We don’t often do restaurants reviews here on Sophie’s World. I’ve had heaps of sumptuous meals, but I find that one is often quite like another. I’ll also admit, it isn’t one of my major interests – unless it’s something curious or exceptional, like the little restaurant in Geneva that has only one item on the menu – or cooking outdoors, whether it’s pizza in the Italian countryside or lunch in rustic Mallorca.
During our recent visit in the Crescent City, we were given ample opportunity to taste some of New Orleans’ offerings. I was pleased to discover food that’s truly unique, and completely unlike anywhere else. But don’t just take my word for it. In a recent interview, celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain chooses New Orleans as the top food destination in the USA.
The New Orleans CVB hosted our stay in town and they sent us off to sample a variety of cafes and restaurants. Others we either stumbled upon, or were recommended by random, friendly locals. In one case, we were simply intrigued by the long queue outside on a cold and rainy day. Some we liked, others less so. Here are our five favourites:
5. Cafe du Monde
Having coffee and beignets at Cafe du Monde is a must-try New Orleans experience. This iconic cafe is from 1862, open 24/7 and located in the French Market. You don’t come here for the extensive menu, in fact, the menu fits at the side of the serviette holder, and contains essentially one thing: beignet, a fried piece of dough, overflowing with powdered sugar. Beignets are served in orders of three – and luckily we were three, because one of these sweet dough squares is just enough. The coffee is plain black or cafe-au-lait, creamy New Orleans-style. No skimmed milk option here.
In an old brick building on Poydras Street, Mother’s is one of New Orleans’ most famous restaurants – and has been since they opened their doors in 1938. We were invited for breakfast here on our first morning in town.
The speciality, as you might have gleaned, is baked ham – world’s best, no less – so naturally we had to give it a go. Cat, the most non-veg of us was given the task of sampling this delicacy. She ate and ate, the little one, but still had heaps left on her plate. Alex had pancakes, and struggled with her portion as well. I had biscuits (the American version, similar to a scone) with scrambled eggs and the noted ham. Everything tasted very good, but we were a bit overwhelmed by the portions. Could be the jetlag, of course.
3. Cafe Maspero
Cafe Maspero is located on Decatur Street in the French Quarter, and this is where we were drawn to the queue outside. Maspero is very budget-friendly, which goes some way to account for its popularity, I expect. We sampled more typical New Orleans fare: a po-boy and a muffaletta filled with ham, salami and pastrami, a vegetarian’s nightmare if ever there was one. Fortunately, there was also a vegetarian Muffaletta on offer. All tasty. All huge.
With high, arched ceiling and tile floors, it felt like being in a cellar, very atmospheric. And as with many buildings in New Orleans, this one comes with a dramatic history: this was once an auction house for slaves, The Maspero Exchange.
2. The Court of Two Sisters
At The Court of Two Sisters, we were invited for a weekend jazz brunch. I loved the atmosphere here: a magical garden, very old world, very Creole – indoors and out, with soft jazz playing in the background. Sadly, it was too cold and rainy to be outside. The garden must be a perfect place to linger for hours over coffee.
I’m not normally very keen on buffets. Heaping salads and fish and meat and cheeses together on one plate isn’t my idea of a nice meal – which means I have to go back and forth lots. Frankly, it’s a hassle.
However, this buffet was so interesting and full of colours and flavours that I didn’t mind one bit. Sweet, salt, healthy – the Court of Two Sisters serves everything. In addition to all the traditional breakfast dishes, there were Creole omelets, grillades and meats, chicken & andouille gumbo, grits, glazed sweet potatoes, turtle soup au cherry, fresh fruits, Bananas Foster, King cake and heaps more. And a boat loaded with sea food.
Remoulade is located on Bourbon Street. Must admit to feeling skeptical when I discovered that. After all, Bourbon Street is… well, Bourbon Street. Not the most child-friendly place to be on a Saturday night. But once inside, the seedy street was forgotten. Remoulade has a cosy, warm and glowing atmosphere, inviting people to chat (but not too loudly).
Remoulade is the informal little sister of the famous Arnaude’s right around the corner. A big thumbs up for service here. We had reservations for 7pm. Alex had visited plantations (
posts coming up) and didn’t make it back to town until nearly 8. Meanwhile, Cat and I took up a table, talking, playing Yahtzee and sharing a plate of yummy N’awlins Nachos. The place was crowded, so I would have expected the waiters to be a bit impatient with us, but instead we received top-notch service with just the right amount of attentiveness (too much is just as annoying as too little).
When she finally arrived, we ordered our mains. Alex had blackened catfish, served with potatoes and spices. Today, more than two months later, she still remembers the meal fondly. Cat went for a traditional cheeseburger and I had my first Jambalaya, with lovely prawns, chicken, andouille sausage, honey baked ham, vegetables and rice, spices and a delicious creole sauce. Portions were just the right size.
For pudding, I had, well pudding. Bread pudding from Arnaud’s next door – filled with rum-soaked raisins, custard and warm whiskey sauce (Bourbon, of course). Alex chose fresh strawberries marinated in spices, lemon, red wine and port, with French vanilla ice cream. Cat only had the vanilla ice cream (that’s how she rolls). The verdict on all our desserts: Heavenly!
Do you like Cajun food? Do you have a favourite New Orleans restaurant?
Disclosure: In New Orleans, we were guests of New Orleans Conventions & Visitors Bureau. However, we’re free to write about anything we like, as always.
Yes, I love Cajun food and I love love New Orleans. I’ve been to the city twice. Cafe du Monde is my favorite breakfast place. Love the yummy beignets and the Cafe du Monde coffee. (Fortunately, its coffee is available in some stores in NY for me to enjoy without traveling to NO). My other restaurant favorites in NO is NOLA, Arnaude’s, Brennans and one Po Boy joint whose name I can’t remember. I’d like to check out the other places on your list next time I visit NO.
I was a bit curious about Brennan’s (especially since the building also has a fascinating history), but we didn’t have time to try it. Next time…
Beautiful city, I would love to visit someday…
It’s a fun and quirky city, Muza
I have not eaten creole food before but I would love to, and would definitely love to go to New Orleans.
Hope you will 🙂
My mouth is watering! I adore NOLA food – cannot wait to go back and take John…I can never get enough of the cuisine!
Really unusual – and allround fabulous- cuisine.
I absolutely adore Cajun food. When I’m in Texas, it’s extremely easy to find, but it’s pretty much an impossible quest in Malaysia. Café du Monde is always a must for me. The last time I was in NOLA was on a business trip where we got US$53 per day to spend on meals. My co-workers and I skimped for the first 2 days so that we could pool the money and splurge at Court of Two Sisters.
Oh yes, I do that too: skimp then splurge. So much more interesting than just even it out…
Absolutely love Cajun food especially jambalaya and bread pudding! In fact, my husband makes a mean jambalaya and bread pudding 🙂 I agree everyone needs to visit Cafe du Monde when in New Orleans. I enjoy their beignets but the coffee just isn’t good, imho.
I had black coffee at Cafe du Monde and that was good. The cafe-au-lait is a bit too creamy for my taste.
Yum! So glad I just finished breakfast or I would have been thinking of all the delicious food all day. I love Cajun food and these are great recommendations for a visit to NOLA. My first and only visit to NOLA was 20+ years ago in high school and I remember Bourbon Street, the river cruise and the delicious food especially the beignets. Can’t wait to return! Looks like a wonderful culinary tour.
I bet Bourbon Street made quite an impression on a high-schooler… 🙂
I’ve never had a decent Cajun meal but I think that’s only because I’ve never been to New Orleans. I’ll get there one day and I hope to try some of that yummy food!
Come to think of it, I haven’t had a particularly good Cajun meal outside of New Orleans either.
I got hungry just reading your post and seeing the photos. I’ve had Cajun food but not in New Orleans. I’d love to visit one of these days, for the food and for the music.
Yep, food and music and fabulous stories – what New Orleans is all about.
I love Cajun food but other than Cafe du Monde I can’t remember where we ate in New Orleans. I love the sound of the Court of Two Sisters – though I’m like you – I hate the jumping up and down for food.
It is nicer being served, though Court of two Sisters had such a great selection in their buffet it was worth the trouble.
The court of two sisters is AMAZING incredible variety and the bananas foster were to die for. I even bought the bookthey sell which has some history of the place and some recipes. And live jazz too. Love it.
Glad to hear it. And yes, loved the bananas foster.
Oh man, now I miss bread pudding. And beignets. And everything else. The food was definitely the best part of living in New Orleans.
My favorite NOLA restaurant was called The Green Goddess, though I haven’t been in a few years.
Green Goddess – love the name.
wow..tasty steaks, smokey bars, fine whiskeys and the best jazz I ever heard… thanks for reminding me on my best vacation:)
My pleasure 🙂
I knew I shouldn’t have read this post…or looked at all those lovely photos…! 🙂
Turkey has fantastic food, too, Julia 🙂
You’ve made me hungry for a trip to New Orleans!
Just go 🙂
Love all the places you mentioned. Would have to add brunch at Brennons. Delish!
Definitely Brennan’s next time then.
Wonderful photos and food and nice to see some of your trip to New Orleans. Finally back to visiting others blogs – visiting from Photo Thursday
Good to see you’re back, Eileen.
You got me hungry just reading what you wrote, and I’m envious of your experience. Honestly I’ve never been to New Orleans … yet. But I imagine their food to be very spicy and their dessert to be very creamy. The beignets reminds me of malasadas, which I also love eating for breakfast. Keeping these places in mind when I do make it out there, which I hope is soon.
Malasadas are Portuguese, if I remember correctly? And yes, similar to beignets…
I agree that New Orleans food is completely unique. I also agree with the choice of whisky-sauced bread pudding for dessert–my favorite. But I seem to be in a minority that found Three Sisters to be overpriced and the food quite boringly 2nd rate. The atmosphere there is great, and maybe things have changed in the kitchen since I was there several years ago. Lots and lots of food on the buffet, but we didn’t find anything outstanding in taste.
Oh Vera, the sea food alone…
Looks as if the ‘one-spoonful-is-enough’ influence of the European gourmet meal has not yet reached New Orleans.
The complete opposite 🙂
Although I’m not a huge fan of Cajun food, everything in your post has my mouth watering! I’d at least like a chance to see if Anthony Bourdain is right! Mother’s looks like the place I’d like to start my research — any place claiming to have the world’s best ham has a lot of live up to.
I only went to two on your list and loved both of them. While almost too popular and touristy, Cafe du Monde still manages to live up to exoectations, right? The beignets were so good there! And Court of Two Sisters was amazing!! We went for dinner and ate in the courtyard of the menu. I loved all the little twinkly lights and decorations… Beautiful!
I’d love to return to the Two Sisters in better weather and be outside.
OK… Number I and number 2 for me, from this great selection!
Good call 🙂
This post made me a bit homesick and very, very hungry for an order of beignets with a side of bread pudding 😉
I’m so glad that you enjoyed your time in NOLA. It’s an amazing city with an amazing culture and colorful history. A few places to consider for your next visit are Cochon (more authentic Cajun cuisine) and Domenica. Let us know if/when you make it back to New Orleans.
Thank you – and happy to make you homesick 🙂
ALL the food looks amazing. But the pic of the frothy coffee and beignets slays me!
The ultimate New Orleans snack 🙂
I’ve never been to NOLA but it tops my lists of places to explore in the America. The food is one of the main reasons I want to visit. I’m hungry just from looking at these pictures
I adore New Orleans and all the amazing food you can find there. It makes total sense that it’s on one of the top food destinations in the USA. As many times as I’ve been I still haven’t tried Court of Two Sisters. Must make it happen…I never miss Cafe Du Monde though. 😉