New Orleans' reputation as a food town comes from having a rich indigenous cuisine. Creole cooking mixed European, African and Native American techniques and ingredients and yielded everything from gumbo to the corn succotash known as macque choux to trout amandine to oysters Rockefeller. Over the years, Creole cooking has comingled with the neighboring regional cuisine of Cajun country to the point where similar recipes and dishes make them somewhat interrelated and sometimes indistinguishable. New Orleans also has the culinary influences of other waves of immigrants, from Irish, German and Italian residents to more recent waves of Vietnamese and Latin populations. Of course, there are also student-diet staples like pizza delivery joints and late-night diners to satisfy off-hour cravings.
Students at Loyola don't even have to leave campus to dig into Creole-soul cooking. After the nearby restaurant Dunbar's Creole Cooking was flooded following the levee failures, Celestine Dunbar was able to reopen a version of her casual eatery in the Loyola University Broadway Activities Center (501 Pine St., 861-5451). Now locals venture on campus for pork chops for breakfast and her hearty red beans and rice, gumbo and fried chicken. Another Uptown spot for a taste of Creole cooking at affordable prices is Ignatius Eatery & Grocery (4200 Magazine St., 896-2225). Created by the founders of the Rue de la Course coffeeshops, Ignatius is a compact but comfortable corner spot for bowls of crawfish etouffee, jambalaya and muffuletta sandwiches. The walls of the shop are lined with popular local brands of food items like hot sauces. Franky & Johnny's (321 Arabella St., 899-9146; www.frankyandjohnnys.com) is a casual red-checkered tablecloth type of restaurant to dig into seafood po-boys, gumbo and boiled crawfish when they come in season.
Mexican and Latin American
The latest wave of new restaurants come from south-of-the-border inspirations and offer very affordable dining choices. Many storefront shops have been converted to taquerias in the last year. In Mid-City, Taqueria Guerrero Mexico (208 N. Carrollton Ave., 484-6959) opened this summer. It offers enchiladas, burritos, tacos and pupusas. It's not far from the more California-Mexican-inspired Juan's Flying Burrito (4724 S. Carrollton Ave., 486-9550; www.juansflyingburrito.com), which takes a slacker-gourmet approach and offers spinach tortillas in dishes like the Juaha roll with tarragon chicken or shrimp, presented in sliced medallions like sushi rolls. Juan's also has an older original location in the Lower Garden District (2018 Magazine St., 519-0000), and both offer a wide range of regular and enhanced versions of quesadillas and burritos, salads, fajitas and more. Near Tulane and Loyola, Felipe's (6215 S Miro St., 309-2776; www.felipesneworleans.com) is a relatively new and popular taqueria. Burritos and tacos are made with regular fillings and options like al pastor and chorizo sausage. There are also melon drinks and a condiment bar with salsa choices. Taqueria Corona (5932 Magazine St., 524-9805) adds hot gooey cheese-filled shrimp and beef flautas to the mix, as well as grilled green onions known as cebollitas. The options range from Americanized options of fish tacos with crunchy sliced purple cabbage, Mexican pizzas and taco shell salads to tacos of cow tongue. In the French Quarter, Country Flame (620 Iberville St., 522-1138) offers Mexican, Spanish and Cuban dishes at rock-bottom prices. There's everything from fajitas to ropa viejo to a Spanish version of beef bourguignon, and sides like yucca or French fries. In a surfshack approach to California-Mexican food, Lucy's Retired Surfer's Bar (701 Tchoupitoulas St., 523-8995; www.lucysretiredsurfers.com) offers burritos, salads and burgers as well as a host of weekly drink specials.
Mediterranean and Middle Eastern restaurants are becoming increasingly common and popular. Mona's Caf used to be one of the few places to get falafel and gyro sandwiches or platters when it had a single location in Mid-City (3901 Banks St., 482-0661), which was also part grocery store. It's now got locations Uptown (4126 Magazine St., 894-9800), in the Riverbend (1120 S. Carrollton Ave., 861-8175), Marigny (504 Frenchmen St., 949-4115) and on the Northshore (2820 E. Causeway Approach, Mandeville, 985-624-2977). The menu includes lentil soup, hummus, baba ganouj, stuffed grape leaves and kebabs of lamb and chicken. In the Riverbend, Lebanon Caf (1500 S. Carrollton Ave., 862-6200) offers many similar dishes and allows patrons to bring their own liquor. Pyramids Cafe (3151 Calhoun St., 861-9602; www.pyramidscafe.com) is a relatively new addition to the university area and offers many familiar Middle Eastern dishes as well as musabaha, a spicier version of hummus with garlic and hot pepper. Pyramids also delivers. For a more upscale take on Middle Eastern cuisine, Byblos (3218 Magazine St., 894-1233) has a spacious and pretty location, belly dancers on Thursday evenings and a rotisserie. Dishes include sauted halloumi cheese, chicken shawarma and charbroiled rack of lamb.
For pizza, there are many options. Students at Tulane and Loyola don't have to go far for slices at all hours. The Boot (1039 Broadway St., 866-9008) is a popular bar with pizza and a straight-ahead menu of chicken fingers and fries and such, and it's right on the fringe of campus. (Right next door, Crepes la Cart, 1039 Broadway St., 866-2362, offers more gourmet dining options in a wide range of sweet and savory stuffed-crepe choices.) Reginelli's Pizzeria is a popular local gourmet-pizza chain that has a couple Uptown locations (741 State St., 899-1414; 3244 Magazine St., 895-7272). Options include a spicy red pepper sauce, Italian sausage, capers and caramelized onions on the Nor'Easter and pesto sauce, sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese on the Sun Pie. There are also salads and appetizers with a Mediterranean bent. For slices, New York Pizza (5201 Magazine St., 891-2376) is an Uptown quick stop. Caf Nino (1510 S. Carrollton Ave., 865-9200) offers pizza, subs, calzones and an array of simple but hearty Italian classics like baked ziti. Fresco's Cafe (7625 Maple St., 862-6363; www.frescocafe.us) is right off campus, and it also delivers pizzas late into the night. The menu includes chicken and portobello or sausage and cheese strombolis and Greek dishes like spinach and feta triangles. For students heading downtown, Slice (1513 St. Charles Ave., 525-7437; www.slicepizzeria.com) is an affordable pizza joint with a rock-and-roll attitude. Besides thin-crusted pies, it offers calzones like the pork-packed Trucker, with bacon, pepperoni, ham and sausage, and its vegetarian foil, the Wicked Garden, with spinach, arugula, broccoli and roasted garlic. There's a bar in the back and Abita pitchers are well priced. In the French Quarter, Rotolo's (201 Decatur St., 948-3287; www.frenchquarterpizza.com) doesn't always have rock and roll, but it often has live jazz or New Orleans funk. It also recently added a sno-ball stand. Besides pizzas and salads, there are sandwiches and wraps. Rotolo's is open until 2 a.m. most nights, so it's a potential last stop or a refueling point for a long night.
Asian: Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai
Jumping from the pizza oven into the wok, there are a handful of Asian restaurants in the university neighborhood. Red Star (8330 Earhart Blvd., 866-672-6025; www.redstarchineserestaurant.com) delivers a range of Mandarin and spicy Szechwan dishes as well as chop suey, lo mein, egg foo young, fried rice and more. Thai options include Bangkok Cuisine (513 S. Carrollton Ave., 861-3932) in the Riverbend. There are red and green Thai curries, soups and rice dishes and Thai iced tea made with condensed milk. Philip Chan's Asian-Cajun Bistro (8400 Oak St., 522-4964; www.asiancajunbistro.com) was created by chef Philip Chan, a native of Hong Kong who launched the Chopstix chain of gourmet Chinese restaurants out of Atlanta. At his bistro, he does upscale traditional and Asian-fusian dishes, but lunch features many specials under $10 and there are always several vegetarian options as well. There are many intriguing Vietnamese restaurants in New Orleans, but they tend to be a good drive off campus, either to eastern New Orleans or across the river. On the West Bank, Pho Tau Bay (113 Westbank Expwy., Gretna, 368-9846) features traditional pho, or beef broth soups, spring rolls of shrimp, herbs and vermicelli wrapped in rice paper, and a wide range of other traditional dishes at student-friendly prices.
With its easy access to seafood, New Orleans has a number of sushi restaurants, which generally offer the gamut of Japanese cuisine from sushi, sashimi, tempura, noodle soups and some meat options like chicken teriyaki. In the Riverbend, Hana (8116 Hampson St., 865-1634) and Ninja (8433 Oak St., 866-1119) are convenient destinations. Near Xavier University, Mikimoto (3301 S. Carrollton Ave., 488-1881; www.mikimotosushi.com) offers dine-in, take-out and drive-through service. It's also very affordable.
While there may not be the greatest variety of cuisine choices after midnight, there are many places open. The Balcony Bar (3201 Magazine St., 894-8888) has more than 40 beers on tap and an upstairs kitchen that is open late and offers pizzas, calzones and bar food for grazing. Igor's string of bars and restaurants offers big burgers and full bars around the clock. Most also have laundry machines if you're multi-tasking. Igor's (2133 St. Charles Ave., 568-9786) is the namesake location and is next to Igor's Bar-B-Q Mama (2135 St. Charles Ave., 522-6602), which isn't open around the clock. Checkpoint Charlie (501 Esplanade Ave., 281-4847) in the Marigny has drinks, a grill, washers and dryers and live music ranging from grizzled folk to hard rock. At the end of the Bourbon strip, Clover Grill (900 Bourbon St., 598-1010; www.clovergrill.com) is open around the clock and serves burgers and omelets with all the sass you can handle --Êno extra charge. Not far from Bourbon Street, Dj Vu (400 Dauphine St., 523-1931; www.dejavunola.com) is a 24-hour spot for everything from breakfast items to sandwiches and burgers to eggrolls and jalapeno poppers. If you can't wait to get off Bourbon, a Lucky Dog vendor with a big hot dog-shaped cart can't be far away.
There are also a handful of late-night options with more gourmet menus. In the Marigny, Mimi's (2601 Royal St., 872-9868) has a tapas menu available in the bar downstairs and lounge upstairs, which often features live jazz or rare-groove spinning DJ Soul Sister. The menu combines traditional Spanish small plate dishes with Latin American influences. There's everything from meat empanadas to calamari with chorizo to ceviche to roasted peppers stuffed with herbed goat cheese. In the French Quarter, Angeli on Decatur (1141 Decatur St., 566-0077) is open late most nights and as late as 4 a.m. on weekend nights. The menu includes gourmet pizzas, calzones, pasta dishes, sandwiches and pitas. Heading back Uptown, the St. Charles Tavern (1433 St. Charles Ave., 523-9823) is a late-night institution. Besides breakfast items, po-boys and burgers, there are Cajun- and Creole-inspired-dishes like chicken-andouille hash and catfish Lafayette, which tops grilled catfish with crawfish etouffee.
Students seeking vegetarian food options might want to consider transferring or a semester abroad. When chef Emeril Lagasse says that "Pork fat rules,; he's leaving off the end of the sentence, " ... New Orleans." There aren't many vegetarian restaurants, although just about every restaurant menu has a choice or two. Nirvana Indian Cuisine (4308 Magazine St., 894-9797) is a natural place to start looking. Many meatless options are available. Perhaps the best-kept vegetarian secrets may be at Bennachin (1212 Royal St., 522-1230) in the French Quarter. The cozy restaurant isn't exclusively vegetarian but many of the West African dishes on the menu are unique and meatless. There are okra-based stews, and Jama Jama ni Makando is a Cameroonian dish combining fried plantains, sauted spinach and coconut rice (and carnivores can order it with a baked chicken leg). Roly Poly (5409 Tchoupitoulas St., 891-8373) is a chain of wrap shops and has a lot of vegetarian options using hummus, roasted peppers, avocado and cheeses. For a mix of prepared foods and organic groceries, vegetarians may have to take to hunting and gathering at Whole Foods Market (5600 Magazine St., 899-9119; www.wholefoods.com).
The best meatless option is dessert. New Orleans has seen an explosion of new gelato parlors in recent years. La Divena Gelateria (3005 Magazine St., 342-2634; www.ladivinagelateria.com) and Gelato Pazzo Caf (8115 Oak St., 304-6908; www.gelatopazzo.com) are two or the most recent additions. Both make gelato in-house daily and also offer panini sandwiches. A couple of ice cream parlors offer a wider array of ice creams and gelatos as well as sundaes. Creole Creamery (4924 Prytania St., 894-8680) mixes gourmet flavors in Uptown. In the Lower Garden District, Sophie's Gelato (1912 Magazine St., 561-0291; www.sophiesgelato.com) offers ice creams, root beer floats, banana splits and a host of toppings. For a taste of local tradition, there is Angelo Brocato's (214 N. Carrollton Ave., www.angelobrocatoicecream.com) in Mid-City. The Brocato family has been making Italian ice, gelato, spumoni, cannolis and desserts for more than a century. It's a sweet spot that adds a lot of local flavor.