You can easily find delicious renditions of the New Orleans and southern staples that make the food-bucket lists for very good reasons in many restaurants in the French Quarter, from the ambitious newcomers to the old-world landmarks. Here are our five top picks of the dinner dishes that define New Orleans and where to try them in the French Quarter.
1. Crawfish Étouffée
This spicy seafood stew, made with shrimp or crawfish, is a traditional Creole/Cajun favorite (the French word étouffée, pronounced “eh-too-fey,” means “smothered”). The iconic Galatoire’s (209 Bourbon St.) serves a classic shrimp étouffée over rice as an entree and, like many other restaurants, also offers it as an add-on topping over fish. For a more casual dining option, head to Deanie’s Seafood (841 Bienville St.).
One of Louisiana’s most famous dishes, excellent gumbo is easy to find anywhere in New Orleans, it just depends on whether you like your gumbo with darker or lighter roux, and with meat or seafood (or both).
Appropriately, the French Quarter restaurant that includes the dish in its name is a great place to try several of its varieties. Gumbo Shop (630 St. Peter St.) serves seafood and okra gumbo that is thick with shrimp and crabmeat, a smoky chicken and andouille sausage gumbo, and even gumbo z’herbes, a rarely-seen vegetarian gumbo made with greens.
Gumbo Ya-Ya, a house specialty at Mr. B’s Bistro (201 Royal St), is a Cajun country-style gumbo made with a dark roux, lots of Creole spices, chicken, and Andouille sausage.
This flavorful one-pot, rice-based dish is right up there with gumbo when it comes to well-deserved international fame. This staple traditionally incorporates stock, meat, seafood, long-grain rice, and vegetables (like the “holy trinity” also used in gumbo — bell pepper, onion and celery). The main distinction is that the Creole version has tomatoes and the Cajun recipe does not.
You can find one of the best versions of jambalaya at the casual Coop’s Place (1109 Decatur St.). Coop’s rabbit and sausage jambalaya can be upgraded to “supreme” by adding shrimp and tasso, a spicy Cajun ham smoked on premises.
If you just want a taste, the spicy jambalaya at Napoleon House (500 Chartres St.) comes with chicken and sausage and could be ordered as an appetizer or as a side. And the New Orleans Creole Cookery (508 Toulouse St.) has a vegetarian version, not something many restaurants offer.
A po-boy is a sandwich (just please don’t call it that) that comes in as many versions as there are ingredients to stuff inside a loaf of French bread. Some of the classics are fried seafood, like oysters or shrimp, but the ingredients vary all the way up to French fries. Ask for your po-boy “dressed,” so it will come with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayonnaise.
Johnny’s Po-Boys (511 St. Louis St.) has been dishing them out since 1950, and Killer Poboys (219 Dauphine St.) plays around with the non-traditional ingredients.
5. Red Beans and Rice
In the past, Monday was traditionally laundry day in New Orleans, and also the day for having red beans and rice. Our laundry schedules aren’t that rigid anymore, but you can still find a delicious plate of beans and rice around town, usually accompanied by a hunk of smoked sausage.
While many restaurants still feature it as a Monday special, you can still find beans and rice on many menus on any day of the week. A particularly delicious version is served daily at Original Pierre Maspero’s (440 Chartres St.), located in a historic 1788 building: slow-cooked red beans served with white rice and topped with Andouille and alligator sausage. (You can also get it as part of the sampler.)
All of these restaurants are in the heart of the New Orleans French Quarter, short blocks from French Market Inn. Book a stay at our historic French Quarter boutique hotel, right in the epicenter of all of the action!