Seven tips to eating like a New Orleans local


Barbecue Shrimp Toast is served at Willa Jean. The dish featured a barbecue shrimp and edible flowers. Photo credit: Tess Rowland

Andrew Lang

New Orleans may be known for its food culture, but it’s easy to miss out on everything this foodie city has to offer. If you want to avoid being a New Orleans-food plebeian, here are some must-follow rules.

1. Hole-in-the-wall places are often the best places. I don’t care if the building is four square feet. I don’t care if the floor hasn’t been cleaned for over a week. You will miss out on some premier cuisine if you refuse to try food from places that look a little rough around the edges.

2. Likewise, sometimes those meals that are the least aesthetically pleasing will taste the best. That grey ugly mush will be absolutely fantastic. Judge by flavor, not appearance.

3. If it sounds like weird ingredients that don’t fit together in a dish, try it. Our mortal minds sometimes can’t process the unique flavor combinations that some people in this city will throw together. Only by tasting can we experience their genius.

4. Get all over the city. Don’t just stick to Uptown. Head to the French Quarter, go to the Garden District, feast in Mid-City. Satisfy your hunger everywhere to fully experience New Orleans⁠.

5. Get rid of your preconceived notions of what certain dishes will taste like. Some people in this city know how to turn something as simple as plain grilled chicken into a flavor you’ve never experienced before through what I can only assume is some sort of voodoo magic.

6. Speaking of preconceived notions, I don’t care what you think you like or don’t like. If you don’t break that down and start trying things you wouldn’t normally think you like, you’ll always be missing out on something. And that something could very well have been the best meal of your life.

7. Get some home cooking. I know many of you aren’t from New Orleans. Find someone who is and worm your way into some cookouts or some meals with their family. I don’t care that you think it’s weird. Make it happen. You need to try that pot of gumbo their family makes and go to a crawfish boil to truly experience this city.

Follow these rules if you want to make it into the New Orleans-food elite. Now, it’s important to note, you will sometimes miss. There will be adventures when you order, you’ll get your meal and it will taste terrible. It happens. No one bats 1,000. But, don’t let those bad meals scare you away from the great ones. Don’t let the fear of eating something bad, rob you of the joy of eating something scrumptious that you wouldn’t have tried before. Now get out there and eat.

Barbecue Shrimp Toast is served at Willa Jean. The dish featured a barbecue shrimp and edible flowers. Photo credit: Tess Rowland