The 35th annual French Quarter Fest, a four-day, free music festival along the Mississippi River in New Orleans’ French Quarter, takes place kicked off yesterday and will run through Sunday.
It’s completely possible and loads of fun to take a dining tour of some New Orleans (and Louisiana’s) most emblematic foods at French Quarter Fest, which is almost as much about its vast selection of local food as it is for its music line-up.
Instead of flooding the festival zone with hot dogs and funnel cakes, New Orleans folks bring out everything from the oldest white tablecloth restaurants (and sometimes the most expensive) to beloved neighborhood sno-ball joints.
Here’s a rundown of how to experience not-to-be-missed foods (and here’s where to find each vendor area):
Turtle Soup: Court of Two Sister’s has this dark, robust, sherry-laced New Orleans soup made with turtle meat in the Jackson Square vendor area for $6.
Remoulade: Honestly, a fest-goer could really just taste versions of this classic French-based Creole sauce for the entire day.
Of course, the classic shrimp remoulade is perfect for a hot, sunny day with its cold shrimp bathed in mustardy remoulade on top of crisp lettuce. Galatoire’s (founded in 1905) has it in the Jackson Square vendor area for $9. Tujague’s (a restaurant established in 1856), in the same vendor area, has a marinated crab claw twist on the classic remoulade and it’s EatFitNOLA—approved, meaning it meets certain dietary recommendations.
For a heavier version, opt for Café Dauphine’s fried green tomato remoulade stack in the Riverfront—Kohlmeyer Lawn vendor area. Another option, in the Riverfront — palm Lawn vendor area, is House of Blues’ blackened shrimp po-boy with remoulade slaw. Restaurant R’evolution has a crab beignet with red pepper remoulade in the Riverfront — Palm Lawn vendor area.
Gumbo: K-Paul’s in the Jackson Square vendor area has its chicken and andouille gumbo for $6. Rib Room in the Riverfront—Kohlmeyer also has a chicken and andouille version for $1 more.
Meat Pies: Originally from the northern Louisiana town of Natchitoches, this famous and well-loved hand pie bears a striking resemblance to the Spanish empanada, a nod to the Spanish presence in New Orleans and particularly their role in the cattle industry in northern Louisiana. Lasyone’s Meat Pie Restaurant has its physical location in Natchitoches, but it’s also at the fest in the Jax Brewery vendor area. Mrs. Wheat’s Pies are in the Jackson Square vendor area and the Riverfront—Kohlmeyer vendor area (meat, shrimp and andouille, crab and artichoke, Creole crawfish).
Sno-balls: It’s the antidote to New Orleans’ summer heat and humidity, which sometimes arrives in the spring. Plum Street Snoball is at the festival in the Jackson Square vendor area and at the Riverfront-Plaza vendor area with a lot of different flavors of this super-fine, shaved ice treat, like strawberry, iced coffee cream, nectar cream, grape, and more. And by all means, add the condensed cream for $1.
Seafood-stuffed mirliton: Also found on nearly every Thanksgiving table in New Orleans, the stuffed mirliton is a thing of decadence. The mirliton, also known as the chayote squash and it’s pronounced MEL-uh-tawn, gets cooked and hollowed out before being stuffed with a savory seafood stuffing. Find one in the Jackson Square vendor area at Tujaque’s stand. Another popular seafood stuffed veg is the bell pepper. Find those at Café Dauphine in the Riverfront — Kohlmeyer Lawn vendor area.
Po-boys: Here’s a comprehensive list of nearly twenty po-boys at the festival, from smothered rabbit to soft shell crab. The fan favorite (And an Eater favorite) is Walker’s cochon de lait po-boy, if you had to try just one.
Boiled crawfish: Rouse’s is back in the Jackson Square vendor area with hot boiled crawfish with all the fixings.
Crawfish bread: Perhaps the most iconic festival food, thanks to its presence at Jazz Fest, Audubon Catering and Events is serving crawfish bread in the Riverfront—Kohlmeyer Lawn vendor area. Lakeview Harbor also has it in the Riverfront-Palm Lawn vendor area.
Boudin: A classic loose, rice-based, Cajun sausage that has made its way to New Orleans in recent years, Kingfish Kitchen and Cocktails has seared crawfish boudin with pickled mustard seeds and a field green salad in the Riverfront—Kohlmeyer Lawn area. Voleo’s in the Jax Brewery vendor area has crabmeat boudin balls with Creole mustard sauce in the Jax Brewery vendor area.
Pralines: Find these pecan, butter, and sugar candies at Loretta’s in the Riverfront—Kohlmeyer Lawn area in classic, chocolate, rum, and coconut. Also, indulge in Loretta’s praline beignets.
Beignets: Start with the traditional version of this ethereal, fried dough at Cafe Beignet in the Jax Brewery vendor area. Loretta’s has a praline beignet and a crab beignet in the Riverfront—Kohlmeyer Lawn area. Restaurant R’evolution has a crab beignet with red pepper remoulade in the Riverfront — Palm Lawn vendor area. A Gulf fish version is available at Royal House in the Jax Brewery vendor area.
Jambalaya: Find a chicken and sausage version of this traditional one-pot rice dish at Original New Orleans Po-boys in the Riverfront—Kohlmeyer area, plus there’s a combo plate with jambalaya and fried shrimp. Cajun Corner has a version in the Jax Brewery vendor area.
Cochon de Lait: Slow roasted pork in a po-boy is availabe from Walker’s in the Riverfront—Kohlmeyer vendor area.
Oysters Rockefeller: Find an oysters Rock po-boy in the Riverfront — Palm Lawn vendor area at Desire Oyster Bar.
Bread Pudding: Find this sweet, dense, bread dessert in the Riverfront — Palm Lawn vendor area at Desire Oyster Bar.
Yakamein: Also known as “Old Sober,” at one time this brothy, umame rich noodle and meat soup topped with a boiled egg was mostly found in the back of barrooms. Miss Linda has two versions in the Jax vendor area, beef yakamein and shrimp/beef yakamein. Plus, Miss Linda is a treasure.
Chargrilled Oysters: Made famous by Drago’s (which has a location in the Hilton Hotel on the far end of the festival by the Riverwalk), Royal House in the Jax Brewery vendor area is dishing them out at the festival.
Calas: The “Cala Ladies” used to sing out their cala offerings on the streets of New Orleans. That ended long ago, but these fried rice fritters can still be found a few places. At FQF, find oyster calas at Voleo’s in the Jax Brewery vendor area.
Update: French Quarter Fest has cancelled all of Saturday’s events due to dangerous weather, including the possibility of heavy rainfall, strong wind, hail, and tornadoes. The festival will resume on Sunday at 11 a.m. for its final day.