In Louisiana, we pride ourselves on our culture. This includes the music, traditions, and unique cuisine that developed in our delectable state throughout history. The rich French and Cajun heritage passed down from the Acadians defines the southern part of the boot, and African cultures and cuisines bring a heavy influence as well.
All of these have come together to bring an array of world-class restaurants all across Louisiana that can be enjoyed by people everywhere. No matter where you go, there are restaurants serving up some of the most flavorful food in the region. Here are the 14 best restaurants in Louisiana that should not be missed.
Located in the famed French Market of New Orleans, the original Café Du Monde Coffee Stand was established in 1862. It stays open 24 hours a day, seven days a week with the exception of Christmas Day and the occasional hurricane here or there. The café has a simple, yet cherished menu serving dark roasted coffee & chicory, beignets, white & chocolate milk, and fresh squeezed orange juice. It wasn’t until 1988 that they decided to introduce iced coffee and soda to the menu! Locals and tourists alike fill the outside patio area that spills out into the edge of the French Quarter across from Jackson Square. You can enjoy your coffee black or au lait, which is mixed half and half with hot milk. Or sip some iced coffee with some French style beignets while watching a horse and carriage stroll down charming Decatur Street in downtown New Orleans. Perfect for a morning meal or late night snack, Café Du Monde is a New Orleans staple.
Down here in Louisiana, Crawfish are considered a seasonal delicacy. These mud bugs have been seasoned and boiled for generations and Cajun Claws is nestled in the middle of crawfish country where they know how to do it the best. They use their own blend of seasonings and use only crawfish that is graded, meaning they get the biggest and best crawfish the state has to offer, hand picking the selections from local crawfish farmers themselves. However, they also boil Dungeness crab, blue crab, king crab, and blue point crab when in season as well as barbecued crab. On the menu, you can also try some funnel cake fries or gator bites to start off your meal and they have selections of fried baskets as well as po’boys for those who don’t eat boiled seafood. On Saturdays, live music is provided from 6-9 p.m. making Cajun Claws the perfect place to settle in with some friends, grab a bucket of ice cold beverages, and dive into some boiled seafood while enjoying local musical entertainment!
Just off Shed Road, you’ll fine Cascio’s Market Bistro. A quaint little establishment known for having the best pizza in Louisiana, specialty panini sandwiches, and their own market. The Cascio family came to settle in northeast Louisiana as early as 1918 coming all the way from Italy where they continued to hone their sausage recipe that was passed down to them simply for the purpose of making it during holidays for the family. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the current recipe was weighed and set to be passed down from generation to generation. In the market one can pick up homemade Italian sausage, Boar’s Head meats, steaks and other Cajun delicacies, while checking out the daily lunch specials that include hamburger steak, chicken spaghetti and red beans & rice. They are especially proud of their Pizzaletta, which combines the traditional muffuletta with a double layer pizza crust, crushed red pepper, and mozzarella cheese!
Right outside the North Gates of Louisiana State University, the Chimes provides a lively atmosphere full of good food, good people, and good times. Serving classic Louisiana dishes, traditional bar food, and local specialties this definitive Baton Rouge hangout is a fun stop for any visitor. For the of-age thirsty guests, you have your choice of 80 beers on tap, and over a hundred in the bottle with a variety of tasty dishes like the Louisiana alligator that you can have either sautéed or blackened. Other delights include the crab cake sandwich and their famous red beans and rice. Come here on a Saturday in the fall and you just may be swept up by the nationally-renowned LSU football tailgating that fill the entire campus and spills into the Chimes for the best party around.
Good Italian food can be some of the most comforting cuisine to enjoy with family and friends. Here at Gino’s in the state’s capital city, the table is set, the band is ready, and the food has been prepped for decades. Traditional southern Italian cuisine, Mediterranean style has been served here for over 35 years when the Marino family established the restaurant in 1966. Today, the restaurant is still 100 percent family owned and operated. The dining area defines romantic as it is candle-lit, with a serving staff dressed to impress and a bar that is great for a classy cocktail or nice glass of wine. Every Thursday they host Jazz Night, where local jazz musicians play for your enjoyment and on weekends the piano is still wailing in the bar area. They have a stock of over 300 wines and are best known for their arancini (try the seafood one!) that goes great with Gino’s Italian Salad, and their deliciously addictive Laurence Bread. A staple of the Baton Rouge fine dining community, Gino’s Restaurant is a great time with family, friends, music, and exquisite southern Italian food.
This fifth generation restaurant was founded in 1905, when Jean Galatoire opened its doors in the same famous location. Hailing from Pardies, France, Galatoire longed to shape the menu and ambiance of the restaurant with the whisperings of home. Through decades of being a part of the New Orleans fine dining community, the family operated business adapted new menu items as well as expanded to new locations around Louisiana. The true definition of class, Galatoire’s offers classic black drum and red fish dishes where the customer gets to select between optional garnishes from jumbo lump crabmeat to meunière sauce and lemon caper beurre blanc. Lamb chops are sizzled to perfection and a variety of delicious shellfish items such as their own bouillabaisse and shrimp creole. Galatoire’s is one of the classic New Orleans fine dining restaurants to visit located in the heart of the historic French Quarter.
This casual restaurant offers a unique dining experience to the Lafayette area. James Beard-nominated Chef Girouard draws from Cajun, Italian, and French heritage to put his own spin on classic and unique dishes. They take pride in using local, fresh ingredients for every dish from their brunch and lunch items during the day to their fine dining menu at night. This restaurant has a reputation for flavor with brunch items like the Cajun benedict that includes toasted French bread, Hebert’s boudin, two-medium poached eggs topped with chicken and andouille gumbo and fresh scallions. They serve a variety of exotic fish items by night such as the seared snapper along with rarer items such as the grilled Colorado rack of lamb. Located in downtown Lafayette in the heart of Cajun country this award-winning restaurant is sure to inspire the taste buds.
Though Louisiana may be known for seafood, Frank’s in Shreveport is the only restaurant in the region that specializes in pizza napoletana (pizza made in the old world style of Naples, Italy). They use a Stefano Ferraro wood-fired oven that gets up to 850 degrees and make their own dough every day from Caputo “OO” flower, fresh yeast and sea salt. However, they also make their very own mozzarella daily, sauce from crushed San Marzano tomatoes, and their very own Italian pork sausage! They adapt their meu seasonally providing fresh basil during the summer as well as a strawberry insalata. Keeping up with Louisiana traditions, Frank’s also serves Louisiana charbroiled oysters that make for a rich appetizer for guests to share and enjoy. A casual-upscale dining experience that embodies freshness and pride in their work.
Established in 1928, this historic Louisiana restaurant doesn’t actually have an extensive menu and never has. Founded by Lea Johnson as a small highway diner in the late roaring twenties all they served were ham sandwiches, a special-of-the-day plate lunch, Louisiana coffee, and homemade pies. When asked why, Johnson simply said they were a waste of time and people would return if the food was good. Today, the menu remains much the same except with the specialty-of-the-day plate lunch you get a choice of three different meats, and a variety of locally-grown vegetables and sides. It’s said that Johnson claimed to have mastered his ham sandwich using a combination of sliced, home-baked, and ground ham for the sandwich. However, you can’t leave Lea’s Lunchroom without having a taste of their world –famous pies whose secret recipe is known to have been passed down from Lea’s wife Miss Georgia and her family. A true diner in every sense of the word, this timeless restaurant is a Louisiana tradition.
Lake Charles sits right on the edge of the Louisiana/Texas border and right on top of Cajun culture. That combines for a big heritage of all sorts of folks who come out night after night to enjoy the cuisine and musical happenings at Luna Bar & Grill. Chef Dave Evans has been cooking since he was 13 and considers himself a student of life. That flavor is exemplified on every page of the menu and every note played by the world-renowned musicians that stop in to play at this regionally famous venue. They serve everything from a red fish apollo topped with crabmeat, au Gratin sauce, fried shrimp, and sliced avocado to your everyday burger and galactic crab dip. The chef describes his menu as a combination of California and Louisiana proudly dubbed ‘Cali-ana.’ “My philosophy on music and food go hand in hand,” Evans says, “It is all about enjoyment, entertainment, creativity, feel and know how.” We couldn’t agree more Dave.
You walk into Mandina’s and are immediately greeted by the long wooden bar that stretches in the front room. The place is bustling with the smell of fried seafood platters, Italian dishes, and creole cooking. On a pole in the front, the watermark where Hurricane Katrina flooded this truly historic restaurant now has a tiny plaque to remember the event that attempted to take down this New Orleans hot spot that is so loved by locals. First opened as a grocery store for Italian immigrants in 1898, Mandina’s has soaked up the culture of New Orleans for generations. They serve the finest creole, Italian and southern dishes and are proud to still be family owned and operated. Italian specialties like the veal parmesan are rich in flavor, while the fresh Gulf fish meuniere ignites your taste buds like never before. You can also try the fish prepared as an almandine, or get an array of top quality fried seafood platters that include oysters, shrimp, hush puppies, and crab claws. The seafood gumbo is simply delicious. Mandina’s embodies everything New Orleans has to offer and is conveniently located in Mid-City away from the crowded streets of downtown.
You can’t come to Louisiana without biting into one of the best po’boys in the state! Now, every local has their favorite spot but none disagree the Parkway Bakery & Tavern is one of the best. Serving New Orleans style po’boys since 1929, the original Parkway Bakery was opened by a German baker in 1911 as a neighborhood shop. Today, owner Jay Nix lives next door to the establishment, which seems to constantly have a line running up to its ordering counter. It is at this counter you can order a near perfect shrimp, oyster or roast beef po’boy. Everyone will tell you to get their surf n’ turf po’boy however, which includes their classic roast beef topped with fried shrimp and covered in brown gravy! Having been open for generations, Parkway Bakery & Tavern is a neighborhood must-eat with plenty of outside patio seating, and bar to the side where you can get a cold one to wash down your delicious meal.
Settled along the Mississippi River in the Sunshine community of St. Gabriel, Roberto’s River Road Restaurant has been a regional favorite since its opening in 2001. Rich in culture with a down home easy atmosphere this local hot spot provides the perfect hang for area residents. The 1850s building not only faces the historic levee system that runs along the river but also used to be home to an old general store called J.J. Laplace & Sons. Today, the restaurant has a lively menu known for delicacies such as their eggplant crab cakes appetizer and the Roasted Duck St. Gabriel that comes with mashed sweet potatoes and a currant jelly. More seafood items include the Stuffed Catch of the Day, the Shrimp Roberto, and the Fish En Papillote, which is the catch of the day the cooked in this traditional French style. Known for a friendly wait staff and a lively cozy bar in the back, Roberto’s River Road Restaurant is a Louisiana staple in the Sunshine area.
This lively place is known as an Alexandria institution ever since opening their doors in 1967. They serve nothing but the freshest gulf seafood, burgers, pastas, po’boys, and salads. Here you can get authentic speckled trout right from the Gulf of Mexico, a delicious fried shrimp platter, or one of the Spirits Staples such as the Cajun stir fry that comes with either chicken or shrimp. Later in the evening, the restaurant hosts local Louisiana musicians every Wednesday and nationally touring acts on the weekends. Guests can come eat, try one of their specialty cocktails like the peach bourbon smash, and dance the night away as the tables clear and the dance floor opens up! Their motto being “Great Food, Original Music” there is authentic entertainment all night long at Spirits in Alexandria.