New Orleans has rightfully earned its spot as one of the culinary epicenters of the southeastern USA.
There are as many restaurants as there are rich stories and legendary music venues in this city. It’s almost impossible not to discover your new favorite meal in its many neighborhoods. Traditional dishes keep getting better while new international influences push flavors to new heights. Dynamic chefs, creative mixologists and trailblazing innovators – there’s a story and a character behind every dish in New Orleans.
The Original Charbroiled Oyster
By the time the lunch crowd starts to gather, the open-air kitchen at Drago’s Seafood Restaurant is already in full-swing. Drago’s famous charbroiled oysters are cooking on the open flame as the bivalves are doused with a concoction of butter, garlic, pepper, oregano, Parmesan and Romano cheeses, and flat-leaf parsley. Patrons making their way to their seats stop by for a peek. Sometimes they even catch Tommy Cvitanovich, general manager, behind the grill. Equal parts showman and kitchen whiz, Cvitanovich is happy to discuss the merits of the original charbroiled oyster in town, which happens to be his very own creation. Freshly shucked oysters expertly broiled with the perfect topping are a must-eat, but there are other fun dishes on the menu worth adding to your order: Seafood lovers should try the delectable barbecue shrimp, while the more adventurous might crave the tasty blackened alligator tacos.
Cooking the legendary charbroiled oysters over an open flame at Drago’s
Craft Cocktails, from Classic to Cool
Grabbing a drink before or after dinner makes perfect sense in New Orleans, birthplace of the cocktail. Head to Freret Street, an up-and-coming thoroughfare in the Uptown neighborhood. It’s lined with coffee shops, indie stores and plenty of stylish, offbeat eateries and bars, including Cure, winner of the 2018 James Beard Award for Outstanding Cocktail Program. Naturally, it’s a popular happy hour spot. There’s a champagne punch on offer during happy hour that is delightfully boozy and bubbly – but the craft cocktails are the main highlight inside this renovated fire station turned trendy bar. Ceiling high bar shelves are lined with bottles of spirits waiting to be transformed. Behind the bar, mixologists whip up rye whiskey Sazeracs and blackberry liqueur-infused Brambles with expert precision. Try the ruby-red Gunshop Fizz and be delighted by how the strawberries, simple syrup and citrus offset the Peychaud bitters. Or, sip an updated Mardi Gras classic, the Ojen Frappe, a fancy pink concoction resembling a snow cone tipped into a glass. There’s also a selection of bar tapas, such as Nonna’s meatballs, white bean bruschetta and smoked trout dip, to pair with your drinks. It will be hard to decide what you like best: the chic vibe or the extraordinary cocktails. Of course, after one slow satisfying sip, you’ll know the answer.
A handmade cocktail ready for sipping at Cure
Southeast Asia Meets Louisiana
Located in the Arts/Warehouse District, Maypop is the latest dining experiment from Chef Michael Gulotta, a New Orleans chef who has appeared on the Today Show and Iron Chef. The décor here pairs modern industrial with a dose of Southern warmth. The dining space is sectioned by an enormous two-sided wood mural, giving you a hint at the restaurant’s concept: one side depicts the Mississippi River Delta while the other showcases Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. A New Orleans native, Gulotta reveres his roots while infusing his favorite comfort food, Vietnamese cuisine, into the menu. The result is creative combinations such as crispy fried oysters served with bourbon soy aioli, spicy cucumber and Manchego cheese; and hand-pulled noodles tossed with blue crab and pork sausage. The dishes here transport you from the Louisiana bayou to Southeast Asia in one bite.
Dining at Maypop with the mural representing both Louisiana and Vietnam in the background
Fly into Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans then rent a car, or take a taxi or shuttle into the city.