I recently attended a trade show in New Orleans, and took that as an opportunity to eat some amazing food! Though I didn’t have much time, I did manage to try out some old favorites as well as a few new restaurants (for me.) My visit happened to coincide with the start of the Mardi Gras season in New Orleans, so I also managed to catch a parade and see some amazing floats!
New Orleans is fairly close to my home, so I’m very familiar with the city and have been many times. This time, I just managed to taste a few favorites and try a few other restaurants. I was in New Orleans with my friend Tuffy Stone and his wife, Leslie, and we managed to try a pretty large swath of New Orleans cuisine in a short time.
New Orleans is one of America’s Great Food Cities
Of all the cities in America, New Orleans has the most one of the most distinct food identities of all. However, once you delve deeper into the city, you’ll find more variations on “New Orleans cuisine” than you could imagine. The first is the Creole vs Cajun difference. Many people use those terms interchangeably, but they are not. Both are descended from a “gumbo stew” of African, French, and Indigenous American cooking mixed with a healthy dose of local ingredients. “Creole” cooking is the “classier” version served in the city proper, while Cajun dishes are those from the outlying or “peasant” class. Creole cooking also incorporates tomatoes in many dishes, while cajun dishes eschew that wonderful fruit. Even amongst those divisions, you’ll find wonderfully tasty variations among the new chefs of New Orleans and even among the different neighborhoods.
You’ve got to try the Oysters
No visit to New Orleans is complete without a trip to one of the well-known Oyster houses. I went to my favorite, Acme Oyster house, and was not disappointed. We ordered 2 dozen oysters and were quickly rewarded with some amazingly plump, juicy mollusks on the half shell. The cocktail sauce was a heady mix of ketchup, lemon juice, and what seemed to be 9 out of 10 parts horseradish. It was perfect with the oysters on a saltine cracker. Acme has a fairly full menu of New Orleans favorites, and our group also sampled an excellent seafood gumbo and a wonderfully plump crabcake. Shrimp and Oyster Po-Boys served on wonderful French bread (really good, ask for extra remoulade sauce,) but frankly a disappointing version of one of my favorite dishes, Red Beans and Rice.
Muffalettas and more!
Aside from the aforementioned Acme Oyster House, we also grabbed a very traditional Muffuletta Sandwich from the Napoleon House. In case you don’t know, a Muffuletta is the most “New Orleans” a sandwich can get, perhaps aside from a Po-Boy. Muffalettas are made up of Italian meats, cheeses, and a Green Olive Salad served on a special Muffuletta loaf. In some places, you’ll have them served warm, in some places cold like a deli sandwich. Whatever the case, I love them. Be warned, muffuletta loaves are usually 14″ to 16″ diameter, so don’t compare it to your normal sandwich. 1/2 of a muffuletta is enough for 2 people.
Another lunch from the local St. James Cheese Factory had some nicely made sandwiches with delicious, chewy bread.
One day we ate lunch at the convention center! I had a wonderful bowl of red beans and rice, and it was superb. The red beans mixture was cooked until it was a perfect consistency, redolent with spices and onions, and was served with grilled sausage. Just goes to show you, season your food! Great food in a non-traditional environment can be really good!
As I mentioned, the convention coincided with Mardi Gras season, and on Friday night we got to see part of a parade right in front of our hotel. Getting around downtown New Orleans during parade season is very challenging during Mardi Gras season. Many streets close for the long parade routes. The floats are amazing, and in only a short time we grabbed tons of beads! My husband and I used our daughter Lauren as a holder for the beads, and she quickly had a “Mr. T” level set of necklaces. So fun!
In short, if you are planning a trip, New Orleans needs to be on your list of places to see.
Looking for some great New Orleans Recipes?
Try my Creole Okra Gumbo or Easy BBQ Shrimp!