While New Orleans is best known for Cajun and Creole cooking, there are many other culinary options sprinkled throughout the city for those that want to give their palettes a break from po’boys and etouffee. New Orleans has long attracted international visitors, whether it’s due to tourism, the regional oil and gas industry, or the education offered by prestigious universities such as Tulane. As with most other cities that attract people from abroad, they often bring with them their own recipes to introduce to their new homes. These restaurants can be found throughout the city, although the highest concentration within city limits can be found in the French Quarter and Uptown sections of the city.
We start our culinary tour far uptown in New Orleans. Many visitors who travel to New Orleans spend most of their time in the French Quarter. Several choose to hop onto the St. Charles Streetcar and travel towards the Garden District and Uptown sections of the city. While they make their way further uptown, they are greeted with historical buildings and incredible Victorian mansions along St. Charles. Eventually they pass the Tulane and Loyal college campuses before turning right and heading up Carrolton Avenue. Great area out town filled with many family-owned restaurants, boutique shops, historic architecture, and lines of oak trees. Located past Tulane University on St. Charles, this is a section of town I'd recommend visitors see if they'd like a change of pace from the more visited sections of the city such as the French Quarter. One of these is Leanon’s Café; a Lebanese restaurant that offers a large menu with options such as hummus, baba ganuj, grape leaves, tabouleh, falafel, labna, halloumi, shawarma, and gyro.
La Crepe Nanou
From here, we begin our journey back towards the French Quarter, along the same Streetcar line. As we pass the Tulane Campus, we can look left and see Audubon Park, a great place to spend a weekend afternoon having a picnic with friends and family. Just past the park, you can also find Audubon Zoo. As you approach Robert Street along the streetcar, it’s time to get out and explore Prytania Street. One thing I love about New Orleans is how interspersed commercial and residential properties are among each other. Some of the city's best restaurants are mixed in with neighborhoods. One of these is the French Restaurant located near the corner of Robert and Prytania called La Crepe Nanou. Whether you are here for a drink or to enjoy their authentic French menu; this is an excellent place to unwind with a quiet and laid-back atmosphere and enjoy a Fondue with a group of friends.
If you prefer a Spanish dinner instead, then head across the street from La Crepe Nanou towards Costera. This authentic Spanish restaurant offers a menu that includes pan con tapas and the best Seafood Pallela I ever had; that was filled with heaps of jumbo shrimp, mussels, clams, and calamari. There are several local businesses within this portion of the city including a wine store, cheese charcuterie restaurant, and the original bakery that began placing plastic babies in the King Cakes (this has since become a local tradition). New Orleans is filled with commercial zones like these dispersed among it’s residential neighborhoods and are great places to really experience the local culture of the city.
Traveling further down Prytania towards downtown, you eventually run into Napoleon Avenue after a few blocks. This is one of the major streets that hosts the Mardi Gras parades and is lined with historic homes. Taking a right once you reach this street will bring you to Magazine Street. This street runs for several miles and is home to a collection of boutique shops, unique restaurants, and specialty shops. One of these restaurants is a Thai restaurant located near the intersection of Magazine and Napoleon. The first time I visited this amazing hidden gem was during my first Mardi Gras after moving to New Orleans. With many restaurants being filled up in the area due to the weekend parades, I took the opportunity to try out This restaurant that was recently opened called Pomelo and were thrilled with our choice. This restaurant was one of the best Thai restaurants I had eaten at. I started off with spicy wonton and finished with green chicken curry and pok pok noodles with roasted pork and shrimp. The owner and cook at this restaurant greet all customers individually and has created a warm and inviting restaurant that is a must visit for anyone who wants a taste of Thailand in New Orleans.
Miss Shirley's Cafe
Driving a few more miles down Magazine Street will bring you to Miss Shirley’s Café. This is a Chinese and Dim Sum restaurant that provides an excellent option for those who want to try something different. The restaurant's owner was renowned in the area for a long time before retiring. After deciding retirement didn't suite her, she opened this great restaurant that's a welcome addition to the neighborhood culinary scene. It was awesome seeing her walking tables and personally greeting and talking with the restaurant visitors. Just like Pomelo, occurs frequently in many of the restaurants on Magazine Street. This section of the city is truly built around the local neighborhood restaurant mentality where nearby residents meet to bond over a great meal, and everybody knows your name. The food was excellent as well. I started with some dim sum and appetizers of crispy pork bellies, steamed dragon dumplings, seared pork buns, and shrimp snow pea leaf dumplings. Followed that up with a whole golden fried fish.
Our final stop on this culinary journey brings us all the way down Magazine and into the French Quarter. This is the most popular neighborhood for visitors to spend their time in and is filled with renowned Cajun and Creole restaurants that this region has become famous for. Many travel channel regulars such as Acme Oyster House and Gallatoires can be found within the French Quarter and establishing a restaurant here is hard to achieve due to the high cost to rent space and the immense competition found here. Despite this, some unique culinary treats can be found here such as Dian Xin, a recently opened Dim Sum restaurant found not too far from the world-famous Bourbon Street. My first visit here, had me trying out their xiao long boa, steamed pork boa, and shu mai. This is a great place to grab lunch in the French Quarter for anyone who wants to try a different type of cuisine rather than the Cajun and creole restaurants that dominate that section of the city.
I hope you have enjoyed this culinary journey through the city of New Orleans as I took you from the historic mansions of Uptown towards the charming Garden District and finally to the renowned French Quarter. While many visitors to New Orleans look forward to dining on Po-boys and etouffee; I hope I have provided a few alternate ideas. Whether its dim sum, curry, or hummus; there is so much more to the rich culture of New Orleans than meets the eye. These restaurants are just a taste of the diversity that makes up this wonderful city and I look forward to bringing you even more ideas in time. But that is a story for another day…