Top Ten Must Eat Foods In New Orleans:
While the sightseeing and partying on Bourbon Street are what draws most visitors to New Orleans, the amazing diversity and uniqueness of the local cuisine are equally as powerful. You could easily spend an entire week in New Orleans just tracking down the best food and we are here to help your gourmet scavenger hunt. We have come up with a list of the top ten must-eats in New Orleans including authentic dishes, items of Southern pride, can’t miss bayou flare, and combinations of signature flavors you won’t find better in any other city. You and your belly can thank us later.
Also Read: Top 10 New Orleans Signature Cocktails
Must Eat Foods In New Orleans:
1. Beignets (Cafe de Monde):
About Beignets: Any time you go to New Orleans one of the first questions your friends will ask is, “Did you get a beignet at Cafe De Monde?” Beignets (BEN-yay) are square French-style doughnuts, lavishly covered with powdered sugar, and they are delicious. While there are much more hearty dishes on our top ten must-eats in New Orleans, having a beignet is almost a rite of passage in the Big Easy.
By far the most iconic place to get a beignet in New Orleans is at Cafe Du Monde. Established in 1862, Cafe Du Monde is a staple of any foodie itinerary and is also known for its strong coffee served either Black or as Café Au Lait. Au Lait coffee means that it is mixed half and half with hot milk. is also featured on our top ten must drinks in New Orleans and we love the bitter chicory root as it compliments the Beignet even though we usually prefer sweeter coffee.
Cafe de Monde Hours: Daily, 24 Hours. Cafe Address: 800 Decatur Street. Cafe Website: (HERE).
Alternative: If the line is too long at Cafe Du Monde when you arrive consider popping over to the nearby Café Beignet with locations at 334 Royal Street and 311 Bourbon Street.
About Jambalaya: Just the word Jambalaya brings up cozy memories of festive New Orleans for us. Jambalaya is a spicy Creole/Cajun stew made with chicken, andouille sausage, shrimp, vegetables, and rice. While Jambalaya may look like Gumbo and carry many of the same ingredients, it is very different. The biggest difference is that Jamabalyay is a thick stew that has the rice as a core ingredient cooked in the main pot, while Gumbo has the rice cooked on the side and added as an accompaniment.
It is worth noting that while Beignets may be the top must-eat food in New Orleans, hearty Jambalaya is our favorite local dish and one we often order even outside of Lousiana.
Olde NOLA Cookery Restaurant Address: 205 Bourbon St. Hours: Monday-Thursday 11:45AM-1:00AM; Friday-Saturday 10:45AM-2:00AM; Sunday 10:45AM-1:00AM. Restaurant Website: (HERE).
3. Crawfish (Daisy Dukes):
About Crawfish: The freshwater Crawfish (cray-fish) are also known as Crawdads, Crawlers, and Mudbugs, but regardless of the name are one of the coolest things to eat in New Orleans. These delicious crustaceans look like mini-lobsters and you can literately order them cooked by the bucket full. There are tons of ways to serve Crawdads but you are most likely to see them as a Crawfish Boil when they are cooked to perfection in a large pot with potatoes, cobs of corn, and Cajun spices.
Our favorite place to go is Daisy Dukes near the French Quarter which serves crawfish in all sorts of forms including Crawdad Bloody Marys with a chill one peeking over the rim of your glass. Just remember to pinch the tail, suck the head, and don’t call them Crayfish.
Seasonality: Crawfish are only in season from February-June otherwise they would be higher on our list of the top things to eat in New Orleans.
Daisy Dukes Hours: Thursday-Tuesday 7am-2am; Closed on Wednesdays. Restaurant Address: 121 Chartres Street. Restaurant Website: (HERE).
Alternative: Another great place to get Crawfish is the Big Fisherman just West of the Garden District which is known for its fresh takeout seafood. KJean’s Restaurant just south of City Park is also a favorite among locals for its take-out seafood.
4. Po’boy Sandwich (Mothers Restaurant):
About Po’ Boy Sandwiches: As you’ll come to find, almost everything in New Orleans has its own twist, even sub sandwiches. In the Big Easy, these sandwiches are called Po’Boys which are served on French bread and heavy on the meat. We prefer the shrimp Po’ Boy, but you can get it with anything from ham, turkey, roast beef, crawfish, fried oysters, or crab.
While sub sandwiches have been served in New Orleans for generations, the original Po’ Boy started in 1929 at the Martin Brothers’ cafe in the French Market. At the time there was a huge strike by the streetcar union and the cafe offered free meals to members of the union to help show support while the workers weren’t getting paid. Adjustments were made to the bread to many many sandwiches out a longer loaf and the term Po’ Boy, meaning Poor Boy stuck as was woven into the DNA of New Orleans.
The best place to get a Po’ Boy is Mothers Restaurant at the corner of Poydras Street and Tchoupitoulas Street (Chop-a-TOO-lis). It is one of the best-recognized landmarks in New Orleans and only two blocks from the French Quarter. Their top-selling sandwich is the Debris Po’ Boy, which is covered in tons of shreds and leftover meat. Mother’s Restaurant is also well known for its gumbo and homemade biscuits.
Mother’s Restaurant Hours: Monday-Saturday 630am-10pm; Sunday 7am-10pm. Restaurant Address: 401 Poydras Street. Restaurant Website: (HERE).
About Gumbo: Whether you consider gumbo to be Cajun or Creole, one this that we can all agree on is that it hits the spot when you are hungry. This tasty stew is the official state cuisine of Louisana and is a must-try meal while you are in New Orleans. With many variations, Gumbo at its core is made with a thickened meat or shellfish stock along with the “Holy Trinity” of vegetables including celery, bell peppers, and onions. It is this core of elements that you will also find present in both Étouffée and Jambalaya as well.
The largest thing that sets it apart from its main competitor of Jambalaya is that with Gumbo the rice is always cooked on the side instead of the main pot and to accompany the stew itself. Gumbo can vary more in its makeup and we like when the stock features Okra (also known as Ladies’ Fingers) to further thicken the sauce so it is less soupy. There is a strong argument to be made that Jambalaya and Gumbo could easily be flip-flopped on our list of the best foods to eat in New Orleans, so you’ll definitely want to try both.
Located just a half block from Jackson Square in the French Quarter, the Gumbo Shop will help you get your fill of Creole cooking with its mouth-watering gumbo. Our personal favorite at this restaurant is the chicken and sausage gumbo, truly amazing.
Gumbo Shop Hours: Monday-Thursday 11am-10pm; Friday & Saturday 11am-10:30pm; Closed Sundays. Restaurant Address: 630 Saint Peter Street. Restaurant Website: (HERE).
About Étouffée: Born in Lousiana’s Bayou backwaters, Étouffée (eh-TOO-fay) has long been a staple in Cajun and Creole homes. The traditional version of this starts with a heaping mound of Rice Pilaf which is rice that is sauteed in flavoring, broth, and spices instead of simply boiled in water. From there, the rice is covered with a creamy Blond Roux sauce as well as either shrimp or crawfish. When the plate is set in front of you, you’ll instantly know why the dish is called Étouffée which literally means “To Smother”.
While this Cajun dish has roots in the 1920s, it was introduced to Bourbon Street’s restaurant scene at Galatoire’s in 1983 and instantly become a classic dish. We still love having Étouffée at Galatoire’s as even though it is a little fancy and it is THE PLACE to be for lunch on Fridays.
Galatoire’s Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 11:30am-10pm; Sunday Noon-10pm; Closed Mondays. Restaurant Address: 209 Bourbon Street. Restaurant Website: (HERE).
Alternative: Another great place to try Étouffée is at Bon Ton Cafe which has been serving up Cajun food at various locations on Magazine Street since 1877.
About Oysters Rockefeller: Whether it is the East Coast, West Coast, or Gulf Coast, every seaside area of America declares to have the best oysters, but New Orleans might actually have some “meat” behind their claim. The large tidal plain along the Mississippi River Delta can lead to some plump and buttery oysters which are made even better with the Rockefeller.
First created at the historic Antonie’s Restaurant in 1899, the Oysters Rockefeller dish is loved even by people who hate slurping down juicy raw oysters. It consists of oysters in a half shell covered in a rich (and secret) spinach sauce and butter, covered with breadcrumbs, and baked. The golden yellow presentation of Oysters Rockefeller is stunning, the smell isn’t overwhelming, and the flavor is elegant.
Antonie’s Restaurant also happens to be the oldest family-run restaurant in America dating back to 1840 and has 14 different dining areas to enhance the experience. While you’re there, you can also sample another house original called the Café Brûlot Diabolique which is one of our top drinks to try while in New Orleans.
Antonie’s Location: Restaurant at 713 Saint Louis Street and cafe at 513 Royal Street. Annex Cafe Hours: Daily 8am-7pm. Restaurant Hours: Lunch Monday-Saturday 11:30am-2pm; Dinner Monday-Saturday 5:30-9pm; Jazz Brunch Sundays 11am-2pm. Website: (HERE).
Alternative: The Acme Oyster House (724 Iberville Street, website) which opened in 1910 is the place for shucking raw oysters in New Orleans, with Felix’s Oyster House and Drago’s as good backup spots on really busy days.
About Muffaletta: Our next must-eat food in New Orleans is truly at a historic location near the French Market. The 6-block-long strip was step up as a Native American trading post before Europeans arrived and were turned into a full market in 1791. Later, in 1906, the Central Grocery & Deli opened and introduced the Muffaletta to New Orleans. It is a huge sandwich with layers of cold cuts (ham, mortadella, & salami) and cheese (mozzarella & provolone) piled on a round Sicilian bun, and topped with an Italian olive salad. It is probably the most filling sandwich in the French Quarter and often a very good value for the money.
Central Grocery Address: 923 Decatur Street. Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 9am-5pm; Mondays Closed. Grocery Website: (HERE).
9. Pralines (Southern Candymakers):
About Pralines: New Orleans isn’t known for many sweets, but we love their local Pralines (praw-leens). In the Big Easy, you can expect your Pralines to come as baked pecans heavily coated in a delicious blend of caramelized sugar and buttermilk that is worked over until resembles dipping chocolate. These treats are a refreshing twist on the standard chocolate or sugar-covered pecans found elsewhere in the United States as they are truly candy-coated. In the French Quarter, there are tons of places to buy Pralines, but we like Southern Candymakers and Laures Candies the best.
Southern Candymakers Hours: Daily 10am-7pm. Restaurant Address: 334 Decatur Sreet. Restaurant Website: (HERE).
10. BBQ Shrimp (Pascal Manale):
About BBQ Shrimp: Pascal’s Manale s known for its amazing take-out BBQ since 1913 and is home to New Orleans’ original BBQ Shrimp. With Cajun spices and hints of tang marinated on fresh shrimp then grilled to perfection, you’ll truly feel like you are in the South.
Pascal Manale Hours: Monday-Saturday 11:30am-10pm. Restaurant Address: 1838 Napoleon Ave. Restaurant Website: (HERE).
Honorable Mention Must Eat Dishes In New Orleans:
11. Bananas Foster (Palace Cafe):
About Bananas Foster: Ever have fried ice cream tableside? Try Bananas Foster which is ice cream and sliced bananas turned into a flambe right in front of your eyes. We especially love this dessert served with a helping of sweet bread pudding.
Palace Cafe Hours: Monday-Friday 8am-10pm; Saturday & Sunday 10:30am-10pm. Restaurant Address: 605 Canal Street. Restaurant Website: (HERE).
Alternative: While we like the Palace Cafe a lot, you can also try Bananas Foster at its original home of Brennan’s Restaurant which introduced it to New Orleans in 1951.
About Fried Chicken: Since 1941 Dooky Chase has been serving up some of New Orleans’ best gumbo, however, they may be best known for their fried chicken lunch buffet. While more of a statewide thing than just New Orleans, fried chicken is truly Louisianan. There is a reason the fast-food chains like Popeye’s push their Louisiana roots. Dooky Chase is more of a classy place but next door is a more casual place called Willie Mae’s Scotch House which also has great food.
Dookie Chase Hours: Tuesday-Friday 11am-3pm; Friday also 5pm-9pm. Restaurant Address: 2301 Orleans Avenue. Restaurant Website: (HERE).
About King’s Cake: Nothing will give you that fleur-de-lis feeling of Madri Gras more than Kings Cake.
Gambino’s Bakery in between the French Quarter and the airport is an excellent place to get two of New Orleans’s famous cakes, Kings Cake & Doberge. Dorberge has been around since 1949 and is made up of 6 layers of butter cake, filled with custard, and covered in buttercream icing.
About Red Beans & Rice: Although this dish might sound boring, Red Beans & Rice is a local staple that never goes out of fashion. We could literally eat chicken fried steak with a side of red beans & rice plus bread pudding for dessert every day and be totally happy with it.
One twist on red beans & rice in New Orleans is that it is traditionally served on Mondays, also know as “Washday”. This term was because on Monday’s the oven would need to be used all day to boil water to do the kitchen laundry from the weekend and it couldn’t be used to cook fresh hot food. This led to Mondays being when restaurants would serve both leftovers and beans that had soaked over rice.
About Other Your Options: This list of the top ten must-eats in New Orleans easily could have had 25 amazing food options included in it. Here are ten of the other local dishes that are worth a try but didn’t quite make the top cut for us: alligator, grits, collard greens, black-eyed peas, chicken fried steak, blackened fish, boudin sausage, dirty rice, bread pudding, and turtle soup.
Also Read: Top 10 New Orleans Must Try Drinks