Creme De La Creme

A complete list of all vendors, dishes, and our ratings of them is here.
Dozen Best Dishes At French Quarter Festival

The food vendors at the French Quarter Festival are, with only a few exceptions, restaurants. Not standard carnival food vendors. No popcorn or cotton candy or corn dogs, but real local food good enough to be sold by these sources year-round. From the 160 or so dishes available I’ve selected the following dozen, which are not only in the not-to-be-missed category, but have been so for years. (And I’ve eaten heartily at all but two of the twenty-nine previous festivals.) While all I can speak for are my own tastes, I think you’ll find this a pretty good guide.

1. Butterbeans That Make You Crazy, $5 . K-Paul’s @ Jackson Square. Rice, trinity, chicken, pork, andouille, tasso, and duck come together with the big beans to give a great country Cajun flavor. This dish goes back to the beginnings of K-Paul’s.

Goat cheese crepe.

2. Goat cheese and crawfish crepes, $6. Muriel’s @ Jackson Square. The idea sounds strange, but the flavor will change your mind instantly. The goat cheese inside the crepes is softened with cream cheese and sharpened with chives and shallots. The crawfish are in the rich, creamy-looking sauce with a little tomato and bell pepper.

3. Bourbon barbecue shrimp poor boy, $7. Bourbon House @ Jackson Square. This is more or less the Mr. B’s recipe for barbecue shrimp (and there is no better), goosed up with a bit of bourbon in the cooking. The alcohol is out of the way, but the vague smokiness adds a new dimension.

4. Grilled chicken livers, sweet hot pepper jelly, $6. Praline Connection @ Riverfront: The signature dish of this terrific Marigny outpost for soul food, these things will make you a convery even if you think you don’t like livers.

5. New Orleans bread pudding, whiskey sauce, $5. Desire Oyster Bar @ Riverfront Area: The Royal Sonesta Hotel has been part of the Festival since its inception, and they have made themselves memorable with this superlative version of the classic New Orleans dessert.

6. Bad Bart’s black jambalaya, $6. Crescent Pie and Sausage Co. @ Riverfront: Bart Bell is one of the chef-owners of this hip Mid-City eatery. His jambalaya is in my opinion the best in the city. It’s very dark brown, studded with duck, andouille, green onions, and a scattering of black-eye peas. Unconventional, but wonderful.

7. Brisket of beef with horseradish sauce $6. Tujague’s @ Jackson Square. I’ll bet this will create some of the longest lines at this year’s Festival. A half-block away from the Square for 157 years, Tujague’s may be in jeopardy owing to the shifting winds of the real estate business. A sentimental favorite since the first FQ Festival, the famous brisket is served in cubes with a sauce made of Creole mustard, chili sauce and horseradish.

Shrimp remoulade.

8. Shrimp remoulade, $7. Galatoire’s @ Jackson Square. Rivaled only by Arnaud’s, this version of the definitive Creole cold appetizer involves big, fresh Louisiana shrimp with a textbook example of red remoulade sauce–sharp and appetizing.

9. Crawfish and shrimp with lobster sauce, $6. Trey Yuen @ Jackson Square. The Wong Brothers from Trey Yuen on the North Shore used to have a restaurant in the Jax Brewery, and so became part of the Festival in its earliest years. This dish–also available in combo platters with shrimp fried rice and egg rolls–is a perennial favorite here.

Vaucresson hot sausage.

10. Creole hot sausage poor boy, $6. Vaucresson’s @ Jackson Square. Another FQF vendor since the beginning, the Vaucresson family makes the textbook hot sausage and brings it to all the food festivals throughout the year. And I can hardly wait until the next one, because it’s hard to find otherwise.

11. Turtle soup, $5. Court of Two Sisters @ Jackson Square. One of the best versions of turtle soup in town, from the courtyard kitchen of this touristy but delicious old Creole restaurant.

12. Duck & mushroom gumbo, $6. Red Fish Grill @ Riverfront.: Mushrooms are uncommon in gumbo, but Ralph Brennan’s chefs prove that the addition of the woodsy, wild fungi makes sense in a dark-roux gumbo.