All You Need to Know to Have a Great Time in the Big Easy

New Orleans is a city built on food and music. Very few places in the U.S. have such a unique cuisine, so make sure you take the time to enjoy it! Of course, in addition to unique food and amazing music, New Orleans also has a fascinating language all its own. Check out the glossary for some important words and phrases.

Places to eat in New Orleans:

Cafe du Monde - "The Cafe of the World"

1039 Decatur Street

Cafe du Monde is a New Orleans institution, famous for their beignets and cafe au lait. As such, it is usually very crowded. The seating is all outdoors under a canopy and the area is a hotspot for buskers (street musicians) so there's almost always some good local music being played while you enjoy your snack.

Cafe Beignet

311 Bourbon Street

Want to try beignets but don't want to wade through the madness that is Cafe du Monde? Then this place is for you. In this author's humble opinion their beignets are even better than Cafe du Monde's, although I'm sure there are plenty who would disagree with me. Cafe Beignet hosts lovely outdoor courtyard seating and has live music from 1pm until closing (with the exception of a break from 5-6) every Thursday through Sunday.

Pirate's Alley Cafe

622 Pirates Alley

If you're looking for atmosphere and history, this is a great place for it. Pirate's Alley is a small alley that runs down the side of the St. Louis Cathedral and is noted for its many brightly colored buildings. The Cafe occupies the old jailhouse building where Jean Lafitte was said to have been imprisoned. Right next door is the Faulkner House and bookshop. The Pirate's Alley Cafe offers a full bar along with appetizers and sandwiches. Also, they serve Absinthe.

Napoleon House

500 Chartres Street

Sadly, Napoleon never actually stayed in this amazing 200 year old building, although it was offered to him as a refuge in his exile. Napoleon House offers a full bar and a menu of primarily local cuisine. They have seating both indoors and in a lovely walled-in courtyard.

Central Grocery

923 Decatur Street

The Central Grocery is the home of the original muffaletta, which has since become a New Orleans tradition. They also serve other sandwiches and are known for their more exotic fare (like chocolate-covered grasshoppers). Central Grocery is one of the last small corner grocery stores in the Quarter, so in addition to your meal, you can take home some authentic Louisiana fixins as well.

Verti Marte

1201 Royal Street

Another small corner grocery that serves take-out sandwiches and sides. In addition they're open 24/7. Perfect for those late-night cravings.

St. Charles Tavern

1433 St. Charles St.

A 24/7 tavern that serves burgers, sandwiches, appetizers, sides, and breakfast food, plus a full bar, of course.

Bourbon House

144 Bourbon Street

If you're looking for local seafood, this is the place for you. One of the best oyster bars in the city, Bourbon House serves only locally-caught fresh seafood. As their website says: "If it's not in season, you won't find it on the menu." Bourbon House is one of the restaurants owned and operated by the famous Brennan family of New Orleans chefs, so expect excellent food, an elegant dining experience, and the cost that comes with it. Also, be sure to make reservations in advance.

Cafe Adelaide

300 Poydras St.

Located in the Loews New Orleans hotel, Cafe Adelaide is another Brennan family restaurant that specializes in Louisiana-style entrees. Not for those on a tight budget, but definitely worth it if you've got a generous food allowance.

What about all that famous New Orleans music?

Try the following for live bands every night, and most serve food and drinks as well.

House of Blues

225 Decatur Street

Margaritaville New Orleans

1104 Decatur Street

Krazy Korner

640 Bourbon Street

Old Opera House

601 Bourbon Street


501 Napoleon Avenue

Snug Harbor Jazz Club

626 Frenchmen Street

How to speak like a native:

First of all, to avoid standing out like a tourist too much, you should know the correct way to pronounce the name of the city. New Orleans is never pronounced New Orleenz in general conversation. The only time that pronunciation is acceptable is in song lyrics when you need it to rhyme (Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?). You will also very rarely hear a local pronounce it Nawlins, despite what you may have seen on t-shirts. The correct pronunciation is New Orlinz. Acceptable variations include Nu Worlinz and Nu Wahlinz. Oh, and just to make it a little more confusing, whenever Orleans is not preceded by the word New, as in Orleans Parish or Orleans Street, it is pronounced Orleenz.

On to the vocabulary:

Food and Drink

Andouille (Ann-doo-ee): A kind of spicy sausage (and I do mean spicy).

Beignet (ben-yay): deep-fried dough covered with powdered sugar. Best when hot, and melts in your mouth.

Cafe au lait (caff-ay-oh-lay): coffee with milk. Goes great with beignets.

Dressed: when the lady behind the counter asks if you want your po-boy dressed, she's not asking if you want to cover it in cloth. She wants to know if you want lettuce and tomato on it.

Étouffée (et-too-fay): meat (usually seafood) in roux (sauce) over rice.

Go cup: a paper, plastic, or Styrofoam cup for the purpose of taking your alcoholic beverage with you when you leave a bar. Open glass bottles and cans are illegal, go cups are not. Hence the proliferation of drive-up daiquiri bars.

Gumbo: Stew made from whatever leftovers are lying around and spices over rice (more liquid than touff).

Hurricane: a cocktail made of fruit juice with grenadine and rum the city's signature drink. Also those big storms that come by ever so often.

Jambalaya (Jum-buh-lie-yuh): meat (usually andouille or shrimp) and vegetables mixed with tomato sauce and rice.

Muffuletta (moo-fuh-let-ah): A sandwich on round muffuletta bread (often cut into halves or quarters) usually consisting of meat (ham and/or salami), cheese (usually provolone), and Italian olive salad.

Po-boy: Louisiana's version of the sub sandwich.

Praline (PRAH-leen, not PRAY-leen): a sugary confection consisting primarily of brown sugar, butter, vanilla, and pecans (pee-KAHN, not PEE-kan).

Useful words and phrases

Fixin ta: getting ready to. As in I'm fixin ta go down to the Quarter (most locals leave off the French).

Inkpen: a pen. Generally used to compensate for the fact that the words pen and pin are indistinguishable in local parlance.

Lagniappe (Lan-yap): a little something extra.

Laissez les bon temps rouler! (Lez-ay luh bone tome roo-lay): Let the good times roll. New Orleans motto.

Neutral ground: the grassy strip in the middle of some of the wider roads and boulevards. In other areas of the country, this might be called the median.

Parish: what the rest of the country calls a county. The Parish, among New Orleanians, refers to St. Bernard Parish, which is essentially where the suburbs are located.

Rue (Roo): street. You will see this on some street signs in the Quarter. Rue Bourbon = Bourbon Street; Rue d'Orleans = Orleans Street.

Vieux Carr (voo care-ray): old square. Another name for the French Quarter.

Zydeco (Zie-duh-coe): traditional Creole music, generally including accordion and fiddle.