When you come to New Orleans, come hungry. This is a town full of eaters who start talking about what they’re going to have for dinner before lunch is over. New Orleans’ rich history and cocktail culture have led the city to become one of the most legendary places to eat in the world.
Here are some of the best of the best, from famous restaurants’ signature dishes to types of food you just can’t miss:
There’s a reason these are a classic. Pair them with a cup of cafe au lait for the ultimate New Orleans experience.
Fried oyster, shrimp, catfish, garlicky roast beef ... try some or try them all. Parkway and Domilise’s are two favorites for the classics, but in the world of po-boys, there’s really no wrong choice - just as long as you order yours “dressed.”
Patrons of this “Grand Dame” of Creole dining are sure to make a reservation in advance to grab a table in Galatoire’s famous downstairs dining room–a delight for pre-planners, as the downstairs used to be only seated on a first-come, first-serve basis. Expect delicious, classic New Orleans food in an elegant, French Quarter atmosphere. Order the goute to start–it's a shareable feast of crab maison and shrimp remoulade. Tack on an order of oysters en brochette (fried, bacon-wrapped oysters), and you've got the appetizer all-star team. From there, turtle soup au sherry, Godchaux salad... the list goes on of must-try dishes on the menu. Prepare to leave stuffed.
The late Chef Leah Chase’s famous Tremé restaurant has been synonymous with decadent Creole cuisine since it opened as a sandwich shop in 1939. Try a little bit of everything, from red beans and rice to fried oyster salad and the stuffed shrimp.
Around the corner from Dooky Chase, you’ll find what the Travel Channel once labeled “America’s Best Fried Chicken.” There may be a line, but it’s worth it.
*Editor's Note: Willie Mae's is currently temporarily closed due to a fire. You can check their social media for updates on their reopening.
New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp is as messy as it is delicious, and that’s a good thing. French bread is a necessary accompaniment to the buttery, peppery sauce on this dish. The barbecue shrimp originated at this unassuming Uptown gem, where you can also get your raw oyster fix.
Turtle Soup and pecan pie are staples of this iconic Garden District restaurant, though everything at this Haute Creole restaurant is tasty. Enjoy classics like Commander’s Creole gumbo, pecan-crusted Gulf fish, and Creole bread pudding soufflé.
These sandwiches are perfect for sharing ... or not (we won’t judge). Grab one from Central Grocery and then take it up to Woldenberg Park for a picnic along the river, where you can watch the steamboats pass.
*Editor’s Note: Central Grocery remains temporarily closed following damage from Hurricane Ida, but you can still find their muffalettas packaged to-go next door at Sidney's Wine Cellar (917 Decatur St.)
Perhaps one of the most delicious ways to cool off, the snowball is a favorite treat in New Orleans from early spring through late fall. Fans fiercely support their favorite places, such as Hansen’s Sno-Bliz, which has been open since 1939. It has a dedicated following for good reason. Another favorite is Plum Street Snowballs tucked away Uptown.
Invented at Brennan's but offered at many restaurants, it's a dessert to savor. You’ll watch an expert server prepare the dish before your table, and the cooking demo includes an impressive pyrotechnic display. It's a perfect end to Breakfast at Brennan’s. They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and that’s especially true when it involves brandy milk punch, Brennan’s signature Eggs Hussarde, and Bananas Foster.
While it should be on every foodie’s list to try boiled crawfish, there’s plenty of ways to enjoy spicy mudbugs all over town. Try a hot dog made with crawfish sausage and topped with crawfish étouffée at Dat Dog, and Vietnamese crawfish boils at Boil Seafood House. You can find traditional boiled crawfish and sides at Frankie & Johnny’s.
Gumbo is a NOLA staple prepared differently by every chef. Try it from famous spots like The Munch Factory or Liuzza’s by the Track. See even more types and places to try in our Ultimate Guide to Gumbo.
Jacques-Imos is a classic, yet funky, New Orleans spot for fried food and seafood. Their signature alligator cheesecake is one-of-a-kind. To have a really unique experience, ask to be seated in the truck bed out front.
Think of a blown up French fry and you might be close to imagining soufflé potatoes. The super thin potatoes are puffed with air and paired with béarnaise sauce for dipping. You can get a taste at Arnaud’s or Galatoire's.
From chefs Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski, Cochon Butcher is a deli and butcher serving classic Cajun meats. It is an outpost of their larger restaurant, Cochon, located right next door. Their hot boudin is a must try while in Southern Louisiana.
New Orleans has a ton of James Beard Winning chefs and restaurants, so it may be ambitious to say you want to try them all. But if you’re planning on working your way through the list, expect a truly delicious journey.
Historically, Réveillon dinners were multi-course, extravagant meals served after Christmas Eve mass. Today, many of the city’s best restaurants celebrate the holiday season with special prix fixe menus all December long. You can find detailed menus and participating restaurants beginning in early October on Holiday.NewOrleans.com.
Looking to expand your own cooking skills and bring a little New Orleans back with you? Try out cooking classes at one of our many fantastic cooking schools. Your friends and family will be forever grateful.
Want to go beyond the typical New Orleans cuisine? Here are unique dishes you must try in New Orleans.