Nothing represents a place better than its local food, and New Orleans has a wealth of influences from American, French, Italian and Southern cuisines that have given it its quite unique Cajun and Creole dishes.
Cajun cooking is a style of cooking named after the French-speaking Acadian people who have settled in Louisiana. Every meal is usually composed of a main dish, a combination of protein (sausages usually), rice and any vegetable that was plentiful during that particular season. Celery, bay leaf, green onions, dried cayenne and black peppers are common in most Cajun recipes.
Creole cooking is a cuisine that combines Irish, Italian, French, West African, Caribbean, Amerindian, Spanish, German and Southern American influences. It is often mistaken for Cajun cuisine, but is distinguished from it by its extensive use of tomatoes.
As you can probably tell, Cajun and Creole cuisines are just as historically relevant as any history book. In order to really get an in depth experience of NOLA, you have got to try some classic Cajun-Creole food in some of New Orleans’s best restaurants.
1413 Upperline Street New Orleans, LA 70115
Cajun & Creole/ American/ Seafood
Prices: 30-45 USD
Upperline Restaurant is a bistro located in the trendsetting and beautiful Uptown area of New Orleans. It is considered one of the most influential restaurants in New Orleans. How could it not be? The food is sublime, the décor eclectic and the owner/hostess JoAnn Clevenger is as much an attraction as Upperline’s food is.
JoAnn, warm and with an energy about her that belies her age, works the dining rooms in her restaurant as a restaurant hostess. She seems genuinely interested in her patrons and will often stop by your table to chat and ask about how you liked the food.
Must haves in Upperline are the Fried Green Tomatoes with Shrimp Remoulade. The dish was invented by JoAnne and first served in Upperline, but various versions of it can be found all over New Orleans. There is no way you can visit NOLA without trying some sort of gumbo and the Creole Duck Gumbo at Upperline is really one of the best you will ever find. The gumbo starts off with duck andouille and has a broth so thick it can almost cover the back of your spoon. Despite being a traditionally country dish, the gumbo at Upperline has been elevated to something really special. Some other dishes to try are the Drum Meuniere, Lamb Shank and Pecan Pie.
1710 Pauger St, New Orleans, LA 701161841
Cajun & Creole/American
Prices: 80-120 USD (Brunch class – $79; Lunch class – $89; Dinner Class – $120)
If you are visiting NOLA as a tourist, the cooking classes at Langlois Culinary Crossroads are one of the best ways to experience Cajun and Creole cooking.
Think Chef’s Table meets a Creole-Cajun cooking demo, but with a relaxed and spontaneous dinner party atmosphere. Witness, and learn, how the chef’s at Langlois prepare the region’s local favorites. The setting is family style, reservations only and limited to only 20 guests (so you better call ahead).
The whole experience is interactive and the atmosphere is so relaxed that you can really get into the feel of things. It honestly feels like going to a friend’s house for dinner with everybody gathered around the kitchen, asking about the food and swapping stories. The class starts with the chef in-charge for the night talking about the differences between Creole and Cajun cooking; the class then moves on the cooking classes and demonstrations. Afterwards, dinner is served. Included in your fees are the recipes from your class which will be emailed to you the day after.
The cooking school/restaurant also caters to private events, team building activities and off-site events.
930 Tchoupitoulas St., New Orleans, LA 70130
Cajun & Creole/Sandwiches
Prices: 25-55 USD
Cochon Butcher is actually two separate establishments operating under the same roof. One, Cochon, is a casual dining restaurant that serves pork-focused Cajun food. The other is Butcher, both a charcuterie and sandwich shop that serves Cajun & Creole favorites along with some of the best specialty meats in town. The restaurant (or rather restaurants) is the brain child of James Beard Awardees Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski.
Most popular in Butcher is the Muffeletta, although not traditionally Cajun because of its Sicilian roots, the sandwich is a staple in New Orleans. The Muffeletta in Butcher is so good that it definitely rivals the Muffeletta of all Muffelettas, the original Central Grocery version.
Other Cajun specialties that you must definitely try are the Crawfish Critters, Fried Oysters and Red Fish. Oh, and you definitely have to try the smorgasbord of pork dishes they have on the menu. The pork is always fresh, well-seasoned and well-balanced with pickles and vegetables. From their lamb to their grits, we can’t imagine anything at Cochon Butcher to ever disappoint.
1403 Washington Ave., New Orleans, LA 70130
French/American/Seafood/Cajun & Creole
Prices: 28-80 USD
Nestled in the tree-lined Garden District of Uptown New Orleans is a landmark of local New Orleans cuisine. A bastion of French, American and Cajun & Creole cooking, the Commander’s Palace has been around since the 1880’s and is a formidable institution of New Orleans cuisine.
The famous restaurant is full of history and offers a glimpse into New Orleans’ colorful past. Commander’s Palace was originally built by Emile Commander as a gift for a daughter who never married. It is now managed by the Brennan family, whose dedication to the restaurant’s culture and heritage has elevated its status to the world-class restaurant it is today.
Patrons all seem to agree that the Palace’s Crabmeat Imperial and Pecan-Crusted Crabmeat Cheesecake are some of the most popular must try items on the menu. The starter cocktails are also worth a try. Some Creole specialties to have are Turtle Soup and the Crawfish Etouffee. Make sure to save space for dessert, one of the things the Commander’s Palace is most famous for is their Bananas Foster.
8324 Oak St., New Orleans, LA 70118
French/Southwestern/Cajun & Creole
Prices: 20-30 USD
If you appreciate a little bit of kitsch and amazing Creole & Cajun cooking, you are going to love Jacques-Imo’s.
The wait for this place lasts about an hour or two, and the reservation book for groups of five or more tends to be filled weeks in advance. More than just a local and tourist favorite, Jacques Imo’s is both a tribute and celebration of Creole and Southern Soul Food, and if there’s anything that Jacques Imo’s has – it’s soul.
The restaurant was founded in 1996 when Jacques Leonardi, a New York native who fell deeply in love with New Orleans while being stationed there during his Coast Guard days, and his wife Amelia bought out a tiny “shotgun house” at 8324 Oak Street. They sought out the help of legendary Chef Austin Leslie, developed the menu as well as the ambience they wanted to achieve and the rest, as they say, is history.
Any time you’re in New Orleans, Jacques Imo’s is a great stop where you’ll find great people and amazing food for not a lot of money.
Dishes to have in this funky place are the Shrimp and Alligator Sausage Cheesecake (we know, it sounds weird but wait ‘til you try this masterpiece), their famous Fried Chicken (along with some amazing sides) and their Crème Brulee for dessert.