Eating isn’t a casual pastime in New Orleans, and it’s certainly not something we do out of necessity. Food is a ritual, an occasion, a chance to pour wine and savor a taste born of hundreds of years of combined culinary traditions. Creole, Cajun, Southern Coastal, soul–these are the flavors of New Orleans, transcending class and race lines to bring the city together for a meal (or two, or three). In an ancient part of New Orleans hide our most venerated and accomplished restaurants. They lurk down tiny alleys or behind delicate signs; some have served the same dishes for a hundred years. Why mess with perfection?
Here in the Vieux Carre is the South’s oldest restaurant, Antoine’s, founded in 1840 and still creating the landmark Creole dishes it made famous: Oysters Rockefeller, Pompano Pontchartrain, Eggs Sardou. Here is forward-thinking Le Meritage, pairing exquisite Southern Coastal dishes like the summer menu’s Foie Gras and Fig Terrine or Pan-Roasted Halibut alongside wines creatively characterized by flavor profile. Here is Brennan’s, creator of the world-famous flaming Bananas Foster dessert. Or breakfast, if that’s when you prefer it; Brennan’s doesn’t mind.
The French Quarter is home to these institutions and more–the confectioner’s sugar-dusted patio of Cafe Beignet comes to mind (educate yourself: a beignet, pronounced ben-yay, is a hot, crunchy pillow of fried dough, buried in a mountain of powdered sweetness). So does the legendary shrimp remoulade of Tujague’s, the second-oldest restaurant in New Orleans, or the chilled, salty savor of oysters on the half-shell at Acme Oyster House. A buttery brown sugar aroma, carrying hints of sweet Southern pecans, drifts from the doors of the Royal Praline Company, infusing Royal Street with candied air.
Like window-shopping, reading about New Orleans’ storied cuisine is only a fleeting pleasure. Tasting it, though, creates a lifetime of memories. It would be a shame to spend your New Orleans travel budget on inedible things, or those you couldn’t even take home. Hotels in the beautiful, historic Vieux Carre can eat up money faster than a NOLA local can suck down a snowball! Luckily, a comfortable, economical alternative lies just outside the bounds of the Quarter: the Hilton Garden Inn. Next to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and downtown’s eclectic nightlife, the Hilton Garden Inn is known for its contemporary comfort and gracious Southern hospitality.
Your stomach is rumbling, and now you have no excuse. We’ll see you soon in New Orleans.
Guest Post: Written by Lianna Patch