Flavor, it goes without saying, is a priority of just about every restaurant or bar. And there are dishes (and drinks) that’ll knock each of the five basic tastes — sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami — out of the park. We’ll be mapping the biggest flavor hits of cities across the country, as part of Eater’s partnership with MOFAD and Infiniti USA. First stop: New Orleans. In a city known for embracing all things big and bold, here are 10 places that do wonders with the five flavors.Read More
The Supercharged Flavor Guide to New Orleans
This Magazine Street confectionery treats sugar as an art form, serving up some of the loveliest cakes, cookies, and candies in town. It dots chocolate bars with candied rose petals and pistachios, tops sundaes with macarons, and transforms brown butter into a chocolate covered bonbon. Don’t forget to buy some of those colorful macarons to save for later – especially the ones in New Orleans-centric flavors like King Cake and Bananas Foster.
Morning Call Coffee Stand
You can’t have New Orleans without hot beignets. The traditional style, topped not with a dusting of powdered sugar but with a mound of it, might look excessive, but somehow it delivers the perfect ratio of sweetness to golden-fried goodness. Though the famous Cafe du Monde captures the attention of most visitors, Morning Star — now with a new location in City Park — has been a local favorite for decades. Just don’t wear a dark shirt: That sugar gets everywhere.
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When it comes to pickles and all things sour, chef Alon Shaya’s new and immensely popular ode to Israeli cuisine offers both in spades. Delightful little cornichons, harissa, and red onion bring bright acidity to silky hummus topped with a soft boiled egg, while Shaya’s ikra, a spread made with paddlefish roe, gets a sour note from its light, cream cheese-like base. Start your meal with those, and a plate of pickled cauliflower, cucumber, watermelon, and cabbage, and eat it all with the restaurant’s exceptional fresh pita bread.
This relatively new addition to the Mid-City dining scene is turning heads with its “Mekong Delta-meets-Mississippi Delta” menu. While chef Michael Gulotta knows a thing or two about pho and banh mi, the real knockouts on his menu are a plate of fried P&J oysters with Nước chấm mayo and, the kicker, a beautifully funky and tart pickled bleu cheese salad. This might sound alarming, but the ingredients all work in weird, wonderful harmony, with the sour side of the cheese cutting through the richness.
When you combine cured meats and oily pickled olive salad (otherwise known as giardiniera) with cheese on a round Italian loaf, you get the muffaletta, a classic (and enormous) New Orleans sandwich. Cochon Butcher, chef Donald Link’s casual sandwich shop and emporium of all things swine, has one of the best in the city, served hot and melty. Every layer, from the provolone to the briny olive salad to the thick stack of house-cured salami, mortadella, and capicola, gets its kick from salt, but the result isn’t overpowering; it’s simply satisfying.
It might seem counterintuitive that there aren’t too many straight-up Cajun restaurants in New Orleans, but that’s been the case for some time now. Still, hit this Mid-City gem for a real and excellent taste of Cajun Country, and order the spot-on fried pork cracklins. A dose of salt and Cajun spice makes these crisp pieces of pig fat and skin irresistible — you’d be licking the bag if it were socially acceptable.
The Empire Bar at Broussard's
Generally, New Orleanians are way more into “butter” than “bitter.” But if you want that bitter bite in a classic form, head to the gorgeously renovated, marble-topped Empire Bar. The sazerac here is more bracing than most, thanks to an over-generous helping of Peychaud’s bitters. You might also encounter bitterness in the curmudgeonly demeanor of famed bartender Paul Gustings, but know that, like his sazerac, there’s also some sweetness behind that gruff exterior.
Debates loom large about whether New Orleans actually invented cocktails, but they were certainly perfected here, and then perfected once more with the advent in recent years of neo-speakeasies like Cure. Here, bartender Ryan Gannon serves, among other creative drinks, a Negroni variant called the “Jabroni,” in which he swaps the herbal bitterness of Campari for fragrant bitter orange and uses brandy instead of gin. The result is bitter and boozy enough to light up a room but otherwise unlike your basic negroni.
Drago's Seafood Restaurant
There is a dish in New Orleans that has become so crazily popular lately that it seems to be on nearly every menu in town. It’s “char-broiled” or “chargrilled” oysters, and if you want to sample the original, head to Drago’s. You’ll be in for a seriously savory treat: Huge Louisiana bivalves drenched in a garlic, herb, and lemon butter sauce then set alight over an open flame. Even better, there’ll be all that rich, umami-packed sauce left in the shells for you to mop up with French bread.
R & O's Pizza Restaurant
Over in an area called Bucktown, just on the Jefferson Parish side of the city, you’ll find plenty of seafood shacks and other fine local fare. But the one that truly stands out is actually a red-sauce Italian spot with some of the best seafood and meatiest po’ boys in town. Order the sloppy roast beef, which is chopped (not sliced) for maximum tenderness and then drowned in a dark, fragrant, savory gravy and served on seeded French bread. If there exists a Platonic ideal of the roast beef po’ boy, this is it.
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