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Explore the distinct culinary traditions of New Orleans


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4 minutes

There are few American cities with culinary traditions as distinct as New Orleans. The mix of Cajun and Creole cultures in and around the unique Southern city has produced such famous dishes as gumbo, jambalaya, po’boys, and crawfish etouffee. It’s made restaurants such as Commander’s Palace and Emeril’s world famous. The city’s unique food scene is broad and deep, with nationally and internationally known restaurants ranging from fine-dining establishments to down-home, soul food joints.

Here are several dining options for foodies, the health-conscious, and those looking for tried-and-true N’awlins fare. A few are even within walking distance of Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

Creole & Cajun cuisine:

  • Napoleon House: Listen to Beethoven’s Eroiqua (composed for Napoleon) and the music of other classical masters while sipping a Pimm’s Cup and taking in the historic surroundings of this century-old French Quarter joint. The menu features Creole staples such as muffuletta, red beans and rice, po’boys, gumbo, jambalaya, and grilled alligator sausage. 500 Chartres St.
  • Jacques Imo’s: Trained by the late legendary chef Paul Prudhomme, proprietor Jacques Leonardi has been serving Creole/soul food and warm Southern hospitality at his namesake café since 1996. The menu includes shrimp creole, crawfish etouffee, gumbo, and assorted other blackened and stuffed seafood. Dinner only. Parties of 5 or more need a reservation. 8324 Oak St.
  • New Orleans Creole Cookery: Serves a traditional Creole menu that includes shrimp Creole, gumbo three different ways, and Oysters Bienville and Oysters Rockefeller straight from a coal-fire oven at the bar. This upscale eatery features a formal dining room, courtyard patio, and live jazz. 508 Toulouse St.

Within walking distance of the convention center:

  • Cochon Restaurant: Chef Donald Link creates traditional Cajun Southern dishes he grew up with using locally sourced pork and fresh produce and seafood. Link and his partner have received several James Beard awards. 930 Tchoupitoulas St.
  • Compere Lapin: Chef Nina Compton has created a menu that “mixes the indigenous ingredients and rich culinary heritage of New Orleans with those of her Caribbean roots. Tapping into her classical French culinary training and deep experience with Italian cuisine, the result is a playful menu that takes food you know, and makes it food you love. Named among top U.S. restaurants by several national magazines in 2019. 535 Tchoupitoulas St.
  • Pêche: Inspired by the cooking of South America, Spain, and the Gulf Coast, Pêche Seafood Grill works with local fishermen and farmers to create simply prepared contemporary dishes, rustic creations cooked on an open hearth, as well as fresh oysters and Gulf fish. The restaurant was awarded Best Chef and Best New Restaurant in America in 2014. 800 Magazine St.

Light fare:

  • True Food Kitchen: This national chain caters to “the foodies, the health experts, and the wellness seekers who believe in a good glass of red. The flavor fanatics, the plant-based, and the protein-obsessed. The green juice lovers and the burger aficionados and the Sunday brunchers.” 801 St. Charles Ave.
  • Carmo: Features eclectic and traditional or traditionally inspired dishes with an emphasis on fresh, local ingredients. Caters to vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores with healthy, affordable dishes in a warm, friendly atmosphere. The menu is built upon the rich, multicultural culinary influences of the Gulf South, the Caribbean, Central and South America, West Africa, Southeast Asia, and beyond. 527 Julia St.
  • The Daily Beet: This café and juice bar uses locally sourced ingredients and serves food that “will energize your body, fuel your mind, and enrich your daily life.” Serves breakfast and lunch only. 1000 Girod St.

Famous/historical establishments:

  • Emeril’s: Nestled in a renovated warehouse just steps from Ernest N. Morial Convention center, Chef Emeril Lagasse’s flagship restaurant strives to break culinary boundaries with its unique blend of “new New Orleans” cuisine. Serves dinner only. 800 Tchoupitoulas St.
  • Willie Mae’s Scotch House: A restaurant known for its simple menu and famous fried chicken. James Beard recognized it in 2005 with its “American Classics” Award. A few years later, the Food Network and the Travel Channel named it “America’s Best Fried Chicken.” 2401 St. Ann St.
  • Dooky Chase’s Restaurant: Founded 80 years ago by the late Leah and Dooky Chase, this restaurant is known not only for its Creole cuisine and unmatched hospitality, but also for its cultural significance, including the prominent role it played in the fight for equality during the Civil Rights movement. Martin Luther King Jr. partook in strategy sessions over meals in the upstairs meeting room at Dooky’s. It’s a stopping place for politicians, musicians, visual artists, and literary giants. 2301 Orleans Ave.
  • Commander’s Palace: This city landmark in the tree-lined Garden District dates to 1893 and is known for its award-winning food. It’s the go-to destination for Haute Creole cuisine and whimsical Louisiana charm. Winner of seven James Beard Foundation Awards, it has seen a steady parade of world-famous chefs take its helm, including Emeril Lagasse, Paul Prudhomme, Jamie Shannon, Tory McPhail, and now Meg Bickford. 1403 Washington Ave.