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New Orleans is known for its culinary scene and no trip to the Big Easy is complete without experiencing as much soul food as possible. Whether you are in the mood for a social affair or a sweet treat, the Crescent City has a dish for you to experience. We’ve come up with a list of the five best New Orleans food experiences that you absolutely cannot pass up. Here’s what we’ve got:
1. Crawfish boil. Mudbugs, crawdaddies, tiny lobsters, call them what you may; either way they are a New Orleans staple. Gather your friends and family or just head to a local dive, and experience the Big Easy version of a social affair. Boiled with Cajun spices, potatoes and corn, the crawfish tend to be pretty spicy and a lot of work for not so much meat. Sure, you’ll have to eat at least 20 of these buggers to be full; but it’s about the conversation and the company. Pick up some crawdaddies from Big Fisherman Seafood or head to Bulldog Pub for a feast.
2. Beignets. Essentially fried dough, but much better than your average funnel cake, beignets are a sweet treat no matter what time of day. Usually, you’ll find them at breakfast coupled with coffee, but we could eat them all day long. Topped with powdered sugar, this is the ultimate indulgence. Famous for it’s beignets, Café Du Monde in the French Quarter is a must-visit.
3. Po’ Boys. The key to a good po’ boy is fresh Louisiana French bread in this traditional Big Easy sub. The rest is up to you, kind of, but we suggest you go with some of the best local choices: shrimp, catfish or roast beef — all of which tend to be fried. Get your po’ boy dressed or, in layman’s terms, add lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. Head to Parasol’s for a slammin’ roast beef po’ boy.
4. Red beans and rice. This classic Creole dish is a must when you are in New Orleans. This simple meal, filled with protein and flavor, is traditionally served on Mondays with leftovers from Sunday’s feast. Sometimes Andouille sausage is added to the dish for a bit of spice. Make your way to Joey K’s on Magazine Street for an out-of-this-world helping of red beans and rice.
5. Jambalaya. Another classic Creole dish that New Orleans is famous for is a hearty jambalaya. The standard combination of meats, veggies and rice has plenty of varieties, but in New Orleans, you’ll find tomatoes added to the mix. A delicious meal in a dish, jambalaya is a must-try. We suggest Mother’s in the French Quarter.
New Orleans' five best food experiences owe as much to their surroundings as the food itself.
Gumbo Z'Herbes: Dookie Chase is the location for the culinary high holy holiday of Gumbo Z'Herbes. Chef Leah Chase presides over the event herself on Good Friday, in a unique gumbo dish made with smothered greens.
Chef's Tables: From Restaurant R'evolution to Commander's Palace to M. Bistro in the Forbes Four Star Ritz Carlton, Chef's Tables are a chef's chance to wow you with the top selections of the day. Ask well in advance for a booking and prepare to have a life-changing evening.
The classic crawfish boil can't be beat for its inherent sociability. Sidle up to a table covered in newspaper and begin to claim your pile of crawfish. Each chef has his or her own spice mix, some molten and some more to a standard traveler's palate. You won't know until you twist off the tail, peel of the shell and dive in. Boils abound in French Quarter restaurants.
Po-Boy: The classic po-boy is made with french bread, dressed with mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato, and filled with everything from fried oysters to french fries covered in gravy (yes, that's a thing). Stick to neighborhood diners and ask a local and you can't go wrong. Parkway Tavern is one of the most hearty servings with outdoor seating when weather permits.
Beignets: Cafe Du Monde is the best place to start your first day in New Orleans. It's a common tourist attraction for a reason, fluffy squares of fried dough covered in powdered sugar come with a coffee strong enough to get you through a traveler's day of pounding the pavement.