New Orleans is famous for a lot of things – history, architecture, nightlife – and each of those niches attract their own crowds. What’s the one thing that brings everyone together in the Big Easy?
As a first-time visitor, I knew figuring out where to eat in New Orleans was going to be my biggest challenge. Not because it’s hard to find great cuisine though – quite the opposite! I only have one stomach, and eating and drinking ALL the top dishes from the best restaurants was a challenge I wasn’t sure I could face without breaking out into meat sweats or a sugar coma.
But I tried. For you, my dear readers.
Where to Eat in New Orleans | Savory
Work up an appetite with a late morning walking tour in the Garden District, and then fill up at Commander’s Palace, a NOLA institution since 1880. Note the dress code is a bit fancier than you might expect. Think “Ladies who Lunch” attire. My first NOLA meal was at Commander’s Palace and after enjoying a spicy take on seafood risotto, the flakiest French bread and whipped butter, the Commander’s Creole Cream Cheese Cheesecake, believe it or not I still had room for one of the famous $.25 martinis. (That’s not a typo. The martinis are actually 25 cents.)
After kayaking Bayou St. John with Kayak-iti-Yat, we marched right up to Parkway Bakery and Tavern, a mainstay since 1911. Parkway is 3 miles outside the heart of New Orleans, but easy to get to via Uber or streetcar. I devoured the fried (local!) oyster po boy (ask for medium if you want a little wiggle in your shellfish). The Parkway Surf and Turf is another favorite, with roast beef, local shrimp and gravy. Great spot for local food and local people.
Several folks recommended Cochon, so we dropped into the renovated warehouse one afternoon for lunch. All you need to know: Cajun, southern, meat. I had the fried alligator as a starter and smoked beef brisket as a main. Heavy, but tasty.
St. Roch Market was one of my favorite stops on our DIY NOLA food tour. The long, airy hall features just about every cuisine you could want, so making a choice is the hardest part. Good Bird, Empanola, La Mezcla Mexicana, JuiceNOLA, Fete au Fete and others mean you can try a little bit of everything, from healthy to hearty.
Where to Eat in New Orleans | Sweet
As a woman constantly battling the weight gain brought on by merely glancing at delicious pastries, I shied away from New Orleans’ world-famous beignets. And then I proceeded to eat every other sweet treat in town. Worth it.
If you’re in desperate need of a beignet, hit up the world famous Cafe du Monde. For something unexpected, stop by District Donuts for a made-from-scratch creation – right down to the sprinkles. Each day the donut flavors are different, so you can count on having to make a few tough decisions. (Or you can order them all, like we did!) Confession: I liked their sliders even better than the donuts!
Like Commander’s Palace, Brennan’s is one of those mainstay New Orleans’ joints that makes every top 10 list. The original Brennan’s opened in 1946, and its eight uniquely designed, very pretty dining rooms are recently renovated. We had breakfast here, so you could go sweet or savory depending on personal preference. Surprise! We tried multiple dishes and loved the Vanilla Scented French Toast with peach and cherry compote and Devonshire cream.
For little sweets on the go while shopping on Magazine Street, check out Sucre. They have king cakes and colorful macaroons, and lots of gifts to take home to the poor hungry saps who didn’t get to come on your girls’ getaway. (Sorry, honey!)
Where to Drink in New Orleans | Liquid
Cocktails are a must in New Orleans of course, but don’t forget to stop and reflect on the history behind the sparkling drink you’re guzzling on Frenchman Street. We took a hands-on class at New Orleans Drink Lab to learn how to make the famous Hurricane. You can customize your lesson, too, learning how to shake up a Sazerac and Ramos Gin Fizz while learning the history of the drinks in New Orleans and the future of craft cocktails. Boozy & educational!
Tucked away in the Bywater neighborhood is The Country Club, a fun retreat from the hustle and bustle of downtown. We bypassed the restaurant and made straight for the lush poolside bar. On hot summer days, this is the place to be!
Back at Catahoula Hotel where we stayed downtown, the lobby watering hole, Piscobar, serves pisco-based cocktails with a NOLA twist. There’s also a cute courtyard and bar on the rooftop. One of New Orleans’ most Instagrammable locales.
You can’t go too far in New Orleans without bumping into a delicious, thoughtful craft cocktail menu, and the one at DTB was one of my favorites. DTB, which stands for Down the Bayou, is a new restaurant with creative coastal cuisine, and cocktails to match.
So this is my first bite of New Orleans, but it won’t be my last. Where should I add to my list for next time?
This post was sponsored by New Orleans & Company. Opinions, musings and confessions are, as always, all my own.