Chefs in New Orleans love cooking with surprising quantities of butter, and they’ll say, “...that’s why it tastes so good.” Of course, it's more than just that. New Orleans food is characterized by its connections to French, Spanish and Creole cuisine. And while indeed it’s almost always cooked in butter, it’s also spiced well and revolves primarily around Gulf Coast seafood. Local chefs love using P&J oysters, shrimp and such fish as Pompano or Drum; they all serve as delicious blank canvases on which to paint their masterpieces. I could argue with locals forever about which classic joints serve the best crawfish, red beans and rice, or jambalaya. The simple fact is in a town this wild and diverse, to eat your way through could require a lifetime of New Orleans living. For you to get acclimated as quickly as possible, I’ve compiled a short list of great classic New Orleans spots that will leave you so full that you become part of your chair. Just remember that when ordering, less is more.
Easily one of the most lively dining experiences you’re likely to have in this town, this classic Creole restaurant is a must-see. However, they don’t take reservations for parties under five, and the wait for a table can sometimes span an hour or more on weekends. So just do as the locals do and grab a drink next door at Maple Leaf bar while you wait.
Rub shoulders with the New Orleans elite at this famous French Creole institution. Friday lunch is the time to go, but they don’t take reservations for the main dining room—so just be sure to show up early to get a good spot in the line that cues outside. Many locals pay someone to stand in line for them so that they can skip the wait.
Felix’s Oyster Bar
Every New Orleanian knows that if you want good raw oysters you needn’t go to Acme. Just across the street is a spot that’s not only better, but has no line. Stand at the oyster bar situated by the entrance, and let the charismatic shuckers entertain and feed you delicious raw oysters.
Started in 2000 by Rev. Harry Tompson, this Cajun/Creole restaurant employs at-risk teens, introducing them to the food service industry in a safe and professional environment. Just about everything here is delicious, but my favorite is the baked chicken with a side of jalapeno cornbread.
Celebrated as having some of the best soul food in the South, Dooky Chase’s is a regular spot on the local docket for lunch. Try the Double-Cut Pork Chop: it’s fantastic, classic, and will make you a believer in the New Orleans food gods.