There’s a reason New Orleans is known as the Big Easy: this infamous Southern party town is all about taking life slow, and that means indulging in some of the most decadent eats in the entire country. Whether you're in New Orleans for Mardi Gras madness or are just soaking up some local flavor, you'll definitely want to hit some of the most historic, delicious spots in the city. Make it a priority to check out at least a couple of these iconic NOLA food-lover's landmarks on your next trip.
If you’re looking for a quintessential New Orleans dining experience, make sure to book a reservation here. This classic restaurant was opened on Bourbon Street in 1905 by Jean Galatoire, a Frenchman who created a menu reminiscent of Parisian flavors, but with a lowcountry flair. Today, the restaurant remains family-owned and operated (in its fifth generation), making it a rare gem of the historical French Quarter. Though the decor has been modernized somewhat over time, many of its culinary traditions have stayed the same. Make sure to try the Oysters Brochette and soak up all of the sauce your stomach can handle.
2. Cafe du Monde
With 155 years under its belt, it’s probably a safe bet to say that the Café Du Monde dynasty in NOLA is here for the long run. Its historical roots began in 1862 with the Café Du Monde Coffee Stand in the French Market, where it was open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Though it was originally owned by local Fred Koeniger, it’s now owned and operated by the Fernandez family. There's no party scene going on here; instead, you'll indulge in its signature deep-fried sugary beignets, along with its famous coffee roasted with chicory, while soaking up the French-tradition- meets-Southern-charm ambiance. The outdoor patio is a fantastic place to people-watch while you enjoy your treats.
3. Pat O’Brien's
Ever ordered a Hurricane drink at a sports bar or while sunning yourself in the Caribbean? Believe it or not, that deadly red-hued cocktail was created in NOLA way back in the 1940s. Pat O'Brien's started as a speakeasy before prohibition officially came to an end in 1933 and Louisiana residents could legally order a drink in good faith. But Pat O’Brien's became famous years later when a bartender created a "Hurricane," made with two types of rum, fruit juices, and grenadine. Served in a signature hurricane lamp-shaped glass, it's become one of New Orleans' most recognized drinks. These days, you can stop by Pat O's for a Hurricane (more than one could be dangerous) and check out the Piano Lounge for dueling-piano face-offs.
4. Antoine's Restaurant
If you’re a history buff who spends more time Googling before a trip than packing, you’ll definitely want to stop by Antoine’s in NOLA’s French Quarter. Created by Antoine Alciatore in 1840, this French-American establishment is the oldest family-run restaurant in the United States. When Alciatore passed away in 1874, he left this Southern jewel to his son, Jules, who spent six years in Paris absorbing the culinary customs there. As a result, you’ll notice touches of Louisiana, Paris, and even New York on the menu. Their most famous dish, Oysters Rockefeller, will leave you swooning. Don’t believe us? Just take it from the countless celebrities and politicians, like Franklin Roosevelt, Tom Cruise, Bill Clinton, and Whoopi Goldberg, who have all dined at this landmark.
5. Commander's Palace
You can’t miss this award-winning restaurant that’s smack-dab in the middle of the Garden District of NOLA. Established in 1893, this blue-and-white striped restaurant is known for its creole flavors paired with a sweet and subtle Southern ambiance. It’s won six James Beard Foundation Awards and has been owned by several prominent families, including the Morans and the Giarratano’s. These days, it’s run by the Brennan family, with the matriarch of the family, Ella, living right next door. Over the years, several well-known chefs have worked in Commander’s Palace’s kitchen, including Emeril Lagasse and Paul Prudhomme.
6. Dooky Chase Restaurant
Though not as old as many of the most renowned restaurants and bars in NOLA, Dooky Chase’s history is layered with important strides in activism. In 1941, this small place located in the Treme district of New Orleans was basically your typical sandwich shop. But as it grew into a full-service restaurant, owners Emily and Dooky Chase, Sr., used their success to welcome and build a community. As their son’s jazz career began to take off, fundamental change was brewing in the country, and Dooky Chase became a home for civil rights meetings, live music, and community discussions. Martin Luther King, Jr., Reverend A.L. Davis, and Ernest ‘Dutch’ Morial are just a few of the illustrious leaders who have held meetings there. Stop by today for classic New Orleans cooking and a dose of American history.
7. Tujague's Restaurant
In 1856, Guillaume and Marie Abadie Tujague—recent immigrants from France—opened the doors to their restaurant with a desire to help the working class. Each day, they served breakfast and lunch to the dock workers, seamen, and market laborers, keeping prices reasonable. But we’re not just talking a sandwich on your lunch break—Tujague’s created seven-course meals, with two especially iconic dishes: a remoulade sauce served with spicy shrimp and beef brisket boiled with veggies and horseradish sauce. Though the restaurant has changed hands many times, many of its signature touches have remained the same from its humble beginnings.
8. Arnaud's Restaurant
If you’re hosting a big celebration in NOLA, you probably want to head to Arnaud’s. Not only does it have a rich history, but it puts the "big" in the "Big Easy." It’s the largest restaurant in New Orleans with the biggest kitchen, and it still offers a classic creole menu. Though it was first founded in 1918 by a French wine salesman, Arnaud Cazenave, it’s been owned by the Casbarian family since 1978. Having survived through many ups and downs, Arnaud’s was one of the first to open post-Hurricane Katrina. It boasts another type of tourist attraction, too: ghosts. It’s said that Arnaud still hangs out in the restaurant, with an occasional tourist spotting him while they’re eating.
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