Few places are as worthy of a culinary-themed vacation as New Orleans. Visitors can quickly fill their itineraries — and stomachs — with nothing but samples of the city’s iconic specialties: gumbo, jambalaya, crawfish etouffee, red beans and rice, po-boys, muffulettas and beignets. A gastronomic lineup like that needs a careful game plan; here’s how we ate our way through the Big Easy in one weekend.
Cafe Du Monde
800 Decatur St.
Arrive at Louis Armstrong International Airport on an early flight and have the cabbie drop you off at this quintessential outdoor cafe in the French Market. A cup of coffee au lait (mixed half and half with hot milk) and an order of the famous beignets — fried dough sprinkled with powdered sugar — will fuel the long day ahead. Burn off the calories with a stroll along the Mississippi River, just one block away.
Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House
144 Bourbon St.
Bourbon House is dedicated to local, in-season seafood; the Seafood Boucherie (smoked redfish rillettes, seafood boudin and the chef's daily terrine) is just one savory sample of the Gulf’s finest. Adding to the local flavor, the dining room’s huge picture windows overlook Bourbon Street. This notorious road is less bead-filled during the afternoon, the perfect time to take in the strip if you’re not apt to enjoy it more after hours with an oversized Hurricane cocktail in hand.
625 Charles St.
A newer addition to the French Quarter culinary scene, Sylvain is understated charm with a contemporary mind-set — embodied perfectly in the Roasted Pork Po Boy (topped with sharp provolone and broccoli rabe on ciabatta). Date night here would be hard to beat, particularly if you cap the evening off with live jazz in one of the clubs lining nearby Frenchmen Street.
417 Royal St.
Wine and dessert for breakfast? Yes, please! Brennan’s is an institution in NOLA, a true throwback to old Southern elegance where the meal is served in courses and leisurely enjoyment of the food is encouraged. Does it get any more decadent than Eggs La Nouvelle Orleans — poached eggs served on a bed of lump crabmeat topped with brandy-cream sauce? Actually, yes — Brennan’s is known as the birthplace of Bananas Foster.
There’s always something to celebrate in New Orleans. We were in town for the Second Annual New Orleans Oyster Festival, where the turnout defied any notion that Gulf Coast seafood is unsafe to eat post-Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Festival-goers slurped oysters raw, charbroiled and cooked every way in between. “It’s a celebration for the oyster itself, and the oyster fishermen. We donate the proceeds to conservatories that are trying to restore wetlands,” explained festival board member Chris Berg of New Orleans Fish House, a major seafood supplier in the region.
Your next chance to sample the delicacies of the Louisiana waterways is Sept. 9-11 during the Fifth Annual New Orleans Seafood Festival (www.neworleansseafoodfestival.com).
Mr. B’s Bistro
201 Royal St.
With a focus on Creole cuisine, Mr. B’s is the right spot for Shrimp & Grits (Gulf shrimp are wrapped in applewood smoked bacon atop grits with red-eye gravy). Afterward, take in one last picturesque night walking through the historic Jackson Square, where the castlelike St. Louis Cathedral sits.
Follow Amber Ray on Twitter @AmberatMetro.