New Orleans:
Best food, best restaurants

Best foods in New Orleans


New Orleans
has many highlights: Great music, night life, history, architecture ... The Big Easy is a town made for tourists. But one of this city's most famous attractions is its great food and drink.

The best part is, you don't have to break the bank to eat really well here, and this is actually one of the few cities where you can be in a touristy area and the food is fantastic anyway. Unfortunately, I've been to too many places where you have to walk at least five or six blocks from a tourist attraction to get decent food. My only caveat: I would choose wisely when eating in the heart of the French Quarter. I had some disappointing meals here.

If you're visiting NOLA, here's where you should eat.

Ruby Slipper Cafe

This breakfast spot is SO GOOD it's hard to believe it's a chain. There are six locations in New Orleans, and some are busier than others. The restaurant closest to our hotel was in the Central Business District and lineups here were always around 30-40 minutes. (Hours at the CBD restaurant are from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.) But the restaurant on Decatur Street is only a few blocks away, and it's often way less busy.
Recommendations: Get the Peacemaker, which comprises your choice of two signature bennies. And order a side of the roasted potatoes.

Top foods you must eat in New Orleans
The Peacemaker: Chicken St. Charles benny (left) and corned beef benny, with a side of potatoes.

Top foods you must eat in New Orleans
The Peacemaker: Eggs Cochon benny (apple-braised pork) on left and Shrimp Boogaloo (Gulf shrimp in Creole sauce).

Top foods you must eat in New Orleans
The Ruby Slipper Cafe menu.

Palace Cafe

If you're in New Orleans on a weekend, you have to do a jazz brunch or breakfast. That's where musicians walk around the restaurant and perform while you're dining, and it's a real thing here. The musicians will even take requests; just make sure you tip them afterwards.

The Palace Cafe has a great jazz breakfast tradition and I was really happy I was able to experience it. Seats are in short supply here because customers can order a la carte, which makes for a cheaper meal than at a jazz buffet, so make sure you reserve your table. But if you aren't able to reserve in advance because your plans haven't been finalized, the elegant bar has first-come, first-served table seating. Bonus marks to this restaurant for not being snooty despite the white tablecloths.
Recommendations: Have the turtle soup, finished with sherry, as well as the Bananas Foster. Also the gumbo. These three dishes are a must.


Best restaurants in New Orleans
Jazz breakfast at the Palace Cafe.

Best restaurants in New Orleans
Palace Cafe's amazing turtle soup, finished with sherry.

Best foods in New Orleans
The Bananas Foster is created at your table and it's a real production. Have your cameras ready.

Best restaurants in New Orleans
Bananas Foster at the Palace Cafe.



Cafe du Monde

Arguably the most famous culinary "must" in New Orleans, the Cafe du Monde beignet is also probably the cheapest. You know a restaurant is good when it only serves one item, and has been around for more than 150 years. Beignets are so light, yet have such substance, they're really in a separate class of pastry. Cafe du Monde has eight locations; the French Market restaurant is the original and coolest. This location is open 24 hours/day, closed only on Christmas Day, and it takes cash only.

Best foods in New Orleans
Beignets at Cafe du Monde.

Best foods in New Orleans


Best foods in New Orleans
Cafe du Monde's French Market restaurant.

Commander's Palace

Out of all of our meals in NOLA, my husband and I enjoyed our supper at the elegant Commander's Palace the most. This jewel in the Brennan family's restaurant empire really is all that. Just a note of caution: This place is very swish, so do dress up. We had dressed smart casual but once we arrived and saw the restaurant and its diners, we wished we'd upped our game a bit more. Also, make reservations; it does fill up. Next time we're in New Orleans, we'll try to have lunch here so we can have a few of their famous 25-cent martinis. If you're staying in the Central Business District, just hop on the St. Charles streetcar and it will take you to within a block of this Garden District restaurant.
Recommendations: The three-course prix fixe menu is your best value here. I had the turtle soup, Louisiana wild white shrimp and the Creole bread pudding souffle. My husband ordered a la carte, and had the gumbo and the brown butter seared diver scallops. Everything was delicious!

Best restaurants in New Orleans
Louisiana wild white shrimp at Commander's Palace.

Best restaurants in New Orleans
Brown butter seared diver scallops, served over risotto and crispy kale, at Commander's Palace.

Best restaurants in New Orleans
Creole bread pudding souffle. The waiter poked a hole in the souffle, then spooned a whiskey cream sauce into the centre.

Best restaurants in New Orleans
The menu at Commander's Palace. 

Mother's Restaurant

If you think a place called Mother's Restaurant serves down-home, delicious food in a humble setting ... well, you'll have nailed it exactly. This little restaurant in the Central Business District has just a handful of tables, and customers are handed a menu as they enter. After customers have made a decision (while standing in the centre of the restaurant), they order at the till, pay and then look for a table. Hopefully, there is a table to be had!
Recommendations: I've never had such a good shrimp po-boy. The Gulf shrimp here is as succulent as the shrimp in Galveston, Texas, and you can't get better than that. The Ferdi po-boy is very good, and the fried chicken is as good as Willie Mae's. (See below.)

Best food in New Orleans
Shrimp po-boy, served with a bowl of crawfish etouffee, at Mother's Restaurant.

Best restaurants in New Orleans
The Ferdi, a ham and roast beef po-boy.

Best food in New Orleans
Mother's fried chicken, served with green beans and a container of blackberry jelly.

Best food in New Orleans
Don't be fooled by the low-brow dining room at Mother's ... there's some amazing food being created here.

Best food in New Orleans
The menu at Mother's Restaurant.


Willie Mae's Scotch House

It takes a bit of effort to get to Willie Mae's Scotch House in the Treme neighbourhood, but it's well worth the $15 or so Uber ride to and from the French Quarter. We thought the chicken pieces were on the small side for the price, but the batter was to die for and the chicken was very moist and tasty. No wonder it's been named "America's Best Fried Chicken" by the Food Network and Travel Channel, among numerous other accolades. Even the locals, including our Uber drivers, rave about Willie Mae's.
Recommendation: Have the fried chicken, of course, but make sure you order the fried okra as your side.

Best restaurants in New Orleans
Fried chicken with fried okra at Willie Mae's Scotch House.

Best food in New Orleans
Willie Mae's Scotch House in New Orleans' Treme neighbourhood.

Best restaurants in New Orleans
The menu at Willie Mae's Scotch House.


Roux 61 Seafood and Grill

Roux 61 is not in New Orleans but I wanted to include this restaurant in case you're thinking of visiting Baton Rouge, Louisiana's capital, just a one-hour or so drive from New Orleans. Roux 61's dining room is casual, the prices are mid-range, and the food is fantastic.
Recommendations: Have the soft-shelled crab, the seafood-stuffed baked potato and the char-grilled oysters. Incredible!


Roux 61
Soft-shell crab served with hush puppies and Cajun-boiled potatoes, from Roux 61.

Roux 61
Shrimp, oysters, crab and crawfish topped with a white wine lobster cream sauce, served on a baked potato.

Roux 61
Char-grilled oysters at Roux 61.


MORE: 

Looking for a place to stay in New Orleans? Check out The Eliza Jane hotel by Hyatt