Sure, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (or Jazz Fest, for short), is first and foremost a music festival. But everyone knows that Jazz Fest wouldn’t be Jazz Fest without the killer menu of local and state food vendors selling one-of-a-kind, mouthwatering dishes–many of which you can only get during the 10-day festival that happens once a year. And one thing that seems to shock newbies the most is that this isn’t your typical fest fare–sure you’ll find casual grub that’s easy to snack on as you move from stage to stage, but other offerings feel like they’d fit in just as well at a white-table-cloth establishment, and yet somehow, they’re perfectly executed in the great outdoors on disposable plates.

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Paul Broussard
Jazz Fest Food Area 1

So for those of us with food FOMO (guilty), a plan of attack is absolutely crucial to fit in all of the delicacies before the festival gates shut on the final Sunday. A lot of this food isn’t exactly light (we’re talking po-boys and crawfish-and-cheese-stuffed bread), so it’s often best to team up with a group of friends who are as food-driven as you are and make a pact to share bites to ensure you get to try as much as possible.

Paul Broussard
A Jazz Fest Food MVP

And while this list contains the classics, it’s always best to save room for new kids on the fest block, as there will always be something else delicious that catches your eye.

Paul Broussard
Crawfish Bread

The Best Jazz Fest Food

Crawfish Bread

Panorama Foods

Jazz Fest isn’t Jazz Fest without a few staple dishes, and one of them is the world-famous crawfish bread from Panorama Foods. Enjoy spicy, saucy crawfish tails in melted cheese pressed between fresh bread. This one is fairly portable, so grab it as you make your way to the stage of your choice.

Hot Sausage Po-Boy

Vaucresson’s

If you’re a fan of spice, definitely try out this spicy sausage po-boy from Vaucresson’s. It’s bright red, so you know it brings the heat. 

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Cochon de Lait Po-Boy

Cochon de Lait Po-Boy

Love at First Bite

For those who love meat, the cochon de lait po-boy can’t be missed. It’s perfectly spiced and tender smoked pork shoulder on French bread with a mustardy, crunchy slaw. 

Pecan Catfish Meuniere 

Gallagher’s Grill

This dish is a prime example of a fairly surprising find at an outdoor music festival. Catfish is perfectly cooked, then topped with a decadent meuniere sauce dotted with pecans. You can also grab a crab cake to go alongside your fish at this same vendor. 

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Trout Baquet

Trout Baquet 

Lil’ Dizzy’s 

This excellent fish dish features a buttery heap of delicious Lousiana crabmeat atop a panfried piece of trout. Again, unexpectedly fancy for a festival. But certainly worth a taste. 

Fried Pork Chop Sandwich 

Ms. Linda’s Catering

Here you’ll find bone-in, thin chops perfectly seasoned and fried served with a slathering of mayo between two slices of white bread. Don’t let the bone scare you off–this sandwich is pure heaven. 

Paul Broussard
Crawfish Enchiladas

Crawfish Enchiladas

Prejean’s Restaurant

It may seem like we’re on to a theme here with the crawfish tails and melted cheese, but this Louisiana spin on a Mexican classic is spicy, rich, and filling. 

Pheasant, Quail and Andouille Gumbo

Prejean’s Restaurant

Also from Prejean’s, this hearty stew is an excellent pick for anyone who loves dark roux and a seriously spicy gumbo. 

Paul Broussard
Soft-Shell Crab Po-Boy

Soft-Shell Crab Po-Boy

Galley Seafood Restaurant

Another top pick is the fried soft-shell crab po-boy from Galley Seafood Restaurant. If you’ve never had soft-shell crab before, don’t be alarmed to find a full, crispy-fried crab waiting for you between french bread and served with pickle slices. 

Spinach, Crawfish and Zucchini Bisque 

Jamila’s Cafe

So bisque at a festival might seem like a bold choice, but this creamy soup from local Tunisian restaurant Jamila’s is just so good. It’s perfectly spiced without being spicy, and makes for a very worthwhile addition to your Jazz Fest food journey.

Paul Broussard
Crawfish Monica, Jazz Fest 2016

Crawfish Monica

Kajun Kettle Foods

This fan-favorite pasta dish is a classic for good reason. Rotini pasta is coated in a rich, buttery sauce full of crawfish tails, garlic, and Cajun spices. If mac’n’cheese had a South Louisiana cousin, this would be her.

Creole Stuffed Bread

Creole’s Lunch House

I was a latecomer to this treat, but I can’t imagine my Jazz Fests without it now. It’s a mixture of spicy ground Creole sausage inside a soft, almost-sweet roll. The combination is perfection. 

Paul Broussard
Jama Jama and Plaintains

Jama Jama and Plaintains 

Bennachin

For all the vegetarians out there, this one is for you. Here you’ll find spicy sauteed spinach piled high with a side of perfectly pan-fried plantains. 

Paul Broussard
Crawfish Beignets

Crawfish Sack, Oyster Patties, and Crawfish Beignets

Patton’s

While each item from Patton’s can be purchased individually, true fest food fans know that the combo plate is the ideal Jazz Fest trifecta. The sack is a fried beggar’s purse with crawfish filling, while the oyster patty is a tower of puff pastry filled with oyster cream sauce. Finally, the crawfish beignet is a savory take on the New Orleans classic dessert–this time with spicy crawfish in the batter, which is then fried and topped with a crawfish cream sauce. *chef’s kiss*

Paul Broussard
Strawberry Lemonade

And to wash it all down… (The Best Jazz Fest Beverages) 

Rosemint Iced Tea

Perhaps one of the most refreshing beverages on the planet, there’s truly nothing that compares to a giant glass of rosemint iced tea on a warm day at the fairgrounds. It’s lightly sweetened, with hints of hibiscus and a minty punch. 

Strawberry Lemonade

Another ultra-refreshing beverage, the strawberry lemonade is tart yet sweet and oh, so sippable 

Paul Broussard
Mango Freeze

Mango Freeze

WWOZ

And finally, the ultimate Jazz Fest cooldown treat has to be the mango freeze. While it’s technically a dessert, it works very well as a palate cleanser between sets. Rumor has it that it also transforms into a delightful frozen-ish cocktail when combined with the canned sparkling wine sold throughout the festival.