Wednesday, June 7, 2017

My Trip to New Orleans | What I Ate

What to Eat in New Orleans
Just last week I took a long-awaited trip to New Orleans, Louisiana with a friend and today I wanted to share with you all the delicious foods I ate on my vacation. New Orleans had been on my "to-visit" list for the longest time and I have no shame in admitting that the sole reason I wanted to visit was for the food. Full of rich and world-famous Cajun and Creole cuisines, the New Orleans food scene is vast and varied. In preparation for the trip, I had at least a couple of dozens of restaurants I wanted to visit but due to the short duration of our trip, we only managed to hit up a handful of places. Therefore, there's no doubt that I will be back for more. To read about my thoughts on everything we ate, click......

Acme Oyster House:
Arguably the most popular oyster restaurant in the French Quarter (and in New Orleans, for that matter), Acme is located just minutes away from our hotel. When we visited at around 5 PM on a busy Sunday, there was already a 45-minute wait. We were eventually seated at the bar, which was right in front of several oyster-shucking staff who took our order pretty promptly. Unfortunately, there was a huge delay for the chargrilled oysters (see below) and we ended up waiting at least 45 minutes for them to arrive.
What to Eat in New Orleans: Acme Oyster House | Chargrilled Oysters
Acme Oyster House | Chargrilled Oysters
Available in half a dozen for $12 or a full dozen for $20, the Chargrilled Oysters were sizzling hot oysters bathed in a yummy layer of herb and garlic butter sauce. The sauce was undeniably delicious but I personally thought the oysters were just a touch overcooked (hence their small, shriveled size). They were definitely worth trying once but not good enough to warrant a second visit.
Because we were in Louisianna, which is also known for their soft shell crab (amongst a plethora of other foods), we also ordered the Fried Soft Shell Crab Platter ($17 for One Crab). The texture of the crab was perfectly soft and crunchy at the same time but the batter was incredibly salty. The fries that came on the side were also rather limp and sad but the coleslaw was refreshing and zesty. Overall, my dining experience was just okay. This is the kind of place I would recommend trying once if the wait wasn't super busy but the food quality was barely decent so I can't see myself ever revisiting.
What to Eat in New Orleans: Acme Oyster House | Fried Soft Shell Crab Platter
Acme Oyster House | Fried Soft Shell Crab Platter
Cochon:
Located in the Warehouse District a 20-minute-walk away from the French Quarter, Cochon is a modern Cajun and Southern restaurant that was surprisingly busy on a Monday afternoon. The restaurant takes reservations online so make sure you book ahead to guarantee a table.
What to Eat in New Orleans: Cochon | Fried Alligator
Cochon | Fried Alligator
The Fried Alligator with Chili Garlic Mayonnaise ($12) was a small starter consisting of bite-sized fried alligator pieces smothered in a delicious (and slightly spicy) mayo drizzle. I've never had alligator meat before so I knew I had to try this dish. The alligator kind of tasted like a hybrid between chicken and calamari (squid); it was quite lean and pleasantly chewy. The mayo drizzle was right on point as well, super flavorful but not overly spicy or salty.
Next up we tried Cochon's Wood-Fired Oysters with Chili Garlic Butter ($12 for Half a Dozen) because my friend really enjoyed the oysters at Acme. In my opinion, these oysters were far superior in comparison. The garlic chili butter was lightly spicy and garlic-ically delicious. The oysters were cooked just right as well; they were super tender, retaining a soft juiciness that the Acme oysters could not compare.
What to Eat in New Orleans: Cochon | Wood Fired Oysters
Cochon | Wood-Fired Oysters
What to Eat in New Orleans: Cochon | Smothered Greens
Cochon | Smothered Greens
Next up is the Louisiana Cochon ($24), Cochon's signature dish that I had to order after reading a blog post praising its flavors and textures. Unfortunately, this was a pretty big let down. The dish was essentially a loosely-formed chunk of pulled pork, which was very salty and a bit dry. The dish is topped with two rock-hard cracklin (pork rind) pieces that were almost a bit too hard to chomp on. One redeeming quality of the dish was the nice bed of cabbage and pickled peach which was lightly sweet and not overly salty like the pork.
Lastly, we ordered a side of Smothered Greens ($7), which as explained by our server is a dish of collard greens cooked in chicken broth and mixed with bacon bits. Again, I thought the dish was just a tad too salty but the flavor was pretty unique so it's worth trying.
What to Eat in New Orleans: Cochon | Louisiana Cochon
Cochon | Louisiana Cochon
Another specialty of New Orleans, the Muffuletta is a large rounded sandwich first created by the owners of Central Grocery in 1906. The place is an unassuming Italian grocery store located right at the heart of the French Quarter. The price of these giant sandwiches appears to had recently increased (again) to ~$12 for half a sandwich. However, the amount is still fairly reasonable considering that half a sandwich easily feeds two people.
What to Eat in New Orleans: Central Grocery | Muffuletta
Central Grocery | Muffuletta
The bread was a pretty dense sesame bun and sandwiched in between were layers of deli meats, salami, cheese, and the signature olive salad, which is made with chopped olive, carrots, and celery. I found the filling to be overly salty, which was improved by removing a layer of the salami slices and most of the olive bits but the bread was surprisingly delicious with its generous slather of olive oil and herb sprinklings. Overall this was a pretty nice and filling meal, not something I would go out of my way to order again but it was well worth a try.
What to Eat in New Orleans: Katie's | Jay's Chargrilled Oysters
Katie's Restaurant | Jay's Chargrilled Oysters
Katie's Restaurant:
Featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dive, Katie's Restaurant is a neighborhood diner that serves up a variety of Creole-Italian cuisine. The place was quite far from the French Quarter so we had to take the streetcars but it was on the way to the City Park, which was on our itinerary anyways. We visited on a rainy Tuesday afternoon so the place wasn't too busy.
What to Eat in New Orleans: Katie's | Chicken & Andouille Gumbo
Katie's Restaurant | Chicken & Andouille Gumbo
I started with a small cup of Chicken & Andouille Gumbo ($5). We had planned on visiting the Gumbo Shop in the French Quarter but we honestly ran out of stomach space and Katie's was a must-visit for me so I thought we might as well try the gumbo here. The soup was nothing too impressive. There weren't a lot of chicken or sausage and the seasoning was just a touch too salty. We then also ordered some more chargrilled oysters because my friend was absolutely obsessed. The Jay's Chargrilled Oysters ($14 for Half a Dozen) here were pretty much identical to those found at Acme; it well flavored but just a touch overcooked (and $2 more expensive).
What to Eat in New Orleans: Katie's | The Legend
Katie's Restaurant | The Legend
Last but certainly not least was The Legend ($16), which was the highlight of the meal and hands down the best thing I tasted in New Orleans. This was a sandwich made with a hollowed out baguette that's packed to the brim with cochon de lait (suckling pig) and BBQ shrimp. This was literally heaven in a bite. The pulled pork from the suckling pig was tender, creamy, and melt-in-your-mouth divine. It was perfectly seasoned, dripping with fat (in the best way possible), and stick-to-your-ribs comforting. Lastly, the pork is nicely paired with meaty and firm bites of shrimps that added a nice contrast of texture. If you are eating just one thing in New Orleans, this has got to be it!

No trip to New Orleans would be complete without visiting the world-famous Cafe Du Monde, know for its chicory-blended cafe au lait and freshly fried beignets. As suggested by various online reviews and blog posts, the wait time is much shorter if you dine in as opposed to waiting in the take-out line. We were seated in less than five minutes and we each ordered an Iced Cafe au Lait (~$3.50) and shared an order of Beignets ($2.73 for An Order of Three).
What to Eat in New Orleans: Cafe du Monde | Cafe au Lait & Beignet
Cafe du Monde | Iced Cafe au Lait & Beignet
I'm not a coffee/latte connoisseur so the iced latte tasted just fine to me. Apparently, the chicory gives a hint of chocolate flavor but I couldn't detect much of it. With that said, the drink was pretty milky and only lightly sweet. Beignets are freshly fried fritters (deep-fried dough) and at Cafe du Monde, they were served with a huge heap of powdered sugar. I was taken aback by how dense the beignets were and how incredibly similar they were to Chinese doughnuts (youtiao) I've have had a million times before so I was slightly disappointed with the experience. Nevertheless, for someone who's never had Chinese doughnuts before, these would make a pretty satisfying and hefty treat.

Morning Call:
A 24-hour cafe located at the City Park about a 30-minute streetcar ride away from the French Quarter, Morning Call is very much similar to Cafe du Monde in that it serves up some fresh beignets and cafe au lait. The Beignets ($2.20 for An Order of Three) here are considerably smaller, lighter, and airier compared to that of Cafe du Monde and they come bare so you can decide how much powdered sugar you want to add. I personally prefer these a bit more than the ones from Cafe du Monde and they are slightly cheaper as well.
What to Eat in New Orleans: Morning Call | Cafe au Lait & Beignet
Morning Call | Cafe au Lait & Beignets
We also tried an Iced Cafe au Lait ($4.75) and a Frozen Cafe au Lait ($4.75). Flavor-wise the coffee here tasted slightly milder compared to that of Cafe du Monde and the price is also higher. The "frozen" latte was pretty similar to the Tim Horton's Ice Capp in Canada; it was super sweet so I much rather preferred the iced version.

Sucre:
With two locations in New Orleans, Sucre is a fancy and chic dessert place that's kind of like the Laduree of Louisiana. They sell chocolates, macarons, gelato, and various mini cakes and pastries. I am a sucker for cute little cakes so I ordered their Doberge Cake (~$7.5), which was a layered almond sponge cake made with milk chocolate caramel cream topped with a house-made macaron. The dessert looked great but it was pretty disappointing. The icing was impossibly sweet, I literally took one bite and couldn't have anymore. I managed to separate the icing from the cake and ate what I could but this was definitely not my thing.
What to Eat in New Orleans: Sucre | Doberge Cake
Sucre | Doberge Cake
Overall, my New Orleans food adventure was pretty satisfying. The place had been on my bucket list for a long, long time so it was amazing to have it finally crossed off. I ended up visiting way fewer places than I intended but I think I got a nice sampling of the local cuisine. In terms of recommendations, I would definitely nominate Cochon for their Fried Alligator and Wood-Fired Oysters, Katie's for their The Legend, and Morning Call for the Beignets. Cafe du Monde and the Central Grocery are must-visits as well simply because they hundred-year-old institutions you just can't miss!

Have you visited New Orleans before? What hidden gems have I missed? Share with me in the comments below!
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