If you’re anything like us, the first thing you do when planning a trip—perhaps even before booking a plane ticket—is figure out where you’re going to eat while you’re there. Museums, sightseeing, and shopping are all well and good, but food is often the main attraction. To make trip planning a little easier, we’re compiling lists of our can’t-miss pit stops in some of our favorite places. JBF Award winners, hole-in-the-wall favorites, America’s Classics, and one-hit wonders—we’ll give you a quick rundown of our absolute must-eats in each featured location.
New Orleans is currently sitting on a culinary sweet spot: the city’s signatures—beastly oysters, savory muffalettas, beignets as big as whoopee cushions—are as plentiful and as tempting as ever, while a new wave of seasonal, farm-cozy spots offers a brand of Creole and Cajun cuisine that’s inventive and lighter on its feet. Here are some highlights from a recent visit:
At this French Quarter touchstone, the unthinkable happens: eye-opening hummus in the mecca of the deep fry. A miraculous blend of black-eyed peas, lemon, roasted garlic, and seasonings, it arrives on a fantastic antipasti plate that’s crowded with pickles (whole okra when we visited), cured meats, and artisan cheeses. Vibrant salads offer a respite from the gut-busting foods you’ve spent the rest of your trip eating, and the Sazerac is solid. Try to get a table in the lovely backyard—you’ll forget that debaucherous Bourbon Street is just two blocks away.
What to order: Southern antipasti plate; Sicilian orange salad; Gulf shrimp pirlou with Louisiana popcorn rice
Housed in the Hotel Modern, Bellocq is the second operation from the team at Cure, the Freret Street bar that prefigured the city’s current cocktail boom. While Bellocq specializes in the cobbler—a base wine or spirit that’s stirred with sugar, served on copious ice “cobbles”, and sipped through a straw—there are plenty of other intriguing concoctions to explore, such as the Amaretto swizzle, a soulful mix of Lazzaroni Amaretto, oloroso sherry, orange, lemon, and Angostura. It’s no longer on the menu (Bellocq just swapped in a new list), but, as at any proper bar, most any drink is just a polite request away.
What to order: Lillet Blanc cobbler, Amaretto swizzle
Elizabeth’s may be open all day, seven days a week, but brunch seems to be its undisputed raison d’etre: our fellow patrons ranged from Bywater old-timers and hipsters to bachelorette-party revelers and even a few well-heeled types that arrived in chauffeured cars. While the no-frills food is satisfying and giddily good, the generous portions call for restrained ordering, so be sure to save room for their famous praline bacon, which renewed our love for the synergistic coupling of salty and sweet.
What to order: praline bacon; chorizo and egg taco special; cornbread waffles
This Mid-City classic, which, according to legend, served its first po’ boy during a 1929 streetcar strike, continues to be a popular ritual for locals, visitors, and American presidents. After you’ve retrieved your order from the pick-up window, take your pick of the numerous packaged condiments in the cooler, or just stick to the bottles of Crystal hot sauce that litter the tables. Take a seat, unwrap your prize, and use the paper it was wrapped in as a safety net for the filling that pops out of its sides as you take bites.
What to order: fried shrimp, fried catfish, and barbecued beef po’ boys
An anchor of the ascending Bywater neighborhood, Maurepas Foods is home to farm-to-table cooking that’s smartly dappled with local and global influences. Charcuterie, jaw hinge–popping sandwiches, and Gulf catches are all here, but stitching together a meal of vegetable-based small plates can also be immensely satisfying. Whatever you choose, leave room for the superlative grits and one of their adventurous cocktails.
What to order: roasted Brussels sprouts with lamb belly and strawberry hot sauce; fried oyster and char siu sandwich; stone-ground grits; Goodhope to Canary cocktail (cachaça, arak, curry, and lime)
A visit to this tiny French Quarter shop may make you feel guilty for cheating on the snowball, so consider the virtues of Meltdown’s flavor-charged treats: owner Michelle Weaver swears by local and fresh ingredients, such as the prized Ponchatoula strawberries that go into her strawberry–lime pops. She also tells us that about 80 percent of her flavors are vegan. A second location is due to open in the Bywater this weekend.
What to order: strawberry–lime and pineapple–cilantro popsicles