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New Orleans food is legendary, from the 200-year-old classics of Creole cuisine to the fresh upstarts emerging from the ever-inventive, constantly-evolving restaurant scene. Here are five dishes, old and new, that stand out in the city’s massive library of menus:
- Souffle potatoes at Arnaud’s French 75 Bar. In the cozy jewel-box of a bar that adjoins one of New Orleans’ grande dame restaurants, the humble potato is elevated: light-as-air potato balloons halfway between chip and French fry, with a dusting of salt and Bearnaise for dipping, they make the most elegant of simple snacks. Bonus: the bar is a destination for expertly-built cocktails, from the classic beverage that gives the spot its name to original creations from its award-winning chief libationist Chris Hannah. Take a trip upstairs to view an eccentric collection of Mardi Gras gowns and other memorabilia.
- Roasted Whole Cauliflower at Domenica. Cauliflower for dinner in New Orleans? Yes, really. Chef Alon Shaya, who calls John Besh’s bustling downtown Italian spot home, roasts whole heads to a caramelized crisp in the same wood-burning oven the restaurant uses for its signature pizzas. The appetizer is served with tangy whipped goat cheese on the side.
- Whole grilled fish at Peche Seafood Grill. Peche, in the gallery-and-museum-packed Warehouse District, is award-winning Chef Donald Link’s latest effort, and so far it’s been a home run. In 2014, it received the prestigious James Beard Foundation Award for best new restaurant. Sourcing the nearby Gulf of Mexico, Peche — which also features a raw bar — presents its seafood with less heavy sauces or batter-frying than is traditional in Louisiana cuisine. The signature whole grilled fish with herbaceous green sauce is fresh, local cooking at its best.
- The Notorious Bacon Sundae at Green Goddess. Tucked away in a picturesque French Quarter alley, Green Goddess has a reputation for fanciful, innovative vegetarian and vegan-friendly food, not easy to come by in the indulgence-friendly Big Easy. But, it wouldn’t be New Orleans without a little bit of decadence, and to that end Green Goddess presents its “notorious” signature dessert: locally-made coffee pecan brittle ice cream from the Creole Creamery, topped with Nueske’s applewood bacon in a bacon caramel sauce and finished with smoked whipped cream, a Luxardo cherry and a dusting of black lava salt.
- Café Brulot at Galatoire’s. The century-old Galatoire’s is a bastion of old New Orleans glamour amid the strip clubs and frozen-daiquiri stands of Bourbon Street. A meal in its tiled and mirrored dining room is a tour of the best in classic Creole cuisine, from Shrimp Remoulade to Trout Amandine. And you’d be a fool not to top off such a meal with the truly over-the-top creation Café Brulot. Hot, strong black coffee is spiked with cloves, lemon zest, cinnamon sticks, oranges, brandy and Cointreau. Then, at tableside in a silver bowl, the whole thing is set on fire.