The culture of New Orleans, Louisiana, is thoroughly authentic.
Its architecture and music are singular; its food and drink speak a language of their own, alluring visitors with one-of-a-kind experiences. These experiences are shaped by the city’s Cajun and Creole heritage and access to fresh, local seafood – a delicious blend of influences you’ll discover from century-old restaurants to modern eateries where chefs reinterpret traditional tastes. Here are 10 not to miss.
New Orleans’ myriad cultural influences marry in a steamy bowl of gumbo. The classic recipe simmers okra in a dark roux, adds any meaty combination of shrimp, oysters, crabmeat, chicken, duck and andouille – and heaps it all over rice.
There’s seemingly no end to the depth of flavor in a bowl of gumbo, a dark roux studded with savory meats and seafood.
This one-dish meal blends a variety of meats and seafood – depending what’s in season, maybe plump shrimp and savory alligator meat. Long-grain rice is added to absorb the flavors of the cooking stock, creating a comforting, flavorful dish.
Jambalaya is a one-dish meal that changes with the seasons. Yours might include shrimp or alligator, though the dish is always blended with flavorful rice.
3. Crawfish Étouffée
The star of this classic entrée is tender crawfish, smothered, as its French name implies, in a peppery spice blend and fragrant mix of onion, green pepper and garlic. It’s served over rice to soak up the irresistible flavor.
4. Bread Pudding
Imagine bread soaked in milk, eggs and sugar, then baked and topped with a sauce that balances spirited bourbon and sweetness. Watch for variations, such as infusions of white chocolate or a crown of Chantilly cream.
5. Red Beans & Rice
It’s traditional to enjoy this dish any Monday, a nod to home cooks who pair it with juicy pork chops reserved from Sunday dinner. Chefs honor the process by simmering beans all day and serving them with hearty sausage or golden-fried chicken.
The New Orleans’ secret to incredible red beans and rice? Simmering the beans all day long.
6. Bananas Foster
Brennan’s is the restaurant credited with inventing this flambéed dessert of buttery bananas spiked with cinnamon, dark rum and banana liqueur, served over ice cream. Today, you can find it at finer restaurants around New Orleans.
Indulge in Bananas Foster at finer restaurants around New Orleans for a decadent combination of flambéed bananas, cinnamon and rum served over ice cream.
7. Boiled Crawfish
Seek out restaurant/markets where you’ll order at the counter or take food to go. To find one, use your sense of smell: You can’t miss the aroma that wafts from “boiling houses” as crawfish simmer in their own liquid and zesty seasonings.
8. Charbroiled Oysters
From oyster bars to cafés, and especially at Drago’s (the pioneer), charbroiled oysters are grilled over fire in their shells and topped with a mélange of butter, garlic and hard cheese for smoky, briny perfection.
How does a square piece of dough become a decadent lesson in Louisiana heritage? When it’s fried as a beignet: crispy and coated with powdered sugar outside; pillow-soft inside. These anytime treats were introduced by Acadien (“Cajun”) French settlers.
Beignets are for any time of day. Order yours with chicory coffee, brewed strong to balance the beignets’ sweetness.
New Orleans brims with cocktail culture, with claims to several cocktails and the bars where they were invented. Launch a spirited study at The Carousel Bar with a Vieux Carré on the rocks.
Raise a toast in New Orleans, the origin city of several classic USA cocktails.
Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans is just 20 minutes from the center of city. New Orleans is easily accessible by taxi, airport shuttle or rental of limousines from the airport. You can fly to New Orleans easily connecting through Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago, New York and Miami.
More experiences nearby
The Romance of the Mississippi River
Houma: True Cajun Hospitality
Lake Charles: Nature Trails and Boudin Tales
New Orleans: City with Heart and Soul