One of America’s most beloved travel destinations, New Orleans is renowned for its music and food, both of which have been exported around the world. As the largest and most visited city in the state of Louisiana, New Orleans is filled with dozens of eateries specialising in authentic, regional Creole and Cajun recipes. Along with world-class music, shopping, and cultural festivals - most notably the annual Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest celebrations - culinary-minded travellers come from far and wide solely to experience the city’s gourmet offerings. Some are bastions of fine dining where a jacket is required and a sense of genteel formality reminds customers of a bygone era; others are firmly rooted in the 21st century, with young, stylish chefs creating trendy, forward-thinking cuisine.
“New Orleans continues to nurture a diverse dining scene that is incorporating more and more different types of restaurants at all price points,” says Ryan Prewitt of Pêche Seafood Grill, which in 2014 was awarded the prestigious James Beard Award honouring America’s best new restaurant. “This sustained advancement of the culinary scene only works to the benefit of the city as a whole,” chef Prewitt explains, “and continues to make New Orleans a very attractive travel destination.”
As the face of one of New Orleans’s most famous and historic, restaurants, Tory McPhail is one of the city’s biggest culinary stars. “The New Orleans dining scene is unlike any other in the country,” he says, adding that what makes New Orleans cuisine so special is “the flavours and the seasonings - you know you’re in Louisiana when you eat in our city.”
Alon Shaya is another successful New Orleans chef carving his own path while eschewing traditional local fare. “The dining scene is skyrocketing at the moment with young, passionate and motivated chefs and entrepreneurs,” says the man behind the wildly popular Domenica and Pizza Domenica eateries. “When I moved to New Orleans 12 years ago, there were a small handful of restaurants pushing the envelope away from the classic Creole and Cajun fare. Now, you’re seeing everything from Israeli cuisine that we will be making at Shaya [the chef’s newest restaurant], to ramen, Mexican, modern Vietnamese and more.” Shaya predicts that the next five years will see continued growth in diversity and talent. “I want to see the rich traditions of Creole and Cajun food continue to be embraced, cooked and served with lots of heart by our younger generation of Louisiana chefs,” he says.
For a taste of the city, visitors can eat their way between grand dining rooms such as Galatoire’s and Antoines, or casual, family-owned eateries like Parkway Bakery & Tavern and Domilise’s; both are synonymous with the city’s signature sandwich, the po’ boy. Adventurous foodies can head to the New Orleans East neighborhood to enjoy authentic flavours courtesy of the area’s sizable Vietnamese population, and when the weather’s warm, all walks of life cool off with a classic New Orleans snoball - similar to Italian ice or Hawaiian shave ice.
“It’s great to see this city use its rich culinary heritage to grow, prosper, and diversify,” says Brian Landry, chef and partner at the city’s Borgne restaurant. “Eating your way through this city is as exciting as it has ever been.”
Around New Orleans in four plates
Duck poppers at Borgne
Part of the local celebrity chef John Besh’s culinary empire, Borgne is tucked away in a corner of the Hyatt Regency. Guests jockey for a spot at the long, stylish bar to enjoy handcrafted cocktails, local microbrews, and creative preparations of sustainable seafood freshly caught from the Gulf of Mexico. Chefs Besh and Brian Landry grew up fishing on Louisiana’s Lake Borgne, and their menu celebrates coastal Louisiana cuisine; signature dishes include duck poppers, garlic clove Louisiana shrimp, and oyster spaghetti. The casual dining room features large columns of Louisiana oyster shells, colourful floor-to-ceiling chalkboard panels, and pieces by local artists. Given its proximity to the city’s two largest entertainment venues (the Mercedez-Benz Superdome and the Smoothie King Center), Borgne is a popular pre- and post-event hangout.
601 Loyola Ave; +1 504 613-3860; borgnerestaurant.com
Grilled gulf wahoo at Commander's Palace
Occupying a regal address in the city’s gorgeous Garden District, Commander’s welcomes hundreds of diners nightly. The historic restaurant, which dates back to 1880, has hosted countless celebrities and visiting dignitaries and remains relevant thanks to Chef Tory McPhail’s ‘haute Creole’ cuisine. The lengthy menu, which has one foot in the past and one in the future, places an emphasis on local, seasonal ingredients; nearly everything is sourced from within 100 miles of the restaurant. Signature dishes include shrimp and tasso with five pepper jelly, crispy buttermilk calamari with smoky bacon and spicy lemon mayonnaise, turtle soup finished tableside with aged sherry and a sumptously calorific Creole bread pudding soufflé dubbed “the queen of Creole desserts”.
1403 Washington Ave; +1 504 899 8221; commanderspalace.com
Squid ink pasta at Domenica
Just a block from the French Quarter in the Central Business District, Domenica (which means Sunday in Italian) can be found in the grand Roosevelt Hotel. A mix of downtown workers and out-of-towners fill the handsome, convivial dining room to devour New Orleans’s most acclaimed pizzas. Chef Alon Shaya’s wood-fired pies are topped with fresh veggies, imported cheeses, and house-made meats such as duck liver pâté, country-style blood sausage, and red wine-garlic salami. Beyond the delicious thin crust pies, the kitchen churns out rustic country Italian dishes and scrumptious desserts; highlights include octopus carpaccio, blue crab polenta, slow-cooked rabbit tagliatelle, and lemon ricotta cake with candied kumquats and pistachio shortbread.
123 Baronne St; +1 504 648-6020; domenicarestaurant.com
Pêche Seafood Grille
Oysters at Pêche
Situated at the corner of Magazine and Julia Streets in the Warehouse District, Pêche (“fishing” in French) is the seafood-focused sister of the city’s famous, meat-centric Cochon and Cochon Butcher eateries. The ever-changing menu features a kaleidoscope of local seafood, inventively prepared and served every which way imaginable, from delicate bites of raw crudo and creamy smoked tuna dip to the signature whole roasted fish topped with salsa verde. Rustic dishes are prepared on an open hearth over hardwood coals; the open kitchen allows guests to view Chef Ryan Prewitt and his team in action. The oyster bar places a spotlight on fresh local oysters, crab, and fish. The restaurant proudly lists the local farmers, growers, and artisan purveyors it works with; the menu is dotted with local items ranging from dairy products to alligator.
800 Magazine St; +1 504 522-1744; pecherestaurant.com