Chef Tory McPhail at Commander’s Palace (Photo: Joshua Brasted)
When traveling to New Orleans — one of the finest food destinations in the US — don’t cling to the list of obvious restaurants from the tourist guidebooks. Instead, opt to eat like a born and raised NOLA foodie. The Crescent City offers a mind-boggling variety of cultures and culinary traditions, but authentic Creole food, the ultimate mix of its European and African heritage, is what it’s best known for. These four spots will give you a meal to remember:
Jacues-Imo’s combines the best of gourmet, upscale food with a laid-back atmosphere. The restaurant is nestled on Oak St. Uptown, a stretch of restaurants and bars home to the beloved music venue Maple Leaf Bar. The menu combines Creole food, such as Shrimp Creole, Crawfish Étouffée, and Cajun Bouillabaisse with haute cuisine like Stuffed Quail, Paneed Rabbit and Country-fried Venison. The delectable sides suggest a more downhome New Orleans feel, including red beans & rice, corn macque chow, country greens and coleslaw.
Upperline’s mission is to be “a haven for our guests, restoring their serenity after the daily hassles of the world with great Louisiana food, serious wine, and Creole hospitality.” Before stepping into the restaurant, you can admire its quaint surroundings, complete with rustic homes and lush greenery. The restaurant serves up Creole fare like Duck and Andouille Gumbo, Fried Green Tomato with Shrimp Remoulade, Sauteed Baby Drum Meuniere, New Orleans-style Veal Grillades, and Honey-Pecan Bread Pudding.
Consistently voted one of the best restaurants in the city, Commander’s Palace is the ultimate destination for Creole food lovers. The dishes themselves are not only world-class in taste and presentation, but 90 percent of the ingredients come from “dirt to plate within 100 miles,” according to head chef Tory McPhail. You can enjoy dishes like Louisiana Oyster Fondue, Pecan-crusted Gulf Fish and the restaurant’s signature Turtle Soup finished tableside with dry sherry. Commander’s Palace is one of the fanciest restaurants in the city, so dress your best.
A New Orleanian’s Home/ Supper Clubs
Sometimes there’s no better place to find the best Creole food than in the home of a New Orleanian. Local home cooks often prepare Creole recipes handed down for generations, so they’ve perfected the authenticity of flavors and technique. To find your way into a New Orleanian’s kitchen, simply make friends — an easy task in this city — and bring up the request in a conversation about local culture and cuisine. If you already know a local, even better. Supper clubs, such as Mosquito Supper Club, offer another authentic local dining experience, as these pop-up events explore a range of southern and ethnic cuisines that often only natives know about.
Be prepared: Even at the dinner table, New Orleanians tend to talk about food — all the time.