I fell in love with New Orleans, Louisiana at 17 years old. I went on a school trip with my guitar class to attend the city’s annual Jazz and Heritage Festival and watch a performance at Preservation Hall. I was forever changed by that trip and have made it a point to come back and visit at least once a year ever since. I know I am not a local, but I have a true love and appreciation for New Orleans. It isn’t just because of (seriously) the best food you will ever eat, the music around every corner, the deep history and the booze. The Big Easy beats to the sound of a different drum and runs by a different time clock. Even though there is so much I have yet to see, I have compiled what I think are some of the best spots to eat, drink and explore in this beautiful city. I am excited to share in hopes that you too will fall in love with somewhere new.
I could seriously dedicate an entire post to the dynamite food that is home to the Crescent City. For real. My boyfriend and I have discussed making the six-hour car ride from Tallahassee, Florida to just eat and drive back home. We have yet to do that but you never know what the future holds. Aside from the Cajun and Creole cuisine packing a ton of flavor, the city offers any kind of food you want at any price range you want. Here are some of my favorites:
1. Parkway Bakery & Tavern: Let’s just say that this is what I set my destination to on the GPS. Not the hotel, not the French Quarter, not anywhere else. This is my number one must-have while I am visiting New Orleans, clearly from the above photo (and hat). It is arguably the best po’boy sandwich in the city. No argument from me! This is it: the surf and turf po’boy in all its splendor. Get a fork and knife because it gets messy. With the homemade French bread, golden fried shrimp, melt in your mouth roast beef and gravy to top it off, it really is heavenly. While that is my personal favorite, they have any kind of po’boy you could want. Grab a table inside or outside, run to the pick-up window when they call your name and dig in. This place can be crowded, but I promise it is for a reason.
2. Acme Oyster House: There are a few locations but the one in the French Quarter is definitely the most poppin’. There is guaranteed to be a line down Iberville Street but if you like oysters, you are guaranteed to be satisfied. My favorite thing on the menu is their specialty chargilled oysters. The smell is divine but the taste is even better. They take oysters on the half shell, coat them in cheese, garlic, herbs and butter and grill them until the cheese is bubbling. They serve them with French bread and thank God for that. You need something delicious to soak up the buttery savory liquid leftover on the shells after the oysters are gone. They have many other amazing menu items, but these oysters will change your life.
3. Mother’s Restaurant: If you watch the Food Network, you’ll know that many restauranteurs have visited this place and there is a reason they all gush about it. If you want traditional, hearty, comfort food then look no further. While they are known for their baked ham, they have other southern classics like shrimp creole, fried chicken and turnip greens. I ordered the red beans and rice, cabbage and their famous roast beef debris. Debris is described as pieces of beef that fall off into the pan of au jus gravy while the roast is cooking in the oven. Holy mother of all that is holy. It is affordable, orgasmic and I will definitely be back. And it has been opened since 1938. If all that isn’t convincing then I don’t know if you are worth convincing.
4. Dat Dog: If you like sausage dogs then look no further. Alligator sausage, veggie sausage, vegan sausage, they got your back! I tried the crawfish ettoufee dog with crawfish sausage, onions, tomatoes, sour cream and creole mustard all topped with crawfish ettoufee. I am obsessed with crawfish so this was perfection on a bun to me. They have a few locations throughout the city but the one off Frenchmen Street stays open until midnight most nights and 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. The perfect and cheap late-nite bite.
5. Superior Seafood: For my best friend’s bachelorette party, we took a trip to the Big Easy. We stayed off Carrollton Avenue and took the streetcar downtown almost every day. We decided to take the short ride to this restaurant off St. Charles Avenue and holy shiz. It is a little higher in price but worth every cent. I got the shrimp andouille brochettes, which are bacon-wrapped shrimp stuffed with andouille and Monterrey Jack cheese, with a side of mashed potatoes and green beans. Bacon-wrapped, sausage and cheese stuffed shrimp. There are no better words. They have so many appetizing dishes on their menu but it will be hard not to get the brochettes again. We also saw actor, Anthony Mackie eating here too so make sure you tease your hair extra when you go, just in case.
6. New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival: I will talk more about this festival later, but hands down the best food you can get in New Orleans is at Jazz Fest. The festival is all about celebrating heritage so it provides an insane variety of cuisines like, Jamaican, Vietnamese and Greek, just to name a few. From crawfish bread and sugary pralines to vegetarian casseroles and gator on a stick, you are bound to find something. The best dish in my opinion is a Jazz Fest favorite: Crawfish Monica. Like I said before, I love crawfish. This is a slightly spicy pasta dish with a creamy alfredo-like sauce topped with steamed crawfish. I often find myself craving this because it is just that delectable. Some of my other Jazz Fest faves include: sausage and shredded pork jambalaya, fried crawfish tails and boiled potatoes (with tons of Crystal hot sauce, duh) and hand-squeezed strawberry lemonade.
1. Tujague’s Restaurant: Located off Decatur Street across from Café Du Monde, this restaurant is a little subdued. I first went here on a food tour (like I said, I am no native). I was craving a Bloody Mary, so I randomly ordered one at the bar. Now, there are two things I love in this world. One is my pug Po, named lovingly after one of my fave foods (yes, it is the po’boy sandwich from Parkway). The second, is a good ass Bloody Mary. I have tried countless and this one is the one. It doesn’t appear to be anything special. Just your typical Bloody Mary garnished with cucumber, olives and a lime wedge but man this shit is good. A perfect blend of tomato juice, homemade Bloody Mary mix and vodka. This is a must try.
2. Bourbon Street: I am not gonna be a pretentious jerk and say to not go here while you are in New Orleans. I feel like if you have never walked down Bourbon, you should at least once. It is 100% touristy and 100% a shit show. However, it is the best place to people watch and you are guaranteed to get wasted. Even if you don’t want to it just kinda happens. You’ll be tossing beads from balconies and slurring your words by midnight. Plus, there is a 24-hour Krystal Burger at the end of the street. Just saying.
3. Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop: The oldest bar in New Orleans and therefore, the most haunted. At least that is what I learned on my ghost tour (yep, still not a local). Allegedly the ghost of infamous pirate, Jean Lafitte still hangs around the building. Aside from the pirate hauntings and history, this bar has a true pub vibe with a giant brick fireplace in the center and a piano in the back. You’ll feel like you stepped back into the olden days.
4. Abita Brewery: This was another stop during our bachelorette vacay. It is in Covington, LA which is less than an hour drive from New Orleans. While it is not “conveniently located,” it is worth the trip. You get to drive on the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway which is the longest bridge over a body of water in the world. Plus, you get to sample five beers and tour the brewery for only $5.00. Yes, $5.00. I am a huge beer fanatic so this was right up my alley. If you enjoy a good brew too, I would 100% recommend.
5. Anywhere on Frenchmen Street: Seriously, any bar or restaurant you go to on Frenchmen is going to have good drinks and better music. It gets livelier at night time but even if you want a cocktail at noon, you can find it here.
1. New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival: My favorite festival, my happy place, the one that started my Nola love affair. If you are in the city during late April or early May you must go to Jazz Fest. Aside from the amazing food, the music and arts and crafts are also where it’s at. It usually has two or more big musical acts a day, but it also has music around every corner all day. Blues? There is a tent for that. Gospel? There is a tent for that. R&B? There is a stage for that. You are guaranteed to have fun at this festival. You are also guaranteed to get a sunburn so make sure you wear SPF. My guitar teacher from high school said that you can be a self-proclaimed “Jazz Fest Vet” after attending more than two Jazz Fests. Since I am a “vet”, I will do a whole Jazz Fest Guide in the spring so stay tuned for that!
2. Streetcar through the Garden District: This is such an effortless way to see a chunk of the city. Especially if you only have a few days. There are multiple streetcar lines but the most scenic is the St. Charles Line. You can get a day pass for $3.00 and get on and off any streetcar in the city as much as you want. Otherwise, it is $1.50 one way. The St. Charles Line starts downtown, trails through the heart of the Garden District and ends all the way uptown. The Garden District is full of stately mansions with beautiful manicured lawns, but it also houses one of Nola’s above ground cemeteries. They are creepy as hell but totally worth a visit in my opinion. They close at night so try to visit during the day and stay alert. Another spooky mention, the house from American Horror Story: Coven is located off Jackson Street within the Garden District. Shoutout to my fellow AHS fans.
3. The Frenchmen Street and French Markets: These open-air flea markets off Frenchmen Street and Peters Street are a perfect way to find some touristy souvenirs for your roommates (fleur-de-lis shot glasses and gator claw keychains), but also the best place to find local artwork. Some of my favorite art in my home came from these markets.
4. Esplanade Avenue: New Orleans is such a picturesque place. The historic brick buildings with cutesy flowerpots hanging from the balconies and multicolor shotgun houses. I literally get so inspired by this city. In my opinion, the place you should really bust out the camera is Esplanade Avenue. The homes are reminiscent of the Garden District. Colorful three and four story homes and live oak trees line the sidewalks one after another. A perfect street to walk down and gaze.
5. Preservation Hall: If you want live jazz and blues, look no further. I would recommend getting tickets in advance as it can get crowded quickly. The venue itself is mostly standing room but if you are a music lover like me, you won’t mind. This venue holds a special place in my heart being the first place we went to on our school trip all those years ago (besides the Super 8 Motel, yikes). It started the whole experience off with a huge bang, or drum roll in this instance.
New Orleans is a magical city full of things to do not mentioned here. Walk by the Mississippi River with a coffee in hand, navigate through the cobblestone streets and soak in all the history that this lovely city has to offer. Put the diet on hold and eat that giant po’boy, have a mimosa at 11 a.m. and don’t go to bed until 3 in the morning because you were out late listening to live music…or having too many beers and dancing on the bar. No Judgment. Relax. They don’t call it the Big Easy for nothing.