Where to Eat in New Orleans: A Beginner’s Culinary Guide to the Big Easy

Wondering where to eat in New Orleans? Here’s a list to get you started!

“Truthfully, it’s New Orleans. You can’t go wrong eating here!” Before I went, I asked my friend, Ardelle, if she had any specific restaurant recommendations since she’s been many times for Mardi Gras, and this was her reply!

She was, of course, right. You can’t go wrong in NOLA when it comes to good eatin’, and I’m pretty sure I gained like 10lbs just indulging in all the delicious food.

That said if you’re a bit of a planner like I tend to be, then here are some recommendations! The following list is made up from three sources: my few days in NOLA, even more recommendations we got from every local we met, and some places Ardelle sent me after her most recent trip.

Bon appétit!

For more, check out the best things to do in the French Quarter and this 4 day itinerary for New Orleans

Foods to Try in New Orleans

Before I get into restaurants, these were classic NOLA foods I heard about pretty frequently and even got to try myself!

BEIGNETS

Beignets are probably the most famous of all the foods on this list, especially because Cafe du Monde is so iconic. Pronounced “ben-yay,” they were brought over by French colonists in the 1700s and are considered Louisiana’s state doughnut. Essentially, they’re fried dough with a ton of powdered sugar and best eaten with a cafe au lait or hot chocolate if you’re not a big coffee person. They’re so delicious and that description doesn’t do them justice as just going and trying them. Beware of their powdery effect! I wore a darker outfit, and I was covered in sugar by the end.

GUMBO

Gumbo is a delicious stew and the official state dish of Louisiana. I can’t say for sure what’s in it, but it’s freaking good. We had Cajun gumbo at the Mosquito Supper Club, which is more popular in southwestern Louisiana. Creole gumbo is more commonly found in NOLA and southeastern Louisiana. I’m going to let someone with more experience explain its history!

A PO’ BOY

Another must-eat is a po’ boy! I had a shrimp po boy when I went, but you can do any sort of meat in them. It’s basically meat in a baguette dressed with lettuce, tomatoes, and/or mayo. Our shrimp po boy had a little lettuce and fried shrimp in mayo.

MUFFULETTA

So originally, the muffuletta was a type of Sicilian bread, presumably brought over to NOLA with Italian immigrants. It’s since become synonymous with the muffuletta sandwiches that have been made in NOLA for over a hundred years. It comprises of muffuletta bread with an olive salad, salami, ham, and different types of cheese.

JAMBALAYA

This is one of the NOLA dishes I didn’t get a chance to try. Considering it’s a mix of Spanish, African, and French cuisine, you could say it really showcases Louisiana’s melting pot nature. The basic dish is comprised of meat, veggies, and rice with delicious spices.

ANYTHING SEAFOOD

Since NOLA is a port city, get ready to stuff your face with delicious seafood dishes. Including the above cuisines, you can just go get oysters at one of the many restaurants and oyster bars, sometimes for dirt cheap! Crab and shrimp as well. I know Bubba is from Alabama in Forrest Gump, but anytime I think of the South and shrimp, I think of him listing off all the shrimp dishes you can make: “… shrimp kebobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo…”

Where to Eat in New Orleans

And now for a giant list of restaurants! I also made a map below so you can get a better visual on where things are.

MAP OF NEW ORLEANS RESTAURANTS

In the French Quarter

Cafe Du Monde

Cafe du Monde is by far the most famous of all the places to eat in New Orleans. The original coffee stand opened in 1862, and it’s been a mainstay in the French Quarter since. Go here and get a serving of beignets and a cafe au lait for the most traditional fare.

**They only take cash, so don’t forget to bring it!

Address: 800 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116

Central Grocery & Deli

Central Grocery & Deli is home to the original muffuletta sandwich. It was originally founded in 1906 by Salvatore Lupe and has remained in the family since. Their sandwich, according their site is made “with meats sliced in house, locally baked handmade bread, and [their] family’s Italian olive salad.”

Address: 923 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116

Copper Monkey

My friend, Ardelle, went here with her family, and she claims the rogue beignets with the banana purée on top were better than the ones she ate later at Cafe du Monde. Those are some fightin’ words, and good reason to investigate on a return trip!

Address: 725 Conti St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Deanie’s Seafood

Deanie’s Seafood is considered one of the best restaurants in the city, state, and country for, well, seafood! Go for the giant portions of Cajun food. There are a few locations but this one is the one that’s in the French Quarter.

Address: 841 Iberville St, New Orleans, LA 70112

Desire Oyster Bar

Located in the Royal Sonesta Hotel, we went here for dinner our second night. I got their chargrilled oysters, and oh my word, they were buttery and delicious.

Address: 300 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Johnny’s Po-Boys

For a more casual affair, head to the the classic Johnny’s Po-Boys! It opened up in 1950 by Johnny and Betty DeGrusha and has also stayed in the family. Just look at those stuffed po’boy sandwiches above!

Address: 511 St Louis St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Oceana Grill

This is another place we were recommended for seafood in the French Quarter. I haven’t been, but when I googled it, Gordon Ramsey’s “Kitchen Nightmares” came up! Granted that was way back in 2011, and they’re still running, so I imagine whatever was wrong with then back then has more than been rectified now!

Address: 739 Conti St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Red Fish Grill

This is another one Ardelle went to. She said it’s the first restaurant on Bourbon Street that looks welcoming, but it’s a bit of a tourist trap. The service was pretty bad but she had the best fried green tomatoes ever there.

Address: 115 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Sobou

Sobou is definitely higher end dining and is owned by the Commander’s Family of Restaurants. Go to experience classic southern dishes with an upper end twist.

Address: 310 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70130

West of the French Quarter

Annunciation

Housed in a restored warehouse, Annunciation is another higher end place. It specializes in Creole and Southern cuisine. Ardelle really enjoyed the shrimp étouffée.

Address: 1016 Annunciation St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Auction House Market

I actually went here twice because of its location, and it’s obviously got some delicious options. It was only a few minutes walk from our first hotel, Loews New Orleans, and also near the WWII Museum. The food hall is from the same team that’s behind the more well known St. Roch Market, and it has a number of different vendors. It’s hipster-y but still friendly. I think in all the times we went, we tried the Coast Roast, SOLA Deli, and Mac & Moon. I want to say I got Aloha Lei the second time I went, but I’m not 100% sure. Either way, all the options looked amazing when we walked around.

Address: 801 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Commander’s Palace

If you’re planning on spending some time in the Garden District, then you don’t want to miss the Commander’s Palace. It’s been around since 1893 and is a classic NOLA institution. Just remember there’s a dress code!

Address: 1403 Washington Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130

Loa Bar

Loa Bar is a swanky bar located in the International House Hotel. Its name comes from divine spirits of the same name in Voodoo religion. We popped in one of our afternoons, and I had a delicious non-alcoholic cocktail made with some lavender.

Address: 221 Camp St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Mosquito Supper Club

I love, love, loved this place so much I wrote a whole post about it! You basically feel like you’re going to a dinner party with strangers. While you’re served some delicious dishes in a cozy atmosphere, you can chat with your neighbors. Do NOT miss and make sure to book ahead if you want a really unique experience.

Address: 3824 Dryades St, New Orleans, LA 70115

Poydras & Peters

Poydras & Peters is a restaurant in LOEWS, so we had lunch here one day. The name comes from its location, and it features a number of classic American dishes with a twist. I’m pretty sure I had the duck & oysters dish.

Address: 300 Poydras St, New Orleans, LA 70112

The Blind Pelican

This is right across the street from Auberge New Orleans, so the host recommended it for lunch. It also is most famous for its $0.25 oysters. There was a weird moment where it was closed after I visited along with some drama. Currently the reviews since its re-opening have been pretty brutal, so if you do decide to go, go with caution I guess!

Address: 1628 St Charles Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130

The Ruby Slipper Cafe

There are around ten locations for the Ruby Slipper Cafe now, with six of them in New Orleans. This is the place to go for a hearty Southern brunch!

Address: 200 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Trenasse

Only a little over five years old, Lafayette native, Chef Jim Richard opened Trenasse to pay homage to the Louisiana’s culinary history. Ardelle said it had amazing shrimp and grits. She also liked the bottomless $10 mimosas.

Address: 444 St Charles Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130

East of the French Quarter

Bacchanal Fine Wine & Spirits

Rachel and I had heard a few people discuss wanting to check out this place, so we were interested in visiting on one of our last nights. The whole idea behind it is that it’s a sort of like a backyard party far way from the bustling French Quarter with a big wine selection and some light food. It’s a very hipstery vibe if that’s your thing.

Address: 600 Poland Ave, New Orleans, LA 70117

Dooky Chase

Dooky Chase originally started out as a sandwich and lottery ticket shop back in 1939. It soon became a restaurant that served as a meeting place discuss big issues like African-American civil rights. The restaurant has seen the likes of everyone from Thurgood Marshall to Martin Luther King Jr. to more recently President Obama and Quincy Jones. 100% top of my list to visit when I get a chance to return, not just for the Creole cuisine but to visit a place that played such an interesting role in modern US history.

Address: 2301 Orleans Ave, New Orleans, LA 70119

Gene’s Po-Boys

Gene’s Po-Boys has been around since 1968. The big one to try here is the catfish po-boy.

Address: 1040 Elysian Fields Ave, New Orleans, LA 70117

Melba’s Old School Po Boys

Have a craving for po boys at 4 am? Then this is the place to go since it’s open 24/7!

Address: 1525 Elysian Fields Ave, New Orleans, LA 70117

Paloma Cafe

We stopped in here during our bike tour, and it’s just a cute, brightly designed cafe. We only got coffee, but they have brunch and plenty of breakfast options if you want to hang out for longer.

Address: 800 Louisa St, New Orleans, LA 70117

St. Roch Market New Orleans

While we didn’t get to go to St. Roch Market, we did pass by it on our bike tour. It was built back in 1875, though its origins go back further to 1838. For a decade after Katrina, it actually sat gutted and unused until it was restored and reopened in 2014. It’s now a food hall with similar offerings as the Auction House above.

Address: 2381 St Claude Ave, New Orleans, LA 70117

Willie Mae’s Scotch House

Willie Mae’s has been around since 1957, and is reported to have the best fried chicken in the US. Today, it’s still run by Ms. Willie Mae’s great-granddaughter. This was a spot we were recommended but didn’t get a chance to try!

Address: 2401 St Ann St, New Orleans, LA 70119

And there you have it! A beginner’s culinary guide to the fantastic New Orleans. I’m sure there are people with MUCH more experience with the foodie scene here, so feel free to let me know if I’m missing any must-try dishes or restaurants! Something tells me I won’t have any issue going returning to try any and all recommendations in the future.

What’s the best meal you’ve had in NOLA?

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We were guests of Visit New Orleans and some of our meals were comped. All opinions, however, remain my own.

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