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Dining is one of the greatest things about visiting New Orleans, because of the spicy food, the tradition, and the huge selection of restaurants to choose from. Some delicious local specialties include blackened chicken and fish, jumbalya, gumbo and crawfish, with the world famous tabasco sauce having originated only a few hours outside of the city. Some of the restaurants are five star gems that have been around for a century or more, serving ultra-gourmet creole food. These include Arnaud's and Galatoire's. But in New Orleans, even the most affordable places can become venerable institutions over time.
One can't miss place is Johnny's Po-Boy's, a tiny eatery in the French Quarter selling several dozen varieties of Po-Boys, the famous New Orleans submarine sandwich on French Bread. The oyster po-boy is among the most popular, but here you can get anything from cold cuts to french fries to chicken fingers to meatballs on your po-boy. For maybe six dollars, you're filled up for the afternoon. The local color in this place adds to the experience. Another well known New Orleans sandwich is the muffaletta, a blend of Italian meats and giardinera/olive spread usually served in very large portions. These can be found in many parts of New Orleans, including the small Italian grocery called Central Grocery located in the heart of the French Quarter. Speaking of Po-Boy's, if you are looking for something a bit more authentic and not as touristy, Mother's on Poydras Ave downtown is STRONGLY recommend. It is a great place for people who are attending events in the convention center. It is just 1 or 2 blocks up Poydras from the Hilton. (Though the food is authentic, Mother's is actually one of the most touristy po boy joints in town.)
At dinner time, some of the best restaurants are run by the famed TV chef Emeril Lagasse. (
http://www.emerils.com/restaurants/ ) His restaurant NOLA is especially good and has a great atmosphere, although his original restaurant, Emeril's, is remarkable as well. No matter what you order from the menu at these places, chances are it will be outstanding. There is also an Emeril's Delmonico steakhouse in town. Many consider Emeril's to be too touristy, but the food and service is excellent.
Commanders Palace, one of the better know restaurants in New Orleans, has been serving great food to both tourist and locals since the 1880's. Many great chef began their carreers here, including Emeril Lagasse. Its located in the Garden District near one of the cities amazingly atmospheric cemeteraries.
For late night or morning coffee, there is of course a mandatory stop at the Cafe Du Monde, http://www.cafedumonde.com which has served coffee and beignets, or French doughnuts, almost uninterrupted since the late 1700's. This is also a great cheap breakfast, a few beignets with coffee or their specialty, cafe au lait for $3.50 total to go, sitting on the Mississippi River on those warm New Orleans mornings. If it is a weekend, be sure to get there early because Cafe Du Monde is a New Orleans institution. Another all-night favorite is the Clover Grille or Rosie's Diner, where you can get great cheap diner food in good portions any time of the day or night at either location. This is especially helpful after a long night in one of the city's many bars. And speaking of breakfast, keep your eye out for a fine French bakery a few doors down to the left of the Front entrance of the St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square (this bakery la Madeleine has not reopened since the flood, but you can visit its other branch at 601 S. Carrollton Ave. corner of St. Charles Ave., New Orleans 70118 TEL: 504-861-8662). The pastries and tarts in there are very close to what you might come across one morning in France. An even better French bakery La Boulangerie is on Magazine St. (river side, 2nd block uptown from Napoleon Avenue). One other key New Orleans experience is the Sunday Brunch. There are two places most renowned for this - Brennan's, http://www.brennansneworleans.com/ and the Court of Two Sisters, http://www.courtoftwosisters.com/ both of which are also five-star restaurants at dinner time as well. Brunch at either place will run upwards of $35, but the experience and the cuisine are unforgettable. At Brennan's, you may even want to stop in to savor the Bananas Foster for dessert, which were invented there. There is not enough room in this short piece to do justice to the amazing dining scene of New Orleans.
Other popular favorites include Commanders Palace, known as the place where Emeril Lagasse got his start and also known for its gourmet creole seafood entrees. There is also Chef Paul Prudhomme's restaurant, K-Paul's and Antoine's, open since 1840, and the famed ACME Oyster House. This is one city where you are crazy to bother eating at any chain places. Go out and explore, and you will quickly come across some new favorites that don't show up on the tourism websites, whether you're looking for barbeque, fine French food, hearty classic Southern food, or whatever.