New York has its pizza. Chicago has a hot dog named after it. Maine is well known for its lobster rolls. But when you’re visiting New Orleans, your culinary treasure map includes a lot more stops because there are just so many good, must-eats in the Big Easy. In fact, it’s hard to pinpoint just one food to designate as New Orleans’ “claim to fame.”
Jambalaya, gumbo, crawfish and shrimp po’ boys? That’s just scratching the surface in this culinary epicenter. Loosen up your belt. Here are six things you have to eat when you’re in New Orleans.
We’re starting with dessert. (And the obvious). These deep-fried sweet pastries will cover you in their powdered sugar and they pair up nicely with chicory coffee.
Where to go: Cafe Du Monde, where beignet orders come served in threes. This iconic cafe first opened in 1862. Cafe Du Monde is open 24/7 every day of the year except Christmas. Tourist heavy? Absolutely. But so worth it. You’ll likely hear jazz music reverberating through the French Quarter while you indulge.
2. Charbroiled Oysters
Salty, briny oysters are the perfect vehicle to deliver rich toppings to your mouth. And charbroiled ones? They are a happy medium between raw and fried.
Where to go: Drago’s Seafood restaurant inside the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, which is perched on the banks of the Mississippi River. Trust them. They serve 1.2 million oysters a year. Their signature charbroiled oysters are drenched in butter and cheese. “Butter, garlic and cheese on anything is delicious, but put it on a Louisiana oyster and it becomes truly magical,” Tommy Cvitanovich, the restaurant’s owner, tells us. We’re into it.
This is the sandwich to have when you’re in New Orleans. For the uninitiated, this giant Italian sandwich starts with a muffuletta loaf—which is a round Sicilian sesame bread. It’s typically stuffed with olive salad, and thick layers of mozzarella, mortadella, salami, ham and provolone.
Where to go: Central Grocery & Deli claims to be the home of the original muffuletta and it swirls with the aroma of cured pork. Smack-dab in the center of the French Quarter, this grocery store is more than a century old. It was founded by Salvatore Lupo, a Sicilian immigrant famous for creating this indulgent Italian sammy. Pro tip: If you can’t make it down to New Orleans, Central Grocery & Deli delivers muffulettas in temperature-controlled boxes throughout the U.S.!
4. Fried Chicken Sandwich
Really, scouting out crispy, juicy fried chicken should be a priority whenever you’re in the south. They know how to do it right down there!
Where to go: We’d be remiss not to mention Willie Mae’s Scotch House, a famed soul food restaurant that’s caught the attention of the Travel Channel and Food Network. If you’re on a fried chicken circuit, make room for Sylvain, too. This sultry restaurant serves a fried chicken breast sandwich dubbed the Chick-Syl-Vain that’s been drenched in buttermilk. Plus, the bartenders here leave a drink behind each night for the restaurant’s resident ghost, which adds to the allure.
5. Gulf Tuna
The best part of traveling? Getting a taste of the region. While the Gulf shrimp gets a lot of attention, the yellowfin Gulf tuna shouldn’t be overlooked.
Where to go: Chefs at The Grill Room at Windsor Court Hotel will convince you that their locally sourced yellow Gulf tuna is the best in the south. Their Togarashi Seared Gulf Tuna is plated beautifully with asparagus ribbons. (It’s also worth boomeranging back here for a Jazz Brunch, which is a N’awlins tradition).
6. Alligator Po’Boy
You can find a shrimp po’boy just about anywhere. But an alligator one? That’ll remind you that you’re down in the bayou.
Where to go: Order up an alligator sausage po-boy from Johnny’s Po-Boys, a no-frills (but authentic and amazing) joint in the French Quarter. The Times-Picayune calls Johnny’s “the French Quarter’s quintessential old school New Orleans po-boy joint.”