New Orleans Food Guide, a City Tasting Tour
The Big Easy, NOLA, The Crescent City, N’awlins. New Orleans goes by many names, but one of them should be “Food Heaven”. Once you’ve tasted the great Cajun and Creole recipes in Louisiana’s largest city, you’ll know why. New Orleans’ unique cuisine is a result of the coming together of cultures - French, African-American, Italian and more - and whether it’s po’boys or muffuletta sandwiches, spicy jambalaya rice dishes or wholesome gumbo soups, Bloody Mary cocktails or sugar coated beignets, you’ll certainly be going back for seconds...
START WITH A DRINK
This is New Orleans, after all. Bourbon Street is where many of the city’s favourite bars and drinks can be found. The Hurricane cocktail - so called because it was served in a hurricane lamp-shaped glass - was invented in the 1940s at Pat O’Brien’s, and contains white and dark rum, passionfruit syrup and lemon juice. Head to Galatoire’s for a Bloody Mary with a dash of Tabasco sauce, revered in New Orleans as a classic pick-me-up. But for New Orleans’ official cocktail, the Sazerac - a mix of cognac or whisky with absinthe, sugar and Peychaud’s bitters - pull up a stool at The Sazerac Bar.
BAG A BEIGNET
After a night out in New Orleans you’ll need a sugar rush to start your day. Beignets are the answer. Brought to Louisiana by the French Acadians, beignets are deep-fried choux pastries, somewhere between a churro and a doughnut. Unlike doughnuts, they are square instead of round and there’s no hole in the middle. Like doughnuts, they are utterly delicious and best tackled with a steaming hot cup of coffee.
New Orleans’ most famous beignets can be found at Cafe Du Monde, where they have been deluged in powdered sugar and served with cups of chicory coffee (café au lait) since 1862. Alternatively, go direct from the bars of Bourbon Street and catch a late-night beignet at Cafe Beignet set among bronze statues of the likes of Fats Domino and Louis Prima in New Orleans Musical Legends Park. For a savoury twist, head to La Petite Grocery for blue crab beignets with malt vinegar aioli.
MARKETS & GROCERIES
It might be packed with tourists, but the French Market is a one stop shop for everything from Cajun spice rubs, to beignet mix. An array of food vendors serve jambalaya, crawfish étouffée, gator on a stick, pralines and more. Every Wednesday, the French Market hosts the Crescent City Farmers Market which has cooking demonstrations, live music and lots of great local produce. Just across the road is Central Grocery, an old-school Italian-American deli, which is home to the muffuletta - a round, flattened sesame-seed bread sandwich stuffed with salami, mortadella, cheese and olive salad.
No table in New Orleans is complete without a bottle or two of hot pepper sauce. Tabasco sauce has been made in Louisiana for some 140 years, and appears in many Cajun and Creole specialities, from gumbo to charbroiled oysters. Just two hours drive from New Orleans, a visit to the Tabasco Factory and Country Store reveals the secrets behind the famous sauce. But this being New Orleans, there are plenty of alternatives. Pepper Palace has over 1000 varieties of hot sauce, from Jimi Hendrix VooDoo Chile peach habanero sauce, to Flashbang Hot Sauce, which comes inside its own hand grenade. For the truly insane, there’s the Hottest Sauce in the Universe - 2nd Dimension, which comes with all kinds of health warnings, and can only be bought after signing a disclaimer.
I’M JUST A PO'BOY
This is no ordinary sandwich. The po’boy is made with French bread - ideally baked locally by the Leidenheimer Baking Co. - that’s as crispy on the outside as it’s fluffy on the inside; filled with meat or fish, salad, pickles and mayo. It’s as New Orleans as jazz music and Mardi Gras, and is said to date back to the Streetcar strikes of 1929, when a local restaurant owned by Bennie and Clovis Martin fed striking workers or “poor boys” for free.
While traditional po’boys are stuffed with deep fried shrimp, crawfish or oysters, the beauty of the po’boy is that it can be stuffed with anything, as long as it tastes good. Established in 1950, Johnny’s Po’boys claims to be the oldest family run po’boy restaurant in the world, and does a mean hot roast beef po’boy with gravy. Over in Irish Channel there’s Parasol’s, whose seasonal speciality is a deep-fried soft shell crab po’boy. Or go upmarket with a kobe beef cheese burger po’boy at the Hermes Bar at Antoine’s Restaurant.