The Best Food and Drink in Louisiana for 2019
December 20, 2018
Louisiana is a culinary universe unto itself
The Best Food and Drink in Louisiana
From Slidell to Shreveport, Louisiana is home to stunning natural beauty, world-class attractions, and, of course, some amazing things to eat. And to celebrate all the great food and drink that this wholly unique has to offer, we’ve rounded up 23 of the Pelican State’s claims to culinary fame as part of our second annual guide to the best food and drink in every state.
Any conversation about the cuisine of Louisiana will be dominated by that of New Orleans, which is without a doubt one of the finest (and most unique) food cities in America. New Orleans is synonymous with Cajun and Creole cuisine, which means it’s also synonymous with deliciousness. Barbecue shrimp, po’boys, jambalaya, gumbo, crawfish étouffée, beignets, muffuletta, red beans and rice… these are some of the most delicious dishes on earth, and while you can probably find serviceable variations outside of Louisiana, they’ll never be as good as the real deal, served at legendary New Orleans institutions like Brennan’s, Commander’s Palace, Galatoire’s, Dooky Chase, and Tujague’s. Chefs such as Emeril Lagasse, John Folse, and Donald Link have brought this classic cuisine into the 21st century, and New Orleans also has plenty of amazing restaurants that aren’t remotely Cajun or Creole; you can find arguably the best fried chicken on earth at Willie Mae’s Scotch House, and the city’s more than 14,000 Vietnamese residents have also left their mark on the local dining scene.
But there’s a lot more to Louisiana than New Orleans, and over the course of the past year we’ve honored everything from its best hot dogs and brunch spot to its best bar and craft beer in our comprehensive and wide-ranging lists and rankings, compiled through extensive research and with input from a wide network of site contributors, bloggers, journalists, and chefs. We’ve compiled these into individual slideshows celebrating the best food and drink in every state, and you can find our Louisiana gallery ahead. Laissez les bon temps rouler!
Best 24-Hour Diner: Clover Grill (New Orleans)
Located on the quieter end of Bourbon Street (if such a thing is even possible) is the quaint and charming Clover Grill, a greasy spoon with a few tables and an 11-stool counter that serves stellar half-pound burgers, omelettes, biscuits and gravy, sandwiches, and pie à la mode. It’s the kind of place where what you see is what you get, and what you see is a New Orleans landmark.
Best Airport Restaurant: Dooky Chase’s (Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport)
Enjoy some classic New Orleans cuisine right at the airport at Dooky Chase’s Louis Armstrong Airport location (the original has been going strong in the city’s Treme neighborhood since 1941). Try some gumbo or fried chicken or go for an omelette if you’re there earlier in the morning.
Best All-You-Can-Eat Deal: Dooky Chase (New Orleans)
Dooky Chase has been a quintessential New Orleans restaurant since Edgar “Dooky” Chase and his wife Leah opened it back in 1941. (Dooky passed away in 2016, but Leah is still going strong at age 95.) On Tuesdays through Fridays, Leah and her team set out a lunch buffet that’s nothing short of legendary. It changes daily, but you can expect to find red beans and rice, hot sausage, fried chicken, fried catfish, shrimp étouffée, collard greens, mac and cheese, candied yams, and squash casserole. It may be humble, but it’s about as delicious as food can get.
Best Bar: Sazerac Bar (New Orleans)
Photo by Lisa I. via Yelp
This landmark hotel bar is named after the Sazerac, a cocktail that many consider to be the world’s first mixed drink. The Sazerac Bar’s décor evokes old New Orleans with some elegant fixtures like Paul Ninas’ murals that flank the African walnut bar. The bar itself, including its stools and banquettes, has been fully restored to its original splendor. A small collection of white and red wines by the glass and beers support the main drink menu focus: the cocktails. Classic cocktails like the Sazerac (Sazerac 6-year rye, Peychaud’s bitters, and sugar in an Herbsaint-rinsed glass); the 1840 Sazerac (Pierre Ferrand “1840” Cognac, Peychaud’s bitters, and Herbsaint Legendre); and the Pink Squirrel (crème de almond, light crème de cacao, and cream) are given equal weight as new classics like the Thibodeaux Tickle (Oryza gin, rhubarb bitters, cranberry bitters, sugar, and soda); Prickly Pear (pear vodka, Chambord, fresh citrus, and ginger beer); and Bywater Detour (Sorel hibiscus liqueur, pimento bitters, and Gosling’s ginger beer).
Best Beer: Ghost in the Machine, Parish Brewing Co. (Broussard)
John L H/Yelp
Parish Brewing Co.’s Ghost in the Machine pours a hazy yellow-orange hue, and while it’s full of juicy, big hop flavors, it still goes down with ease. Lightly sweet with notes of mango, tangerine, and peach, this beer is perfect for the hop lover in your life (especially if that is you).
Best Brunch: Arnaud’s (New Orleans)
Since 1918, Arnaud’s has been one of the grand dames of Creole cuisine in New Orleans, and its Jazz Brunch is nearly as legendary as the restaurant itself. A Dixieland jazz band plays while diners enjoy traditional Creole items including their famous shrimp remoulade, turtle soup, seafood gumbo, grillades and grits, eggs Sardou (with artichoke, creamed spinach, and hollandaise), eggs hussarde (with Canadian bacon and tomato on French bread crostini with hollandaise and marchand de vin sauces), crabmeat cheesecake, Gulf fish meunière, oysters en brochette, and chicken Pontalba. For dessert, don’t miss the bananas Foster. Wash it down with a café brûlot, spiced and spiked coffee flamed with brandy. It’s the quintessential Creole New Orleans brunch.
Best Burger: Company Burger, New Orleans
Company Burger chef and owner Adam Biderman set out to create the perfect double cheeseburger, and one bite will tell you that he hit the nail right on the head. He starts with two 3.25-ounce patties, which are given a light crust on the flat-top before being loaded with red onion and high-quality American-style cheese and then stacked. A couple of pickle chips and a toasted white bread bun complete it. You’re left to your own devices at the expansive condiment bar, which includes Creole honey mustard, basil mayo, and pickled jalapeños. Before getting creative, though, make sure you try the burger as-is — you might be compelled not to mess with perfection.
Best Burrito: Juan's Flying Burrito (New Orleans)
Mary Locke M./Yelp
If you’re looking for a great burrito in the Big Easy, look no further than Juan’s. This “Creole taquería” has four locations, where everything is made to order and finished à la minute on the grill. If you want to try a little bit of everything, the Flying Burrito is what to order: Grilled steak, shrimp, and chicken, Cheddar and Jack cheese, black beans, yellow rice, salsa, sour cream, and guacamole rolled up in a tortilla, then given a final go on the grill. It's one delicious beast.
Best Chinese Restaurant: Red’s (New Orleans)
Photo by Cesar R. via Yelp
New Orleans is one of America’s great culinary capitals, and the city’s dedication to serving really, really good food extends even to the Chinese restaurants — especially Red’s. There’s a sense of whimsy to the menu at Red’s, which has become a cult hit among the locals. Even though every dish is very Chinese in terms of influence and preparation, you definitely know you’re in New Orleans when you’re dining there. Traditional Chinese fare like housemade Chinese pickles, egg rolls, pork belly buns, and Chinese broccoli with preserved lemon and fermented black beans is joined by crowd-pleasers like craw rangoons (filled with cream cheese, spicy honey, and crawfish); kung pao pastrami, and General’s Chicken with deep-fried chicken, bourbon soy, peanuts, and cilantro. A meal at Red’s is an adventure.
Best Chocolate Shop: Sucré (New Orleans)
At Sucré in New Orelans, everything is simultaneously decadent and delicate. Their signature chocolates feature playful flavors like peanut butter and jelly and German chocolate cake. Of course, their standout offerings are sold during Carnival, a selection of gold, green, and purple chocolates in iconic flavors (crème brûlée, Southern pecan praline, and bananas Foster).
Best Coffee Shop: District Donuts Sliders Brew (New Orleans)
The best thing to make your coffee even more enjoyable is a yummy, fresh doughnut, and so to find the best coffee shop in Louisiana, you'll have to go where they sell the best doughnuts. District Donuts Sliders Brew's coffee philosophy is quality over quantity — partnering with Stumptown Coffee Roasters, they serve small-batch roasted coffee that is made with profile roasting, a technique in which coffee beans are roasted individually to maximize their flavor. As for the doughnuts, in addition to their classic cinnamon sugar and chocolate glazed flavors, District is known for their unusual and experimental varieties such as sriracha-maple, candied thyme, blueberry lemon, and the "croquenut" — a cross between a doughnut and the croque madame.
Best Cupcakes: Buttercups Cupcakes (Shreveport)
Buttercups Cupcakes has been sifting, stirring, baking, and dolloping its made-from-scratch cupcakes for over 10 years using high-quality, pure ingredients — and it even offers vegan and gluten-free options! Choose from options such as vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry all the way down to salted caramel, wedding cake, banana pudding, and whatever happens to be the flavor of the month. One thing that’s not a flavor of the month? Buttercups itself, which has been delighting customers for more than a decade. They even made the news back in 2007, when actress Katie Holmes ordered eight dozen cupcakes on her way out of town after filming Mad Money.
Best Dive Bar: Ms. Mae’s (New Orleans)
Ms. Mae's in New Orleans never closes. Literally. It’s open 24/7, 365. Get away from the touristy parts of Bourbon Street and head to Magazine Street, and you just may find Win Butler of Arcade Fire sipping unpretentiously on a $1.50 bottle of Miller High Life or a $4 (stiff) mixed drink.
Best Doughnuts: District (New Orleans)
Photo by Dana K. via Yelp
In addition to offering the classic chocolate glazed and cinnamon sugar doughnuts, District doesn’t hesitate to experiment with other flavors. Seven flavors are on offer every day, and it’s likely you’ll find yourself deliberating among candied thyme, sriracha-maple, or even a “croquenut,” a crazy hybrid of a croque-madame and a doughnut.
Best Farmers Market: Crescent City Farmers Market (New Orleans)
On their website, Crescent City Farmers Market lists 20 reasons they’re more than a market — No. 1 being, “We handpick local farmers and fishers for shoppers and chefs.” CCFM also pioneered SNAP acceptance at farmers markets in the South, they have implemented programs to inspire healthy eating, and their farmers share NOLA culture with their ingredients, tips, and stories— namely, you can buy alligator meat from one of CCFM’s many vendors and learn how to cook it! CCFM offers cultural enrichment while also providing the community with fresh eats.
Best Food Truck: Rollin Fatties (New Orleans)
Rollin Fatties has a loyal following, many of which would say that it makes one of the best burritos in America. This New Orleans food truck staple serves oversized burritos, bowls, and platters of nachos topped with everything from chipotle chicken to barbecue tofu. Their fish tacos have been labeled by a number of Yelp reviewers as “perfect,” and this has helped the truck earn an immaculate five-star rating. Fresh pico de gallo, guacamole, and tomato salsa bring balance to boldly seasoned proteins, but it’s the pleasant staff and impeccable service that keep bringing customers back to Rollin Fatties.
Best Fried Chicken: Willie Mae's Scotch House (New Orleans)
Willie Mae Seaton began serving mind-blowing fried chicken from a shack attached to her Tremé home more than 30 years ago. The low-key operation remained a local treasure until 2005, when the James Beard Foundation honored it with its "American Classic" award and let the rest of the nation in on the secret. A few weeks after winning the award, Willie Mae’s Scotch House was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, but members of the Southern Foodways Alliance pulled together to rebuild the cherished chicken establishment. We — and many other diners the world over — are so happy and grateful that they did. Mae’s great-granddaughter runs the Scotch House now, and a few Seaton family members populate the small staff, upholding the same dedication to unadulterated Southern cuisine that the restaurant is so well known for.
Best Grocery Store: Rouses
Photo by Frank T. via Yelp
The good people at Bon Appétit rated Rouses one of the eight best regional supermarket chains in the county, citing one very important reason: Rouses is dedicated to local food culture as exemplified in its sponsorship of the World Championship Crawfish Eating Contest.
A local reviewer also said of the store: “Helpful and pleasant employees. Never a long wait in line. Great meat department and seafood department. The bakery is one of the best in the city.”
Best Hot Dog: Dat Dog (New Orleans and Lafayette)
This hot dog joint with three New Orleans locations (and another in Lafayette and College Station, Texas) is quickly becoming a Crescent City institution, thanks to owner Constantine Georges' commitment to serving the highest-quality hot dogs and sausages possible — with a killer sense of humor. Menu standouts include a brilliant pairing of duck sausage with blackberry preserves as well as crawfish sausage, alligator sausage, and bratwurst, but make sure you save room to try their hot sausage, custom-ground by a local butcher and tucked into a bun that’s steamed then toasted, to make it both soft and crispy. The sky’s the limit when it comes to toppings, but you can’t go wrong with their addictive beef stock-based andouille sauce.
Best Hotel Restaurant: Domenica (New Orleans)
BRG Hospitality’s Domenica, located inside the upscale Roosevelt Hotel, serves some truly spectacular Italian fare. Start your meal with high-end cheese and salumi or antipasti including short rib and scamorza arancini or octopus carpaccio, follow up with one of their celebrated pizzas (which are amazing enough to warrant an offshoot of their own, Pizza Domenica), share a small portion of pasta including campanelle with white bolognese and spring peas and squid ink tagliolini with blue crab and herbs, and finish up with redfish with fennel panzanella and salsa verde or a Berkshire pork chop with lime beans and salmoriglio. And make sure you save room for cannoli!
Best Ice Cream Stand: Creole Creamery (New Orleans)
The creamery specialties at Creole Creamery in New Orleans set this ice cream stand apart from everything else in Louisiana. Their Skyscraperis an enormous concoction made with cookies and cream, chocolate, and vanilla ice creams, layered with caramel, hot fudge, and crushed Oreos served with whipped cream, sprinkles, a cherry, and a wafer. Plus they also serve a special called the Tchoupitoulas, made with eight scoops and eight toppings. Wow!
Best Macaroni and Cheese: Cochon Butcher (New Orleans)
The next-door offshoot of chef Donald Link’s renowned Cochon, this hybrid butcher and sandwich shop serves some stunning macaroni and cheese. Sharp white Cheddar, cream cheese, and tomato paste serves as the foundation for their version, which is mixed with elbow macaroni and diced house-cured pancetta before being topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano and bread crumbs.
Best Mexican Restaurant: Johnny Sanchez (New Orleans)
When chefs with the pedigree of John Besh and Aarón Sánchez team up to open an authentic Mexican restaurant, you can bet good money on the end result being spectacular. And by all accounts, Johnny Sanchez is, even though Besh is no longer involved. To get a good idea of the amount of skill (and the quality of the ingredients) on display here, start your meal with an order of carne asada tacos, made with perfectly cooked grilled skirt steak and topped with a one-two punch of pickled jalapeño guacamole and fresh pico de gallo; and then move on to duck carnitas enchiladas, topped with salsa verde, queso fresco, and duck cracklings.
Most Expensive Restaurant: Doris Metropolitan (New Orleans)
If you’re looking to drop some serious cash in the Crescent City, head to Doris Metropolitan in the French Quarter, where the beef is USDA Prime and dry-aged on-premises. Appetizers average $17, most non-steak entrees are over $40, and steaks start at $38 for a 10 ounce butcher’s cut and top off at $82 for a porterhouse. A-5 Wagyu filets and ribeyes are also available for the real high rollers, at $155 and $185, respectively.
Most Iconic Dish: Blackened Redfish, K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen (New Orleans)
If you spent any time dining out in the ‘80s, you most likely encountered something that was blackened. You have chef Paul Prudhomme to thank for that, due to one revolutionary dish served at his K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen: blackened redfish. The dish starts with a blend of spices including cayenne, paprika, garlic and onion powders, thyme, and oregano, applied liberally to the Gulf fish before it’s seared with a little clarified butter in a ripping-hot cast-iron pan. The dish was so popular, and became so ubiquitous nationwide, that it caused redfish to be fished to near-extinction. Today the dish is usually prepared with drum instead of redfish, but the best rendition is still served at K-Paul’s.
Most Outrageous Restaurant Dish: The Boudreaux, Katie's Restaurant & Bar (New Orleans)
Louisiana is known for its Cajun cuisine, and this pizza served at Katie's is a wonderful homage to it. The Boudreaux pizza pie is notably topped with cochon de lait, or roasted suckling pork, as well as fresh spinach, garlic butter cream reduction, red onions, roasted garlic, and scallions.
Most Romantic Restaurant: August (New Orleans)
Chef Todd Pulsinelli’s menu at this splendid eatery, located in a historic nineteenth-century French-Creole building in New Orleans’ Central Business District, shows a great love for, and understanding of, French, Italian, and high-level American cuisine, much of it interpreted with a New Orleans lilt. The dining room, with its high ceilings, exposed brick, dim lighting, tall windows, white tablecloths, crystal chandeliers, and spectacular service is romantic, festive, and elegant, and it’s worthy of all the praise it’s received over the years.
Best Pancakes: Stanley (New Orleans)
Located right on Jackson Square, Stanley is one of the brightest, most charming breakfast spots in New Orleans, which is saying a lot. It’s run by chef Scott Boswell, who attracted a big following at his now-shuttered nearby restaurant, Stella! (note the A Streetcar Named Desire references), and his all-day breakfasts here are definitely worth writing home about. His short stack of pancakes is picture-perfect: golden brown, light, fluffy, and dripping with syrup. Instead of butter, he tops them with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and instead of maple syrup, he uses local Steen’s Cane Syrup, which is similar to molasses. You’ll be topping all your pancakes with ice cream after trying these.
Best Pasta Dish: Potato Gnocchi, Restaurant August (New Orleans)
BRG’s flagship restaurant, August, is one of New Orleans’ top fine-dining institutions. Executive chef Todd Pulsinelli’s French-inspired menu is heavily influenced by Creole cuisine, but his gnocchi transcends all categorization. It’s ethereally light and soft, and it’s served in a small bowl with a creamy Parmigiano-Reggiano sauce, chunks of fresh Gulf blue crab, and shavings of fresh black truffle. It’s an absolute must-order, a quintessential New Orleans dish.
Best Restaurant for Breakfast: Brennan’s (New Orleans)
One of the most famous restaurants in New Orleans, and one of the most influential restaurants in the history of breakfast, Brennan’s has been going strong since 1946, and by introducing some items not usually associated with breakfast to its menu it essentially invented brunch as we know it. It’s still family-owned, and today this renowned and refined eatery opens at 9 a.m. during the week and 8 a.m. on the weekends, serving a wide variety of classic Creole breakfast and brunch dishes with just the right amount of fanfare, washed down with classic New Orleans cocktails like brandied milk punch and Cajun-style Bloody Marys. Spins on eggs Benedict like Eggs Hussarde (house-made English muffins, coffee-cured Canadian bacon, hollandaise, and red wine sauce); Eggs Owen (red wine braised short rib, crispy fingerling potatoes, poached eggs, hollandaise, and red wine sauce), and Eggs Sardou (crispy artichokes, creamed spinach, and tomato-spiked béarnaise) are nothing short of legendary, but the deliciousness doesn’t stop there: barbecue lobster with Creole-spiced butter (an instant classic introduced by current chef Slade Rushing); baked apple with oatmeal pecan raisin crumble; house-made huckleberry blintzes; bacon and egg risotto; country fried rabbit with creamed collards and eggs over easy; and vanilla-scented French toast are groan-inducingly good. And should you feel the need to sample one of the restaurant’s most famous dinner entrées — steak Diane, topped with brandied mushroom reduction and flambéed tableside — it’s been kindly added to the menu, served with two eggs any style. Now that’s a brunch dish we can get behind.
Best Restaurant: Commander's Palace (New Orleans)
A slice of New Orleans dining history — it opened in 1880 — this culinary landmark has long been collecting accolades for everything from its service to its wine list and of course its "haute Creole" cuisine. Two of its alumni, it might be noted, are Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse — but with chef Tory McPhail at the ovens for over a decade, Commander’s Palace is still going strong. Come hungry and ready for such dishes as the legendary turtle soup; pecan-crusted Gulf fish with crushed corn cream, spiced pecans, petite herbs, and prosecco-poached Louisiana blue crab; and the 14-ounce center cut veal chop Tchoupitoulas over goat cheese grits and local vegetables.
Best Restaurant in the Middle of Nowhere: Hawk’s Crawfish (Rayne)
Even the website for Hawk’s Crawfish in rural Rayne cautions that the restaurant “may be a little hard to find, but it’s worth the drive.” The restaurant also claims to have the world’s best crawfish, and according to folks who have dined there, this might actually be true. The restaurant opened in 1983 with the goal of providing boiled crawfish to appreciative customers, and by using a perfected technique called purging (keeping crawfish in a “live well” with a current of fresh, aerated, unchlorinated water for 48 hours), owner Anthony Arceneax has been serving clean and tasty crawfish for 33 years. There are a few other menu options (try the bread pudding), but of course it’s the mouthwatering crawfish that make the long trip to Rayne, the so-called “Frog Capital of the World,” actually worth it. Just remember the restaurant’s advice: “If you’re lost or at the end of the world, you’re almost here.” (Note: Hawk’s is only open seasonally, from January to June.)
Best Sandwich: Oyster Po’Boy, Domilise’s Restaurant (New Orleans)
Photo by Amanda L. via Yelp
Going strong since 1924, this neighborhood joint is the best place in the Crescent City to sample its beloved hometown sandwich, the po’boy. As all good po’boys do, this beauty starts with a long and crusty French-style roll from bakery Leidenheimer’s, and it’s topped with a mound of crispy cornmeal-fried Gulf oysters. Order it “dressed” and it’ll come topped with lettuce, tomato, and mayo.
Best Seafood Shack: Big John’s Seafood Patio (Erath)
Best Soup: Gumbo at Dooky Chase (New Orleans)
Yelp/ Cynthia N.
Dooky Chase is one of New Orleans’ most legendary restaurants, largely thanks to its legendary chef and proprietor, 95-year-old Leah Chase. Her gumbo is the platonic ideal of this Creole classic, made with a dark roux and loaded with shrimp, Creole sausage, smoked sausage, beef, ham, oysters, and chicken wings. It’s thickened with file powder instead of okra, and even the most serious of the city’s gumbo connoisseurs will tell you that hers is the best around.
Best Sports Bar: Cooter Brown’s Tavern & Oyster Bar (New Orleans)
Seafood-loving sports fans can have it all at Cooter Brown's. Picked as the best sports bar in NOLA year after year by locals, it’s a fan favorite because of the deluxe oyster bar and hometown specialties like alligator sausage po’boys — not to mention the hundreds of beer offerings (84 on tap), tons of flat-screen TVs, plus a deluxe sports package that ensures every game being played will be shown.
Best Steakhouse: Dickie Brennan’s (New Orleans)
Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse/Yelp
This French Quarter power broker staple, which is located in a clubby, basement-level space, is a regular hangout for the city’s wheelers and dealers and high-rollers. With a swanky bar and six private dining rooms, Dickie Brennan’s serves USDA Prime steaks with a creative New Orleans twist; the 6-ounce house filet is topped with fried oysters and béarnaise sauce, the barbecue rib-eye is topped with Abita beer barbecue shrimp; and any steak can be topped with jumbo lump crabmeat or Danish blue cheese. That’s not to say that you should avoid unadorned steaks; the 16-ounce strip is seared in a cast-iron skillet and just might be New Orleans’ finest steak. For more states, check out our ultimate guide to the best food and drink in every state for 2019.