter
Beignets at Café Du Monde
Beignets are a New Orleans staple and a must-try if you’re in the Big Easy. There are a few places to get them in NOLA but Café du Monde will always be my favorite. Is Café du Monde touristy? Of course, it is! But there’s a good reason for that. I’ve tried beignets at other places and no one seems to be able to match the light and crispy fluffiness that Café du Monde has mastered. When a place stays open 24 hours a day even through hurricanes, you can’t pass it up.
Tips for visiting Café du Monde:
- When you get to the main location near Jackson Square, you will see an atrociously long line, especially in the morning. Don’t let this discourage you! The tables turn very fast because no one is eating a full meal here.
- Don’t wear black! or if you do (like I seem to always do), make sure to cover yourself in napkins before your beignets come. Did you know that most people breathe out their nose when they eat? If you didn’t know that, you will as soon as a beignet is in your face; POWDERED SUGAR EVERYWHERE!
- Ask for a glass of water. When you’re done with your beignets, dip a napkin in your water to clean your hands and mouth. They will be sticky, there’s no way around it.
- Finally, there is another location that not many people know about. There’s a mall called Riverwalk located on the river past the ferry port, kind of next to Harrah’s (across the street, really). Same beignets, smaller lines. However, unless you’re staying in a hotel nearby, it’s a bit of a walk. It’s close to the aquarium so keep that in mind if you’re planning on going there.
Burgers and Garlic fries at New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood Company
All I really need to say about this one is garlic herb fries… but I’ll say more. I love their burgers, but they have wonderful local seafood options as well. There are several locations, but the one in the Quarter is on Decatur Street. When the weather is nice, check out the balcony upstairs. It will take your New Orleans dining experience to the next level!
Fried Basil BLT at Crescent City Brewhouse
Crescent City Brewhouse is right next to New Orleans Hamburger & Seafood Company. They have great food and of course great beer (brewed in house!). My favorite is their BLT which has fried basil on it (pictured). It sounds weird, but it’s very delicious. They also have many classic New Orleans dishes that are great. If you’re just interested in a beer, they have a walk-up window where you can grab one to-go. Cheers!
Website: Crescent City Brewhouse
Muffuletta’s at Napoleon House
This is a great little restaurant and bar on Chartres Street (pronounced Charters). If you’re looking for a place with a little history mixed in with your muffuletta, this is your spot! The building is over 200 years old and the restaurant is 100. They claim it’s haunted… you’ve been warned! The courtyard in the back is a beautiful place to have lunch and their gorgeous bar is the perfect place to grab a Pimm’s Cup if you’re just looking to imbibe.
Website: Napoleon House
Creole Food at K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen
If you are looking for traditional New Orleans Creole cooking, this is your spot. It’s a bit pricier than other Creole restaurants, but it’s worth it for the mouthwatering food. From turtle soup (don’t knock it until you try it) to traditional seafood gumbo, you’re sure to get your Cajun food fix here.
Website: K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen
Oysters at Acme Oyster House
Having oysters in New Orleans is something you have to do at least once in your life. They are so fresh and delicious whether you like them cooked or raw. Make sure you pay attention to oyster season and try to enjoy them at their peak time. Oyster season in Louisiana runs from September through April of the following year. Located on Iberville Street.
Website: Acme Oyster House
Poboys and Gumbo at NOLA Poboys
There are a million places to get poboys in New Orleans. In fact, I’d say most restaurants have them on their menus. But if you’re looking for a great lunch on Bourbon Street that won’t break the bank, NOLA Poboy is your answer.
Their portions are generous and that’s putting it lightly. I don’t eat a ton of seafood, so I usually get a ham poboy and it is out of this world delicious. They don’t use just any ham, it’s Chisesi ham with flavor so intense you’ll wonder what that other “ham” is you’ve been eating your whole life. Their fried food comes spicy, so if you want it mild make sure you ask. There’s an option to get extra spicy, but I caution doing this if you’re not used to Louisiana spicy (it’ll burn your tongue off, mon cher).
Something unique they offer that other poboy places don’t is the option to add a ladle of gumbo ON TOP of your sandwich. I think Guy Fieri needs to make a stop here. It’s counter service and they don’t have many tables. If you can swing it, try and go for an early or late lunch.
Website: NOLA Poboys
Muffuletta’s at Central Grocery
Central Grocery is famous for being the place where muffulettas were invented. It’s small with counter service and very few tables. It’s the perfect place for a cheap lunch in NOLA. Grab a sandwich and take it to the river to enjoy while watching the massive barges pass through or go people watch on a bench in Jackson Square. Located on Decatur Street.
Website: Central Grocery
Hurricanes and Alligator at Pat O’Brian’s
You’ve heard of the famous Hurricane drink in New Orleans, but have you ever had one at the bar where they were invented? Pat O’Brien’s is one of the most iconic New Orleans restaurants and one of my favorite spots to take friends who’ve never been to NOLA. It’s not just about the food; the courtyard with the fire fountains makes it such a unique place to dine. You absolutely must get a hurricane and you’ll probably have to get half of it to go (it’s very big, see picture above). Also, if alligator is in season, get the alligator bites as an appetizer (tastes like chicken, but better)! If your birthday falls anywhere around the time you’ll be in New Orleans, sign up for their birthday club online and you’ll get a voucher for a free drink including the glass to take home.
It does get a bit rowdy later in the evenings, so if you prefer a quieter dinner make your reservation earlier in the evening. Pat O’Brien’s is located on the corner of Bourbon St. and St. Peter St. (there are entrances on both streets, use either one). They will ask for your ID at the entrance, so have it ready. If you’re under 21, you can still eat there for dinner, but they will seat you in an under 21 section.
Pro-Tip: if you don’t want the souvenir glass that comes with your hurricane, you can give it back to the bar and they will give you $2 cash. If you do want to keep it, they will rinse the glass and package it for you in a travel-friendly box complete with a bag to make it easier to carry around.
Website: Pat O’Brien’s
Sazeracs at the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone
Forgive me, I know this isn’t a restaurant, but this bar is so pretty and it actually revolves like a carousel! Stop in for a Sazerac or 2 and enjoy this beautiful bar. Immediately to your right when you walk in the hotel. Located on Royal Street.
Website: Carousel Bar
The Best Food in New Orleans—Garden District
One of my favorite areas in New Orleans to get away from the crazy crowds is the Garden District. It’s beautiful. Some of the best food I’ve eaten in New Orleans happens to be in the Garden District. If you’re planning a trip to NOLA, the Garden District should be on your list for at least one day of your vacation.
Turtle Soup at Commander’s Palace
Commander’s Palace is one of the most historic and best restaurants in New Orleans. Considering its popularity among locals and tourists, it’s very expensive. I’ve never eaten there, but it’s on my New Orleans restaurant bucket list.
Their most well-known dish is turtle soup. That may be a little offputting to some, but it’s very delicious and an iconic New Orleans dish.
Consider having lunch at Commander’s Palace to bring the cost down. You’ll get to experience a historic New Orleans restaurant while sticking to your travel budget.
Website: Commander’s Palace
Pressed Sandwiches at The Grocery
Different than the Central Grocery. It’s on a little corner and looks like a hole in the wall. They have the BEST sandwiches. The Cuban is a great pick, but you can’t go wrong with a poboy or a pressed sandwich! For a great lunch idea, grab a couple sandwiches to-go and head over to Audubon Park via the streetcar. This park is beautiful and the perfect place to enjoy a delicious lunch in a lesser-known part of the city.
Website: The Grocery
Omelettes and Bloody Mary’s at Red Dog Diner
If you enjoy gourmet omelettes, Red Dog Diner needs to be on your list for breakfast in New Orleans. I never realized how delicious an omelette could be until I had one at Red Dog Diner. They have incredible bloody mary’s too. With its location in the heart of the Garden District, it’s a perfect place to start your day. After the perfect breakfast, take a stroll to Lafayette Cemetery number 1 or just admire the incredible homes along the massive oak-lined streets.
Website: Red Dog Diner
Candied Bacon at Apolline
Candied bacon, chicken and waffles, bottomless bloody mary’s. Need I go on? We discovered Apolline while visiting friends of ours that we met on a trip to Europe. It was the perfect place to catch up while devouring a delicious breakfast in the Garden District of New Orleans. Apolline takes reservations and I highly recommend making them.
Shrimp and Grits at Surrey’s Uptown
Yet another incredible option for breakfast in New Orleans. If you can make all of your breakfast be in the Garden District, you’ll be eating very well. Surrey’s is a recent discovery of mine and has now become a forever favorite. I have never eaten such amazing shrimp and grits in my life and their breakfast sandwiches are to die for. If you’re looking for something a little healthier, they also make delicious fresh juices sure to cure any New Orleans sized hangover.
One of my favorite things about Surrey’s is the art all throughout this charming New Orleans restaurant. While you’re waiting on your food, don’t forget to admire their creative tabletops or the beautiful pieces hanging around the eatery.
Website: Surrey’s Uptown
There you have it! Do you have any favorite eateries that can’t be missed in New Orleans? Since I go every year, I’m always looking for new places to try. Leave suggestions in the comments below. Eager to plan more of your New Orleans trip? Check out this post next: 10 Best Things to do in New Orleans
Get a head start on your New Orleans hotel research! Tip: If you want to be within walking distance of all the major things in the Quarter, stay to the right of Canal Street, to the left of Esplanade Avenue, and as close to the river as you can get. I usually aim to not go past Bourbon Street. The closer you get to North Rampart it gets a little less touristy.