How to Eat Like a Local – (Where to Start)
You’ve really got to work hard to find a bad meal in this town. Here are my recommendations for where to get some of the best meals in New Orleans.
Having just visited Muriel’s Jackson Square for Reveillon, I can confirm that they’ve still got it. What I had: the goat cheese and crawfish crepes (as usual) and the pecan-encrusted baby drum, a filet of fish coated in pecans and crab meat and swimming in a buttery sauce. I finished up with the creme brulee, and I have to say Muriel’s creme brulee is the best I’ve ever had. They were gracious enough to make me my favorite cocktail (twice) to go with, even though they had removed it from the menu for Christmas (gasp! don’t ever do that again!). I’ll always love you, Muriel’s.
The first and original location of Juan’s Flying Burrito is in my Lower Garden District neighborhood so it’s the one I always go to. I think I’ve been to the Mid-City location once and it felt like I was cheating. Anyway, my favorite foods here are the crawfish queso (when crawfish are in season; if they’re not, I go for the chorizo queso), the Luau quesadilla that’s full of fat shrimp and pineapple, and the taco salad. It’s not quite the classic taco salad—it comes with a couple of deep fried tortilla halves and chips to go with the salad, but lately I’ve gotten it every time I go so they must be doing it right. You can’t go wrong with the house frozen marg (I never get salt on mine, blech). Check the dessert specials board or ask your server what kind of goodies they have because you never know what they’ve got.
Mona’s Cafe is the most well-known of the Middle Eastern restaurants in New Orleans and rightfully so. With the best hummus in town and great prices, Mona’s can’t be beat for a slightly exotic lunch. Favorites include the chicken shawarma (either as an entree or as a sandwich), the lebna, a thick yogurt dip seasoned with sumac and olive oil, the “squeaky cheese”, fried haloumi that melts in your mouth, and the sautéed veggie plate for a delicious vegetarian option. Mona’s has three locations throughout the city, and they’re on Uber Eats and Waitr for your convenience.
“Where do you go to get gumbo/jambalaya/shrimp étouffée/etc?” When out-of-towners ask me this, I send them to Coop’s Place on Decatur. Go on a weekday afternoon and skip that big ol’ touristy line. Check the big board on the wall before you order—there might be good stuff up there that ain’t on the menu. My favorites here are the fried mushrooms, duck quesadilla (yeah, you read that right), and the Chicken Tchoupitoulas, which is a big ass chicken breast absolutely swimming in a creamy sauce with shrimp and tasso. Coop’s food goes with beer real well, so get a Turbodog or Abita Amber to wash it down. Leave the kiddos at home; Coop’s has video poker machines so you must be 21 to enter.
Tan Dinh is a star of the Vietnamese restaurant community. Located on the Westbank, it’s one of my favorites. The menu is huge, fresh, and healthy, and when you become a regular, you really become a regular. They know your face and your favorites, every time. There’s a quirky menu of various bubble teas and the ubiquitous (and delicious) Vietnamese coffee. They also do takeout, naturally.
Bonus: What’s the best poboy in town? In my opinion (and it carries a lot of weight when it comes to food, FAT KID HERE) the Shrimp Poboy at Slice is the best one in town. The best poboy at a pizza joint? Yep. Don’t knock it til you try it. There’s nothing else like it in the city and it will blow your mind. Make sure you grab a lot of napkins before you begin (the best food is the messiest food).
What’s your favorite NOLA restaurant? Tell us in the comments!