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Where to get the best gumbo in New Orleans

Gumbo is a rare find on UK menus, but take a trip to New Orleans and you’ll be spoiled for choice.

Published 3 Apr 2022, 06:07 BST
At Pêche, chef de cuisine Nicole Mills does a classic seafood gumbo, varying with the day’s ...

At Pêche, chef de cuisine Nicole Mills does a classic seafood gumbo, varying with the day’s catch but likely to come with a cloudy broth, okra, shrimp and oysters.

Photograph by Pêche

1. Brigtsen’s
Diners at this restaurant in New Orleans’ residential Riverbend neighbourhood could be forgiven for thinking they’ve been invited round to owners Frank and Marna Brigtsen’s personal dining room. The usual house gumbo is filé with chicken and andouille sausage, although chef Frank’s gumbo repertoire is wide, including seafood, rabbit and vegan versions. Don’t leave without trying a slice of the chocolate pecan pie for dessert. 

2. Pêche
At this seafood restaurant in the downtown Warehouse Arts District, chef de cuisine Nicole Mills doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel with her seafood gumbo — it’s a classic, varying with the day’s catch but likely to come with a cloudy broth, okra, shrimp and oysters. And, with a raw bar, snacks, small plates and whole fish, this is a perfect place for sharing food. 

3. Liuzza’s by the Track
Located in a residential district, close to a racecourse (which is also home to the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival), Liuzza’s by the Track is a modest bar with a few tables that belies the culinary mastery that takes place here. The gumbo is full of spice (in the best way), and brimming with meats and seafood. If you’re feeling really hungry, pair it with the peppery BBQ shrimp po’ boy, a hearty sandwich that’s another New Orleans speciality. 1518 N Lopez Street, New Orleans

4. The Munch Factory
A trip to this spot in the northern New Orleans district of Gentilly is well worth the cab fare for a gumbo that’s rich with a dark-roux broth and bolstered with both hot sausage and smoked andouille, gilded with heaps of fresh seafood sourced from the Gulf of Mexico. Chef Jordan Ruiz and his wife, Alexis, welcome all comers to their restaurant, where the menu features everything from plates of Bayou Nachos and Munchin’ Wings to elegant dishes like blackened fish with crawfish cream sauce.

5. Dooky Chase’s Restaurant
Filled with works by African-American artists, Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, in the Treme neighbourhood, offers its version of a Creole gumbo. Chef Leah Chase, the restaurant’s matriarch, who took over the restaurant from her in-laws in the 1950s, died in 2019, but not before passing her recipe on to her family and kitchen staff. If you visit during Easter week, book a table for the special Holy Thursday lunch of fried chicken and gumbo z’herbes, made with a variety of greens and meats. 

6. Saffron NOLA 
Amid the dark wood and warm glow of this family-run restaurant on buzzing Magazine Street, tradition meets innovation and Louisiana meets India. Arvinder and Pardeep Vilkhu use locally sourced produce and seafood to express their dual heritage, and while dishes like the curried seafood gumbo may look classic, you’ll find a little extra hit of spice in there. For more of the local bounty, try the tamarind shrimp or nariyal Gulf fish. 

Closer to home: where to find gumbo in London


Louie: This Covent Garden spot is helmed by a chef from the American South — and it shows. Slade Rushing made a name for himself at top restaurants, including Brennan’s, in New Orleans, and his gumbo packs in seafood, okra and andouille sausage made in-house from Berkshire pork, with a touch of Spanish paprika. It’s served with crab rice.

Plaquemine Lock: This canalside pub in Islington has New Orleans art on the walls, Louisiana hot sauce on the tables and a serious attitude to gumbo in the kitchen. Owner Jacob Kenedy learned to make it in Louisiana, and regularly changes the version on the menu. One favourite features a dark roux, homemade andouille sausage, shrimp and chicken. 

Published in Issue 15 (spring 2022) of Food by National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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