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The Perfect Getaway: A foodie tour of New Orleans

Head to the Big Easy to sample some of its world-famous cuisines. Follow our guide to discover New Orleans’ famous dining rooms. | By Paul Oswell | January 11, 2023

New Orleans is home to the world’s largest annual free party, but beyond Mardi Gras, the Big Easy is also a year-round destination for people who are serious about their food. Steeped in centuries-old culinary traditions, with both Cajun and Creole influences at many of the city’s best restaurants, New Orleans has much to offer foodies. In recent years, there has been an explosion of flavors from around the globe within the city's restaurants, especially from New Orleans’ large Vietnamese population. Add fresh seafood, historical restaurants and that famed Southern hospitality, and you have a gastronomic landscape that’s ripe for exploration.

  • Old school: Try traditional dishes that have been served here for hundreds of years

  • New ideas: Explore recent trends that have expanded New Orleans’ culinary horizons

  • Cheers to you: The city is the spiritual home of the cocktail, so raise a glass and celebrate

FRIDAY

Morning

Set yourself up with some classic New Orleans’ fare as soon as you arrive in the city’s historic French Quarter, the ideal base for your weekend’s culinary exploration. Kick off your mouth-watering tour with breakfast at the award-winning Dickie Brennan’s Palace Cafe on Canal Street. Sit out on the terrace for prime people-watching as you fuel up on Gulf shrimp n’ grits or their famous duck hash. Add a frozen bananas Foster cocktail if you’re feeling festive.

One block from the French Quarter, you can drop your bags at The Roosevelt New Orleans, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel, and walk to Jackson Square to see St. Louis Cathedral, the Spanish colonial architecture of the Cabildo Museum, tarot card readers and local artists selling their paintings. A quick way to get your bearings and learn some history is to take a mule-drawn carriage ride — the drivers are all qualified tour guides and have great stories to share.

Afternoon

When you’re ready for lunch, visit the 200-year-old Napoleon House on Chartres Street. Step back in time as you enter the dining room, and request a table in the peaceful courtyard.

Napoleon House

Originally the home of Nicholas Girod, the mayor of New Orleans from 1812 to 1815, this storied landmark was transformed into a restaurant in 1914. For lunch, try its famous Italian muffuletta sandwich, with cured meats and cheese and tangy olive salad dressing. Made fresh daily in house, the Creole jambalaya is a local favorite, served with Leidenheimer French bread and butter. Toast to the vibrant city with a Pimm's Cup — one of the most popular cocktails in town.

A post-lunch walk is always a good idea, so head to the greenery of nearby City Park, where you’ll also find the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) and the Louisiana Children’s Museum. If the weather cooperates, then the newly expanded Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden is a delight, with striking works of art in beautifully landscaped surroundings.

Evening

After freshening up at your hotel, head out for dinner at Luke, a seafood restaurant just a short walk away from Hilton New Orleans/St. Charles Avenue. This Creole-inspired brasserie always has a lively, buzzing ambiance and dishes that highlight local purveyors and fresh ingredients. Share a seafood plateau, which comes with Gulf oysters, shrimp, scallops, tuna tartare and a smoked trout dip, or try the seafood gumbo a la Creole — a classic New Orleans staple with andouille sausage and popcorn rice. For a nightcap, head back to The Roosevelt New Orleans, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel and savor the official cocktail of the Big Easy — the Sazerac — in the hotel bar that shares its name.


SATURDAY

Morning

Start your day with a delicious taste of a local favorite: Eating beignets with a cafe au lait at 160-year-old Cafe du Monde on Decatur Street.

Cafe du Monde

Dining at Cafe du Monde is a quintessential New Orleans experience. Be forewarned, however, this famed eatery has earned its reputation. The crowds start early, so head over before 9 a.m. to beat the lines. It's open 24 hours, seven days a week, so the famous beignets — served in orders of three — are always hot and ready when you are.

Once you’ve had your morning fill of coffee and beignet, walk along the Mississippi River and see the steamboats, before making your way to the neighboring Central Business District. Julia Street is where most of the city’s independent art galleries are, or head to the World War II Museum, one of New Orleans’ many world-class attractions. Oh, and if you happen to be back in this area around happy hour, make sure to stop in at Drago’s Seafood Restaurant for some of its famed charbroiled oysters.

Afternoon

Donald Link is one of the region’s most admired chefs, and Cochon is one of his signature restaurants. For lunch, try Cajun delicacies from boudin or andouille to alligator, oysters or rabbit and dumplings — not to worry, they also have tempting vegetarian options.

From here, it’s only a short walk to the streetcar line. Streetcars are one of New Orleans’ most recognizable features, and you can ride uptown for just $1.25. It’s secretly one of the best tours in the city, and you can sit back and see the beautiful mansions and university campuses go past as you ride up and down St. Charles Avenue. Hop off to browse the galleries and boutiques on Magazine Street for an added dose of culture. 

Evening

While you’re uptown, stop for dinner at Mukbang Seafood, a seafood restaurant that has incredible crab and shellfish with a Vietnamese-Cajun twist. Here, diners don bibs and grab paper towels as they dive into succulent crab, crawfish and lobster platters. Mukbang’s po’boys and catfish offerings showcase classic New Orleans flavors. Nearby Cure is regarded as one of the hottest craft cocktail spots, so drop in for another local classic, a dessert-like Ramos gin fizz, before heading back downtown for the night.


SUNDAY

Morning

The Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods are both close to the French Quarter and have plenty of culinary spots well-worth exploring. For breakfast, the praline bacon at Elizabeth’s on Gallier Street in the Bywater is legendary, as are their fried grit cakes, bananas Foster French toast and gumbo. They don’t take reservations so once again, an early start is recommended.

Pick up some New Orleans’ jazz on vinyl from neighboring Euclid Records before strolling along the river through Crescent Park, a 1.4-mile (2.2-kilometer), 20-acre (8-hectare) urban linear park that runs along the Mississippi. It’ll take you back to the French Quarter, where you can scour the antique stores on Royal Street or head to Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, found downtown.

Afternoon

For lunch, hop in a cab and try one of the city’s best-known dining institutions, Commander’s Palace.

Commander’s Palace

This upscale eatery has been open since 1893 and is famed for its gourmet Creole dishes. Specialties include turtle soup, pecan-crusted fish and a rich Creole bread pudding soufflé. If you still haven't had your gumbo fill during your visit, don’t miss the Commander's Creole Gumbo. Set aside at least a couple of hours here as you’ll want to savor every course. Oh, and dress up a little — it’s a refined affair.

After dinner, head across the street for a guided tour of Lafayette Cemetery No.1. New Orleans has a handful of historic cemeteries, all with their famous above-ground mausoleums, and guides can show you their most famous residents and the most elaborate facades.

Evening

You might want to keep things low key after a sophisticated afternoon, so wander back downtown for Margot’s on Frenchmen Street. This pizza spot on the Marigny serves some of the best pies in town. It’s a lovely, casual last meal and you’ll likely make friends with the locals as you chow down.

Afterward, walk down Frenchmen Street and see if any of the jazz clubs pique your interest — the Spotted Cat Music Club and Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro usually have great line-ups. If you’re walking back to the hotel, a great stop is Bar Tonique on Rampart Street. It has the feel of a neighborhood bar but has a top-shelf craft cocktail menu and makes for a great spot to digest the memories as you toast to your last night in New Orleans.

Paul Oswell is an award-winning travel writer, and has been reporting from all seven continents for over twenty years. He is based in New Orleans and is the author of “The Bucket List North America: 1,000 Adventures Big and Small.”

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