When I was asking my friends for recommendations on must-do's in New Orleans, it turned into a list of must...eats.
It's no secret that New Orleans is a culinary destination, and I don't think my stomach was quite ready for this. Correction: my stomach was most definitely not ready for the onslaught of foods that I don't typically include in my trainer's diet (I'll be going into how I try to balance my nutrition with traveling in another post coming soon!). Fried food is never something I gravitate towards on a menu, mostly because I only rarely ever desire it, but also of course because it isn't exactly health-optimal.
After 36 hours in New Orleans, boyfriend and I looked at each other with defeated faces and said, "no more fried food." White flag, waved. Fried seafood, po-boys, beignets...oof. Even the grilled fish was heavier than usual.
While I don't think I'd be anticipating the next time I eat a diet this heavy for my personal taste, I'm glad I got to experience New Orleans like this once. I did have some favorites, which I want to share with you guys here, as well as my honest opinion on the other "popular" joints that I didn't think was all that cracked up to be.
This list includes the 10 places I managed to stop by, and I also listed other highly recommended places you should add to your list when you go to NOLA!
New Orleans: 10 Best Eats and Drinks
I found this place thanks to it's nearly 26k followers on their Instagram. I never used to be interested in donuts, but for some reason since I had it as my post StrongFirst kettlebell certification treat, I've been wanting to try all the funky flavors.
District donuts does not disappoint- firstly, they have the best breakfast sandwich I have ever had in my entire life. Miso-praline bacon, egg, on a buttermilk biscuit was beyond words and the most flavorful thing I had during my trip.
This place serves up 1000 Faces coffee, all kinds of sliders (like my breakfast one, as well as lunch sliders such as Blackened Chicken & Pork Belly), donuts, and beer. I picked up a classic chocolate frosted and salted caramel donut for boyfriend who was working- I had a bite of each of these, and while they were good, they were very dense compared to New York doughnutteries like Doughnut Plant and Dough. A bite was filling enough! A great place for a casual date or a group of friends for brunch, there's something for everyone.
Warning: if you are a vegetarian, vegan, or not a fan of pork, I would skip over this one.
For the rest of you, wow. This place was on nearly every list of recommendations I got, and for good reason. The cajun-style food was fantastic, and it has many an unusual dish. I got the oyster and bacon sandwich, which the waiter described as "God's BLT," and boyfriend got the special, which was a pork tenderloin with mustard greens, radishes, and this absurdly delicious sweet and spicy sauce. They also have more adventurous dishes like fried alligator, fried boudin, and Louisiana cochon.
I did feel a little Paula Deen riding a stick of butter after this lunch. Thankfully, I had a long walk to the French Quarter planned ahead of me!
Tableau was on my list, but I was actually just walking through the French Quarter towards Jackson Square when I passed by and had to go inside because it looked so quaint.
Formerly a 3-story townhouse, Tableau is a classic New Orleans upscale restaurant and bar. During the daytime, it is much more casual, with patrons sitting outside on the wraparound balcony that overlooks Jackson Square (picture above) sipping on their unique cocktails. At night, the restaurant transforms into a buttoned-up, white-tablecloth restaurant, serving Creole comfort food like BBQ shrimp & grits and courtbouillon. Decently priced for a nicer meal out, with great service in a lovely atmosphere.
Ah, Cafe Du Monde- probably the most famous restaurant in New Orleans to tourists, known for their beignets and chicory coffee. Arriving on a Sunday at noon unsurprisingly had us waiting in a long line of about 20 people in front of us, but we were seated fairly quickly in a matter of about 10 minutes.
I suppose it depends on what you are expecting to see when you visit Cafe Du Monde, but most people don't realize that it is a massive tented outdoor seating cafe that is quite gritty and not the cleanliest of places in terms of atmosphere (warning: powdered sugar everywhere). Having heard this, I knew what to expect, but I definitely saw several tourists faces looking quite surprised. I didn't care- I was there for my chicory coffee and beignet!
The beignets were indeed delicious and met my hopes, and the chicory coffee was just what I needed on a Sunday morning after a long weekend. I do have to say, the amount of powdered sugar they dump on these beignets though... I could have made frosting for at least half a dozen cupcakes from the powdered sugar leftover from our beignets. OH, and PS it's cash only!
I had heard about St. Roch Market from my blogger friend, Cara Greenstein, of the wonderful blog Caramelized. St. Roch Market is a little bit of everything, so it is the perfect place to bring a group of friends with differing tastes. They have around 15 vendors-there are healthy juices from Juice Nola, classic New Orleans Creole cuisine, a "Koreole" (Korean/Creole) stand, charcuterie, coffee, desserts, oh my. There was also a live small band playing, and the whole market reminded me of a small-scale indoor Smorgasburg.
After all the heavy fried food we had been eating, I had been craving fresh, raw oysters and my prayers were answered with Curious Oyster. We got a dozen oysters, mostly Steamboat (from Washington), and some Miyagi (Vancouver)- all of these oysters were gargantuan and so delicious. I personally didn't love the Miyagi as much, but the Steamboat were so hearty and fresh.
We grabbed our oysters and sat down at the bar at The Mayhaw for a drink with our oysters. I got the Forage Sparkler (fresh watermelon, Italian grapefruit bitter, and sparkling wine), and it was the perfect refreshing drink to accompany our oysters. The cocktails were all around $7-9, which compared to NYC standards, is very cheap, so I was happy!
This was my very stop on my first full day in New Orleans. I was going to wander down Magazine Street to explore, and I'm so glad that this was my first stop to kick off my day. I was greeted by the friendliest barista, who helped me select a "shakerato" as my drink- it's a double espresso, shaken over ice, and poured into an espresso glass rimmed with raw turbinado sugar. It was absolutely delicious!
To top this experience off, there were so many adorable neighborhood regulars bringing their dogs in, and this nugget was the sweetest ham ever that just made my day.
French Truck Coffee originally started as an iconic orange and blue coffee truck driving around NOLA, and this flagship only opened a few months ago. They were nice enough to show me around their roasting plant in the back room, and it was so cool to see them so carefully work on their selectively sourced beans. I was also able to bring home a bag of the barista's favorite blend, La Belle Noir, and I can't wait to brew it.
This New Yorker found her little slice of heaven right here in this little coffeeshop. Notably different in vibes and design than everything else in New Orleans, I asked more about the shop's origins. The owners are from California and New York, so it figures.
Revelator serves up their own coffee, alongside Flying Bird Botanicals custom tea blends from Washington. They like to source their design, equipment, and items for purchase from local suppliers. They also have other locations in Alabama, Atlanta, and Tennessee.
I camped out here on Saturday morning to get some work done and cool down from the sweltering heat outside. Their 6oz Espresso + Milk (basically a macchiato) was perfectly made, and I nibbled on a mushroom and spinach quiche for breakfast. They also carry fresh pressed juices by City Greens Press - the cucumber lemonade was the perfect savior on a hot Louisiana summer day.
Listed as one of the local seafood places I needed to go, this place was very classic New Orleans local diner-esque spot with all of the creole classics. Fried oysters, shrimp, soft-shell crab, hushpuppies, jambalaya, etc. The food was solid, the atmosphere was a one of a run-down, crowded diner near Bourbon street. A place you can count on for some late-night eats after an evening spent on Bourbon street.
This is the "famous" oyster house that everyone talks about- the line was insanely long upon first glance, but moved quickly. I slipped in here for a quick lunch of a 1/2 shrimp po-boy and a cup of seafood gumbo. The gumbo was delicious, as was the po-boy. Acme is essentially a bar- dimly lit, loud, crowded, but great bar food- Louisiana style. I don't have any photos from here since it was so dimly lit, but I think you guys get the picture.
10. Red Fish Grill
This was a great place for a dinner out with a large group of people. This fun but touristy (I mean, it's on Bourbon street) restaurant was huge with about 4 different rooms and a large bar area. Red Fish offers up a large menu that is heavily seafood based with mostly New Orleans influenced flavors. I got their most popular dish, the grilled Red Fish over diced potatoes and peas, and lemon butter. The fish was perfectly cooked and flavorful. The group we were with also ordered the highly recommended flash-fried oysters in Crystal hot sauce, and those were on point- and I'm not usually a fan of cooked oysters.
Other Recommendations I didn't Make it to:
- Deanie's Seafood: Supposedly the best place in town for a bucket of crawfish!
- Mother's: A NOLA institution- breakfast biscuits with a famous selection of pork items
- Surrey's Cafe and Juice Bar: I passed by here on Magazine Street, and it looked like a great eclectic place for a low-key fun Sunday brunch
- The Green Fork: I think this may be the only fully "healthy" restaurant I found in NOLA- juices, smoothies, and takeaway
- The Ruby Slipper Cafe: Also a highly recommended breakfast place for Eggs Cochon and Shrimp & Grits
- Stanley Restaurant: A bit nicer of a place for brunch, lunch, and dinner. Serving up more American-style cuisine with hints of Louisiana style
- Pat O'Briens: For you raucous people who want to daydrink on Bourbon Street, this is apparently the spot for it! Hurricanes are the classic staple here in the city.