Muffulettas from Central Grocery (Classic) or Cochon Butcher (Cheffy)
The muffuletta—one of the best sandwiches in all of sandwichdom—is as deliciously salty, oily, and meaty as it is fun to say. Made on a round disc of sesame bread, the muffuletta is filled with cured meats (salami, capicola, pepperoni, and ham), thick slices of cheese (provolone and emmentaler), marinated olives, and pickled vegetables. Though you can buy them at any number of places all over the city, it all began at Central Grocery in the French Quarter. (Note: CG is closed on Sundays and Mondays; don't put yourself through the pain of staring at the "closed" sign.)
For a cheffier version, head to Donald Link's artisanal butcher shop/sandwich joint/bar, Cochon Butcher (nextdoor to his restaurant Cochon, which you should also add to this list). Cochon Butcher's muffuletta is on a fluffier, toasted sesame bun. The house-cured meats (like smoky ham and pastrami with plenty of black peppercorns) are paired with a bright, briny olive tapenade.
Central Grocery: 923 Decatur Street, New Orleans LA 70116 (map); 504-523-1620
Fried Chicken from Willie Mae's Scotch House
SE overlord Ed Levine has been quoted many times for saying this: "Willie Mae's fried chicken is perhaps the finest fried chicken on the planet." A man who loves his fried bird as much as Ed does wouldn't lie to you about such matters.
Quick backstory on Willie Mae's: it was flooded and basically destroyed during Hurricane Katrina but thanks to the herculean efforts of the Southern Foodways Alliance, it's been rebuilt and is now run by Willie Mae's great-granddaughter, Kerry Seaton. The fried skin on the chicken is both crunchy and light, almost reminiscent of pork skins in that they're so airily crisp and ridiculously meaty. The skin gives way to the juicy meat (whether white or dark, it's always juicy) that's assertively salted. Each bite is better than the last.
2401 St Ann Street, New Orleans, LA 70119 (map); 504-822-9503
Po' Boys from Domilise's, Zimmer's Seafood, R&O, and plenty more
The best po' boy in the city? Ask a different New Orleanian and you'll get a different answer. We embarked on an all-day po' boy crawl in which 23 po' boys were consumed and so many of them enjoyed. Here are three spots we really loved.
Domilise's is located in a sunny yellow clapboard house Uptown where the shrimp, catfish, and oysters and fried to order. Get it fully dressed with mayo, tomato, lettuce, pickles, and ketchup piled on a crusty Leidenheimer bread. At Zimmer's Seafood, the po' boy menu is listed alongside the boiled seafood by the pound menu. There's no seating at Zimmer's; we just used our car trunk as a table. (Note: this place has no relation to my Zimmer family tree. If only.) All the way up on Lake Pontchartrain, R&O's is home to the R&O Special: gravy-laden roast beef piled with ham (yes, meat on meat).
Domilise's: 5240 Annunciation Street New Orleans, LA 70115 (map) 504-899-9126
Zimmer's Seafood: 4915 Saint Anthony Ave, New Orleans, LA 70122 (map) 504-282-7150
R&O's Restaurant: 216 Metairie Hammond Highway, Metairie, LA 70005 (map) 504-831-1248
Beignets from Cafe du Monde or Morning Call
If you're in the French Quarter, you can't walk past Cafe du Monde without sniffing the fried dough and chicory coffee in the air. There's a reason why people flock here; the beignets are crisp puffs, yeasty and served straight from the fryer, blanketed in powdered sugar. If you have access to wheels, drive over to the nearby suburb of Metairie for equally (some say better) beignets served in an old-timey parlor with white-hatted waitresses and frozen café au laits.
Charbroiled Oysters at Drago's
When you eat a charbroiled oyster, the taste from the hot coals permeates the oyster meat all those buttery, briny juices. At Drago's, the oysters are grilled until the bottoms of the shells are blackened with soot but the oyster meat remains tender. Parmesan—something you might not think you'd want on oysters— browns over the heat and just adds another layer of savory flavor. With each shell, you slurp back all the oyster liqueur that pools in there. And thankfully, Drago's serves them with crusty bread so you can sop up every last drop.
Breakfast at Stanley
Stanley Restaurant on Jackson Square was the first restaurant to serve fresh-made food after Katrina hit. Chef Scott Boswell opened the restaurant with just his mom's charcoal grill and a killer burger recipe, and for two weeks, even before the city reopened to the public, he served more than 500 burgers a day. Fast forward to today—Stanely is still very much bustling, and one of the best breakfast destinations in the city. The Eggs Stanley is an inventive eggs benedict dish with cornmeal-crusted oysters and Canadian bacon served on an English muffin. Oysters and eggs? Leave it to New Orleans to feed you oysters that early in the morning. The two actually have a nice textural symmetry. Plus the dish comes with a side of Creole breakfast potatoes, fried with skins-on (and plenty of pepper and onion).
Sno-Bliz from Hansen's Sno-Bliz Shop
"New Orleans is a chockablock with snowball stands, jerry-rigged roadside huts that dispense cones of shaved ice drenched in a saccharine torrent of syrup. But Hansen's—set in a cinder-block rectangle on Tchoupitoulas Street in the city's Uptown neighborhood—is different," writes John T. Edge in Southern Belly. The placard behind the counter, the one that reads, "Air-Condition Your Tummy With a Hansen's Snow Bliz." This delicious AC system is powered by snowflake-light ice shavings that get squirts of any number of syrups. Satsuma orange, almond, banana, coconut, coffee, wild cherry, peach and many, many others.
Gelato from Angelo Brocato
Angelo Brocato, a Sicilian immigrant, opened the New Orleans shop more than a century ago in 1905, as one of the city's first sit-down parlors. Now in its third generation of the Brocato family, Angelo's original recipes are still used. Walk inside and you'll feel that flavor-overstimulation—take a moment to process all the colors and flavor combo potential. Can't go wrong with prailine (pronounced "praw-leen").
Zapp's Voodoo Chips
You can find Zapp's, the regional brand of potato chips, outside of Louisiana, but it's always more fun to eat a bag in the motherland. Especially since they'll have a wider selection of the specialty flavors here. Cajun Crawtators have a vinegary kick with a distinct celery and paprika flavor. Cajun Dill leaves a pickley heat on your tongue. And then there's the Voodoo: it starts off with a salt-and-vinegary nose, moves to the smoky sweetness of BBQ chips, and ends with jalapeños. It's kind of like eating all of your favorite chip flavors at once.
Sazerac from French 75
While this may be a must-eat list, it wouldn't be New Orleans without something to must-drink. You will be well taken care of at French 75, a bar in the French Quarter that sticks to the classic cocktail-making rituals. You could get the namesake French 75, a refreshing sipper made of champagne, lemon, and either cognac or gin—but you also can't go wrong with a Sazerac (pictured here).