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New Orleans’ Famous Cafe Du Monde Re-Opens Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

New Orleans Top Tourist Traps That Are Actually Worth a Visit

Don’t hate these spots just because they’re popular

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New Orleans embraces tourism so much so that the city hosted nearly 11 million visitors last year, a number sure to be topped in 2018 — the city’s Tricentennial year. Because many tourists come to New Orleans to experience the city’s culture, food, music, and neighborhoods, it makes sense that they’ll discover some amazing homegrown experiences along the way. But do throngs of tourists really make a place bad? There’s a reason tourist “traps” are popular, so jump down off of that high horse and dive right in.

New Orleans hums with excellent restaurants known as much for the food and/or experience as they are for the lines of tourist stretching out the door. Consider this just a sample to get you started.

For New Orleans’ best classic restaurants, head right over here.

Let us know in the comments below or through the the tipline if you think we omitted a great one.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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French Market

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Wander down Esplanade towards the Mississippi early in the morning, and run smack into the French Market as it’s coming to life, a beehive of sellers unpacking their wares, artists setting up shop, and food vendors preparing all manner of delectables. The market, originally a Choctaw trading post dating back to 1791, is a six-block open-air colonnade of produce, souvenirs, and under-appreciated freshly prepared local dishes ranging from Gulf oysters to muffulettas. Check Meals From the Heart for good-for-you dishes and Alberto’s for a muffuletta rivaling that other place across the street.

Central Grocery and Deli

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Located across from the French Market, Central Grocery invented the muffuletta sandwich in 1906, an ethereal combination of cured meats like ham, mortadella, salami, and cheeses including provolone, Swiss, and sometimes mozzarella, piled into a (usually) round seeded loaf and dressed with a piquant olive salad. The iconic grocery on Decatur still has its family flag planted on one of the best versions in town, a monster of a sandwich perfect for sharing. You might have to wait on line, but it’s worth it.

Pat O'Brien's

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Hurricanes may be the patron saint of booze along Bourbon Street, but Pat O’Brien’s signature drink actually has a rightful place in New Orleans history. Pat O’s birthed the potent mash-up of passion fruit, citrus, grenadine, and rum in the 1940s and it’s still served in a tall glass shaped like a hurricane lamp. If you’ve never sung along to the dueling pianos at Pat O’s, hurricane in hand, what are you waiting for?  

Hurricane
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Huge Ass Beers

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With three locations on Bourbon Street, Huge Ass Beers is the ultimate testimony to proof in advertising. Try to get your whole hand around the giant cup of very cold beer, and sway along with the live music while you sip. This is what Bourbon Street promises and delivers, so order up and enjoy.

Gumbo Shop

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Gumbo is a hotly contested specialty in New Orleans, with the best version usually made by your mama. And while arguing over which roux is darker and who serves the best gumbo can be fighting words, the Gumbo Shop in the French Quarter is a surprisingly good place to get a fix of the iconic homey dish. Pick from seafood and okra, chicken and andouille, or gumbo z’herbes: All three are excellent.

Crawfish étouffée at Gumbo Shop
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Cafe Du Monde

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Adored by locals and visitors alike, beignets are a treat any time of day — a possibility since the original Cafe du Monde in the French Quarter is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These deep fried pillows of dough come three to an order, hot from the fryer, and dusted with powdered sugar, best enjoyed with chicory-laced cafe au lait on the side in the open-air cafe on Decatur Street. Get them to go and munch watching the river for a seminal New Orleans experience. Good to know: Head around to the river side of the restaurant to peek in the window at the beignet-makers at work.

Brennan's

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A rite of passage, Brennan’s bananas Foster should punctuate any meal at the storied restaurant that has anchored Creole dining on Royal Street since 1946. A flaming blend of bananas, butter and rum-fueled goodness that was invented by Owen Brennan in the early 1950s, the cinnamon-scented spectacle is the perfect ending to chef Slade Rushing’s creative take on Brennan’s Creole cuisine. And yes, dessert is served at breakfast, an orgy of indulgence served from 9 a.m. during the week and 8 a.m. on the weekend.

Steamboat Natchez

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For a city that owes its life to the river, Mississippi experiences can be few and far between. That’s why a ride on the Steamboat Natchez isn’t just for tourists.  A throwback to the days when steamboats cruised for commerce and pleasure, the Natchez connects locals and visitors to the working river. Skip the lunch and dinner cruises, the food is nothing special. Instead, sign on for live jazz and be sure to order one or three of what might just be one of the best Bloody Marys in town.

Steamboat Natchez
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Acme Oyster House

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Acme Oyster House, the French Quarter bivalve landmark, often draws lines that snake down Iberville Street. An expansion a few years ago cut down the wait, but not Acme’s popularity. The well known restaurant regularly shucks more than three million oysters per year, a statistic best appreciated from a seat at the scarred marble oyster bar.

New Orleans Original Daiquiris

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The thrill in the freedom of ordering a daiquiri from a drive-thru window simply adds to the pleasure of this sweet, braining-freezing treat. Try a frosty cold margarita, piña colada or white Russian daiquiri at the much-loved New Orleans Original Daiquiris chain with locations from Metairie to the Riverbend, and Mandeville to Bourbon Street. Good to know: Hanging at a daiquiri shop is a thing in New Orleans, so give it a try if you haven’t before. And while you’re at it, make it a double.

Ruth's Chris Steak House

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Sure, Ruth’s Chris is now a 100-plus unit chain of high-end steakhouses run by a hospitality group based in Florida. But that doesn’t change that more than 40 years ago, Ruth Fertel, a divorced mother of two, mortgaged her home for $22,000 to buy a 60-seat restaurant in New Orleans named Chris Steak House. When she relocated the chophouse, she renamed the restaurant Ruth’s Chris Steak House and ran it herself, doing everything from cutting meat to greeting politicos and celebrities until 1999, when failing health caused her to sell off controlling shares. Ruth’s Chris still make the steaks the way she insisted, sizzling and perfect.

Drago's Hilton

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The genius notion to add butter and garlic to a raw oyster’s natural brine, using the shell as a ready-made serving dish straight from the grill, is nothing short of brilliant. It occurred to Tommy Cvitanovich a couple of decades ago at Drago’s, his family’s revered oyster palace with an original location in Metairie that opened in 1969 and a very tourist-friendly location in the HIlton Riverside at the edge of the Quarter. Drago’s makes some of the best charbroiled oysters you’ll ever taste — juicy, topped with herbs and a blend of Romano and parmesan cheese, sizzling with butter.

Chargrilled oysters
FACEBOOK

French Market

Wander down Esplanade towards the Mississippi early in the morning, and run smack into the French Market as it’s coming to life, a beehive of sellers unpacking their wares, artists setting up shop, and food vendors preparing all manner of delectables. The market, originally a Choctaw trading post dating back to 1791, is a six-block open-air colonnade of produce, souvenirs, and under-appreciated freshly prepared local dishes ranging from Gulf oysters to muffulettas. Check Meals From the Heart for good-for-you dishes and Alberto’s for a muffuletta rivaling that other place across the street.

Central Grocery and Deli

Located across from the French Market, Central Grocery invented the muffuletta sandwich in 1906, an ethereal combination of cured meats like ham, mortadella, salami, and cheeses including provolone, Swiss, and sometimes mozzarella, piled into a (usually) round seeded loaf and dressed with a piquant olive salad. The iconic grocery on Decatur still has its family flag planted on one of the best versions in town, a monster of a sandwich perfect for sharing. You might have to wait on line, but it’s worth it.

Pat O'Brien's

Hurricane
FACEBOOK

Hurricanes may be the patron saint of booze along Bourbon Street, but Pat O’Brien’s signature drink actually has a rightful place in New Orleans history. Pat O’s birthed the potent mash-up of passion fruit, citrus, grenadine, and rum in the 1940s and it’s still served in a tall glass shaped like a hurricane lamp. If you’ve never sung along to the dueling pianos at Pat O’s, hurricane in hand, what are you waiting for?  

Hurricane
FACEBOOK

Huge Ass Beers

With three locations on Bourbon Street, Huge Ass Beers is the ultimate testimony to proof in advertising. Try to get your whole hand around the giant cup of very cold beer, and sway along with the live music while you sip. This is what Bourbon Street promises and delivers, so order up and enjoy.

Gumbo Shop

Crawfish étouffée at Gumbo Shop
FACEBOOK

Gumbo is a hotly contested specialty in New Orleans, with the best version usually made by your mama. And while arguing over which roux is darker and who serves the best gumbo can be fighting words, the Gumbo Shop in the French Quarter is a surprisingly good place to get a fix of the iconic homey dish. Pick from seafood and okra, chicken and andouille, or gumbo z’herbes: All three are excellent.

Crawfish étouffée at Gumbo Shop
FACEBOOK

Cafe Du Monde

Adored by locals and visitors alike, beignets are a treat any time of day — a possibility since the original Cafe du Monde in the French Quarter is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These deep fried pillows of dough come three to an order, hot from the fryer, and dusted with powdered sugar, best enjoyed with chicory-laced cafe au lait on the side in the open-air cafe on Decatur Street. Get them to go and munch watching the river for a seminal New Orleans experience. Good to know: Head around to the river side of the restaurant to peek in the window at the beignet-makers at work.

Brennan's

A rite of passage, Brennan’s bananas Foster should punctuate any meal at the storied restaurant that has anchored Creole dining on Royal Street since 1946. A flaming blend of bananas, butter and rum-fueled goodness that was invented by Owen Brennan in the early 1950s, the cinnamon-scented spectacle is the perfect ending to chef Slade Rushing’s creative take on Brennan’s Creole cuisine. And yes, dessert is served at breakfast, an orgy of indulgence served from 9 a.m. during the week and 8 a.m. on the weekend.

Steamboat Natchez

Steamboat Natchez
FACEBOOK

For a city that owes its life to the river, Mississippi experiences can be few and far between. That’s why a ride on the Steamboat Natchez isn’t just for tourists.  A throwback to the days when steamboats cruised for commerce and pleasure, the Natchez connects locals and visitors to the working river. Skip the lunch and dinner cruises, the food is nothing special. Instead, sign on for live jazz and be sure to order one or three of what might just be one of the best Bloody Marys in town.

Steamboat Natchez
FACEBOOK

Acme Oyster House

Acme Oyster House, the French Quarter bivalve landmark, often draws lines that snake down Iberville Street. An expansion a few years ago cut down the wait, but not Acme’s popularity. The well known restaurant regularly shucks more than three million oysters per year, a statistic best appreciated from a seat at the scarred marble oyster bar.

New Orleans Original Daiquiris

The thrill in the freedom of ordering a daiquiri from a drive-thru window simply adds to the pleasure of this sweet, braining-freezing treat. Try a frosty cold margarita, piña colada or white Russian daiquiri at the much-loved New Orleans Original Daiquiris chain with locations from Metairie to the Riverbend, and Mandeville to Bourbon Street. Good to know: Hanging at a daiquiri shop is a thing in New Orleans, so give it a try if you haven’t before. And while you’re at it, make it a double.

Ruth's Chris Steak House

Sure, Ruth’s Chris is now a 100-plus unit chain of high-end steakhouses run by a hospitality group based in Florida. But that doesn’t change that more than 40 years ago, Ruth Fertel, a divorced mother of two, mortgaged her home for $22,000 to buy a 60-seat restaurant in New Orleans named Chris Steak House. When she relocated the chophouse, she renamed the restaurant Ruth’s Chris Steak House and ran it herself, doing everything from cutting meat to greeting politicos and celebrities until 1999, when failing health caused her to sell off controlling shares. Ruth’s Chris still make the steaks the way she insisted, sizzling and perfect.

Drago's Hilton

Chargrilled oysters
FACEBOOK

The genius notion to add butter and garlic to a raw oyster’s natural brine, using the shell as a ready-made serving dish straight from the grill, is nothing short of brilliant. It occurred to Tommy Cvitanovich a couple of decades ago at Drago’s, his family’s revered oyster palace with an original location in Metairie that opened in 1969 and a very tourist-friendly location in the HIlton Riverside at the edge of the Quarter. Drago’s makes some of the best charbroiled oysters you’ll ever taste — juicy, topped with herbs and a blend of Romano and parmesan cheese, sizzling with butter.

Chargrilled oysters
FACEBOOK

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