While the music will leave your feet tapping and your mind dancing, the food will leave your mouth drooling and stomach satiated. World-renowned chefs embrace a creative approach, producing a playful cuisine matching the joyous nature of New Orleans. French, Spanish, Creole and Cajun flavors combine for an eclectic mix of cooking styles that is unrivaled around the world.
Originating from the region’s bayous, Cajun food combines thick broth with French and Southern flavors to create into favorites including gumbo and boudin. Creole cuisine — most notably, Jambalaya — adds African and European flavors into mouthwatering sauces with fresh seafood. One-of-a-kind dishes such as alligator sausage and turtle soup can be found alongside the classics — po-boys, crawfish etouffee, muffulettas and beignets.
New Orleans’ best fare, both traditional and experimental, can be found at restaurants throughout the city’s many neighborhoods. Experience the classic cuisine and comfort food at hometown staples including Palace Café, Mr. B’s Commander’s Palace, Tujague’s and Napoleon House Bar & Café. Fear not, for you can experience a taste of culinary history, too; the city is home to both the country’s oldest family-run restaurant — Antoine’s — and the country’s oldest café — Café du Monde.
What is the difference between Creole and Cajun?
While both groups have made significant contributions to New Orleans’ history and cultural legacy, what are the differences between these two groups?
In the 1600s, French colonists came to the Canadian Maritime provinces — Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island — in a region they named “Acadia.” When the Maritimes fell under British control, the Acadians refused to accept Protestantism, becoming a political and religious threat. Expelled by the British, many Acadians ultimately journeyed to the Louisiana Territory where the Catholic French would be more accepting of their culture and customs. Their descendants came to be the dominant culture in southern Louisiana, the term “Cajun” being an adaptation of “Acadian.”
Cajuns learned to make use of every part of a slaughtered animal. Boudin, Tasso and Andouille are names of traditional Cajun sausages. Cajun food is also famous for being well seasoned, sometimes misunderstood as spicy. Onion, Celery, bell pepper, garlic, paprika, thyme, sassafras, parsley and green onions are very common ingredients in Cajun kitchens.
The term “Creole” could include anyone born in New Orleans with French or Spanish colonial ancestors, specificially in New Orleans. In the 18th century, Creoles were descendants of the French and Spanish upper-class, and over the years the term grew to include native-born slaves of African and Caribbean descent. Typically, the term French Creole described someone of European ancestry, while Louisiana Creole described someone of mixed racial ancestry.
Like its people, Creole food is a blend of cultures found in New Orleans, including Italian, Spanish, Africa, German, Caribbean, Native American and Portuguese. Traditionally, Creole cuisine is thought of as more aristocratic than Cajun cuisine. There are generally more ingredients in Creole cuisine because of the easier access Creoles had to exotic ingredients and the wide mix of cultures that influenced it.