When it comes to food, there is simply no place like New Orleans. Since it's the city's 300th anniversary this year, it feels like a fitting time to honor the culinary traditions, signature dishes, distinct cuisines, and spectrum of influences New Orleans has to offer. I'm here to break it all down to you from A to Z. I now present to you the ABCs of New Orleans cuisine.


Alligator Sausage

To kick off our list we're starting with some swamp noms. Alligator meat is used in a lot of southern cooking, including in sausage form. At the popular NOLA chain Dat Dog, you can get a gator dog with any topping or sauce your heart desires, whether it be creole mustard, guacamole, or barbecue sauce. If you're a first timer, don't fret - it really does taste like chicken.



I'm 99% certain these glorious funnel-cake-like puffs that are coated in powdered sugar are a gift from the heavens. Beignets (pronounced ben-yays) are DELICIOUS. Although almost always jam-packed with tourists, Café Du Monde has been THE place to satisfy your beignet craving since its doors opened in 1862.



Crawfish are crucial to life in New Orleans. Every year, multiple festivals take place that revolve solely around crawfish (including one on Tulane University's campus). Taste-wise, crawfish are kind of similar to shrimp and lobster but tend to be even more flavorful due to the creole or cajun spices that they are cooked in. You can either have a crawfish boil and peel open the little red crustaceans yourself, or find crawfish prepared in classic NOLA dishes such as étouffée and gumbo. 


District Donuts

With a rotating cast of fun flavors, components made completely from scratch (even the sprinkles!), and an impressive coffee bar, there's so much to love about this donut hot spot. Whether you're looking for a classic donut (Chocolate Glazed, Boston Creme, Toasted Coconut) or a more adventurous one (Strawberry Cheesecake, Cereal + Milk, Spicy Maple Praline), District has got you covered. 



Emeril Lagasse is a biiiiig name in New Orleans. He has four award-winning restaurants located in the city, has hosted and been featured in a multitude of cooking television shows, and plays a large role in the NOLA non-profit scene – using the Emeril Lagasse Foundation to support the organization Edible Schoolyard, give at-risk youth hospitality and culinary training at Cafe Reconcile, and donate a learning kitchen for special needs students at St. Michael Special School. Talk about an over-achiever. 


Fried Food

There is no shortage whatsoever of fried delights in this city, whether it be in the form of fried chicken between two halves of a buttery biscuit or fried oysters with fresh lemon juice squirted on top. If fried food is what you want then New Orleans is the place. Pictured above is the fried chicken sandwich from the popular restaurant Willa Jean (even Beyonce has checked this place out). 



This traditional stew is thought to have been first created in the 18th century by the Choctaw tribe, but has been influenced by French, Spanish, and African cultures throughout time.  Gumbo generally contains meat and/or seafood, the "holy trinity" of vegetables (onions, celery, and bell peppers), well-seasoned stock, and some variety of "thickener", generally French roux (flour and fat) or filé powder (dried sassafras). It's normally served over rice and brings a smile to the face of all who eat it.


Happy Hour

New Orleans has a rep for being an incredibly alcohol-friendly city. Fortunately for anyone who likes to ball on a budget, happy hour exists.  If TWO DOLLAR tacos are of any interest to you, hit up either Johnny Sánchez where you can also get half-price margaritas, beer, and wine, or La Casita Taqueria which also offers four dollar margs and half off guac. If you want to feel classy while you enjoy your discounted beverages then hit up Catahoula Hotel, Cavan, or Kenton's. Six dollar cocktails in an old church-turned-bar sound up your alley? Check out Vessel. You certainly will leave any of these spots pretty ~happy~. 


Icy Treats

In a city as hot and humid as New Orleans, there is nothing better than a cool dessert. Snoballs are a popular confection that consists of fluffy ice doused in flavor syrups. Popular snoball stands include Hansen's Sno Blizz, Williams Plum Street Snowballs, and Pandora's Snowballs. If you're in the mood for ice cream, The Creole Creamery has a massive assortment of delicious flavors including Honey Lavender, Cookie Monster (Oreo pieces AND cookie dough), and Peanut Butter Fudge Pie. Angelo Brocato is the OG gelato spot in NOLA and has tasty Italian pastries as well. For even more ideas, check out this guide.



When making this tasty rice-based dish, you can get a little bit of everything - sausage, chicken, seafood, onions, tomatoes, pepper, celery, it all depends on what ingredients you have. This dish has Spanish and French origins with touches of Creole and  Cajun flair. The word jambalaya was printed for the first time in an English book in 1849, and its cookbook debut was 1878, so it's been a staple of New Orleans life for a looooong time. 


King Cake

A classic treat that consists of a sweet, ovular cake generally with a cinnamon filling inside and icing with purple, green, and yellow sprinkles outside. Every cake has one small plastic baby in it and according to some, whoever's slice contains it has to buy the next King Cake. King Cake szn is from January 6th to the end of Mardi Gras, so get it while you can folks. 



...at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. This museum focuses on the meals, drinks, and culinary traditions of the South. Permanent exhibits feature information on the founder of Popeyes Chicken, various BBQ styles, and more. As if this experience couldn't get any more mouth-watering, you can enjoy incredibly appetizing southern fare from Toup's South, which is located right inside the museum. Education has never been so fun. 


Magazine Street 

Magazine Street is a popular 6 mile stretch of boutiques, galleries, and perhaps most importantly, restaurants. There is a wide variety of cuisines - Mediterranean, Mexican, Italian, American, Thai, the list goes on. Some highlights include 10/10 hummus at Shaya, bomb nachos and tacos at The Rum House, garlic knots and artisanal pizza at Pizza Domenica, and brunch at Surrey's


New Kids on the Block

There's always a new restaurant sprouting up somewhere in the city. While the list of newcomers will be forever updating, a few from around the time I wrote this article include El Patio (with a massive outdoor "tequila garden"), Poke Chan (Hawaiian inspired fish bowls and Vietnamese iced coffee), and Max Well (a nutrition-inspired fast casual spot). In this innovative, food-obsessed city, both historic powerhouses and rookies alike are treasured. 



In a city known for its fresh seafood, oysters reign supreme. Enjoy them grilled, raw, or fried in an abundance of restaurants. Check out this list  and this list of the best spots for oyster happy hours. Cheap oysters? Cheap drinks? Now THAT'S the best of both worlds. 



Po-boys, sliced french bread generally loaded with either fried seafood, tomato, lettuce, pickles, and mayonnaise or with roast beef and gravy. Parkway Bakery and Tavern is one of the city's most famous (they've been open for over 100 years) and I can personally attest that they serve up a mean po-boy. Want to get in on even more po-boy action? Every year, Oak Street hosts a magnificent Po-Boy fest that highlights local variations of the famous sandwich. 


Quintessential Brunch

Just when I thought brunch, the lovechild of breakfast and lunch, couldn't get any more beautiful, I learned about jazz brunch. Basically, on Sundays, the esteemed restaurant Commander's Palace serves an extravagant brunch and wonderful live jazz music plays in the background. Picture award-winning bloody marys, barbecue gulf shrimp, truffled mushroom gnocchi, and bread pudding soufflé (among many other glorious dishes). You know where to find me next Sunday.


Red Beans and Rice

Way back in the day, Monday was a "laundry day" for the housewives of New Orleans. In order to focus on their washing, they would cook a pot of beans and season it with leftover ham bone from Sunday night for an easy, breezy dinner. Fortunately, the ladies of present-day NOLA can have careers and aspirations outside of being a wife (thank goodness). Red beans and rice is still served every Monday in restaurants and cafes around the city though. Double win. 


St. Roch Market

This beautifully designed, high-ceilinged food hall lined with delicious vendor after vendor is like something out of a foodie's dream. St. Roch is home to some city favorites such as The Daily Beet (an avo toast and smoothie lover's paradise), Good Bird (for all you rotisserie chicken fans out there), and Empanola (empandas with a southern twist). There is also a coffee bar, cocktail bar, and oyster bar. If you're like me and struggle to make decisions about what to order wherever you go, this guide is a must-view.


Turkey and the Wolf

This bomb sandwich joint was crowned the Best New Restaurant by Bon Appétit Magazine in 2017 aka this place is a really big deal and we should drop everything and get in (the understandably long) line for a table. Chef Mason Hereford takes old-school ingredients like bologna, collard greens, and American cheese and transforms them into magical (like really magical) creations. I honestly think I shed a tear when I looked at the menu. The restaurant is funky and charming as well, with vintage cartoon character dining ware, snazzy cocktails, and soft serve ice cream that will make you feel like a little kid again. If it hasn't been made obvious yet, I REALLY REALLY want to eat here so somebody please come with me.


Urban Gardens

Urban gardens are super important to lots of city landscapes, but especially that of New Orleans. They serve as a form of growth post-Hurricane Katrina rebuilding, a source of fresh produce in a citywide food desert, a center of unity for communities, an educational resource for students and more. Urban gardens are emblematic of the New Orleans mindset - continue to grow, acknowledge your roots, and celebrate the fruits of life no matter what comes your way. There are far too many urban gardens to name, but a few include Press Street GardensGrow Dat Youth Farm, and the Edible Schoolyard sites.


Vietnamese Food

In an effort to escape Vietnam's post-war communist regime, many citizens immigrated to the US during the 1970s, bringing their culture (and fabulous cooking) with them. A lot of these immigrants settled in Louisiana, which makes a lot of sense when you consider the similar subtropical climates and proximities to water. There is a large Vietnamese settlement in the eastern section of the city, but good pho, banh mi, spring rolls, and much, much more can be found in other areas as well. Popular spots include Lilly's Cafe, Pho Tau Bay, and Mopho


Willie Mae's

Located in the 6th ward, Willie Mae's Scotch House has been named home of America's Best Fried Chicken by sources such the Food Network and Travel Channel and has won a James Beard award for “America’s Classic Restaurant for the Southern Region.” That's hands down the most accomplished piece of chicken I've ever heard about. The restaurant serves up lots of southern classics, but the crisp and flavorful fried chicken is the true stand out. While Willie Mae herself no longer runs the place, her great-granddaughter is doing a mighty fine job filling her shoes. 


X-tra Spicy

This is a city that loves its hot sauce. One of the most famous brands to emerge from New Orleans is Crystal, which has aged cayenne peppers and distilled vinegar that add flavor and moderate heat to anything and everything you want to put it on. A few hours away, Tabasco brand hot sauce was developed and is still manufactured in Avery Island, Louisiana. If you want to test out these and many more varieties of hot sauce with all levels of heat, there are many speciality stores in the French Quarter such as Pepper Palace (while it is a chain, it has a wide variety of Louisiana brands) and Magnolia Sugar & Spice


Yaka Mein

Chinese and Creole may not be the pairing one would initially except, but those are the two most common varieties of restaurants that sell this mouthwatering stew. Yaka mein (sometimes written as yakamein or ya-ka-mein as well) consists of stewed beef, noodles, green onions, and a hard boiled egg in a beef-based broth. Yaka mein is also known  for being a dope hangover cure (take note everyone), hence its nickname, Old Sober. Perhaps the most famous yaka mein seller is Linda Green, who has been taught the golden recipe of this the southern-and-asian-inspired dish by her mother. Known as Ya-Ka-Mein Lady, Chef Linda sells the soup in styrofoam cups at events and along second line routes. 



If you've ever been to a grocery store, then you've probably seen Zatarain's brand products on the shelves. The company was started by Emile A. Zatarain in 1886, first in the form of a grocery store, and then a business that focused on root beer, mustards, and pickled vegetables, but then expanded to spices, seafood boils, and rice mixes. People loved the bold New Orleans flavors of the products and just like that the company took off. Today, Zatarain's is owned by the major spice company McCormick and its facilities are located across the Mississippi River in Grenata, Louisiana. 

And there you have it! Hop on the next flight to NOLA and experience the whole alphabet of culinary magic for yourself.