To eat in New Orleans is to experience the most vibrant and unique culture within our nation’s borders. New Orleanians do not eat to live, they live to eat, and their love for food is infectious. The city’s “let the good times roll” attitude and hospitable nature are demonstrated by locals’ eagerness to show visitors what makes their food second to none.
While the city’s culinary scene is rooted in savory, soulful Creole and Cajun foods, it is constantly evolving to adopt new flavors and cuisines. Since one could spend an entire lifetime eating in the Big Easy without tasting a bad meal, it can often be difficult to navigate the plethora of restaurants and dishes. Therefore, we’ve crafted this extensive list of 50 things you must eat in New Orleans before you die. Just don’t expect to leave the city (or conquer this list) without gaining a few pounds…
1. Beignets at Cafe du Monde
Tourists from far and wide pack the walls of famous Cafe du Monde daily to sample this quintessential New Orleans treat. These fried dough fritters topped with powdered sugar absolutely must be accompanied by a hot cup of cafe-au-lait. There’s simply no other way.
2. Shrimp and Alligator Sausage Cheesecake at Jacques-Imo’s
Nothing says welcome to the Bayou like some good ol’ gator. This famous quiche-like appetizer stuffed with alligator sausage and shrimp, and topped with a rich and creamy mustard sauce is the perfect start to a Southern feast.
3. Bananas Foster at Brennan’s
What better place to sample this dessert, made of flambéed bananas, vanilla ice cream, and a sauce of brown sugar, cinnamon, rum, and banana liqueur, than the restaurant where it was born?
4. Grilled Cauliflower Steak at Domenica
Okay, we know veggies might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think New Orleans cuisine, but this whole grilled cauliflower is unlike any vegetable you’ve ever had. Also, don’t be ashamed if you find yourself eating the side of whipped feta by the spoonful.
5. Blueberry & Brie Waffle at Biscuits & Buns on Banks
Serious props to the genius who conceived this divine flavor combo. Between the gooey melted brie, warm and tart blueberries, and perfectly fluffy waffles, you’ll be on cloud nine after the very first bite.
6. Maiz de la Rueda at Maïs Arepas
Translating to “corn wheel,” this traditional Mexican corn-on-the-cob dish, topped with spicy butter, salsa rosado, and cotija cheese, will leave you wanting más más más.
7. Fried Shrimp Po-Boy at Domilise’s
The components of a quality po-boy? A fluffy french bread loaf overflowing with fried seafood or meat, and dressed with shredded lettuce, tomato, and mayo. If you’re looking for a true classic, get yourself a fried shrimp po-boy from this near 100 year-old establishment.
8. Double Chocolate Bread Pudding at Red Fish Grill
If death by chocolate was a thing, this sinful dessert would surely kill you. This dessert is so exquisite that it must be ordered ahead of time, with your meal. All your troubles will drift away as you watch the waiter pour the melted white and dark chocolate all over your already decadent bread pudding.
9. Fried Chicken at Willie Mae’s Scotch House
This iconic family-run restaurant serves up a variety of traditional southern delicacies, but their famous “America’s best” fried chicken is what people come from all over to taste. With golden, crispy breading surrounding the juicy, dense meat, this is exactly how all fried chicken should be.
10. Samoa Donut at District Donuts. Sliders. Brew
Bet you didn’t know that your favorite girl scout cookie was even better as a doughnut. Bite into the light, airy dough and out will pour the rich coconut cream, making all your dreams come true.
11. Shrimp & Grits at Lüke
While you can sample this southern classic at numerous restaurants throughout the city, no one masters this dish quite like Chef John Besh, who combines fresh gulf shrimp, creamy and rich grits, mascarpone cheese, and spicy Creole seasonings to provide a sensory experience with every bite.
12. Crispy Chicken Confit & French Toast at Apolline
An unlikely pair, a crispy chicken leg & warm maple-butter french toast come together harmoniously in Chef Matt Farmer’s unique twist on the classic chicken & waffles brunch dish that has risen to popularity in recent years.
13. Laurence Fish Burger at Cowbell
A secret of this burger joint is its special burger composed of red fish and gulf shrimp topped with spicy remoulade and sprouts, which is available only on Friday’s. If you save enough room you’ll surely want to try their heavenly mac and cheese, as well.
14. Praline Beignets at Loretta’s Authentic Pralines
You may have had a beignet before, or sampled the sugary crunch of a praline, but the fusion of these two treats is like nothing you’ve ever tasted. The experience of biting into this warm, fluffy, gooey goodness is 100% worth the sugar coma that follows.
15. Turtle Soup at Commander’s Palace
Not only is Commander’s regarded as the ultimate fine-dining experience, but this New Orleans institution is also one of the last few restaurants in the country to serve up this once popular Southern delicacy consisting of a thick, rich stew, turtle meat (which is said to embody the flavor of seven types of meat), and an array of vegetables and spices.
16. Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding at Boucherie
Yes, you read that right. America’s favorite doughnut in bread pudding form. Chef Nathaniel Zimet once tried to retire this over-the-top dessert from the menu, as he found it too decadent, but due to public protest it still remains as one of the restaurant’s most popular menu items today.
17. Pita Bread & Curry Fried Cauliflower Hummus at Shaya
Have you ever wondered what it feels like to bite into a cloud? Maybe you haven’t, but by tasting this exquisitely fluffy pita bread you’ll never have to wonder. Pair it with one of his exotic hummuses, like curry fried cauliflower, and you’ve got quite the tag team. The avocado toast with smoked whitefish is also an absolute must.
18. Charbroiled Oysters at Drago’s
This seafood restaurant’s claim to fame? Mouthwatering oysters grilled in their shells over an open fire and topped with melted butter, garlic, cheese, and seasoning. There’s simply no better way to consume oysters.
19. Le Pig Mac at Cochon Butcher
Move aside Big Mac. This double pork patty topped with cheese, lettuce, pickles, and “special sauce” is almost too much to handle. Key word: Almost.
20. Blue Crab Beignets at La Petit Grocery
This James Beard Award-winning restaurant serves up elegant French and New Orleans style dishes with a twist. Their savory seafood take on the classic sweet beignet is something you absolutely won’t want to miss.
21. Aebleskeivers at Toast
What’s better than a hot stack of pancakes? How bout some fluffy spherical pancakes served with your choice caramel sauce, Nutella, or maple syrup? No need to take a trip to Europe to sample this Danish breakfast treat.
22. Whole Fish at Peche
Named the Best New Restaurant in America in 2014, Peche serves the tastiest seafood you can imagine. While you’ll essentially be in food heaven ordering anything here, why not go big with a whole fish for the table?
23. Jambalaya at Mother’s
This Creole dish, which can be thought of as paella’s distant cousin, is comprised of the “holy trinity” (onion, celery, and bell pepper), tomatoes, rice, stock, a multitude of seasonings and meat, seafood, or both. While you can find versions of this emblematic New Orleans dish throughout the city, Mother’s has it perfected.
23. Muffuletta at Central Grocery
NOLA’s classic Italian sandwich was invented at this French Quarter speciality market over 100 years ago. Layers of marinated olive salad, mortadella, salami, ham, and provolone make up this sandwich. Given the monstrous side, you may want to enlist help in conquering this beast.
24. Lavender Honey Ice Cream at Creole Creamery
Fear not, the taste of this unusual flavor is not reminiscent of hand soap. Instead it has a light, floral taste will keep you coming back for more.
25. BBQ Shrimp at Pascal’s Manale
This flavorful seafood dish is responsible for bringing fame to this Uptown neighborhood restaurant for decades. Perfectly cooked and bursting with sweet and spicy flavor, we promise you’ve never had shrimp like this.
26. Yellowfin Tuna Cones at Sobou
This unique appetizer, comprised of avocado basil ice cream and yellowfin pineapple tartare, is so good that it’s landed a spot on Food & Wine’s list of the best avocado dishes in the America.
27. Praline Bacon at Elizabeth’s
Locals, students, and tourists flock to this funky Bywater diner for creative, yet familiar Southern comfort food. We recommend the praline bacon for an ultimate salty vs. sweet showdown.
28. Cream of Nectar Sno-Ball at Hansen’s Sno Bliz
While technically any flavor you order at this beloved NOLA establishment will be amazing, the Nectar flavor is one of the most popular, and if you don’t order it with condensed milk on top, you’re just plain silly.
29. Surf & Turf Po-Boy at Parkway Bakery & Tavern
Your order at this famous Mid-City po-boy joint (which also happens to have Obama’s stamp of approval) is a no-brainer — the Surf & Turf Po-Boy, which brings you the best of both worlds, with slow-cooked roast beef AND golden fried shrimp.
30. Bananas Foster French Toast at Surrey’s
We’ve introduced you to Bananas Foster, and now it’s time for you to meet the equally decadent breakfast version. Because who says you can’t start the day with dessert?
31. Chef’s Special at Dat Dog
Even if you’re not a hot dog person, you can certainly be a Dat Dog person. At this gourmet hot dog shop, the usually rubbery and mystery dog is replaced by a gourmet sausage, with options ranging from Italian, to kielbasa, to German, and so much more. Can’t decide what toppings you want? Opt for the Chef’s Special, which changes daily and never disappoints.
32. Gumbo at Galatoire’s
This iconic dish is often what people first visualize when they imagine New Orleans food. The beauty of gumbo is not in its appearance, but rather in its rich, soulful flavors. At Galatoire’s crabmeat, shrimp, tomatoes, onions, celery, and okra make up the perfect Louisiana gumbo.
33. The Company Burger at The Company Burger
This juicy patty topped with American cheese, homemade bread and butter pickles, and red onions, is so outstanding that Thrillist has declared it one of the best burgers in America.
34. Jewish Coonnass at Slim Goodies Diner
This hot mess of a plate just might be the best hangover cure in the world. Comprised of two potato latkes topped with eggs your way, spinach, crawfish etouffee, and a warm biscuit, the Jewish Coonass is certainly a force to be reckoned with. Honorable mention goes to the sweet potato pancakes, arguably the best you will ever have.
35. Brûléed Cinnamon Roll at District Hand Pie & Coffee Bar
If you walk into District in search of a killer hand pie, but can’t resist the glistening cinnamon roll staring at you, don’t feel guilty. It’s inevitable. Pair it with a Vietnamese iced coffee (on tap) and you’ve got a killer breakfast duo.
36. Bacos at Ba Chi Canteen
These Vietnamese tacos on a bao steamed bun are crazy good and super cheap, meaning you can try a few of the many different filling options. Our favorites include sweet chili shrimp and coconut curry chicken.
37. Baked Alaska at Antoine’s
Ice cream encased in pound cake with torched meringue on top…. need we say more? Make sure to order this extravagant dessert in advance with your meal.
38. Eggs Atchafalaya at Atchafalaya
Nowhere does brunch better than Atchafalaya (we’re talking live jazz performances and a full Bloody Mary bar). Get a true taste of the south by ordering Eggs Atchafalaya — fried green tomatoes topped with poached eggs, jumbo lump crabmeat, hollandaise and a side of potatoes.
39. Chicken Under a Brick at Dante’s Kitchen
Intrigued? The name comes from the cooking technique, as the chicken is cooked under a brick wrapped in tin foil. Maple glazed, served with a potato and bacon hash cake, and topped with a fried egg, this signature dish is an absolute home run.
40. Crawfish Monica at Jazz Fest
At this famous music and arts festival, the food is equally as spectacular as the musical performances. Crawfish is a Louisiana seafood staple, and there’s no better way to try it than in this creamy, spicy mac & cheese dish, which is unique to Jazz Fest. Dig in while listening to some of the world’s best musicians and you’ll think you landed in heaven.
41. Fried Alligator at Cochon
Some say it tastes like chicken, others give it more of a pork taste, but only you can be the judge. Crispy fried in buttermilk batter and topped with chili garlic mayo, Cochon’s gator will have you falling in love with this tasty swamp creature.
42. Housemade Spaghetti at Herbsaint
At chef Donald Link’s award-winning flagship restaurant, French and Italian cooking with a Southern spin is the name of the game. Served in a thick creamy herb sauce with guanciale (similar to bacon) and a fried egg, this spaghetti is far from your typical pasta dish and makes the perfect lunch.
43. Pho at Pho Bistreaux
Thanks to the prominent Vietnamese population in New Orleans, the city has no shortage of quality Vietnamese restaurants. Pho, the classic vermicelli noodle soup, served with meat, seafood, or tofu, is the truest form of comfort food.
44. Brisket at The Joint
The laid back atmosphere of The Joint will make you feel like you’re at your neighbor’s backyard cookout. While anything off this meat-loving menu is sure to satisfy your barbecue cravings, the perfectly textured beef brisket with sides of mac & cheese and baked beans always wins.
45. King Cake at Tartine
The official treat of Mardi Gras — King Cake — is made with cinnamon-filled dough shaped into a hollow circle topped with glazed frosting and colored sprinkles. Tradition holds that whoever finds the hidden plastic baby Jesus within the cake is not only blessed with good luck, but also must host the next King Cake party. While one can find delectable variations of this treat throughout the city, Tartine’s, filled with brown sugar and cream cheese is irresistible.
46. Chef’s Special Omelette at Camellia Grill
Warning: this omelette is not for the weak. Loaded with turkey bacon, ham, potatoes, onions, and American and Swiss cheeses, AND topped with chili, this breakfast will keep you full for hours (days?). We suggest ordering the chili on the side so that you can truly taste the unique fluffy texture that Camellia Grill omelettes are known for.
47. Pear & Brie Melt at Satsuma
This sandwich is basically like skipping straight to dessert. Sliced pear, warm melty brie, walnut spread, and balsamic glaze come together beautifully in this sandwich to give you a perfect sweet and savory lunch.
48. Handmade Potato Gnocchi at Restaurant August
This upscale John Besh establishment is all about high quality ingredients, in simple but elegant plates, and his potato gnocchi is a prime example of this. Topped with blue crab and black truffle, this rich appetizer is full of flavor and is the perfect preview to an exquisite meal.
49. The Mac n Cheezy at The Big Cheezy
Behold the lovechild between your two childhood favorites — the Mac n Cheezy. Creamy, gooey mac & cheese, cheddar, and four-cheese bacon unite to create this absolutely dreamy sandwich.
50. Lemon Ice Box Pie at Wayfare
Well, after all that food, hopefully you’ve at least saved enough room for this miniature pie, which clearly should win the prize for most adorable dessert. Its small size makes it the perfect way to get your sweet fix at the end of a filling meal, and the creamy, tart taste will have you licking the plate clean.