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Culinary travel: Where to eat while visiting New Orleans

Culinary travel: Where to eat while visiting New Orleans
Seafood gumbo, oysters j’aime, cornmeal-crusted Gulf fish, and shrimp Creole at Brennan’s

Photograph by Cory Fontenot

The best form of sensory overload is found in New Orleans, where your eyes try to take in the dizzying rainbow array of shotgun homes and you can’t walk more than one block without hearing jazz playing on the street. The vibrant city may overwhelm with humidity most days of the year, but it’s hard to resist its charms—especially if you’re a food enthusiast.

New Orleans’s varied dining scene reflects its diverse and complicated past. It’s the city that birthed classic cocktails like the Sazerac and the Ramos gin fizz, and a slew of restaurants belong to immigrants and transplants. For example, at LUFU (Let Us Feed U), the brainchild of friends Aman Kota and Sarthak Samantray, guests find colorful murals and regional Indian dishes like chole bhature, a spiced chickpea curry from Northern India, and spring rolls stuffed with keema (minced chicken with mint chutney).


Photograph by James Collier

In November 2022, chef Serigne Mbaye opened the luxe Dakar, a Senegalese restaurant heavy on Louisianan ingredients, offering a tasting menu only. A sizable Vietnamese community calls New Orleans home, producing numerous eateries such as Dong Phuong Bakery & Restaurant, opened more than 30 years ago.

An alternative, Ayu Bakehouse, opened in June 2022, bringing pastries from co-owners Kelly Jacques and Samantha Weiss that are influenced by Indonesia and New Orleans itself. Treats like the kaya (coconut jam) bun and the muffuletta breadstick with olives, cheese, and pepperoni satisfy the carb-seekers of New Orleans.

Ayu Bakehouse

Photograph by Sam Hanna

Iconic cuisine: Creole

Creole dishes are synonymous with New Orleans. The meaning of the word Creole varies across cultures, but in Louisiana it typically refers to descents of slaves from Africa brought to America and the Caribbean, as well as French and Spanish colonists. Creole cuisine pairs French techniques with Louisianan flavor, using ingredients like seafood and tomatoes prepared, in decadent sauces with plenty of seasoning. Highlights include gumbo, court bouillon, and étouffée.

Sometimes, Creole is confused with another regional cuisine: Cajun. Although the two do overlap, Cajun dishes tend to skew spicier and feature more pork.

Bananas Foster made table-side at Brennan’s

Photograph by Corey Fontenot

Three restaurants to visit

Commander’s Palace
The most obvious starting point is this New Orleans stalwart of Creole cuisine. Located in a turquoise Victorian home within the Garden District, Commander’s Palace first opened in the late 1800s and serves Creole favorites in a dining room adorned with crystal chandeliers. Standouts here include the turtle soup (finished table-side with a splash of sherry) and the redfish “haute creole”—fish poached in sea salt lemon butter, chicory salad, confit fingerling potatoes, and brûléed shallots. The Creole bread pudding soufflé is practically mandatory, known for its rich yet fluffy body and a boozy punch from the whiskey cream poured at the table. 1403 Washington Avenue

Another New Orleans classic, Brennan’s beckons with its iconic pink stucco facade. It originally opened in 1946 before moving to the French Quarter in 1956. A lime-green interior with floral murals sets the backdrop for Brennan’s famous dishes. There’s seafood gumbo with popcorn rice, and oysters j’aime served chargrilled with a Creole tomato gravy and cornbread crumble. At breakfast, guests flock to the restaurant for eggs Sardou, a play on eggs Benedict with crisped artichokes, creamed spinach, and choron sauce (béarnaise with a tomato twist). No matter what time of day it is, bananas Foster is always on deck at Brennan’s—in fact, the restaurant gave birth to the showy dessert. 417 Royal Street

Miss River
For Creole dishes in a more modern setting, consider Miss River in the Four Seasons New Orleans. The dining room feels elegant thanks to its art deco elements, yet approachable. Nationally acclaimed chef Alon Shaya crafted the menu, and while it’s not all Creole, there are several notable dishes for those craving the cuisine—for instance, duck and andouille gumbo, served with potato salad, and redfish court bouillon, a hearty seafood stew studded with oysters, crawfish, and shrimp. After dinner, swing by the hotel’s Chandelier Bar for an order of beignets: You can’t really leave New Orleans without sinking your teeth into a freshly fried piece of choux doused in powdered sugar. The beignets at the Chandelier Bar are fried in butter, adding a layer of richness, and come with jam and chocolate sauce for dipping. 2 Canal Street

Miss River

Photograph courtesy of Four Seasons HotelNew Orleans

Where to stay

Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans
If you’re traveling with kids, the Four Seasons downtown provides spacious accommodations within the city’s former World Trade Center tower. The updated rooms are stylishly appointed, and there’s a pool for warmer months (which is most of them). The hotel’s also next door to the Audubon Aquarium and Insectarium.

Hotel Peter & Paul
For those who prefer a unique place to stay, a former church—including a rectory, schoolhouse, and convent—houses Hotel Peter & Paul in the Marigny neighborhood. The rooms boast soaring ceilings and palettes inspired by their settings.

Henry Howard Hotel
In the Lower Garden District, the 18-room Henry Howard resides in a former townhome that still has much of its original charm. Its position in the LGD lends easy access to Magazine Street, lined with shops and cafes.

This article appears in our March 2024 issue.



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