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Best Soul Food in New Orleans | The Culinary Gem of Louisiana

Best Soul Food in New Orleans | The Culinary Gem of Louisiana

New Orleans is known for Bourbon Street, jazz, and, of course, soul food. You can’t go to this city without sampling some of the best Southern, Cajun, and Creole-style dishes.

NOLA is where the food is fresh, unique, and absolutely delectable, and it’s also packed with culinary variety. However, with a barrage of restaurants, it can be pretty hard to narrow down the list of the best soul food in this city.

This guide gathers all the best soul food restaurants in one place so you can skip some of the hassle of deciding where to go for dinner. With award-winning chefs and classic Louisiana-style dishes, these are some of the best soul food restaurants in New Orleans.

8 Best Soul Food Restaurants in New Orleans

From gumbos to oysters and the best fried chicken in Louisiana, New Orleans has all the soul food you and your stomach could want. It was hard to narrow down the best soul food restaurants in NOLA since there are so many. However, there were some that stood leagues above the rest.

Let’s take a look at eight of the top soul food restaurants in New Orleans.

Clesi’s Restaurant & Catering

Oysters on a plate from Clesi's restaurant in New Orleans

You are sure to feel at home when visiting Clesi’s Restaurant & Catering. Traditionally a family-run restaurant, this New Orleans classic will have you experiencing some of the best soul food the city has to offer.

Run by the Clesi brothers and their sister, their mission is to make the food an experience for everyone who eats it. Whether you sit down at their restaurant or they come to you, a delicious and classic New Orleans flavor journey awaits.

From jambalaya cheese fries to crawfish queso, their appetizers are to die for. No matter what you order, the entrees perfectly round off the meal. However, you can’t visit Clesi’s Restaurant & Catering without sampling some of the best boiled crawfish in New Orleans.

Clesi’s is the perfect place to get good quality Southern dishes and flavorful oysters with that soul food vibe.

Mambo’s

Grits and meat at Mambo's restaurant in New Orleans

If you’ve been having some fun on Bourbon Street and you’re feeling a bit peckish, Mambo’s is close by, serving up some hearty and homely meals. This soul food restaurant is conveniently located on Bourbon Street, so you can stop by while exploring the city.

The first thing that catches your eye will be the restaurant’s unique design (One room even has a swamp scene on its ceiling). And don’t get disturbed by the eyes of two alligator sculptures staring at you while you enjoy your meal, it’s part of the experience.

Chefs who have devoted their lives to perfecting the art of Creole and Cajun cuisines prepare delectable dishes that will keep you coming back to Mambo’s. A popular favorite is the Louisiana Crab Cakes with crawfish and mushroom cream sauce.

The Oyster Rockefeller is a melt-in-your-mouth wonder. And if you’re feeling adventurous, try the Gator Tail Bites, which are made from alligator meat. They’re quite tender.

If you want the Louisiana swamp scene without the mosquitoes and some good New Orleans soul food, Mambo’s is a must.

Willie Mae’s Scotch House

Plate of chicken from Willie Mae's Scotch House in New Orleans

This legendary restaurant has been serving up classic soul food and the best chicken in New Orleans since the 1950s. That’s no exaggeration. The Food Network and The Travel Channel have classed Willie Mae’s Scotch House as serving the Best Fried Chicken at a National level.

They might make the best fried chicken, but it’s also surprisingly non-greasy. You have quite the selection of sides. Choose from different kinds of beans to mac and cheese, fried okra, candied yams, classic french fries, or mashed potatoes. Grab a delicious cornbread muffin on the side as well. It wouldn’t be a soul food experience without one.

If chicken isn’t your go-to order, the fried catfish is just as delicious and classically New Orleans. Or just grab a seafood platter with your choice of sides.

If backpacking through Austin, Texas, hasn’t led you to find a decent Southern meal. Head off to New Orleans and visit Willie Mae’s for an experience of a lifetime.

Dooky Chase’s Restaurant

Redfish meal from Dooky Chase's in New Orleans

For a combination of African American art, jazz, classic Creole cooking, and a splash of history from the civil rights movement, Dooky Chase’s is the place to be. This soul food restaurant in New Orleans serves food and stories like no other.

In 1939, Dooky Chase’s was a little corner store that sold lottery tickets and po’boys. Then the founder’s son, Dooky Jr (a jazz trumpeter), married Chef Leah Chase and the rest is history.

For 70 years, Leah ran Dooky Chase’s, and she served many notable people, from Martin Luther King Jr. to the Obamas. She became an icon in New Orleans for her Creole dishes, being known as the Queen of Creole Cuisine.

Today, Dooky Chase’s Restaurant upholds Leah’s traditional recipes with some modern innovations. You will leave this place with a full belly and a smile on your face when you eat their gumbo z’herbes or red beans and rice. The shrimp Clemenceau is also a household favorite, and the fried chicken à la Chase is as traditional as it gets.

For an experience beyond just good food, Dooky Chase’s Restaurant has to be on your New Orleans bucket list.

Cochon

Oyster platter from Cochon's in New Orleans

When you walk into Cochon, the atmosphere makes it clear this restaurant is boisterous with happy-go-lucky patrons. It’s the place to pig out on good food and have fun with good friends.

Yes, that was a pun because the menu is incredibly pork heavy. You can find anything from smoked, cured, and shredded bacon, to some delicious homemade sausage here.

Set in a warehouse, this restaurant has a rustic vibe. However, the food is high-quality interpretations of the old Southern Cajun-style dishes that Chef Donald Link grew up with. Try the oyster and bacon sandwich for a unique culinary experience. The homeplace pastures fried pork chop with jalapeño cheddar grits is also an excellent choice.

Don’t worry, they have other proteins if you’re not in the mood for the pork-filled menu. Catfish and rabbit are a few tasty alternatives. If you’re adventurous, try the rabbit and dumplings. Otherwise, you can play it safe with a pan-fried catfish.

Cochon is the place to be for traditional Southern Cajun dishes with the unique twists of Chef Donald Link. You’ll come for the food and stay for the vibe.

High Hat

Fried fish meal from High Hat Cafe in New Orleans

This is where New Orleans comfort food and traditional Southern-style dishes come together to create the most delicious menu that you can’t miss out on. It’s not a very well-known restaurant, but only because the New Orleanians are trying to keep it to themselves. And for a good reason.

High Hat has something for everyone to try, from chicken gumbo with pimento cheese to fried catfish with hushpuppies. The buttery BBQ shrimp is a delicacy for the ages. Mix them with some beef hot tamales, and you’re all set for a terrific experience.

However, the gem of High Hat is their fried chicken. It will make your tastebuds travel through the Mississippi delta. But make sure to get there early because it flies out the door due to its popularity.

For the experience of traveling from New Orleans through the South of the USA without even leaving your table, you need to go to High Hat.

Joey K’s

Fried fish and chips from Joey K's in New Orleans

In the historic Garden District of New Orleans, surrounded by antique shops and art galleries, Joey K’s serves up cuisine that never goes out of style. Of all the New Orleans soul food restaurants, Joey K’s is in a league of its own.

They have all the traditional New Orleans classics, from beignets to gumbo. However, everything has its own twist. The beignets are made from corn and crab before they’re dusted with spicy powdered sugar for a sweet and savory experience.

In the mood for some catfish? They have all the catfish, from broiled to fried, the choices are endless. And the fried green tomatoes served with shrimp is honestly one of the best appetizers on the menu. End your meal with their traditional bread pudding, the perfect close to an ideal dining experience.

Joey K’s is where you go for traditional New Orleans cuisine like you have never experienced before.

Lil Dizzy’s Cafe

Fried shrimp po'boy from Lil Dizzy's Cafe in New Orleans

This gorgeous little cafe was almost lost during the height of the pandemic. But luckily, the Baquet family came together and saved their beloved family restaurant from falling through the cracks.

Today, you can still enjoy the delectable delicacies that Lil Dizzy’s Cafe offers. The restaurant has an unmistakable family vibe, with the walls covered in New Orleans, Baquet family, and Saints memorabilia. You will feel at home when you step into Lil Dizzy’s Cafe.

The chicken is exceptional here. And the po’boys will titillate your taste buds. Do yourself a favor and order the gumbo, as it is quite an experience. They also have a seemingly endless choice of traditional New Orleans sides, from mac and cheese to potato salad, candied yams, dirty rice, and Southern greens.

It’s truly a miracle that Lil Dizzy’s Cafe is still up and running. They continue to serve excellent New Orleans classic dishes to locals and visitors who pop in.

Final Thoughts on Best Soul Food | New Orleans, Louisiana

Fried oysters and bread platter

Now that you’ve discovered the best soul food in New Orleans, it’s time to go out there and experience the deliciousness for yourself.

In NOLA, you’ll find an endless supply of delectable choices, from the best gumbos to fried chicken, boiled crawfish, and fried catfish.

Now that you have indulged in the fantastic food of New Orleans, it’s time for a new adventure. Perhaps take a road trip to Georgia next. There’s a whole list of fun things to do in Savannah before you get hungry again.

Erik S

Sunday 11th of September 2022

Cochon, High Hat and Joey K's are not soul-food reataurants. (A lot of New Orleanians would join me in saying Joey K's does not belong on a best-of anything list.) Neither is Mambo's, so far as I can tell. It is a Bourbon St spot with a rooftop bar, catering to visitors and claiming to serve Cajun and Creole, not Soul, food. Differentiating between Creole and Soul can be tricky, but it has to do with Black chefs and owners and patronage though nothing is set in stone. The article includes the abovementioned four dubious entries but omits surefire ones such as Ray's on the Avenue, Barrow's Catfish and Morrow's. It also completely ignores the vegan/vegetarian Soul Food trend.