New Orleans, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways. You have the most delicious satisfying po' boys, the most party-worthy frozen daiquiris, and world-class dining to boot. But there are also a lot of amazing places in the Big Easy that don't really fall into any category, other than "really fucking cool" and "definitely worth the effort of finding and checking out."
Here, we present 13 such spots, from the better-known (beignets? duh) to the off-the-beaten-path (a quirky cookbook shop). For more tips on what to do while in New Orleans, check out the complete MUNCHIES Guide to New Orleans.
Cafe Du Monde: When you announce your plans to travel to New Orleans, someone will shout, "OMG. You have to go to Cafe Du Monde!" That someone needs to open his heart to adventure and explore, but he's also right. Yes, it's a godless tourist trap, but the mecca of cafe au lait and beignets is also worth your time. The best way to visit it is after a long night of drinking in the French Quarter. When you see the sun starting to rise, make a beeline for it. It's not going to help your hangover and you'll wake up stickier than you would have otherwise, but you won't care.
Toups Meatery: You might recognize Isaac Toups from the most recent season of "Top Chef." But, when he isn't on television, this pirate-looking chef is serving up a masterclass on how to serve and eat meat. In this restaurant, Toups is paying respect to his family's long line of Louisiana traditions. This is an enlightened approach to Cajun cuisine, as cracklins and hogs headcheese can be ordered alongside the Gulf seafood couvillion stew. But if you're coming here for a tasting of delicious meats, you can't beat Toups' Meatery Board, which provides you a selection of house-cured meats and condiments.
Willie Mae's Scotch House: If you haven't spent much time in the South, let this be your introduction to Soul Food. This joint is a New Orleans institution in the heart of the Treme, and it serves the best goddamn fried chicken you'll find anywhere. The red beans and rice, which have a bit of a kick, are a great place to start as you work your way through the menu. Don't skimp on the sides either. And a little heads up: Be prepared to wait in line.
Casamento's Restaurant: Almost a century old, this is the defining oyster restaurant in the city. Closed during the summer months, this spot feels like an old mob joint. Atmosphere and history aside, Casamento's is worth visiting because it really does serve some of the best oysters you can find anywhere. The fresh ones are great, but also be sure to try the oyster loaf, which predates the invention of the po boy.
Tujague's: The second oldest restaurant in New Orleans is only one of the many claims to fame this restaurant has. This joint is a testament to what New Orleans is as a culture of food and drinks. You can start at the bar and explore the boozy flavors of the Big Easy before grabbing a table and getting a true taste of its defining Creole grub. When you visit Tujague's, you're walking through history, so value that.
Bacchanal Wine: The big draw of New Orleans is drinking outside, and Bacchanal gives that drinking direction with some outdoor seating, lighting, good food, an amazing wine selection, and a live band. If you can, go by in the early afternoon when it isn't too crowded and loud. You're within spitting distance of the Mississippi River—take a deep breath and relax.
Kitchen Witch Cookbooks: Want to learn how to cook? Want to learn a really obscure method of cooking? Kitchen Witch has your back with vintage cookbooks on a huge range of subjects. There are both new and used books, along with a number of intrepid booksellers to help you find what you need. After stopping by here, you'll never want to buy another cookbook from Amazon again.
Debbie Does Doberge: Invented in New Orleans back in the 1930s by Beulah Ledner, the Doberge is the true cake of New Orleans. Though Gambino's sells the original, Debbie Does Doberge upgrades on the original layered cake by offering every flavor you could ever imagine. Instead of the regular options of just chocolate and lemon, consider everything from salted caramel, fig white chocolate and goat cheese, or even king cake varieties. Order a flavor as a cake, "d-cups," or dobites, or maybe even experiment with their "salty balls."
Mardi Gras Zone: You want a sandwich, an obscure soda, or decorations for any possible themed party you can imagine? Lose yourself in a warehouse-sized building of random objects that will sell you groceries and boas, make you a pizza, and allow you to wash your clothes. It's like an '80s dystopian future, except it exists right now in New Orleans' Marigny neighborhood.
New Orleans Pharmacy Museum: Once an 19th-century apothecary, the Pharmacy Museum is a national historic landmark and exactly what it sounds like. It exhibits the inventions, medicines, and superstitions that we used to think would cure us of our various illnesses. A testament to logical leaps, the museum also displays an original cocktail and soda fountain that is definitely worth checking out if you are intrigued by the history of bartending.