Louisiana is widely known for its Creole and Cajun cuisines, so it was a given that we’d be spending much of our time in New Orleans exploring the food.
We received a number of phenomenal suggestions from friends and fellow bloggers, so we compiled a list of local dishes we’d never encountered before and then set ourselves loose on the city. Here’s what we found:
Po’ Boy Sandwich
Po’ boys (named after the working class “poor boys” who traditionally ate them) are a popular Louisiana sandwich served on French bread. They’re typically served hot with fried shrimp or roast beef, but there are quite a number of different fillings available.
Seriously, the options abound, because these sandwiches are everywhere; a popular choice with locals for lunch, they’re served in po’ boy-specific sandwich shops and countless other restaurants all around the city.
We had our first po’ boy introduction at Mother’s Cafe, where we ordered their Famous Ferdi Special (fillings: ham, roast beef, debris, and gravy). The sandwich was pretty good – the meat debris and gravy really gave it an extra oomph – but it was incredibly different from our typical lunch. Which doesn’t make it bad, necessarily, but since we don’t eat either meat or white bread frequently consuming that much in one meal made us want to curl up and take a nap afterward.
Sorry po’ boy, but you put us to sleep!
VERDICT: 3 out of 5
I knew going in that my jambalaya was already positioned for a win, since we were eating it in a funkily authentic little dive bar/restaurant in the French Quarter called Coop’s Place. Ambiance always makes food taste better (this is a well documented fact, look it up), so the flavor of this dish was increased tenfold by virtue of its location alone.
But the thing is, our jambalaya didn’t even need that ratings boost! How could you ever go wrong with that deliciously savory mingling of rice, sausage, chicken, tomatoes and the holy trinity of Creole vegetables (celery, peppers, and onions)?
Answer: YOU CAN’T.
VERDICT: 5 out of 5
We had such high hopes for gumbo… and yet such tragically disappointing results. Gumbo is one of those quintessential Creole dishes that we’ve been wanting to try for years, but we’d somehow overlooked what a large role seafood plays in the composition of this delightfully thick stew. The gumbo was just so overwhelmingly fishy-tasting… which is less than ideal, since seafood is one of our least favorite foods.
There is a meatless version (gumbo z’herbes), but sadly we weren’t able to track that down. I also heard a rumor that the famous Dooky Chase restaurant serves chicken gumbo, so we made plans to meet the lovely folks from Wheeling It (Nina and Paul, also full-time Rvers!) there for dinner. But of course it turns out the restaurant was closed that evening (whoops!), so our only gumbo experience remains less than stellar (don’t worry, though – we found another restaurant and had a delightful evening with those two).
Sorry, gumbo – it’s not you, it’s me.
VERDICT: 1 out of 5
Kali has tried for years to convince me that bread pudding is The Best Thing Ever, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around soggy bread being in any way palatable. Luckily he had the opportunity to prove me wrong at Cafe Reconcile, which has a great mission and also serves an awesome lunch.
Their usual bread pudding is a’la Bananas Foster, but at my prodding we ordered their chocolately bread pudding daily special goodness. Cuz if I’m going to be eating soggy bread, the least they could do is submerge it in chocolate first.
Cafe Reconcile didn’t just get the bread pudding right, though (and trust me, they got it right!); they also served the most incredible fried chicken we’ve had in a looong time. Yes, I know fried chicken isn’t technically Cajun or Creole, but we’ve somehow managed to eat our way through most of the South without finding much of this supposedly southern staple. So whatever, we ordered it anyways… and then fought over ever last scrap of moistly-breaded chicken breast.
Cafe Reconcile did everything right… we even had an infectiously adorable waiter who couldn’t stop smiling. I’d give ’em a 6 if it wouldn’t ruin my own ratings system.
VERDICT: 5 out of 5
Beignet & Cafe au Lait
Perhaps the most popular New Orleans dessert is the beignet, which is best enjoyed at the most popular NOLA eatery, Cafe du Monde. We received so many suggestions to try the beignets and a chicory-laced cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde that we braved the touristy crowds and waited (more or less) patiently in line for twenty minutes or so.
Beignets are best described as heavenly little pillows of fried dough frosted with a sprinkling of powdered sugar. To put it more simply, they’re donuts, albeit French and funnily-shaped. They were admittedly quite tasty… but the best part was seeing Kali get powdered sugar stuck in his beard. How cute is that? 😉
VERDICT: 4 out of 5
What about you? What’s your favorite Creole or Cajun dish?