5 Places to Eat Iconic New Orleans Foods
Updated: July 27, 2023
AAA Travel Editor Laurie Sterbens
When it comes to New Orleans restaurants, deciding where to eat during your vacation can be overwhelming. After all, it’s a city known for its cuisine and home to more than 1,000 restaurants. What makes New Orleans food so special? Three words: location, location, location. New Orleans is surrounded by water—fresh, saltwater and brackish — offering an abundance of fresh fish and shellfish. Founded at the site of a longstanding Native American trading post, its position where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico results in a cultural melting pot of flavors, with French, German, Spanish, Italian, Native American, West African, Croatian and Chinese ingredients coming together to create Cajun and Creole flavors. If this is your first trip to the city, look for places to eat where you can sample iconic New Orleans foods such as beignets, pralines, classic French Creole cuisine, po’boys, muffulettas and oysters—freshly shucked on the half shell or in classic dishes such as Oysters Bienville or Oysters Rockefeller. While you’ll find these at many local restaurants, these well-known establishments won’t disappoint.
Acme Oyster House
724 Iberville St.
You’re likely to find a line outside this French Quarter favorite that’s been serving up fresh oysters since 1910. Get in the line. You’ll be rewarded with the juiciest, freshly shucked Gulf oysters around. If you’re not a raw oyster person, try them chargrilled—sizzling in herb butter sauce and topped with cheese—or fried, along with shrimp, on the Peace Maker po’boy. Pro tip: Try this spot at lunch, when you may find the line is shorter and faster. And if you’re offered a place at the bar, jump on it. You’ll have a front row seat to watch their master oyster shuckers at work.
713 St. Louis St.
This AAA Three Diamond restaurant is worth a visit for the history alone—opened in 1840, the massive building features 14 dining rooms, each with a different theme and filled with photos and memorabilia. But if you want to experience French Creole fine dining, this is one of the best places to go. Operated by the same family since 1840, it’s where classic New Orleans dishes such as shrimp remoulade, oysters Bienville and oysters Rockefeller were invented. For something more budget friendly, try the $20 lunch special, where you can choose from a seasonally changing menu featuring a choice of appetizer, entrée and dessert. If offered, don’t miss the sizzling chargrilled oysters and pecan bread pudding. Pro tips: Reservations are recommended and there is a dress code. You don’t have to dress to the nines, but if you show up in a tank top and flip flops, they’ll probably turn you away.Read More
Cafe Du Monde
800 Decatur St.
This iconic café has been serving coffee and beignets in the French Market since 1862. Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, its menu is simple: dark coffee with chicory, served black or au lait; fresh-squeezed orange juice; and beignets, square French doughnuts dusted with liberal amounts of powdered sugar. Iced coffee and soft drinks are relatively recent additions to the menu. As this is a popular tourist destination there is often a line, but it moves quickly.Read More
Central Grocery Company
923 Decatur St.
Shelves filled with imported olive oil, pasta and other specialties line the walls of this old-fashioned Italian grocery where the famed muffuletta sandwich was invented by its founder, Sicilian immigrant Salvatore Lupo. The sandwich features ham, salami, and cheeses topped with olive salad served on split muffuletta bread, a round loaf similar to focaccia. Be warned: The full size is probably enough for four people, so bring a friend and order the half sandwich.
331 Chartres St.
French settlers brought the praline to New Orleans, though the treat we know now is quite different from the original sugar-coated almonds. While sugar cane was plentiful in Louisiana, almonds were not, so the settlers used pecans. Butter and cream were added to form the fudgelike confection we know today. Laura’s Candies, said to be the city’s oldest candy store, offers a variety of flavors made fresh daily including traditional, chocolate, coconut and a melt-in-your-mouth delicious rum praline.
AAA Travel Editor Laurie Sterbens
Laurie Sterbens is a AAA Travel Expert.