With Mardi Gras right around the corner, Hunt Coordinator Sharlette Williams tours some of her absolute favorite places to eat in New Orleans.
Whether you call it Crescent City, the Big Easy, the birthplace of Jazz, NOLA, or just the Mardi Gras place, New Orleans is where you want to eat! For 10 years, I have been enjoying all the delicious food New Orleans has to offer. During that time, I have eaten in a variety of locations. Some off the beaten path, some very popular amongst tourists.
I have come to realize that in order to get a genuine dining experience in NOLA, you must do both! Don’t avoid the long lines at some of the well-known tourist spots. There’s often a reason they’re so popular. You also need to take a few detours down random streets and find the hidden gems. I will cover a few of both to help you taste the real NOLA.
Popular Places, But Worth the Wait
The first rule of Commander’s Palace is, MAKE A RESERVATION. I mean RIGHT NOW. Once you’ve booked your flight and hotel, go ahead and book your Boozy Lunch or Jazz Brunch reservation. No matter when you visit, you will enjoy a divine dining experience, with impeccable service and excellent cuisine.
If you can fit it into your schedule, there are two events you must try. First is the Boozy Lunch, only available Monday through Friday between 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. This is the home of the famous 25-cent martini. You can order up to three martinis when you get one of their delicious entrées. Second is the Jazz Brunch on Sundays. Enjoy amazing food and live jazz while you sip your mimosas. The menu is always changing, as they use seasonal and local produce, so there is always something new to experience. C.P. has a dress code, so don’t forget to pack a collared shirt, gentlemen.
There is ongoing debate about where to get the best chargrilled oysters in NOLA. So one evening my friends and I decided to take a scientific approach. We went to five different spots in and around the Quarter, all of which were well known for their chargrilled oysters. Once the taste test was completed, there was a clear winner. Acme is simply the best…better than all the rest! The line may be long, but you will be happy you decided to take the time for their chargrilled parmesan oysters. There are a few other items on the menu you should try, like the hushpuppies, the gumbo, and the cocktails, but the oysters are the star of the show.
If you have an opportunity to sit at the oyster bar, take that experience. New Orleans natives are very proud of their oysters, and the ladies and gentlemen behind the bar shucking them will tell you all about the oysters and New Orleans history while you eat.
If you love breakfast, there is no place like the Ruby Slipper. With their New Orleans take on some breakfast favorites, it’s no wonder it’s one of the most popular places in NOLA to get a great breakfast—and a mandatory stop every time I visit. They have fantastic breakfast drinks, including their signature mimosa, the Ruby Slipper: a traditional mimosa with a splash of pomegranate. If mimosas aren’t your thing, you have Bloody Marys, bellinis, and more to choose from. Their motto is, “You can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning!” And they have all the options you need to succeed.
While there, try the bananas foster french toast and the smoked salmon beanie with crispy capers. (I like mine with extra capers.) There are many other great options on the menu as well, so just try everything.
Locals and tourists alike love this spot for their delicious seafood and massive cocktails. If you’re looking for Seafood, gumbo, and massive drinks, this is your stop. The big seafood platters are great for sharing and a good option for trying a bunch of things in one dish. Deanie’s also has my favorite gumbo—and believe me, I’ve tried LOTS of gumbo in New Orleans. Their seafood gumbo is hands-down my favorite. Instead of bread with your food, they bring you small potatoes cooked in the seafood boil. Ahhhhhhh, delicious!
This is a must-stop for the NOLA beignet experience. It has been around more than 150 years. Beignets are a delicious little pastry, somewhere between a croissant and a donut sprinkled with powdered sugar. Café du Monde and their beignets are a New Orleans tradition. Since they are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, there is no reason for you to miss your chance to experience it.
Options! Options! Options! Take a tasting buddy with you so you can cover more ground. You can create your own little Taste of New Orleans by hopping from stall to stall eating steamed crawfish, shrimp, oysters on the half shell, gator-on-a-stick, gumbo, pralines, etouffee, and my favorite, shrimp and jalapeño cheese grits! Give yourself plenty of time on your calendar and space in your tummy. This could take a while.
Where the Locals Go
This tiny hidden spot is a real gem with delightful cocktails and Cuban fare. The bartenders, Lilly and Conrad, really know their stuff, which makes for a fun and interesting experience with every visit. Try the Cuban rice & beans and the ceviche to go with whatever beverage they recommend. My favorite thing about this place is its selection of hot drinks. Nothing cures cold, rainy NOLA afternoons like a big hot glass of mulled wine or hot buttered rum. Both are great here, and since you’re in the Big Easy, you can take it to go so it’ll warm you up so you can keep moving through the quarter.
Seaworthy has such a great happy hour, they do it twice! They have an early one that gets you half off oysters and wine by the glass from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. Then you have a second chance to enjoy happy hour for a late-night round, 11 p.m. until 1 a.m. It’s outside of the French Quarter but can still get a bit crowded, as it’s a spot that locals love to frequent.
If you are a fan of mac-n-cheese, put this spot at the top of your list. Not to mention all the amazing New Orleans style dishes you have to try on any visit to the Big Easy. I highly recommend the boudin balls, the fried green tomatoes, and the “Truffle Is a Mushroom” mac–n-cheese. Others in my party enjoyed the fried chicken and the florentine versions just as much as I loved the truffle. There is a mac-n-cheese for everyone at Marigny.
My favorite dish here, though, was the BBQ shrimp and grits. I make it a habit to try shrimp and grits everywhere I can, from California to Texas, and I’ve had a few. The shrimp and grits at Marigny absolutely take the cake!