The Essential E’s of Louisiana

Creating a travel guide for the entire state of Louisiana is a tall order!

Louisiana is one of the wettest, weirdest and most fun states you’ll ever visit.

Its home to some of the oldest American cuisine and buildings to match the old-world vibe.

It’s a state that not only embraces its roots; it flaunts them. There’s so much to do in Louisiana that we had a hard time trimming down to the essentials but rest assured everything on this list is essential to Louisiana!

Eat

When you think of Louisiana no doubt its unique dishes come to mind (maybe after Mardi Gras), There are so many iconic flavors from gumbo to po’boys that draw in visitors from all around the world. Each dish is done differently in every parish too! There’s Creole food and Cajun food, and yes, they are different and no, they don’t appreciate it when you mix them up. Cajun food is not spicy despite popular belief. It’s seasoned to be flavorful, not spicy. They leave it up to the individual to choose the spice level. Creole foods main difference is that it uses tomatoes and okra in its dishes and tend to be hotter through the use of peppers; this is an important detail that defines Louisiana’s two main cuisines. It’s a bitter rivalry and every local you ask will tell you different answer when you ask them where’s the best po’boy or crawfish. You’d have to spend a year in Louisiana to try everything!

Worth a Trip

Louisiana is a state with cuisine that dates back to precolonial times and is still household staples for the average resident. These are the iconic dishes and establishments that are worth taking a mini road trip on your off day to say you’ve eaten there. Again, these aren’t the crowned greats because who’s the best is a heavily debated topic, but these places are in every conversation for the best places for their specialties in Louisiana.

Schaefer’s Seafood/Facebook 

The red crustacean, known as crawfish, crawdads, or mudbugs, is one of the fastest-growing trends in the culinary world. Once widely considered a pest by the rest of the world, the Cajuns of southern Louisiana made them into a delicacy now recognized across the culinary world! If you happen to be in Louisiana during crawfish season (generally late February till late June), it’d be a mistake not to try them! It’s hard to find bad crawfish in Louisiana, but these two places are exceptional in the art of the mudbug.

Schaefer & Rusich Seafood in Metairie has no tables, long lines and is cash only but I guarantee it offers some of the best crawfish in Louisiana! (Facebook)

Cajun Claws has a few locations around greater Lafayette, but our favorite is south in Abbeville they offer some of the biggest crawfish we’ve ever seen! (Facebook)

Gumbo is the official state cuisine, a roux-based soup is made differently in every region, but every gumbo is served with a scoop of rice and a side of potato salad. Its widely known as a homemade comfort food your mom would make you warm your soul, however, If you don’t have a Cajun or Creole mama here’s some spots that offer a close second!

The best Cajun gumbo comes from southwest Louisiana. Johnson’s Boucaniere is award-winning for its meats, but little know that it serves a damn good cup of gumbo. (website) Prejean’s is another place serving vastly underrated Cajun-style gumbo. (website)

For Creole gumbo, Dooky Chase’s is the move. The late Chef Leah Chase ran the iconic Dooky Chase’s restaurant since 1941. She was considered the queen of NOLA cuisine, made a cameo in Beyoncé’s Lemonade visual album, was the inspiration for a Disney princess, hosted dinners for presidents, her restaurant was the first integrated dining space and hosted Martin Luther Kings meetings. The restaurant survived bombings, hurricanes and serves some of the best gumbo in the world. (website)

Boudin, like a NY slice, can only truly be made in its original location. Boudin contains rice, seasoning (secret recipes exist for every place), and meat stuffed into a sausage casing. Like most Louisiana dishes most places do it right, but you’d be wise to take a trip to Lafayette as these three are the holy trinity of boudin joints.

Technically in Kratz Springs, Billy’s Boudin and Cracklin can be found inside a gas station and serves some of the best gas station food in the world, so good you’ll want to take a few batches home (and you can)!  (website)

Don’s Specialty Meats is a must stop for I-10 travelers. Located in Scott, a small town west of Lafayette, Don’s makes exquisite Boudin so famous is now ships it worldwide through its website.

Best Stop Supermarket in Scott sells over 2000lbs of Boudin a day since 1986. Their secret seasoning blend alone is worth a drive! (website)

Anthony Bourdain called it “one of the more awesome location’s I’ve ever found.” Suire’s Grocery is a small white building at the crossroads of LA-35 and LA-335. They offer world-class Cajun country cooking that makes the road less traveled rewarding. (Facebook)

Late Night Bite

Outside of New Orleans Louisiana is a mostly rural community that turns in pretty early, but it also considered the wettest state so luckily there are some great spots drawing crowds after the party has ended. These places are great meals you can enjoy after a late shift or before an early morning shift.

Mel’s Diner is a classic American diner in Lafayette that provides homecooked meals at all hours. Being in Louisiana, they happen to have a great Po’boy but serve classic Diner breakfast as well. (website)

If you’re in Shreveport check out 8oz Burger Bar. A nice spot inside the Horseshoe in Bossier City. (website)

New Orleans has the best late-night food by far, and if you find yourself up in the first hours of the day stop by Melba’s Po’boys it’s overstuffed po’boys, and extensive frozen daiquiri selection make it a top-notch late-night bite. (website)

Café Du Monde is most definitely a tourist trap, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it! Stop by for some 3 a.m. beignets and coffee and avoid the crowds! (website)

Bang for Your Buck

 

Café Du Monde/Viewminder

The best thing about Louisiana cuisine is the low price but if you’re looking for a real bargain for some famous food these places do the trick.

Norma’s Sweets Bakery serves North and Central American pastries and sandwiches at a phenomenal price. Many pastries can be purchased for less than $1! They also make one of the best Cuban sandwiches in the state! (Facebook)

McHardy’s Chicken & Fixin’ has crowned the best-fried chicken in New Orleans at the New Orleans Fried Chicken Festival in 2018 and with prices like five pieces for 5$ what more do you need to know? (Facebook)

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Vietnamese cuisine is an underrated part of Louisiana’s cuisine, but locals know it’s an integral part of its community. Ba Mien Family Restaurant brings together the cuisines of every region in Vietnam to an affordable menu.  (website)

Trust us on this one…Popeyes Chicken. Dave Chang crowned the red beans and rice the single best fast food item in America, admitting to trying to recreate it in his kitchens. Bourdain even took a reporter to one of the last Popeyes buffets in America during his Lafayette trip. Just like how people swear In-N-Out Burger is better in SoCal, Popeyes Chicken is just better in Louisiana. They serve a buffet in Lafayette that even famous culinary figures deem worthy of a trip. (website)

Entertainment

Louisiana is home to world-class nightlife, some great casinos, and world champion sports teams. So many parties show, and festivities you’ll never have to do the same thing twice.

Leisure

Gambling is legal in Louisiana, so naturally, it’s home to some great casinos. With the gambling comes money and with money, the amenities. These casino hotels offer some of the best relaxation and excitement in the state.

 

4 Hollywood Casino/Antrell Williams

Hollywood Casino in Baton Rouge overlooks the Horace Wilkinson bridge on the Mississippi river and guarantees a jackpot winner every day. With some of the best slots in the state, it’s a great getaway. (website)

L’Auberge Casino Resort has two locations, one in Lake Charles and one in Baton Rouge. The Lake Charles location offers an upscale Las Vegas-style at Louisiana prices while the Baton Rouge location has more of a modern vibe. (website)

Just a short walk from the French Quarter, Harrah’s New Orleans has a grand casino with that famous New Orleans flare. (website)

Sport

Louisiana is a sports state 100%, and New Orleans is the capital of that sports world. College football is king here, and allegiances can vary from town to town, but LSU is the biggest show in the state. (website) Still, going to a Saints game is a unique experience with some tailgating that might be your closest chance of trying home cooking in the state. (website) Basketball is also a pastime in Louisiana growing every year and since the New Orleans Pelicans got the #1 overall pick Zion Williamson the team has become a must-watch the event. (website)

Nightlife

The Carousel Bar & Lounge/Kent Kanouse

If Louisiana is known for one thing, it’s the debauchery. New Orleans is probably the nightlife capital of the world, and Bourbon Street is its crown jewel but here are some places if you want to avoid the ruckus and still have a great night.

The local in New Orleans probably is not going to Bourbon Street unless they work there, more than likely they’ll do their night out on Frenchmen Street. This area is home to some of the best music clubs the city has to offer.

The Carousel Bar & Lounge might be New Orleans most unique bar. Located inside the Hotel Monteleone, its bar is an actual working carousel! (website)

 

Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop/Mick Jefferies

Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop is another cherished landmark bar in New Orleans for being widely considered to be a storehouse for the infamous pirate Jean Lafitte. Whether or not that’s true the building is almost 300 years old and serves drinks in a rustic precolonial lounge. (website)

A short walk from both Frenchmen Street and the French Quarter, R Bar is a classic New Orleans with great drink specials. Monday nights 10$ haircut and shot special is something you probably didn’t think you’d ever see on a menu, but that’s New Orleans. (Facebook)

In Lafayette, the Blue Moon Saloon and Guest House is a world-famous honky-tonk and excellent destination for dancing and drinks. Its bands attract a wide variety of folk that contributes to a great atmosphere that’s sure to be a fun night out. (website)

If you’re up in the Shreveport area, The Bar Chord is your stop for a night out. Trying to bring that Austin, Texas-style of live music bars, the Bar Chord serves a mean cocktail in a hip and intimate setting. (website)

Teddy’s Juke Joint is one of Louisiana’s last remaining authentic Jazz Clubs. A landmark for its contribution to blues music, Teddy’s still to this day is home to some of the best blues and jazz in America and is one of Louisiana’s hidden gems. (website)

Explore

Louisiana is like its own country with a deep history older than the United States itself, a culture only its residents understand and a climate and ecosystem that provides some of the unique sights in the country.

Go Outside

There are nearly two dozen state parks in Louisiana that provide beautiful hiking, swimming, boating and just about any outdoor short of skiing (unless you mean water skiing).

Bayou Segnette State Park is just half an hour south of New Orleans and provides just about everything. Its wave pool makes it a popular summer attraction but rests assured it is a nature park through and through. (website)

Chicot State Park in Ville Platte has some of the best fishing and hiking trails in the state with both walking trails and mountain biking trails. (website)

 

Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge/Richard May

Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge in Grand Chenier is there if you’re trying to see a real Louisiana swamp. Fishing and crabbing are allowed, and we’d recommend you try out crabbing for a unique experience. (website)

Stay Inside

If you’re looking to explore Louisiana from the comfort of an air-conditioned building, there are several beautiful historical buildings containing museums and world-class art galleries.

The 1850 House in New Orleans is an apartment building over 150 years old that’s less of a museum and more of an authentic reenactment of southern antebellum life in 1850. It provides a unique insight into the stylish lifestyles of the old world. (website)

The New Orleans Museum of Art/Steven Depolo

The New Orleans Museum of Art is over 100 years old and possesses a collection of over 35,000 pieces. The NOMA recently opened an expanded sculpture garden and regularly hosted artist and exhibitions from around the world. (website)

Capitol Park in Baton Rouge is a picturesque park that has the states welcome center, a massive tower overlooking the park and the city, the Pentagon State Museum, the Capitol Park Museum and three lush parks perfect for a stroll or a picnic. (website)

Party Like a Local

Louisiana is home to the most famous party in the nation, but it’s not the unique celebration in the state. Its deep and rich history has given birth to some remarkable festivals and traditions.

Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday” and started as a celebration before the Catholic fasting tradition of Lent. It is celebrated around the world but is probably most famous in New Orleans. It is an official holiday in the state and businesses shut down much like Christmas.

 

Satchmo Summerfest/Derek Bridges

Satchmo Summerfest is a party in New Orleans created in honor of the Legendary artist Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong. It features a wide array of Louisiana’s music scene and acts from around the world for the price of $6! (website)

New Orleans is also home to the New Orleans Jazzfest and Essence fest which host world-famous music acts and bring some of the best food in the state to one place. (website)

Rayne is known as “the Frog Capital of the World” and hosts the Frog Festival, a good centering around the humble frog that paints the town green. There are a carnival, cook-offs, frog racing and frog jumping contest. They say it tastes like chicken and here’s your chance to find out! (website)

In October zombies, witches, giant birds, and a half-dog half-man can be seen strolling down the streets of Houma, Louisiana. Rougarou Fest is a celebration of the Cajun bedtime story creature, the Rougarou. The Rougarou is a mythical creature Cajun parents used to scare their kids to eat their vegetables. The festival features a famous costume contest, a ball, a supernatural parade, and, since its Louisiana, live music. (website)

 

Louisiana is stuffed with things to try, and places to see it can be overwhelming. We hope this helped lay out an idea of all the state has to offer and piqued your interest in the boot in the south.

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