No city in America has as eclectic, idiosyncratic, and downright delicious a culinary heritage as New Orleans, Louisiana. The local dishes are as diverse and colorful as the people who call this place home. It can be hard for tourists to know where to start.
Here, then, are some of the absolute best, can’t-miss, must-try, no-if-and’s-or-buts-about-it, essential NOLA food items that everyone should try before they shuffle lose this mortal coil.
Few dishes are as iconic to the NOLA culinary scene as gumbo. A synthesis of diverse influences, from Choctaw ingredients to Creole roux, gumbo takes its name from the African word for okra and, as such, features stewed rice as its starting point. From there, chefs add in either fowl, andouille, or seafood, plus veggies and seasonings, to create a hearty, flavorful soup that has sent more than one visiting Yankee in search of New Orleans houses for sale.
Some of the best gumbo in the city can be found at historic Galatoire’s, a NOLA staple since 1905. There, diners can enjoy a duck and andouille gumbo or a seafood version featuring fresh-caught shrimp, oysters, and shellfish.
Out-of-towners sometimes get jambalaya confused with gumbo, but once you try both for yourself, your taste buds will never forget the difference. A uniquely Louisiana take on paella with influences from French cooking techniques, jambalaya uses some of the same ingredients as gumbo, but heavily incorporates rice, along with bell peppers, garlic, and onion to create a thick, tomato-based casserole that is sure to stick to your ribs.
Foodies looking for a truly great jambalaya can get their fix at any hour of the day, even late at night, thanks to the insomniacs at Coop’s Place. This restaurant’s take on the classic dish includes boneless rabbit, smoked pork sausage, and Cajun-style ham, otherwise known as tasso.
For those who prefer to eat with their hands instead of a spoon or fork, NOLA’s signature po’boy sandwiches are just what the doctor ordered. Then again, you might need a few extra hands to keep the sheer amount of goodies these overflowing Depression-era delicacies are packed with. Served on crunchy-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside French baguette split down the middle, every po’boy is a little different, but most contain roast beef or fried seafood, plus traditional sandwich fixins.
If you’re having trouble deciding, the century-old Parkway Bakery’s menu won’t help narrow things down, but it will open your eyes to the possibilities. Po’boy variations here include ones stuffed with buttery Creole BBQ shrimp, locally caught catfish, and even alligator.
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