A Short But Definitive List of My Personal Nola Food Favorites to Support Outside the Quarter

I KNOW, what a long title!!

So my brother is flying into town today (!!!) and I’m so excited for him to visit New Orleans! We’re originally from Maryland and odd enough you see quite a few Maryland transplants down here, at least from the license plates. It makes sense that there is a seamless transition–Maryland is a seafood mecca for crabs, has a rugged yet urban appeal to some degree… Except New Orleans is much cooler.

Anywho, I’m already devising in my mind where to take my brother for classic New Orleans food that I want him to experience. I’m talking the favorites–red beans, chicken, gumbo, jambalaya, grits, fried green tomatoes, catfish, poboys, etc. Nevertheless, I’m not going to be a vegetarian for the next week (sorry bout it) because it is so damn difficult to eat like a veg when someone wants to eat around the city!

Chrissy Teigen recently posted a question on Twitter about the best gumbo in New Orleans and the vast majority of commenters recommended places in the French Quarter, specifically places that are expensive as fuck. I’m not opposed to having the best food possible at the proper occasions, but I can’t afford to eat at a place with a $30+ dollar entree and personally, there are SO MANY BUSINESSES outside of the Quarter that do NOT get much love simply because there are frankly a shitload of people who visit New Orleans and never leave the Quarter. It’s bizarre.

So behold–my short but sweet list of places I’m definitely taking my brother, and if you come visiting on a relative budget or want to travel outside downtown you can check out too!

1. Melba’s

HOLY SHIT I LOVE MELBA’S, OMFG OMFG OMFG. It’s open 24 hours and the style is relatively cafeteria-like–there’s a big glass case in the front with gumbo, jambalaya, cabbage, sausage, green beans, grits, cornbread, stuffed green bell peppers, etc. I usually order a stuffed pepper plate which comes with one side and grits or cornbread. I always go for mac & cheese (they use these divine long spaghetti-like-yet-hollow noodles, it’s fantastic) and grits. The grits are perfection with the perfect proportion of bite and smoothness. I’ve also gotten catfish but to me it’s a touch too thick, I like very thin cut catfish. The 9th Ward Gumbo is the BEST. Boyfriend usually gets a poboy with cabbage, which he is a fan of. I’m not a huge cabbage person, but when you taste it it’s actually excellent! Also, the restaurant is tucked in St. Roch, aka a 15~ minute walk from Frenchmen Street. The decor is also bright and cheery and lovely, overall it just makes my heart full and happy every time I visit.

2. Willie Mae’s

Okay, I know this sounds like a cheat because everyone goes to Willie Mae’s when they visit Nola. It’s the best fried chicken IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY so of course it’s gonna get all the publicity for chicken spots. However, they’ve been running a Groupon recently for $20 worth of food for $7, so I’m a touch confused on how they can have hour-long lines around the block in the Treme but also need to get some people in the door. Take it for what you wish, but THAT CHICKEN. STOP. You CANNOT COME TO NEW ORLEANS WITHOUT TRYING WILLIE MAE’S. I have never had a crust like that on chicken and when you get any piece bone-in it is so unbelievably juicy I can’t even hang. The red beans are also super creamy and flavorful, not a huge fan of the peas, they taste canned but it’s always good to get something green in on such a heavy meal. Will note, GO TO THE ORIGINAL LOCATION IN THE TREME, the 2nd location in Uptown IS slower and you can sit immediately but in my personal opinion the service at Treme is so much better–the servers are kind and just really, really amazing. In Uptown I’ve had some servers act like I’m ruining their day by coming in to eat. So off to Treme for chicken! And…

3. Zara’s

Awww Zara’s!!! Zara’s, the Lil Giant Supermarket (I’m not joking) is up on Prytania in Uptown and it’s a locally owned and operated grocery store. It’s a lot smaller than the Rouses or Winn Dixie but it has a great stock of everyday items and a bomb ass deli counter. These POBOYS oh my GOD!!!! The shrimp poboy is massive and the french bread is perfect–not too thick and chewy, which can be an issue with a poboy. There is also a hot bar with mac and cheese, meat pies, spaghetti, etc. depending upon the day. You can also get MUFFALETTAS (!!! how have I forgotten to talk about muffalettas?!?!) which is THE BEST cold cut-like sandwich I have EVER HAD. I am ADDICTED to muffalettas and they are one of the hardest things giving up to go veg. So Zara’s is the local beat to get a quick poboy and sides, they also have an outdoor patio so you can buy a six pack and kick back and eat and make some conversation. I always end up meeting somebody as they walk by and talking about the weather or conspiracy theories or the like.

Wish my brother a great time and if you come to Nola soon, check these out!


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