Visiting New Orleans? Here's 5 of the best things to eat and drink

Todd A. Price
Southern Kitchen

New Orleans is one of America's greatest food cities. It has its own cuisine. It boasts some of America's grandest and greatest restaurants. The quick access to the Gulf of Mexico means shrimp, oysters and fish are fresh and abundant. And with one of the nation's largest Vietnamese populations, the pho and banh mi sandwiches can't be beat. Five dishes and drinks are just an appetizer, but you have to start somewhere.

Leah Chase, owner of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, prepares for lunch in New Orleans in 2009.

Fried chicken

Where: Dooky Chase's Restaurant

Fried chicken is not unique to New Orleans, but the city takes the dish seriously. Excellent fried chicken can be found at gas stations and corner stores, but the historic Dooky Chase's Restaurant makes some of the greatest in town. In the era before integration, Leah Chase, who died in 2019 at the age of 96, turned this place into an elegant retreat for Black diners. Her family continues the tradition with a menu of Creole favorites like white beans, gumbo, shrimp Clemenceau and, of course, Leah's fried chicken.

2301 Orleans Ave., New Orleans, (504) 821-0600

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Gumbo at Li'l Dizzy’s Cafe in the Treme neighborhood of New Orleans.

Gumbo

Where: Li'l Dizzy's

Gumbo can be tricky to define. The thick soup might have sausage, okra, shrimp, chicken or crabs. At higher-end restaurants, like Emeril's, gumbo can be as dark as the Mississippi from a deep, toasty roux. During Lent, locals devour an (almost) meat-free gumbo made with a long list of greens. At Li'l Dizzy's, a neighborhood favorite not far from the French Quarter, the seafood gumbo has a light broth and is packed with creatures from land and sea: sausage, ham, shrimp and crabs. It's a fine example of the kind of gumbo often found in homes and rarely at restaurants.

1500 Esplanade Ave., New Orleans, (504) 766-8687

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Po-boy

Where: Bevi Seafood

The quintessential New Orleans sandwich goes on the local version of French bread, which has shatteringly crisp crust and a pillow-soft interior. The filling could be fried seafood, cold cuts or roast beef dripping with gravy. Ordered it "dressed," and at most places that means lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and mayonnaise. Bevi specializes in seafood, so the shrimp, catfish and oysters are fresh and well-fried. But Bevi also makes one of the city's best roast beef po-boys.

236 N. Carrollton Ave., New Orleans, (504) 488-7503

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The Sazerac is the official cocktail of New Orleans. (Sazerac House / Courtesy photo)

Sazerac

Where: Jewel of the South

When made right, the Sazerac cocktail balances boozy rye whiskey, aromatic Peychaud's bitters and a hint of anise. The drink, with roots in the pre-Prohibition era, can be found in the hands of many locals, as they sit down for dinner and relax after work. Too often, even in New Orleans, the Sazerac is not made well. At Jewel of the South in the French Quarter, you are guaranteed a textbook Sazerac. Head bartender and partner Chris Hannah, who won a James Beard Award while at the French 75 bar, has an encyclopedic knowledge of the drinks and techniques of barmen from before the age of Prohibition.

1026 Saint Louis St, New Orleans, (504) 265-8816

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Snowball

Where: Hansen's

A snowball (often spelled "snoball") is nothing like a snow cone, as any New Orleanian will explain. A proper snowball has shaved ice as soft and fluffy as, well, snow. The ice then gets drenched in flavored syrups from an always dizzyingly long menu. At Hansen's Sno-Bliz, a family-run stand that opened in 1939, owner Ashley Hansen takes extra care with her ice-cold treats. She makes the syrups daily and offers unusual options like cream of coconut, tart lemonade and ginger cayenne. Hansen's almost always has a line out the door, but the wait is worth it. As the stand's motto says, "There are no shortcuts to quality."

4801 Tchoupitoulas St., New Orleans, (504) 891-9788

Frugé Seafood harvest the first crawfish for the kick-off of crawfish season. December 6, 2020.

Bonus: Crawfish

Where: Clesi's

Boiled crawfish goes in the pot still wriggling. That means you can only get this spicy treat when crawfish are in season, which most years is early spring to mid-summer. Order by the pound. Add some extra fixins, like sausage, potatoes or mushrooms. And start tearing through those tails. Clesi's in Mid-City ranks among the city's best boilers. Eat the crawfish there or take them over to nearby City Park for a true New Orleans-style picnic. (Bevi Seafood, see above, makes excellent boiled crawfish).

4323 Bienville St., New Orleans, (504) 909-0108

Jackson Square and the French Quarter of New Orleans, 2021.

News tips? Story ideas? Questions? Call reporter Todd Price at 504-421-1542 or email him at taprice@gannett.com. Sign up for The American South newsletter. Follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.