Travel + Leisure: New Orleans "America's Best City for Foodies"

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Not by Alan Richman.
  • Not by Alan Richman.
We will brook no whining about New Orleans' latest appearance in the national media: Travel + Leisure has proclaimed New Orleans "America's Best City for Foodies." The magazine's September issue, its annual ranking of U.S. cities by desirability, places us at No. 1 in several other categories, including neighborhood joints and cafes; singles/bar scene; cocktail hour; people-watching; and New Year's Eve. (On the other hand, we rank dead last when it comes to cleanliness and ahead of only Memphis when it comes to "athletic/active."

But let's focus on that No. 1, shall we?

If you’re going to keep up with the nonstop party in the Crescent City, you’ll need a full stomach. New Orleans won the survey for neighborhood cafes, and came in No. 2 for its zesty ethnic fare. The post-Katrina rebuilding has extended deep into its restaurant scene, with chefs updating classic Creole cuisine at spots such as Meson 923 in the up-and-coming Warehouse District, and Sylvain in the French Quarter. While you’re waiting for a table, you can engage in one of the town’s great sports: people-watching.

Good for T+L, and the designation speaks to a larger point: if you have consistently bad meals in New Orleans, you're consistently going to the wrong places. The next time I see a national article bemoaning "Everything's fried" or "It's like hotel food, circa 1962," I won't bother to send the writer to Lilette or Herbsaint or The Company Burger; I'll just point them to this blurb. After all, if I found myself eating "hotel food, circa 1962" in New York or San Francisco, I wouldn't conclude the city's kitchens all suck — I'd conclude my restaurant-finding compass was out of whack.

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