New Orleans Homestyle Eats: Food like Yamomanem' Makes

Photo courtesy of Beth D'Addono
Photo courtesy of K-Paul's
By Beth D'Addono, New Orleans Local Expert

Homestyle food is the type that yamomanem' make, as they say in these parts.  This kind of comfort food is not necessarily fancy, although the flavors are deep and layered.  Instead, New Orleans homestyle cuisine is simply delicious, infusing even basic ingredients, like okra and bell peppers, chicken and local seafood, with careful attention to detail, from the making of the roux to the last bite of bread pudding at the end of the meal.

In New Orleans, homestyle cooking is commonplace. Many places have secret recipes and methods they use for creating just about everything on their menu.  Portions are heaping, and family style ordering is often recommended, all the better to try more of the dishes that make New Orleans a food lover's paradise. A few bowls of gumbo, shrimp appetizer, and a couple plates of fried food can easy feed a party of four.

Comfort food can include soulful southern dishes like Willie Mae's fried chicken, or a more New Orleans specific  speciality like the many derivations of gumbo served at the Gumbo Shop. 

When you are looking for authentic New Orleans taste, complete with the loving hard work that goes into cooking, check out these top New Orleans homestyle restaurants. 

10. Bon Ton Cafe

Located in a historic 19th century building, this restaurant's interior – exposed brick walls, checkered tablecloths, wrought iron fixtures – is the epitome of old New Orleans. Feeding New Orleanians for more than a century, the Bon Ton specializes in traditional Cajun cooking, highlighted by specialties such as chicken fried steak, crawfish etouffe, jambalaya, catfish, turtle soup and soft-shell crab. Any food goes well with their refreshing house drink, the Rum Ramsey. The service hearkens back to a warmer, softer time when dining was unhurried and gracious. Lunch is a fine idea, but you'll need to reserve in advance for dinner.

9. Mother's
Photo courtesy of Mother's

Mother's is the well-known Creole staple of the New Orleans foodie scene. Lines can be seen funneling into the door of this Poydras Street hot spot, as patrons lean in to catch a whiff of the tasty cuisine offered inside. The Gumbo and crawfish etouffee are what you should sample first if this is your initial foray into Creole dining. The roast beef debri po'boy is a three-napkin winner. Mother's offers diner style seating and atmosphere, so casual is the word. The guys from the television show, "Man vs. Food" made sure to stop here, so make sure you do too on your visit.

8. Liuzza's by the Track
Photo courtesy of SanFranAnnie

In a city that's po'boy proud, Liuzza's at the Track stands out from the crowd, thanks to the house specialty, a buttery, Worcestershire-fueled gi-normous portion of gulf shrimp slathered between a hot and crusty roll. It's called barbecue shrimp, but there's really nothing barbecued about it. Save room for the gumbo. This town is full of conflicting opinions about gumbo - how light, or dark the roux should be, seafood vs. sausage and on and on. Liuzza's recipe includes seafood, local sausage, 13 spices and a few secret ingredients. On a hot day, nothing beats s seat at the bar, a bowl of gumbo and a cold beer at this hole in the wall joint.

7. Elizabeth's Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth's Restaurant

With tasty Southern cuisine at reasonable prices, this Bywater neighborhood standby is popular with locals and visitors alike. Weekend brunch earns a wild fan base for its copious portions of grillades and grits - think smothered steak and red neck eggs, poached and topped with fried green tomatoes. On the sweet side, you might find Bananas Foster stuffed French toast or homemade and biscuits with butter and honey. If there is a wait, head upstairs to the bar for a mimosa or veg-enhanced Bloody Mary, the perfect jump start to a fun-filled New Orleans day. Come hungry and prepare to be wowed by the charming setting, friendly service and downhome savory eats.

6. Li'l Dizzy's Cafe
Photo courtesy of Beth D'Addono

A down-home setting and authentic gumbo make Li'l Dizzy's a must for anyone seeking a genuine New Orleans dining experience. The cafe is family owned and the welcome is genuine and warm. The gumbo is family recipe that includes fresh, local seafood and traditional file powder. Specializing in authentic cuisine made exclusively with regional ingredients, this intimate eatery's buffets are exceedingly popular with locals, so come early and bring a hearty appetite. Efficiency is maximized and hunger minimized if you purchase the buffet for lunch. Or order platters of fried seafood or po'boys and be warned, portions are immense. You'll leave waddling.

5. Gumbo Shop
Photo courtesy of goodiesfirst

The Gumbo Shop is the perfect place for a fun, casual lunch served in a small, cozy, characteristically New Orleans setting. Visit this local favorite often and sample a variety of savory gumbos, including chicken andouille gumbo, seafood okra gumbo and the meatless gumbo z'herbes. Other popular dishes include favorites like crawfish etouffee, blackened fish specialties and alligator sauce piquante. The location is ideal, right next to the St. Louis Cathedral in the heart of the French Quarter. The venue consistently tops the local weekly Gambit's best gumbo lists, which is saying a lot in a city with hoards of gumbo aficionados.

4. Tujague's Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Tujagues

Tujague's is a Southern-Creole restaurant in the French Quarter of New Orleans that is stretching its boundaries, adding some new dishes to the menu while still maintaining its longtime favorites. The second oldest eatery in town, Tujaque's has been famed for homestyle Creole cuisine since 1856. Across from the French Market, Tujaque's is centrally located and as popular with locals as it is appealing to visitors. A newly launched craft cocktail list is yet another reason to pay a visit. Every meal is served with fresh French bread, and most ingredients used are bought daily from local producers. Tujague's even brews its own beer, and has an extensive wine list. Prepare to end every meal with some delicious bread pudding.

3. Willie Mae's Scotch House
Photo courtesy of goodiesfirst

Fried chicken is like gumbo in New Orleans - everybody has an opinion about who dishes the best, and discussions pro and con can be as heated as a political debate. Willie Mae's Scotch House in the Treme is a hole in the wall joint that always makes the top 10 list. Don't be fooled by its plain Jane exterior, this fried chicken mecca delivers the goods. Three pieces of chicken, plus two sides costs $10, a real steal. The chicken is battered and fried, making it a little heavier than some, but its fans are legion. Although the recipe is top secret, there is rumor of a Coca Cola brine.

2. Dooky Chase's Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Dooky Chase's Restaurant

Known as the "Queen of Creole Cuisine," Leah Chase has fed Quincy Jones, Jesse Jackson, Duke Ellington, Thurgood Marshall, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and countless others. Ray Charles was such a fan that he wrote Early in the Morning about Dooky Chase, a family owned business in the Treme since 1941. This is real deal soul food – red beans and rice, fried chicken, okra, shrimp and grits and other staples served in a lovely, art-filled dining room. The lunch buffet is a great deal, geared to the tremendously hungry. Open Tuesday through Thursday for lunch, Friday for lunch and dinner. Reservations are definitely recommended. There's also a Dooky Chase's outlet at Louis Armstrong International Airport.

1. K - Paul's Louisiana Kitchen
Photo courtesy of K-Paul's

Before there was Emeril, there was Paul Prudhomme, who is credited with introducing the world to Louisiana's Cajun flavors in the 1980s. His 200-seat restaurant (named for his wife, K) has three kitchens and a bakery that serves as testament to his popularity, and it remains one of the best places for Creole-style cooking. Dinner menus change daily based on availability of ingredients, but you might find turtle soup, shrimp and corn macque choux, chicken and andouille gumbo, Cajun jambalaya, crawfish etouffe, blackened Louisiana drum and bread pudding for dessert. Don't be put off by all the tourists; this is good food at a reasonable price.