What Food is New Orleans Known for?

What food is New Orleans known for
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What Food is New Orleans Known for?

It’s not just Gumbo and Beignets, you know?

Looking for a whole new cuisine that has some “kick” to it and is packed with culture? if so, then you might want to try the food New Orleans is known for – from their delicacies, to their specialties and their cuisine. And I’ve got good news for you! It’s more than the usual gumbo and beignets! I’ve checked out all the online articles that claim to have the top list of New Orleans food and have concluded the top Creole cuisine, Cajun cuisine, breakfast and seafood in New Orleans, and which restaurants to try them all out at! What food is New Orleans known for? Let’s dig in, shall we?

If you don’t know the cuisines and dishes mentioned, fear not as I gave short descriptions and quick background summaries for you to know how they came to be and why cultural and traditional cuisines are still trending and in style. For centuries, the New Orleanians’ taste buds certainly agree and yours should too!)

I. What Defines New Orleans Cuisine?The Hoy Trinity in Cooking Creole and Cajun Dishes
Roux (pronounced as ‘rue’)
Famous New Orleans Dishes That You Probably Know
II. Best Creole Dishes and Restaurants in New Orleans
III. Best Cajun Dishes and Restaurants in New Orleans
IV. Best Breakfast Dishes and Restaurants in New Orleans
V. Main Takeaways

I. What Defines New Orleans Food?

What food is New Orleans known for
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You have every right to first find out what characteristics New Orleans dishes have in comparison to all the other cuisines of the world.

The Holy Trinity of Cooking Creole and Cajun Dishes

New Orleanians cook with three major ingredients:

  • Chopped green peppers
  • Onions
  • Celery.

Roux (pronounced as ‘rue’)

This is a thickening agent used for most New Orleans dishes with soup on them.

Famous New Orleans Dishes That You Probably Know

If you have no clue on what New Orleans dishes look like, here are some dishes you’re most likely have already heard of:

  • Gumbo
  • Crawfish Etouffee
  • Jambalaya
  • Po’Boys
  • Red Beans and Rice
  • Crawfish
  • Muffaletta
  • Beignets
  • King Cakes
  • Pralines
  • Banana Foster
  • Snowballs (not snow cones!)

Now that you have a good idea of that New Orleans dishes are heavy meals and consists of plenty of butter, flour, sauces and spices, then let’s jump right to the New Orleans pride and joy- their cuisine, dishes and restaurants.

II. Best Creole Dishes and Restaurants in New Orleans

New Orleans Creole Food
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No, it’s not the Creole people or language, it’s the cuisine. Although the word ‘Creole’ was first used to describe the people in French colonial Louisiana and then the native-born slaves of African descent, Creole food, however, is a cuisine influenced by New Orleans, French, Spanish, African, Caribbean, and Native American cultures. This was mainly because of the available food to add that the colonizers and settlers had. And since it was developed from the time of colonization, it flourished through high-end products available in the urban area. Hence, the dishes I’m about to disclose to you are usually from or are sophisticated and European.

Best Creole Dishes

Because of how Creole cuisine came to be, rich sauces, local herbs, red ripe tomatoes, and locally caught seafood are usually the center stage of Creole dishes. This is true for:

  • Barbeque Shrimp

Surprise, surprise! You won’t be grilling anything (as the dish’s name suggests) because it is just a boiled shrimp soaked in Worcestershire sauce and better. This dish has the taste of a barbequed meat with out the barbequing. Although, I have to warn you that you’ll be getting your hands dirty because this is a dish you use your bare hands to remove the head, tail and hard exterior of the shrimp before you eat it. This seafood dish would definitely send tingles to your tongue and leave your tummy happy!

  • Red Beans and Rice

You may think this is an easy dish but think again as this dish take 2 to 6 hours to cook. It is made by using any meat and red or kidney beans and spices like bay leaves, thyme cayenne pepper and sage that are set to simmer on the stove. So, if you plan to cook this dish, make sure to start it early in the morning for a satisfying lunch.

  • Onion Rings with Creole Seasoning

Best Creole Restaurants

Now, let’s go on and ask the experts on which restaurants have the best Creole and Cajun food in the city:

  • Heard Dat Kitchen

This restaurant is the 8th and 13th best restaurant according to Yelp and TripAdvisor, respectively. They have two types of gumbo soups, red beans and rice, and barbeque shrimp. Heard Dat Kitchen is a relatively new restaurant as it opened just this 2015 and it claims that it, “…is a testament of fine Southern dining from the esteemed Chef Jeff [the owner]” (Heard Dat Kitchen website). And the restaurant lives up to this statement because it’s the top Creole and Cajun restaurant on this list.

  • Acme Oyster House

This restaurant is the 30th and 16th best restaurant according to Yelp and TripAdvisor, respectively. They have the one food I’m sure you usually eat- onion rings. Turns out that as long as you sprinkle and use Creole seasoning, it’s Creole! They also have plenty of red beans and rice combinations. But the restaurant’s menu is mostly crawling with seafood platters.

  • Jacques-Imo Café

This restaurant is the 2nd and 47th best restaurant according to Yelp and TripAdvisor, respectively. This restaurant is leaning more onto the Cajun dishes and ingredients, but it does serve barbeque shrimp!

III. Best Cajun Dishes and Restaurants in New Orleans

New Orleans Cajun Food
Image Source: neworleans.com

Creole cuisine may have come first than Cajun, but the reason why eat cuisine was established was because of the historical setting and circumstances that molded it. Creole cuisine for Creole people at the time made the cuisine centered around the products that Italy, Spain, Germany and Caribbean had to offer (i.e. tomatoes, butter, cream, etc.). While Cajun cuisine rose when the colonizers were out of the picture. Hence, New Orleanians had to use ingredients that was available in their rural surroundings (i.e. vegetables from farms and prey from hunting) and no longer from foreign trade. Thus, the following Cajun food I will mention were first crafted by the hands of farmers and rural settlers surrounded by vegetation, farm animals and creatures of the forest.

Best Cajun Dishes

Most of Cajun dishes are filled with vegetables, rabbit, duck, fried chicken and others that come from farming and hunting. Some examples of these dishes include:

  • Gumbo

This is a thick stew on top of rice and is made with a mixture of butter and flour (called roux) and other ingredients such as celery, peppers, okra, onions chicken, sausage and/or seafood. This stew is made on a huge pot while slowly being boiled to perfection.

  • Crawfish etouffee

This is a thick stew, crawfish on top of rice seasoned with Creole seasoning.

Best Cajun Restaurants

Just like the restaurants selling Creole dishes, they also serve the best Cajun. I truly believe that we live in a time where multitasking and numerous skills (in cooking distinct cuisines) is highly valued. In case you want to get a hold of those top 3 restaurants in cooking and serving the best Creole and Cajun dishes, here they are once again:

  • Heard Dat Kitchen
  • Acme Oyster House
  • Jacques-Imo Café

In the end, both Creole and Cajun cuisines are developed and used by the New Orleanians, but contain different ingredients which were influenced by the time they were developed. Wow, talk about taking a bite into history whenever you eat a into a gumbo soup or an onion ring.

IV. Best Breakfast Dishes and Restaurants in New Orleans

what food is New Orleans known for
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Are you tired of the usual waffles and coffee for breakfast? New Orleans’ breakfast dishes have got you covered! Let’s now go to specifics and find out the dishes for breakfast New Orleans is known for!

Best Breakfast Dishes

  • Shrimp and Grits

There are actually many versions of shrimp and grits. As long as the boiled shrimp is marinated into a flavorful seasoning or dip and the grits are as grits come by- ground corn boiled and then with butter and milk – then you’ve got yourself a New Orleans style shrimp and grits.

  • Banana Foster

This sweet dessert is like a banana split with finesse. Instead of simply dumping a banana and some scoops of ice cream, butter, sugar, cinnamon, banana, and a dash of rum to be flambeed on a pan was New Orleans innovative way of turning the regular banana that they had to import from Central and South America into a delicacy history will never forget. 

  • Po’boys

This is like a sandwich club, but a French version of it. A po’boy usually has lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, roast beef, fried shrimp, oyster and mayonnaise in between a sliced French bread. This must’ve been from the Creole cuisine because of its association with tomatoes, oysters and French bread (as if this final ingredient didn’t say it all).

Best Breakfast Restaurants

  • Surrey’s Café & Juice Bar

This restaurant is the 3rd and 4th best restaurant according to Yelp and TripAdvisor, respectively. Don’t worry about deciding which dishes are for breakfast and which are not because they have a ‘breakfast’ subpage on their website that directs you to the very menu that makes it the best restaurant to serve breakfast in New Orleans. Their menu includes shrimp and grits, banana foster French toast (which sounds very Creole-like, don’t you think?)

  • Ruby Slipper Café

This restaurant is the 8th and 3rd best restaurant according to Yelp and TripAdvisor, respectively. The Ruby Slipper Café does not point out which is breakfast, but you can consider everything as breakfast-worthy meals and dishes. I just want to point out that the classic brioche French toast in a banana foster style and the barbeque shrimp and grits are one of the best on the menu. But don’t underestimate the second-best restaurant to eat breakfast in because it was actually built to provide a warm and cozy breakfast, lunch and brunch to the people devasted by the Hurricane Katrina. And since then, they’ve been a hit and hotspot for those who want a bite to eat in the morning.  

  • Two Chicks Café

This restaurant is the 2nd and 18th best restaurant according to Yelp and TripAdvisor, respectively. Just by the name of the restaurant, you can see that the dishes on their menu are mostly eggs or chicken (i.e. egg sandwiches and chicken omelets). Fortunately, it’s not the entire menu that’s like this. They also have barbeque shrimp and grits and flour-based food.

V. Main Takeaways

what food is New Orleans known for
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Let’s run by the hearty meals and best restaurants in New Orleans again to see if you got that all down:

New Orleans Food usually have:

  • The Holy Trinity of Cooking Creole and Cajun Dishes which are chopped green peppers, onions and celery.
  • Roux that thickens dishes with soup on them.

Examples of dishes with origins from New Orleans are Gumbo, Crawfish Etouffee, Jambalaya, Po’Boys, Red Beans and Rice, Crawfish, Muffaletta, Beignets, King Cakes, Pralines, Banana Foster, and Snowballs.

The best Creole dishes are Barbeque Shrimp, Red Beans and Rice, and Onion Rings with Creole Seasoning. While the best creole restaurants are Heard Dat Kitchen, Acme Oyster House, and Jacques-Imo Café.

The best Cajun dishes in New Orleans are Gumbo and Crawfish etouffee. While the best Cajun restaurants are the same as that of the best Creole restaurants because Creole and Cajun cuisine are closely related.

The best breakfast dishes in New Orleans are Shrimp and Grits, Banana Foster, and Po’boys. While the best breakfast restaurants are Surrey’s Café & Juice Bar, Ruby Slipper Café, and Two Chicks Café. New Orleans’ history and culture was integrated into the meals and dishes that we thought were just some spicy, southern food. So, the next time you reach for a beignet or order a gumbo soup, you’d know that the people who passed on these recipes were there through their highs and lows.

So there you have it… If you’ve ever pondered the question, “what food is New Orleans known for?”, then after having read this, you’d now have the answer.

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