When I think about New Orleans, of course the first thing that springs to mind is the amazing cuisine! Whether it’s the delicious local alligator or perhaps a stereotypical crawfish boil, New Orleans is a melting pot for awesome dining options. So the million dollar question is – where to eat in New Orleans? To be honest, you are spoiled for choice and it would take countless trips to the The Big Easy before you could establish a real top list of restaurants worth revisiting.
“New Orleans food is as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin.” (Mark Twain)
Having visited New Orleans on two separate occasions, both primarily for work, I am now able to put together a nice selection of local establishments that I would highly recommend. Of course just as with all cuisine types, New Orleans food is all about personal preference! During our recent visit, we had the opportunity to spend three days in New Orleans and of course, sample a variety of delicious cajun and creole cuisine.
What I like may not tickle your taste buds, but I can honestly say that the following two locations both provided a memorable experience and everlasting memory of the cuisine options available. Rather than giving a typical long list of choices, I want to give you two options that I don’t think you will be disappointed with either if you decide to dine there!
Cajun vs Creole
Before looking at the specific restaurants, I want to share a little bit of information I found from a few locals while experiencing New Orleans for the second time. Do you have any idea what the difference is between cajun and creole cuisine? Or do you think these words are interchangeable?
Again, it all depends on how you use this lingo, but in terms of the locals, creole is stereotypically referred to as urban food while cajun is more of the local, country Louisiana cuisine. Confused? Me too! Either way cajun and creole are both two types of Louisiana fare that you have to try while in the New Orleans area.
“In New Orleans…..You can’t separate nothing from nothing. Everything mingles each into the other…until nothing is purely itself but becomes part of one funky gumbo.” (Dr. John)
The beauty about cajun vs creole is that the only place to try both of these authentically is in the state of Louisiana…so this is where you get the ‘Welcome to New Orleans’ feel! You know you are truly in the NOLA lifestyle when you sample both cajun and creole cooking. Here are a few recommendations that I encourage you to try at least once if you are looking for an authentic New Orleans inspired dish.
Welcome to my favorite New Orleans restaurant – Mulate’s. Famous throughout the world as the ‘King of Cajun and Dance Halls’, Mulate’s is a must try option if you want a fun-filled experience while sampling some awesome menu items. The traditional cajun cuisine is matched with a lively atmosphere, making this a popular spot for tourists and locals alike.
Every night of the week, visitors are treated to local zydeco and New Orleans style music with accordions and fiddles customary accompaniments to this entertainment. One thing is for sure, if you are visiting Mulate’s for a true, authentic musical experience, you can be sure that you won’t leave disappointed!
On both occasions that I have visited this restaurant, I have been treated to an entertaining display of musical brilliance along with a diverse variety of folks daring to let their hair down and leave their mark on the Mulate’s dance floor. But what better way to experience New Orleans entertainment, than by actively participating and this is all possible in Mulate’s.
Enough about the entertainment because I am sure you are interested in the menu available here. If you are a seafood connoisseur, then the selection available at Mulate’s will certain strike the right chord! I will be the first to admit that I don’t usually experiment too much when it comes to dining options but the menu at Mulate’s just has a way of enticing you out of your comfort zone.
A trip to New Orleans wouldn’t be the same without trying alligator. I have never tried this before and honestly never thought I would but after sampling the blackened gator from Mulate’s I am sold on this new meat! Gator has a really chicken like taste but with a little added kick to it.
We tried the calamari which was also a great choice, but after sampling this and the gator you better make sure you save enough room for the main course as entree’s at Mulate’s are equally as appetizing.
I opted for the Catfish Mulate’s which is Louisiana farm raised catfish fillet, lightly floured and grilled to perfection, topped with crawfish etouffeé. It is accompanied by jambalaya, sautéed vegetables and a twice-baked potato (I was not a huge fan of the potato but the rest certainly made up for it!)
My co-worker decided to go with the cajun seafood platter which had a nice blend of everything you associate with New Orleans cuisine. From stuffed crab to crawfish tails, this dish has it all.
With so many menu items to choose from, just like restaurants in NOLA, you are really spoiled for choice. But with an amazing atmosphere and a fine dining experience, this location is a great spot to spend a few hours to really help you become acclimatized to the New Orleans ambience.
Red Fish Grill
Visiting New Orleans would not be the same without a trip to the exotic and flamboyant neighborhood of Bourbon Street. For many reasons, this street is one of the most iconic locations in the southern half of the United States. Whether it’s all positive, I will leave that judgement up to you but regardless of your viewpoint on Bourbon Street, there are some awesome restaurants worth visiting. One in particular that I recently experienced was Red Fish Grill which is located just off Canal Street at the start of Bourbon.
Prior to visiting Red Fish Grill, I headed over to their website and browsed around the menu. I was not overly impressed. In fact, I was a little concerned that heading there I would struggle to find something on the menu. However, this restaurant was highly recommended by some of my fellow co-workers so I headed there with an open-mind and after experiencing the cuisine available here, I am certainly glad I did!
The atmosphere in Red Fish Grill is a more upmarket yet relaxed feeling. The architecture inside the restaurant has a real New Orleans feel to it with the seafood theme throughout, even to the intricate details of the oyster mirrors on the ancient brick walls that provide a facade to the vibrant bar scene inside the restaurant.
After the Mulate’s alligator experience, I had no hesitation in ordering another gator dish! The alligator and sausage gumbo was a perfect appetizer and provided subtle tastes of New Orleans yet leaving you with enough of an appetite to enjoy your main course.
Red Fish Grill has a number of really interesting seafood dishes but despite my initial concern, I opted for the signature Wood Grilled Redfish and Crabmeat. For $33 this is not for the faint-hearted but let me tell you that it is worth every penny! Another concern with Red Fish may be the portion size but this restaurant is all about culinary quality and aesthetic presentation rather than quantity.
This was my first experience of red fish but I would highly recommend this to anyone trying it for the first time. Combined with tasso, wild mushroom Pontalba potatoes and a smooth lemon sauce, I can definitely see why this is a leading signature dish for Red Fish Grill.
DRUM ROLL PLEASE…After reading about all this delicious food, perhaps you are already convinced! But wait, there is more and by that I mean the dessert menu. Two options that stand out are the Double Chocolate Bread Pudding and the Bananas Foster Ice Cream Cake.
I love caramel and ice cream so I went for the latter of these two but I have to say that the bread pudding was clearly a popular choice among others in the restaurant.
The bananas foster is not just a delectable dessert. Instead it is an experience worthy of the $9 it costs to sample this sweet treat. Our waitress brought the dessert and flambéed this table side with a 151 proof rum. Flaming hot and providing a perfect caramelized topping to the ice cream cake, this is definitely a table pleaser with everyone grabbing their phones for the perfect shot!
Two great restaurants that I highly encourage you to visit during your next trip to New Orleans. Rather than recommending one over the other, I suggest you sample both and let us know which is your favorite. If you are looking for an entertaining atmosphere, then Mulate’s is the perfect spot for you. However, if you are looking for a higher quality culinary experience, head down to Bourbon Street to sample Red Fish Grill.
Regardless of your preference, these are just two excellent restaurants to answer that common question about where to eat in New Orleans!