Real Gumbo is Made in Nawlins… | Eating My Way Through New Orleans, Louisiana

Let the good FOOD roll…

New Orleans, Louisiana. One of the most popular cities in the US, drawing some of the largest crowds all year ’round. Nawlins packs a punch in her city streets: deep historical roots, wild and crazy energy (Bourbon Street calls…), and of course, the most amazing FOOD you can eat in America.

Yes, I came to the Big Easy for fun in the French Quarter, beauty in the Garden District, and that amazing view from the river. But really, I came to eat my way through the city.

Sadly, the average human stomach can’t really hold as much as I wanted to indulge in–this isn’t Man vs Food here–but I loved the different tastes of the city.  Unlike most of my reveals on cheat meals, I’m not going to take you from restaurant to restaurant. Instead, I’m going to highlight food that you shouldn’t consume anywhere other than in New Orleans. I mean, not unless you desire disappointment when it doesn’t taste as amazing as it will in NOLA…

GUMBO

bowl of gumbo and bread on the side, eating in new orleans
chicken and andouille sausage gumbo

So, I am not a gumbo girl. I think I’ve tasted gumbo twice before this experience and never care much for it. Well, now I know why. Real gumbo comes from New Orleans (or Louisiana as a whole) and nowhere else. Period. Maybe you can make a case for the Low Country. And maybe I would allow it…but Louisiana gumbo comes with the taste of Creole and big Jazz. The spices have your mouth dancing in elegant ballrooms from 1852. The meat makes you crave a stroll in the Vieux Carre as the sun goes down. I tasted this concoction and wanted to turn backflips down Bourbon Street to the rhythms of the night. I made love to this gumbo, okay.

As consequence, I’m never trying gumbo again unless I’m in NOLA. I don’t care if a sign says, “authentic Louisiana gumbo” on the façade of the restaurant. I plan to yell, “It’s not right!” I’m not here for it.

I would fly back to New Orleans for this gumbo.

As for places to get the best bowl? Um, anywhere? A grandmother’s kitchen on Sunday evening?  I got mine from the Hotel Monteleone, my accommodations for the weekend. Royal House on Royal Street makes a mean bowl. So does the Gumbo Shop on St. Peter.

BEIGNETS

beignets, eating in new orleans
already eaten because I couldn’t wait…

Because why would you go anywhere else to try a beignet? Seriously? Where else could you go? Yes, people make beignets everywhere. But this little golden pastry originated in NOLA. So, I wouldn’t trust one anywhere else.

Best served hot, beignets have become a signature food of New Orleans, drawing people from out of the country to try. Don’t attempt to eat these neatly. You will not succeed. The powdered sugar sprays across your lips and cheek. It coats the table in a soft snow of sweetness. And your clothes? Sprinkled with the reminders of your decadence.

They say this sweet doughnut is best with coffee. I’m not a coffee drinker so I had water. But…::lowers voice in a conspirator’s whisper:: I have a small confession. And it may provoke outrage and shock…

“I don’t understand what the big deal is about beignets…”

There. I said it. I ate 2 and a half of my 3 beignet serving, so obviously I enjoyed the taste. But. I still prefer a soft, warm cookie. Or even a normal doughnut. Perhaps that means my palate isn’t refined. However, you cannot hope to get a better beignet than from Café du Monde in the Quarter.

sign in Cafe du Monde in New Orleans, eatingYou could also try Café Beignet on Royal, but my recommendation? Stick to the original.

OYSTERS

griulled oysters, eating in new orleansI’ve had raw oysters before. Not my favorite. Who knew that when you put fire to these little delicacies they cook into scrumptious treats? I didn’t. My father (who, along with my mother, loves NOLA) urged me to try oysters while in the Big Easy. I trust him so I ordered a trio: chargrilled oysters (with parmesan butter cheese), Rockefeller (spinach, bacon and Sambuca), and Royale (seafood stuffing and butter).

Oh. My. God.

First, you won’t stop at one order. Mine came with six (two of each kind) and when I finished I wanted to walk up to the bar with my plate outstretched saying, “Please, sir, I want some more…” Tastes melted together in my mouth for in a combination of savory and smooth. The culture of Nawlins sang on my tongue. I wanted to draw the moment out, so I ate slowly. Tip? Add a little lemon over the top for a kick of citrus. Oh, and don’t forget to ask about fried oysters!

Where to go for the best? I frequented Royal House Oyster Bar.

sign for Royal House Oyster Bar in new orleans, eatingIf you go, you must do two other things besides try oysters. 1) Ask for Andrew at the bar, because he’s the best. And 2), order Redfish beignets. Yes, Redfish beignets. Thank me later.

I can also make a strong case for great oysters at Acme Oyster House on Iberville Street.

ALLIGATOR

fried alligator, eating in new orleans
from Royal House

Honestly, I wouldn’t try alligator anywhere else. And the main reason I did? To fulfill my one of rules: try something I would normally refuse. Alligator never sounded like a meal I should get excited about much less consume. But, when in NOLA…

Surprise! The fried alligator is good. Tougher than chicken, but with a taste closer fried liver (which, I don’t care what you say, fried liver nuggets are AMAZING). Almost like calamari even, but not as much of a bright kick. Alligator tastes darker, smokier, I think. I dipped the meat in tartar sauce and cocktail sauce; both work out.

I don’t care to order alligator again, but at least now I know alligator has a good taste.

BREAKFAST

biscuits and gravy with sausage, eating in new orleans
biscuits and gravy with a side of sausage

I attempted to narrow this down to a specific meal, but decided it didn’t matter. Breakfast and brunch in New Orleans tastes like your first meal after a fast. Like the first shot of tequila. Like the first kiss of your lover you haven’t seen in years… In short, it’s spectacular and blows your mind.

Pancakes stack in fluffy towers before you, smothered in butter and syrup, sweet flavors lingering in your mouth for hours after. Shrimp sizzles beneath grits that slide off the bowl, gravy thick and Cajun heavy. Biscuits so soft they fall apart in your hands as they swim in a pool of the sexiest gravy you have ever seen. Or tasted. No, I do not exaggerate. You’ll wonder why breakfast and brunch will never taste so good again…you’ll crave that first zap of flavor after when you head home. And, like me, you’ll stare at your paper plate in sad nostalgia as you try to make your morning banana feel as those pancakes did on your tongue.

::pauses for a moment of silence::

You can’t. Trust me, I tried for three days. My banana still tastes like…a banana.

Places to go? Mother’s. Cannot recommend that place enough. But prepare for a line. Also, Ruby Slipper Café. Several locations in New Orleans.

PO-BOYS

a po boy sandwich, eating in new orleansThe one meal I don’t think I got the best of in NOLA. My own fault, too. I knew exactly where to go for some of the best po boys. But I didn’t plan my day right (collective ::GASP:: I know. me? Not planning right? It happens, sadly). By the time I made my way to Johnny’s Po-Boys, they had closed for the day. I cried on the inside. Because I knew they would make a mean po-boy. I’d never eaten one before my trip to New Orleans. And while my hotel did a fine job, I couldn’t help but crave the perfectly messy sandwich from the shop I’d read about before I arrived.

I wanted mayo and sauces dripping from the sides, shrimp falling out of the sides, their desperate grip on warm French bread not enough to keep them inside. I wanted the crunch of fried seafood and crispy bread. I wanted the real thing.

Just another reason to visit the city again.

Okay, before I finish up with the masterpieces of NOLA, I want to highlight a few restaurants in particular that you cannot miss when you go.

THE COMMANDER’S PALACE

photo of a restaurant in Garden District, eating in new orleansLocated in the Garden District, this famous NOLA palace requires has a dress code (business attire or Sunday best). Best to book a reservation.

DISTRICT: DONUTS.SLIDERS.BREW

sign for a donut shop, new orleans three donuts, new orleansBecause I can’t seem to travel and not try a donut. And because these are, hands down, some of the BEST doughnuts I’ve ever had in my life. I ordered Dirt (cookies and cream with filling), Milk and Cereal (the cereal right on top), and a classic glazed. This glazed beat out a “hot sign” Krispy Kreme doughnut. Knocked it off the playing board. Also in the Garden District.

COURT of TWO SISTERS

court of two sisters, new orleans menu at court of two sisters, new orleansIf you go nowhere else in New Orleans, go here. If you eat nothing else in this city, eat anything from here. Yes, this is another classic five-star dining experience (can’t seem to escape those in my travels, can I?), but every penny spent is well worth it.

Food cooked to perfection, flavors and spices popping from tongue to brain to full-blown experience. The chef, Denmon Bateman, makes food his passion, his art. Everything placed before you becomes part of his masterpiece. I lingered over each bite, from the bread, to my appetizer, and ohemgee my meal…

shrimp and crawfish pasta, new orleans
Shrimp and Crawfish pasta
crab cake, new orleans
crab cake

The atmosphere is beautiful–a courtyard that, despite the heavy NOLA heat, keeps you cool with fans at every corner. And the service? Better than the food. Best service I’ve had at any restaurant ever. (and that spans about 30 different states at present). Do not miss this experience; I’m told brunch beats out dinner!

 

Did I miss any iconic corners in the Vieux Carre or Garden District?  What are some of your favorite tastes in NOLA? Drop your suggestions below!

 

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30 Comments

  1. Ana

    OMG I want to book an airplane to New Orleans right now.. I am suddenly also very hungry :)) I’ve only been in the US to NY, Atlantic City and Philly. I was just talking to a friend this year that we have to do New Orleans and the jazz… and now also the food. I should know to not eat like for a month before going though. I’m pinning this for future use! 😀

  2. I Must say, it’s a foodie heaven from what I can tell (though i still haven’t been myself). you are getting me just that much closer to booking the trip though. I love how their history is so deep, and their cuisine as well. The alligator looks like an “out of your comfort zone” food, but i’d be willing to take the challenge.

  3. Omg, girl! This was not the post to read first thing on a Sunday morning! Donuts, po boys and those biscuits for breakfast?! *drools* Even the gumbo (which I’ve never tried) looks bangin! I’m salivating over here! lol I really enjoyed reading this post – I like your writing style. 🙂

  4. Oh my, this food looks soooo good! I am constantly looking at flights to New Orleans from SFO—I just need to go for it. Eating in New Orleans is the top of my bucket list for the US right now! Thanks for sharing.

  5. This post should come with a disclaimer “warning: do not read on an empty stomach” because my stomach is GROWLING right now. I was in New Orleans back in May and I definitely ate my way through the city. The Beignets, the Oysters, the Po Boys, ugh you nailed it all. I did try some gumbo, jambalaya, red bean and rice! Such a fantastic city. Next time I go back I’m going to try the Royal House Oyster Bar!

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