*After months (we booked this trip in March) of trying to say New Orleans, I found that I was always awkward (whether I sounded too out of town-y or too in town-y) and settled on the much simpler and probably incredibly annoying NOLA (I imagine this is something like saying SoCal which I was told all southern Californians hate).
So, for those of you that don’t know, I was in New Orleans for the last ten days of May. TEN DAYS! Can we talk about that for a second?! One of the reasons I jumped on my current job offer when I got it was because I would be starting with twice the vacation days that I had in Michigan. So I could take ten day trips and not cry internally that I’d have no real time off again until the following year. Of course this trip included two weekends and a holiday, which I appropriately spent at the National World War II museum. So ten days was really only five days of vacation. What what?!
I just counted (cause I’m a dork), and we managed to do over 60 distinct (we repeated some of them like beignets at Café du Monde because yum!) things in our ten days there. So instead of going over all sixty things, because that would take forever and be no fun (I tried this on my parents on Saturday, guys, none of us could pay attention for that long), I’m just gonna talk about the food!
Let’s be honest for a second, unlike some people, food (not drink) is the main reason I was excited for this trip. I love Cajun food. God knows why. I have no connection to Cajun cooking. I had never really cooked anything Cajun until a few years ago, and I think that’s around the first time I ate anything Cajun too. But since that first bite, I’ve loved Cajun food. And I was excited to finally get it from the source. It didn’t hurt that I ate very little (I couldn’t help some jambalaya here and there) Cajun food for the two months leading up to the trip.
Cuisine Unique to New Orleans
Boudin – ate the most times. Favorite was at Surrey’s in the form of sausage patties. Why? Because ever since I started watching Duck Dynasty with the crew in Michigan, I’ve been fascinated by boudin. It has to happen.
Gumbo – ate twice. Favorite was at Napoleon House.
Beignets – ate twice, only at Café Du Monde, perfect every time. Get them with café au lait. Dip them in café au lait. Enjoy. Great for soaking up alcohol.
Grits – ate twice, both at Surrey’s, my favorite brunch joint of the trip.
PoBoys – ate once. You may or may not know, I’m not huge on sandwiches. So I wasn’t as excited about this as I was about other foods. But I was happy to get some delicious catfish in me. And the sandwiches at Guy’s were so fresh I burned the bridge of my mouth. I just couldn’t wait to try it!
Snowballs – ate once. Like shaved ice in Hawaii. Like exactly the same. They have the same toppings and everything. We went to Hansen’s who make their own syrups from scratch. Highly recommend it.
Jambalaya – ate twice. Mother’s was probably my favorite one and I’d highly recommend the place if you just want to find a place where you can try a bunch of different Cajun foods! It’s not super fancy, but it’s good food, and that’s all that matters. Also had crawfish etouffee and red beans and rice.
Alligator sausage – ate once. Go to Dat Dog. Get the duck sausage too. If you can’t figure out your toppings (like me) tell them you’re helpless and they’ll recommend something to you. Trust their recommendation.
Ice cream – because I went with the boy who has admitted that if it were up to him he’d eat ice cream for every meal for the rest of his life. We went to Creole Creamery a whopping three times (the most revisited spot of the trip), and their flavors blew my mind (this is coming from the girl who usually has Salt and Straw, so take my word here). My favorites were Mango Unchained (this is literally the best ice cream I have ever had in my life), Dark Chocolate Five Spice (I got it two of the three times), and Thai Basil Coconut.
Burgers – I had one of the best burgers in a long time at Phil’s Grill. You basically build your own burger. But the thing that really matters, the burger patty itself, is cooked perfectly and super juicy.
Pizza – ate twice. I was drunk one of those times. But the better one, and I was actually sober for this one so I totally trust that judgment, was Domenica. This is run by the same Chef as Shaya (see below). We happened upon it totally by chance cause we were stuck across the street from it during a major downpour. After drawing out book-store-browsing as long as we both could muster (which is a pretty long time), we agreed we were both hungry and willing to suffer the rain (read, waterfall) and just run across the street. Of course we couldn’t actually just cross the street because the water would have been halfway up my shins if we did so we had to run around. It was worth it though. Amazing crust. Unique toppings. And it was happy hour – so half off our pizzas!
There were also three food experiences that really stood out.
First was K Paul’s Kitchen – our fancy dinner of the trip. Chef Paul Prudhomme wrote what I was told is the bible of Cajun cooking (I bought a copy by the way…I’m seriously considering pulling a Julie and Julia type experience on this book). We went as a group of six and were seated at the Chef’s Table (we felt pretty damn fancy). We had an awesome waitress who kind of bossed us around (but basically told us what not to order). My favorite appetizer was the fried green tomatoes with shrimp. My favorite entrée was the salmon. Get it. Seriously. Also I had a sazerac, one of my weird goals for this trip!
Second was Shaya’s. For those of you who follow me on Instagram (@actionsspeakloudest), you know that I have dubbed this the best Israeli food I’ve had outside of Israel. And I totally stand by that. When we were there there weren’t any available reservations until today (oddly enough), but we went in for lunch just to see if we could get in and didn’t even have to wait! For the true Israeli experience I recommend ordering at least one hummus and a few of the small plates to share around the table. Their pitas were warm and fresh from the oven! And they kept getting refreshed!
Third was the crawfish boil!!!! Luckily the boy has friends from Louisiana and one of them was nice enough to organize a crawfish boil. He brought the tools and the critters, we brought the veggies and the beer. This was my first time dealing with whole crawfish and while the whole thing was delicious, the wonderful thing about the boil was that it was a whole experience: shopping, prepping, cooking (…buying a fresh tank of gas), waiting, news papering, peeling, eating, and cleaning.
All in all, I’d say the food experience in New Orleans is on point. If you are a picky eater and you’re planning a trip to this city, make a deal with yourself to try everything once. I think the thing that surprised me most was how often we ate food that wasn’t Cajun. Because if it were up to me, I’d eat boudin, jambalaya, or red beans and rice every day for the rest of my life!