I’ve long maintained that New Orleans is one of the very best destinations in the US for people who love food, but until recently that assertion was based on a trip I took there with my father when I was in high school more than 15 years ago. Don’t get me wrong, we ate some incredible things on that trip – including the famous beignets at Café du Monde and soufflé potatoes at the legendary Antoine’s – but I was very overdue for another visit to size up the city’s food scene. I recently remedied that by heading back to New Orleans for a girls weekend with a like-minded friend who was happy to plan our itinerary around meals – and fortunately I can report that the food here is even better than I remembered.
Commander’s Palace is a NOLA institution and has been on my radar for a long time, so I was excited to head there for a fancy dinner on our first night in town. The restaurant is located in a charming blue and white house on a quiet street in the Garden District. The dining room here is very elegant with the polished service to match, and the menu features American classics with a Cajun-Creole twist. I loved my pecan-crusted gulf fish with Prosecco-poached Louisiana blue crab and corn cream, and indulged in the rich Queen of Sheba fudge cake with salted caramel sauce to end the meal.
We also ate a dinner at Atchafalya, which has a younger and trendier vibe and menu than Commander’s Palace, but a similar concept of blending Louisiana flavors with American dishes. I stole a few bites of my friend’s fried green tomatoes (always a must for me whenever I see them on a menu) and then ordered the open-faced crab ravioli in a citrus beurre blanc sauce, which was to die for. The bread basket, which featured jalapeno cornbread, was also noteworthy.
As incredible as both of these dinners were, probably my favorite meal on this trip was at Cafe Fleur de Lis in the French Quarter, where we fueled up on brunch before a day of exploring the city. My mind was pretty much made up about what to order as soon as I saw fried green tomato eggs Benedict listed as a special on the chalkboard menu outside (see above about ordering them whenever I possibly can), but the execution of this dish was even better than I could have imagined. The tomatoes themselves were some of the tastiest I’ve ever had and I loved the decision to swap out the traditional English muffin for a flaky buttermilk biscuit. A side of insanely delicious cheesy grits (seriously, if you know a grits hater, send them here and they’ll be converted in an instant) and a tall glass of their chocolate iced coffee rounded out the meal perfectly.
On my last morning in town, I was flying solo and headed to District Donuts Sliders Brew for breakfast before walking around the Garden District. I had to order both a doughnut and a sandwich – strictly in the name of blog research, of course. I really enjoyed my mint chocolate chip doughnut and cold brew iced coffee, but my favorite part of the meal was the scrambled egg and cheese biscuit. It doesn’t look like much from the photo, but the biscuit was soft and buttery and perfectly complemented the melted cheese and creamy scrambled eggs. And it wasn’t much more expensive than a fast food egg and cheese biscuit, but significantly more filling – after eating it, I was so full I had to take my doughnut to go.
Later that day, I had a cup of curried pumpkin and crab bisque at Lüke for lunch. (I didn’t quite realize until I was writing this recap how much crab I consumed on this trip, but when in Louisiana, right?) The soup wasn’t too spicy but had just enough of a kick to remind me I was in New Orleans. The crusty French baguette they served me was the perfect side dish.
Of course it wouldn’t be a proper trip to New Orleans without some Café du Monde beignets and chicory coffee, which we indulged in pretty much the second we arrived in town. Cafe du Monde’s coffee stand is a New Orleans icon and has been serving up beignets in the French Market since the 1860s. If you haven’t had beignets before, there’s no better place to be introduced to them, and even if you have, well you haven’t had beignets like these. They’re fried dough heaven.
I probably should have given my poor pancreas a break after the mountain of sugar on those beignets, but I couldn’t resist stopping by Sucré for more sweets. This adorable local chains sells pastries, chocolate candies and ice cream, but I continued the French pastry theme and headed straight for the macarons. The chocolate-covered one was especially good.
Suffice it to say, I left New Orleans a few pounds heavier and much happier than I was when I arrived, armed with a whole host of new reasons why NOLA is one of the best food cities in the US.