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Must-eat foods in New Orleans and where to eat them

By Lesley Merchant
16 April 2021
Must-eat foods in New Orleans and where to eat them

From history to hedonism, there are many reasons to plan a trip to New Orleans – but one aspect of NOLA is on almost every traveler’s top 3 list, and that’s the food. The Big Easy’s homegrown Cajun and Creole cuisine took the best flavors from places like France, West Africa, Spain, Haiti, and Germany, and fused them together to create out-of-this-world combinations and mouthwatering cuisine. If there’s one thing you won’t have any trouble finding, it’s restaurants – but with only three mealtimes in a day, how are you supposed to decide where to eat? Don’t waste a single dinner on a dish that isn’t 10/10 because we’ve put together a list of some of the best foods in New Orleans and where to eat them – you won’t even have to agonize over a menu!

Most NOLA restaurants are back in business after lengthy lockdowns, but things change quickly. Before heading to any one of the eateries we’ve listed below, be sure to double-check the opening hours and keep an eye on New Orleans’ travel advisory, just to be on the safe side.

Got your appetite and your stretchy pants? You don’t need anything else! Here are the must-eat foods in New Orleans and where to eat them.


Boudin balls at Cochon

Boudin balls at Cochon

With a name that translates to “pig” in France, Cochon’s top dishes aren’t difficult to guess. But first, a bit of backstory: Cochon has been a beacon of traditional Southern cooking and one of the most popular dinner spots among locals since opening its doors in 2006. Its dishes have evolved but stayed consistently true to Creole roots. The menu has an almost overwhelming selection of choices, but the absolute must-try is the fried boudin – crispy, deep-fried balls filled with pork and served with pickled peppers. Don’t worry, that’s just the starter, so you’ll still have plenty of room left to choose among delectable main courses like stewed catfish and Louisiana cochon.

Gumbo at Liuzza’s by the Track

Gumbo at Liuzza’s by the Track

It’s the ultimate comfort food – rich, warm and tasty – and a New Orleans staple that you’ll find on almost every menu: it’s gumbo, and to miss out on it in its birthplace would be a crime. With so many restaurants serving their take on this famous New Orleans food, choosing where to go for a steaming bowl of gumbo is impossible. You can’t go wrong with Liuzza’s by the Track, one of the go-to spots for locals who crave their grandmother’s style of gumbo. Liuzza’s gumbo sticks to the original sausage-and-chicken-packed recipe (why play around with perfection?) but adds one extra ingredient: freshly sauteed shrimp made for each order.

Po’ boy sandwich at Guy’s Po-Boys

Po’ boy sandwich at Guy’s Po-Boys

The po’ boy sandwich has been a staple of Louisiana since the 1800s. These everything sandwiches are most often stuffed with meat and served on fluffy New Orleans French bread. With countless local reviews calling it “the best I’ve ever had,” the po’ boy sandwich at Guy’s Po-Boys is known across the city. This cash-only hole-in-the-wall painted in bright blue may not be much to look at, but there’s a reason locals come back again and again and again. Piled high with fillings like fried shrimp, catfish, roast beef, porkchop and alligator sausage, Guy’s sandwiches are the tastiest version of one of the most famous foods in New Orleans. 

Cheesecake at Jacques-Imo’s Café

Cheesecake at Jacques-Imo’s Café

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/jpellgen/26843980478

If locals will stand in line for two hours to snag a table (and they do), you know Jacques-Imo’s Café must be one of the best restaurants in New Orleans. This quirky, colorful spot that has been around since 1996 is one of the most popular fixtures in the heart of the city. The menu offers an extensive list of local favorites, but there’s one that only the bravest dare to try. A menu item for several decades, Jacques-Imo’s shrimp and alligator sausage cheesecake – yes, you read that right – is something you can’t leave without trying. Despite its name, it doesn’t taste like cheesecake and it doesn’t taste like alligator. But what it does taste like, somewhat surprisingly, is heaven. Don’t believe us? Just try. 

Muffuletta at Napoleon House

Muffuletta at Napoleon House

Anyone just passing through New Orleans would find it easy to miss the unassuming building on the corner of Chartres and St. Louis. But to locals, Napoleon House is a historic landmark with a fascinating history: Constructed more than 200 years ago, Napoleon House was supposed to be the home of Napoleon Bonaparte, but the French military leader died before making it to his NOLA homestead. Today, Napoleon House is one of the best restaurants in New Orleans (and one of its most charming). Make your way to the palm-fringed courtyard and try one of the top foods in NOLA: the Muffuletta, a classic New Orleans take on an Italian sandwich. The one served at Napoleon House is stacked with ham, salami, a variety of cheeses, and fresh olive salad, and is regarded to be one of the best versions in the city.

Handmade Pralines at Southern Candymakers

Handmade Pralines at Southern Candymakers

End any day on a sweet note at one of the ultimate must-eat foods in New Orleans at Southern Candymakers, a local institution known for its multi-award-winning confections and what many locals believe to be the best pralines on earth. Taste them for yourself, and you’ll likely find yourself agreeing. Every rich, dark, sticky toffee and sweet caramel tortue (that’s French for “turtle,” and one of the most popular sweets on the menu) is crafted in small batches by hand every day. You’ve never had a candy experience that can measure up to this one. Skip out on the dessert menu at your lunch spot and instead head over to Southern Candymakers for a meal-end to remember. 

Voodoo daiquiri at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop

Voodoo daiquiri at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/wallyg/2490402605

Bourbon Street is one of the busiest places in New Orleans, but there’s a place locals go to get away from the madness. Duck between the doors of Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, and you enter another world. This iconic New Orleans hotspot is claimed to be the oldest bar in the U.S. and has been serving up drinks (to pirates, no less) since the 1700s. Its namesake is legendary privateer Jean Lafitte, who’s rumored to haunt the dark, candle-lit drinking hole. This is a bit of a cheat, because nobody goes to Lafitte’s for the food; they go for drinks – one drink, in particular, that we had to add to our list. The purple-hued voodoo daiquiri is a mix of bourbon, vodka, grape juice and ice and is one of the most famous drinks in the city.