New Orleans has its obvious charms, with which I have long been acquainted. Intriguing rumors of post-Katrina changes to the grande old dame I’ve known for so long reached me in Austin, though, so we visited recently to dig a little deeper and found much to surprise and delight: a thriving local, sustainable food movement; creative food entrepreneurs; long time favorite spots holding fast to standards of quality and flavor; and sweet surprises for the culinary treasure hunters. We’re so in love with this city, we’ll have to go again soon — and I’d love for you to share your favorite New Orleans culinary spots in the comments!
*photography by thomas winslow
Grow Dat! Youth Farm
Nestled on a two acre corner of New Orleans’ beautiful City Park, alongside a bayou under spreading oaks and cypress trees, we discovered this incredible program creating meaningful and supportive job opportunities for inner city high school students through connections to food and agriculture. At their urban farm, the folks at Grow Dat! are cultivating responsibility, community, and leadership skills along with almost 40,000 pounds of delicious, fresh food each year for their neighbors.
In the heart of Central City, Hollygrove Market & Farm offers weekly boxes of abundant produce from their own community gardens out front and other area farms and artisan food producers. We stocked up on leafy greens, gorgeous colorful beets, freshly baked breads, fair trade coffee, local eggs, meats and cheeses and locally grown grits and rice.
Out front, we wandered through the community plots to discover rabbits, chickens, healthy compost piles and neighborhood kids planting seeds and learning where their food comes from, and left inspired by the deep sense of community rooted in this little spot.
When I eat oysters in New Orleans, I eat them at Casamento’s, an almost century-old restaurant where I’m content to sand in line for however long it takes to inch my way to the oyster bar.
There, Mike Rogers will shuck me a dozen oysters, hands moving in a blur, and I’ll happily slurp them down as a prelude to crispy fried shrimp on house-baked “pan bread” and perhaps even more oysters, broiled with parmesan and garlic, eaten greedily with lemon and a shake of Tabasco on top.
Crescent City Farmers Market
On Saturday morning, we wake up early to hit the farmers market downtown,
There, fueled with hot chicory coffee, we load up on buttery pastries, flats of Ponchatoula strawberries, juicy citrus and just-caught Gulf shrimp and fish to cook later.
When I picture heaven, it looks a lot like Lucullus. In his gorgeous shop on Chartres St in the Vieux Carre, owner Patrick Dunne has amassed a museum-worthy treasure trove of culinary antiques for sale: 19th century Parisian bar glasses, 18th century English wooden bread bowls, drawers full of silver, piles of copper pots.
Patrick tells me stories of each piece’s provenance as I feel the weight in my hand of cooks and diners from centuries past and the food and culture that connects us.
You all know my little cookbook obsession, right? Well, imagine how I swooned upon discovering Kitchen Witch Books on Toulouse — packed floor to ceiling with nothing but cookbooks, both new and vintage. Owners Debbie Lindsey and Phillipe LaMancusa are kindred spirits — we could (did?) talk for hours about cooking, working the line and the front of the house, and named our favorite cookbooks and recipes reverently to one another in the hushed tones usually reserved for talking about spiritual subjects.
Cleaver & Co.
Stylishly spartan and intriguingly minimal in a city known for excess, this locally-sourced, whole animal butcher shop establishes personal relationships with farmers within 200 miles of New Orleans, visits each farm, and sources the finest quality meats handcut by skilled butchers on site. Did I like it? Perhaps the cooler I brough home filled to bursting with boudin-stuffed chicken, handmade Andouille, house-smoked Canadian bacon and duck confit can best answer that question.
Kitchen Inspirations: Strawberry & Cream Cheese Stuffed Pain Perdu
In New Orleans, French toast is “pain perdu,” or “lost bread,” which speaks volumes about the city’s roots: American thrift, Creole inventiveness, and a romantic French sensibility that can make something decadent and indulgent even out of lowly stale bread. Our trip inspired me to dress up this brunch staple with Louisiana strawberry jam and Creole cream cheese. Click here for the recipe.
see more of Elizabeth’s work on Haymakers
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New Orleans is one of my favorite cities in the world. There is nothing that compares to the magical energy that it brings. I’m so happy to see this thriving food community after everything that they have gone through. Can’t wait to go back again!
Quinn Cooper Style
Totally agree… I haven’t been to NOLA since I was a little girl, and I can still remember the taste of those beignets and smell of strong coffee. This post has made me completely determined to go back soon and eat my way through the entire city!
What a delightful post! Planning a trip to NO in the fall and this makes me look forward to it so much.
Let us know what you discover! We did a Honey Island swamp tour, which was gorgeous & I bet it would be beautiful in the fall too.
The food and restauraunt industry have absolutely thrived post-Katrina. There are something like 200% more restaurants than before the storm, and they are all good!
Check out Satsuma on Maple Street (Uptown) or in the Bywater for brunch. The Freret Street Corridor has been competely revitalized and has tons of new places to eat in a previously run down area – Wayfare and Ancora are my favorites. Cowbell is great also.
Eater Nola does a great run down of the hottest places to eat in the city every couple months. It’s my goal to try a new restaurant each weekend.
Mallory, I love Ancora! Freret Street is super cool. Wayfare & Cowbell . . . now I have to go back for sure.
I love New Orleans. Stayed at the Sonesta Hotel on the Quarter and ate my way through New Orleans. I still love the Garden District the best.
Me too . . . I could happily walk for hours there every day & Maple Street bookstore is my favorite in the world.
You cannot find a bad meal in NOLA, but our favorite spots include one that was recommended by a local for ‘best’ gumbo – and we’ve gone back there ever since. The Gumbo Shop in the French Quarter is very reasonable and serves up a great Honey Dew Melon daiquiri to accompany that gumbo. The Garden District with a visit to Commander’s Palace is a must do following a tour of the cemetery across the street. But, of course, no visit is complete without a trip to Cafe du Monde just off Jackson Square – post a tour of the beautiful cathedral, St. Louis. Enjoy your beignets with some cafe au lait (the best anywhere).
Sigh, beignets & coffee sound so perfect this afternoon! Thanks for that gumbo tip–hard to know where it’s going to be really good! You know what else I love? The Buttermilk Drop Bakery. So much to love.
Love seeing a post about my hometown! I just recently moved back to New Orleans, and just in the few years that I’ve been gone, the city has grown so much. One of my favorite places to eat is Camellia Grill on Carrollton Avenue (delicious breakfast!). Now too, there’s a location on Chartres Street in the French Quarter. Also, Mandina’s on Canal in Mid-City. I’ve yet to make my way out to the revitalized Freret Street that Mallory mentioned, but I’ve heard great things, especially about a little hot dog place called Dat Dog (apparently, the founder was the Hot Dog King of the UK.)
And I’m delighted to learn about Lucullus! It will be a new place for me to discover. I guess one of the great things about New Orleans is that it’s easy to become a tourist in your own backyard. You quickly fall in love with the city all over again.
Great post! Thanks for sharing your trip with us 🙂
I agree–there is never enough time to experience it all. We are lucky to be within driving distance! Have you been to Sucre on Magazine? That was another favorite, although my favorite ice cream maybe anywhere in the world is the St. Joseph’s chocolate almond at Anthony Brocato’s.
Yes! Sucre is amazing. My favorite is there little wedding cake shaped chocolates. And Brocato’s brings back great memories of my great aunt and grandma. Good ice cream and the best cannoli 🙂
I just went there for for the first time in late January to celebrate my fiance’s 30th birthday, and what an absolutely incredible city! We really enjoyed the Uptown/Garden District and walking down Magazine Street with all of its unique local shops. Lilette on Magazine Street was by far one of the best meals I’ve had in ages; 7 courses of small plates ranging from sashimi fish in a blood orange cream sauce, to a goat cheese, lavender and honey dessert- divine!
Oh my, that goat cheese, lavender & honey dessert sounds legendary. Did you go to Herbsaint? I really could write a book . . .
I just got back from NOLA myself, and while it seems like every corner has something delicious, the grill counter at the back of Cafe Negril (a great live jazz spot) on Frenchman St had THE. BEST. TACOS. I’ve ever had. In my life
Random, I know… but if you’re in the Big Easy check that out!
xo Lea Hart
Boucherie is a MUST!!
Torture–we were just down the street from there! I love these little hidden secrets about the city–no other city has such delicious treasures. Next time for sure.
I really need to take a trip to NOLA. Everything looked delicious!
It is delicious & the amazing people I met were even more inspiring–an incredibly warm and generous city!
Oh I love it there, such a special city! Thanks for this post, I’m going back next month and don’t know how I’m going to squeeze all these great places in 3 days! Will definitely stop at Casamento’s. I loved Borgne the last time I was there and K-Pauls is a must…oh my, I day dream about their bread pudding.