What To Eat in Louisiana
No state has a more distinctive cuisine than Louisiana. From spectacular seafood feasts in the Creole palaces of New Orleans to boudin sausage and cracklin’ munchies in the butcher shops of Cajun country, it’s a taste-buds orgy. Effulgent po boys are a Crescent City essential, as are oysters every-which-way and café au lait with beignets. Outside the city, look for crawfish, meat pies, and country-style gumbo.
The Louisiana meat pie is a brightly seasoned mélange of pork and beef enclosed in a half-circle pastry crust. It is deep fried until the crust is golden crisp and the meat inside is steaming hot. Most people get one for lunch, sided by dirty rice and a good southern vegetable such as okra or greens, but it’s not uncommon to see someone having a meat pie at 7am alongside a couple of fried eggs and grits glistening with melted butter. Most places that make meat pies also offer crawfish pies, especially during Lent.
A specialty of butchers throughout Cajun country, boudin is a sausage of pork, rice, onions, and spice. It is not firm like an Italian sausage. Once cut, it tends to spill, tumble, or gets squeezed out depending on the link's consistency. It comes in shades of beige, hot ones tinged pepper red, some speckled with a confetti of green and yellow onion. Differences among them can be subtle. Are the rice grains firm or soft? Is the pork pulverized or rough-hewn? Does it glisten? Does it have a sweet, fresh smell? Does the filling drip unctuously or is it dry?
Like Louisiana cuisine itself, gumbo is all about mixing, matching, blending, and creating something glorious from sundry elements. A staple of kitchens in New Orleans as well as in the Cajun countryside, its cooking canon has only a few rules: It should contain rice (cooked separately and added after the soup itself is made); it should start with a roux made of flour and fat (preferably lard); and it must be thickened as it cooks, using either okra or filé powder. Most gumbos are loaded with ingredients and radiantly spiced, and while virtually no element is taboo, the most commonly encountered varieties are seafood gumbo, made with crawfish, shrimp, crab and / or oysters and sausage gumbo, almost always including duck or chicken. During Lent, it is not uncommon to come across meatless gumbo z'herbs, featuring varieties of greens.
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Domilise's is a New Orleans' must-eat hidden gem known for superior po boy sandwiches. Shrimp, oysters, and catfish are especially good.
Willie Mae's is a soul-food Mecca in New Orleans -- a favorite not only among locals but also of food pilgrims in search of the fried-chicken holy grail.
Napoleon House's toasted muffuletta is a pleasure to tear into, its mellow olive salad more of celery than olives. A NOLA restaurant classic.
Thin-sliced brisket with pickled onions and horseradish cream is what lures huge crowds to City Pork in Baton Rogue, Louisiana.
At New Orleans' Humble Bagel, fresh orange juice and kettle-boiled bagels topped with crunchy garlic and sea salt are a local treasure.
Paloma by Revelator Coffee serves colorful dishes with a Caribbean accent, including golden tostadas and tres leches French toast with crystallized pecans.
At a quiet corner of Bywater, New Orleans' Bacchanal draws easygoing crowds hungry for good food, live music, and camaraderie.
** THIS RESTAURANT IS PERMANENTLY CLOSED **
Morning Call serves what may be the best beignets on earth. Expertly made cafe au lait and an on-the-ball uniformed staff make it a NOLA essential.
A great Italian-Cajun eating hall out in St. Bernard Parish, Rocky and Carlo's serves hearty meals cafeteria style. Not to be missed is macaroni and cheese.