It doesn’t matter whether you’re starting or ending your Great River Road trip in Louisiana—the Bayou State will provide you with some of the best food you’ll find along the entire Mississippi River. From shrimp and crawfish to pralines and beignets, there’s enough deliciousness here to make any food fan happy. Here’s a look at just a few of Louisiana’s famous dishes (and some of the best spots to find them):
Seafood, Baton Rouge. Louisiana’s capital is a great place to find some classic seafood fresh from the bayou and the Gulf of Mexico, including oysters, crawfish, and shrimp. Popular dining spots include Parrain’s Seafood Restaurant, Acme Oyster House (which has restaurants throughout Louisiana and the Gulf Coast), Roux 61 and Hot Tails (a short drive from Baton Rouge, but it’s operated by the Food Network’s “Cajun Aces” stars Cody & Samantha Carroll). Side trip: Head to Louisiana State University’s Rural Life Museum & Windrush Gardens.
Southern fare, St. Francisville. Francisville sits just north of Baton Rouge at a bend in the Mississippi River, and this small town oozes Southern charm. You’ll find great food here, too—stop by The Francis Southern Table & Bar for oysters, gumbo, crawfish etouffee, jambalya and other Louisiana classics. Or, take in the down-home vibe (and enjoy some live music) at the Magnolia Café. Side trip: Pay a visit to the Myrtles Plantation, one of America’s most haunted homes.
Cocktails, New Orleans. New Orleans claims it invented the cocktail, and with options this delicious, it’s hard to argue. Time-honored drinks like the Sazerac, brandy milk punch, the Ramos Gin Fizz and the Hurricane were all conceived in the Crescent City, and you’ll find plenty of places that are happy to serve them up. If you’re looking for an iconic New Orleans bar, don’t miss the (revolving!) Carousel Bar & Lounge at the Hotel Monteleone or Arnaud’s French 75 Bar, a James Beard award-winning classic. Side trip: Want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Bourbon Street? Head next door to Frenchman Street, which houses a collection of energetic live music venues, quirky shops and (of course) delicious dining.
Dessert, New Orleans. New Orleans gets all the fun accolades when it comes to eating and drinking—it’s the home of the cocktail, as well as home to some of the best desserts you’ve ever had. Be sure to sample some beignets and café au lait at Café du Monde. Touristy? Sure—but there’s a reason there’s always a line for these delicious, doughy, sugar-topped pastries. Then, head down to the French Market to pick up some Aunt Sally’s Pralines. Side trip: Travel west out of the Crescent City to discover the marvelous antebellum homes of New Orleans Plantation Country.
From fresh produce at farmers’ markets to mouth-watering regional recipes, from food-themed community celebrations to scenic views at riverside wineries, there’s something for every palate along the Great River Road.
This summer, we’re encouraging travelers along the Great River Road to share their favorite flavors from the 10 Mississippi River states as part of our Flavors of the Great River Road campaign. Submit your favorite flavor—a restaurant, a recipe, an event or pretty much anything else—or click here to browse all of our fans’ entries.
Check back here every week, because we’ll be sharing state-specific itineraries to tell you where to find the best flavors from along the Mississippi River.
You can also enter to win $500 to launch your own food adventure along the Great River Road with the Flavors of the Great River Road Giveaway. Enter here before Aug. 24 for your chance to win.
This summer, experience the Great River Road one bite and one sip at a time. The Mississippi River Valley is not only a rich land that helps feed the world; it provides fresh and delicious offerings to travelers on the route. The Great River Road will lead you to straight to this bounty. Discover why some of the most delicious food on earth is grown along the Mississippi.
Here are some fresh ideas for your trip:
Pick your own
One for the mouth, one for the basket? It can be tempting to eat a few when you’re enjoying a little time on a pick-your-own farm. Grab a pail or a basket and reap the season’s rewards. The Great River Road passes dozens of berry patches and orchards.
Head to market
There’s a bounty to be found this season in the fields, parks and parking lots along the Great River Road. Local vendors offer farm-fresh fruits and vegetables as well as locally made crafts and baked goods. See where to find markets here.
Pop a cork
Generations of wine growers have capitalized on the fertile soil and steep hillsides of the Mississippi River Valley. Toast their success at one of the wineries along the Great River Road. Take in beautiful views of the vineyards, do a tour and tasting and pick up a special vintage to remember the day. Find wineries here.
The northern stretch of the route passes dairy country and there are some award-winning cheeses made right along the route. Plan ahead and bring a cooler along; you will taste some amazing cheese that might have to come home with you!
Pick an apple
Climb a ladder, or just go for the low-hanging fruit. Either way, apple, cherry and peach orchards offer plenty of delicious reasons to go picking this season. Fruit never tastes better than when it is fresh off the branch. Keep an eye out for heirloom varieties that you’ll never find in a supermarket. See a list of orchards here.
While journeying down the Great River Road, you’ll pass through ten different states, each with its own unique dining culture. Here are some restaurants located just off the GRR that you should definitely check out.
Minneapolis, MN: The Bachelor Farmer
Located in a newly restored building built in 1881, The Bachelor Farmer captures the historic yet modern feel of the downtown Twin Cities. You’re guaranteed the freshest Nordic-style food, thanks to their use of local ingredients, including produce from their rooftop garden.
La Crosse, WI: The Waterfront Restaurant and Tavern
Dine on Waterfront Restaurant‘s contemporary versions of American classics, relax in the cushy lounge and enjoy the smooth sounds from the piano bar. And as the name hints, patrons can appreciate panoramic views of the Mississippi River, as the restaurant is situated along the waterfront.
Dubuque, IA: L. May Eatery L. May Eatery takes pride in its use of local ingredients, serving a rotating seasonal menu of “gourmet comfort food.” Whether you’re craving a sophisticated pizza, delectable seafood or a refreshing cocktail, L. May guarantees delicious cuisine.
Quincy, IL: Tiramisu’
Order the unique homemade pasta when you visit Tiramisu’. This Italian restaurant also offers a fine selection of wine, pizzas and more. A great place to unwind.
St. Louis, MO: Bogart’s Smokehouse
Strap on your bib for a BBQ excursion at Bogart’s Smokehouse. You’ll need an appetite for this one, as the smokehouse serves up mouthwatering meats like pulled pork, smoky brisket, apricot bruleed ribs, pastrami and prime rib.
Memphis, TN: Restaurant Iris
Specializing in French-Creole cuisine, Restaurant Iris has been named Memphis’ “Best Restaurant” for the past four years by a number of qualified reviews. Its charming atmosphere can be attributed to its presence inside a restored old home near the historic Overton Square.
New Orleans, LA: Commander’s Palace
Last stop on this culinary food tour of the Mississippi… New Orleans! Commander’s Palace is the perfect place to experience New Orleans culture. Serving award-winning Creole dishes since 1880, the restaurant holds vibrant history, and vast experience has driven their success throughout the years.
Fill up on Memphis BBQ during your Great River Road stop in Tennessee! This style of barbecue is all about pork ribs, usually marinated with a rub made of herbs and spices and basted during the cooking. Rubs can be wet, dry, mild, spicy or sweet, with or without mopping sauces applied periodically. Tennessee hosts a number of barbecue festivals throughout the year, and features excellent Memphis barbecue restaurants that you can dine at year-round.
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