I realize most Ole Miss fans are quite familiar with New Orleans due to the proximity of the city to the state of Mississippi. If you feel like you've got an awesome grasp of the food scene there, this may not be the article for you. If your main concept so far of New Orleans is relegated to what every tourist knows, however, read on.
There are roughly 5 million restaurants in New Orleans. This list is not meant to be comprehensive. It's not even meant to be close to comprehensive. It's just a list of places I'd probably try to hit up in New Orleans. If there are restaurants you want to inform people about, just leave a comment. Put your pitchfork down before you do though.
More help planning your trip
More help planning your trip
Some of the people here at the Cup like to hate on Cafe du Monde, with one person referring to it as "a long wait for bad service and meh food." I think those people are being silly. I enjoy CDM for its quantity of powdered sugar, fried-ness, and location. If you're in the Quarter in the morning, you should consider going there.
The last thing I'll say before hitting the restaurant guide more directly is this: go to Commander's Palace if you can ever get a reservation (which you won't be able to this weekend). These recommendations fall outside of that restaurant, which has exceptional everything and bad nothing. I haven't been to every restaurant in New Orleans, but if there's a better one I'd like to go ahead and make a reservation.
I had a great deal of help in putting this list together and narrowing it down. Hats off the commenters who helped. I don't know your names on this site, but... thanks.
Some of these places won't have any availability at this point. Just make a mental note for the future.
Cochon Butcher - Everything I've ever eaten there is exceptional. If you haven't been, go.
Central Grocery - If you want a muffaletta, why not go to the place that indisputably invented it? If the line's just way too long or you get there after they close, go next door to Frank's. It's really good, and it isn't likely to be crowded.
Stein's Market and Deli - I've never actually been, but I've heard very good things. You could also stop by Sucre for dessert when you're on Magazine Street.
Cajun and Creole
I could tell you about the differences between Cajun and Creole (essentially they're inspired by entirely different backgrounds), but do you really care about that right now? If you're reading this, you're interested in typical "New Orleans Food." So here are my recommendations.
Jacques-Imo's - While their entire menu is pretty solid, I'd probably go with the cajun bouillabaisse or shrimp etouffee.
Cochon - You can't really go wrong, but I'd pick the rabbit and dumplings or catfish courtbouillon; The restaurant has won a James Beard award and continues to amaze with a changing menu.
K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen - Probably the most "down home" on this list, K-Paul's is great and traditional.
Mr. B's - Try to hit up the Sunday Jazz brunch if that's possible (I know nothing about reservations, etc). Their food is pretty traditional, and that's a very good thing in New Orleans.
Atchafalaya - The restaurant doesn't serve a traditional lunch, but they do serve brunch Thursday through Monday. There's a bit of a wait, but there's also a Bloody Mary buffet of sorts and live music.
Boucherie - Another place I've never actually visited but am told is great. The "pan seared duck breast, confit potato salad galette, deviled egg & gumbo z’herbes" sounds wonderful for 18 bucks.
Luke - Luke was started by John Besh, a James Beard award winner with an empire of fine dining in New Orleans. It doesn't exactly belong under this Creole and Cajun header since it's really more French, but whatever. The charcuterie's great as are the couple of dishes I've tried (though I don't remember them).
Peche - Here's another place I've never been to. I've had two people rave about their fried bread and gumbo though, and their head chef has a coveted James Beard award for best southern chef.
Borgne - Borgne is another restaurant by John Besh. Their seafood is on fleek (I think I used that right). I've had the scallops and flounder (I think). I've tasted lots of other dishes here and haven't ever disliked anything.
Killer Po-Boys - Located in the French Quarter itself (unlike most of the things on this guide), Killer Po-Boys is a very non-traditional place. They have a shrimp po-boy, but that's about it. The rest of the menu re-invents New Orleans cuisine in a really good way.
R&O's - This is a personal favorite of mine and is kind of removed from most of the hustle and bustle of New Orleans. Their bread is out of this world though. Unfortunately, they don't have a website for me to link to, but yeah... I love it. If you go there and realize that, like some other places, my appreciation for the place is due to nostalgia of growing up and eating there with my grandparents, please don't kill the dream. Just let me continue to love it.
While the origin of the po-boy is still somewhat debated, most people consider Parkway to have invented it. [Edited: Um, no they don't. I don't know why I had that in my head.] Their oyster and roast beef po-boys are probably what they're best known for, but if you're like me and don't particularly love roast beef, please allow me to recommend the alligator sausage. It's great stuff.
Guy's - Guy's is another website-less hole-in-the-wall kind of place. I've only been there once, but the half oyster, half shrimp was magnificent. [EDITED: I'm told a drunk driver ran into the restaurant last weekend so its not operational. I hate people sometimes.]
I would be remiss not to mention the Vietnamese restaurants in New Orleans. I know it's not typically something you associate with the culture there, but there are a number of good places. Magasin draws the headlines, and with good reason, but there are two other places I've been clued into that I feel I need to mention.
Dong Phuong - Here's the direct quote from the guy who recommended it: "This is an AMAZING Vietnamese bakery in New Orleans East. It's a solid 35 minute drive from my place Uptown and I still can't go a week without driving way the hell over there for breakfast. The meat pies, steamed buns, vermicelli pancakes and Chinese meatball banh mi are highlights for me, but all the pastries are spot on as well. All the best po-boy shops in the city get their bread shipped in from Dong Phuong."
Pho Noi Viet - This is a traditional Vietnamese place that has been described as "better, cheaper, and closer to the French Quarter" than Magasin.