Cajun and Creole cuisine comes very, very high on our list of favorite foods. So when we decided it was time for a vacation, the answer was very clear where to head… New Orleans.
It’s a Mecca for Southern food, with a rich and flavorful culinary history. The best of the best restaurants, not only catering to Southern style food, but every other ethnic cuisine you have in mind. There’s something for everyone’s taste and palate.
Here you can dig into piled high po’ boys and muffulettas, marvel over beignets with your favorite coffee, learn the difference between Cajun and Creole cuisine, devour a perfectly fried seafood platter, or try any other international cuisine your heart desires. It’s all there.
You can find great Creole and Cajun style food in most of their restaurants. Our favorites were Oceana (after a great lunch here, we actually returned back for dinner) and Gumbo Shop. We compiled a list of “must try foods” when visiting NoLa… Here they are, and you might as well go through our Things to do it New Orleans if visiting in the near future…
Where have you BEIGNET all my life? A doughnut without the hole. This popular sweet treat is NoLa’s most famous food staple that both locals and visitors savor all year long. They’re available 24-hours a day in New Orleans at more than one coffee hotspot, the most famous of all is Café du Monde. The New Orleans beignet is great for breakfast, dessert or a midnight snack.
Beignets were first introduced to the city by the French-Creole colonists in the 18th century. The concept is simple, dough is fried then covered with mounds of powdered sugar, but the result is extraordinary. When served hot, they are absolute perfection, especially when accompanied by café au lait or chocolate milk.
2. Po’ Boy
Po’ boy… New Orleans’ most famous sandwich. That over stuffed sandwich on flaky French bread with fixings of your choice… Mmm. Our go to Po’ boy is mostly the one overflowing with a ridiculous amount of perfectly fried shrimp with Cajun flavorings.
But it doesn’t have to stop there. Roast beef, oysters, fish, crab or surf and turf can go in between two long pieces of French bread. We had quite a few Po’boys and were always happy with the great taste and flavors.
Gumbo is another NoLa classic. Louisiana’s signature stew-like soup is one you must try in so many restaurants. You can choose seafood gumbo with shrimp, crabs, oysters and crawfish, chicken and andouille gumbo, or a mix.
Perfect example of Cajun and Creole cuisine, which evolved from African, Native American, French and other European influences.
Jambalaya is a casserole-style dish of Spanish and French influence originating in Louisiana. It’s traditionally a one pot dish, with a variety of meats and seafood, vegetables and famous Creole or Cajun seasonings.
Jambalaya has been part of New Orleans cuisine since Colonial Spanish settlers tried reconstructing their beloved native paella from locally sourced ingredients. We absolutely loved trying jambalayas at different restaurants.
5. New Orleans BBQ Shrimp
These are nowhere near what you would think BBQ shrimp would taste like. They’re called BBQ shrimp, but actually have nothing to do with a BBQ. Delicious, plump gulf shrimp are cooked in a rich, buttery sauce spiked with Cajun seasoning. All you need is warm crusty bread to mop up this dish in minutes… Delicious!
6. Crawfish Étouffée
When it comes to crawfish, we geared towards Étouffée, rather than plain old boiled. Crawfish étouffée is a delicious dish of sweet and meaty crawfish served up in a rich and flavorful gravy that is made from a quick roux. So comforting over some warm rice.
7. Seafood Platter
No New Orleans visit was over without Jason’s much craved seafood platter, which he had tried some years back. Be sure to be hungry when ordering these giant platters, which are full of perfectly fried fish, oysters, shrimp, crawfish and even crabs.
8. Jambalaya Pasta
We saw this New Orleans style pasta on almost all restaurant menus and got curious and ordered it one night. It sure didn’t disappoint. Creamy pasta full of seafood, chicken and andouille sausage, it was a great choice. We’ll have a recipe cooking up on GypsyPlate real soon…
The Muffaletta Sandwich is a delicious New Orleans invention filled with olive salad, cheese, and a variety of meats, all on a loaf of Italian bread. It’s quite hefty and loaded with meats. Jason was chewing on it for a few days as leftovers.
Now one dish we were really looking forward to try for years is this Louisiana classic invention… Yakamien. We had already created our own version of Yakamein on GypsyPlate, and were already in love with this “old sober”.
We found that it’s not that easily accessible in touristic restaurants. But if you go beyond tourist spots and go where locals eat, you will get that styrofoam cup full of this classic NoLa soup.
Local gas stations and grocery stores often have their popular yak ready for people to chow down. It’s a New Orleans noodle bowl soup.
11. Oyster Rockefeller
In this classic dish, the Rockefeller name refers to the dollar bill-green color of the sauce, and its richness, as it’s loaded with butter, garlic, spinach and herbs. Another New Orleans invent since 1889. We approve of it big time. Yummy…
12. New Orleans Pralines
A signature sweet of New Orleans, Pralines are unique candied treats adored by natives and visitors alike. They are kinda like fudge, made with candied pecans and melt deliciously in your mouth. These make the best gift from your travels for your friends and family.
After few days of local food, we always crave for some international flavors. Big cities are always Meccas to all these ethnic and foreign cuisines, compared to the small town where we live. We always try to look out for some tapas bar in new cities.
Costera in New Orleans was a huge hit. From our favorite gambas al ajillo to albondigas (that’s Spanish meatballs) to Spanish clams and perfectly cooked steak with salsa verde, and patatas bravas. It was a real treat.
We were so impressed by the clams, that we ended up recreating our own version, imagining all the ingredients that might have gone in the dish from Costera.
On our last night, we decided to try something we never had before… Arepas. They’re a popular Colombian affair. In Latin America, Arepas are large, circular corn cakes that are served sandwich-style and hot off the griddle.
At Mais Arepas, a Columbian restaurant, these arepas come over stuffed with exciting and delicious ingredient combinations, like chorizo with puréed avocado and mozzarella, or pulled pork with caramelized onions. All arepas are served alongside fried plantains.
This friendly, cozy eatery is inspired by colorful Columbian culture. We tried their trio-assortment of mini arepas along with empanadas (beef patties)…
maíz de la rueda (delicious cheesy corn on the cob)…
and some kind of great steak.
15. Beef Shawarma Plate
This one is a great lunch break in between walking your heart out in the French Quarter. When you want something light, yet tasty for lunch and this Lebanon Grill hits the spot.
Try out their different plates like gyros and shawarmas, kibbeh (Lebanese meatballs) with beautiful dips like tahini and baba ghanoush with warm, soft pitas.
16. Unique Bennies – A Hearty Brunch
We discovered a great joint in the heart of the Garden District called Ruby Slipper Café. This was our brunch spot before we started walking through the beautiful alleys and streets of the famous Garden District.
We are suckers for benedicts. Jason tried their huge Eggs Cochon Benedict, which is slow cooked apple braised pork debris served over a biscuit topped with poached eggs and finished with Hollandaise.
My choice was Bayou Shrimp Benedict, which is Gulf shrimp sautéed with pork tasso and Creole tomato sauce served over poached eggs, fried green tomatoes and a buttermilk biscuit. Both were absolutely delicious, as we always share each other’s dish.
Noah was all happy with good old pancakes and bacon, with a few bites from our bennies.
17. Sazerac and many other Mixed Drinks
Sazerac is the official cocktail of New Orleans! Cognac, whiskey and absinthe make up this famous drink that tastes like no other. Try it with some foot thumping jazz in many of the city’s bars and restaurants. We loved Bamboulas on Frenchman’s street. Great way to relax and recharge in between all the sightseeing… New Orleans style.
Of course, we love our margaritas and mojitos and daiquiris, and there are plenty of tall glasses to choose from. Most of the time, you can carry them everywhere. Party time! Have fun when you go on your own trip to this great city..
We hope we inspire you to plan your dream vacation soon. Travel when you can… Don’t wait for tomorrow. GypsyPlate will be on the road often now that Jason is full time on board. So more coming in 2022. Until then…
Check out these Cajun and Creole recipes we’ve cooked:
Creole Shrimp with Sausage
Grillades & Grits
Cajun Shrimp Scampi
Blackened Shrimp & Grits
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