In today’s food-centric world, many cities have created their own dining scenes based on local or regional flavors. In New Orleans–the Creole capital of the world–traditional Southern dishes have undergone a food evolution where locals and visitors can experience modern takes on dishes that established the city as a hub of cultural and culinary excellence.
New Orleans has a variety of unique food traditions. From classic cocktails to babies baked in cakes, to the fancy sandwiches that are honored with week-long festivals, New Orleans represents a significant highlight in America’s culinary lineage.
NOLA takes its culinary arts seriously and, in the past several years, the cuisine combined together traditional and progressive new food trends. In addition, an influx of emerging industries, entrepreneurs, and young professionals moving into town has allowed restaurants to reimagined their menus, reinvent traditional Creole dishes, and bring innovative trends to the dining scene.
Traditional Recipes Reimagined
In New Orleans’ Warehouse District, the restaurant scene offers a range of traditionally-styled dishes and recipes that feature a contemporary twist. The district focuses on new chefs who are adding modern, gourmet flair to traditional New Orleans Cajun and Creole plates. As a result, the neighborhood has become a hub of inventive dining. Cochon and Butcher is one example of a restaurant that focuses on the famous southern traditions of whole-pig boucherie, while other restaurants–like Root–infuse a creative technique of reinventing traditional Creole dishes.
In earlier decades, NOLA was known for its many restaurants with very similar menus which is somewhat surprising for a food capital. The ethnic food choices in the city were also few and far between. In the past five years, Vietnamese culinary traditions have helped to revitalize the area. Several Vietnamese restaurants that now offer a spin on traditional NOLA dishes are popular destinations in the Uptown area’s up-and-coming neighborhoods. The fusion of flavors has created new favorites like the Vietnamese po-boy.
Diversified Menus and Dining Experiences
New Orleans is also packed with international culinary talents. When NOLA was limited in ethnic cuisine, two entrepreneurs sought to change that by creating Dinner Lab. Although no longer in existence, the endeavor created dining experiences with emerging chefs from all over the city. Now, a diversified culinary scene offers some new spins on flavorful and exotic dishes. While Creole and Cajun food will always remain the focus of NOLA’s dining scene, restaurants that feature new trends infuse a variety of distinct cultural tastes.
Peche is a restaurant that specializes in rustic cooking inspired from the dishes of Uruguay and Spain, but it also features the classic flavorings and ingredients of Lousiana bayou cuisine. In addition, meat lovers who seek an array of flavors should check out the Central City restaurant, Toups South. The “meatery” offers a menu with Cajun-styled pork, chicken, duck, and deer. Locally-inspired dishes to try include the cracklins and the biscuits with crab fat butter. BBQ beef deckle and baked beans are also a house favorite. To get the most out of the New Orleans experience, the rum and rye-infused port city drink and the Toups julep allow for a Southern fix that’s not quite the same anywhere else.
New Orleans locals love to lunch. The middle of the day sees restaurants crowded with young professionals ready to get a quick fix. In the past few years, NOLA saw a demand for quick and efficient gourmet meals. Since the aftermath of Katrina, the city saw a new set of people and ideas to the city, thus helping to revitalize New Orleans’ healthy cuisine evolution. Now, Downtown NOLA offers a large distribution of efficient and casual lunch offerings, while healthy and gourmet eateries have flourished in the city. Restaurants now offer seasonal ingredients and constantly reinvented menus.
The healthy gourmet eatery, City Greens, has also created its own farm where they grow bibb, basil, mixed greens, arugula, and microgreens on 9,000 square feet. The project ensures that natural products and growth processes are used to provide locals with the freshest ingredients within the farm to fork trend. Ingredients are delivered within hours of harvest. They also provide fresh greens to other restaurants around New Orleans.
Food entrepreneurs are maximizing on the potential to educate their customers. Specialty food shops help inform customers on products and where they come from. For example, Rare Cuts is a high-end meat curator that offers restaurant-style meats to customers. It allows them to purchase a selection of meats that chefs can access for their gourmet concoctions. Cooking classes also teach customers to properly prepare and cook these top-grade meat selections. In addition, private dinner parties are offered to offer insight into bold flavors.
New Orleans will always be a destination for historic dishes and spicy, decadent Creole food and culinary heritage. In the Big Easy, food traditions allow you to build a bond with your waiter, slowly indulge on a flavorful meal with seventeen forks, or savor a cocktail during lunchtime. As the city appeals to new development and culture, it can continue to be an inspiration for culinary creations. Dynamic flavors and fresh seafood also add to the tradition that locals and visitors won’t find in any other culinary city.