New Orleans, sometimes called “The City That Care Forgot,” is luckily not a city where people forget to eat. Nope. Ours is a city where food is woven into every fiber of daily life. Whether it’s a weekend crawfish boil, a pot of red beans simmering on Monday, or fresh-from-the-fryer beignets, this city lives and breathes food.
And it’s a food culture that contains multitudes. Sitting on the banks of the Mississippi, the lively port town was founded by the French in 1718, ruled by the Spanish for 40 years, passed back to the French, and ultimately purchased by the U.S. in 1803. The Crescent City experienced plenty of Caribbean island vibes along the way, not to mention an influx of Vietnamese after the fall of Saigon in 1975. It’s a well-seasoned gumbo of a city, with a long history of equal opportunity when it comes to good food.
Plenty of guides will tell you to hit up popular spots like Cafe du Monde and Commander’s Palace—and you probably should—but there’s a lot more to New Orleans than the touristy spots, which is why this list makes room for the burgeoning ranks of newcomers, along with some can’t-miss old-school institutions.
Where to Eat
There are nearly 1,000 reasons to love 1,000 Figs, the cozy nook of a Mediterranean restaurant near City Park. But the best reason? The falafel feast. Expertly-fried-yet-pillowy-light chickpea fritters are plated with flatbread baked in their tiny kitchen, creamy hummus, crisp slaw, a melange of quick-pickled veggies (including local okra), and the wildly delicious dipping sauce schug. And for the latest in interactive dining, the drawers at each custom-built table open up to reveal your menus, napkins, and silverware.
3141 Ponce De Leon St #1, New Orleans, LA 70119
A trip to New Orleans wouldn’t be complete without a po’ boy, right? There are plenty of solid ones in town, but a new favorite on the scene is Bevi. They do all the divey po’ boy classics—fried oyster, fried shrimp, roast beef—not to mention a crazy mash-up creation called “The Peacemaker,” where plump, fried Louisiana shrimp meld with melty Swiss and juicy bits of roast beef debris in a surf-and-turf-meets-grilled-cheese. Bevi’s original location out in Metarie is a convenient pre-airport stop, but they’ve recently opened a new location in Mid-City. Not just a sandwich shop, Bevi is also your best bet for expertly boiled crawfish (when in season), shrimp, crab, and raw (or fried) oysters.
4701 Airline Dr, Metairie, LA 70001
Willie Mae’s Scotch House
Have you really eaten fried chicken if you haven’t eaten Willie Mae’s fried chicken? Debatable. This neighborhood fixture in the Treme was salvaged after Katrina thanks to the herculean efforts of the Southern Foodways Alliance and dozens of volunteers. Be prepared to wait outside for a table to open up, but it’s all worth it once that chicken—this is what fried chicken dreams are made of—comes right out of the fryer and onto your table. The crackly dark brown crust is perfectly spiced with just a hint of heat, and the meat inside is unbelievably juicy. (We raise our drumsticks to Willie Mae Seaton, who ran the restaurant for decades and recently passed away at the age of 99.)
Willie Mae’s Scotch House
2401 St Ann St, New Orleans, LA 70119
Right next door to its older sibling restaurant Cochon, this butcher shop-cum-bar has an awesome sandwich menu featuring meats cured in-house. Their muffaletta is a cheffy version of the classic New Orleans sandwich, first made at the old-school CentralGrocery in the French Quarter (also worth checking out if you have the stomach space). Cold cuts like genoa salami, mortadella, and capicola are layered on a toasted sesame bun with olive salad to add that all-important briny tang. But Butcher goes beyond the classic sandwiches with its divine bacon melt, Moroccan lamb sandwich, and “Le Pig Mac,” which encompasses two pork patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onion (wowzers is right).
930 Tchoupitoulas St, New Orleans, LA 70130