This week, we make our way to The Big Easy — that multicultural Mecca where people go to tour cemeteries, drink drive-thru daiquiris, and jump into second line parades. Though people often associate New Orleans with Mari Gras and getting hammered, it also has one of the most interesting food scenes in the United States. For advice on where to eat, we turned to Top Chef Season 16 contestant and New Orleans aficionado Nini Nguyen.
Nguyen’s cuisine draws from the dual aspects of her identity — her Vietnamese heritage and her NOLA upbringing. Though she grew up appreciating food, she opted to take a traditional career path initially, earning a degree in business marketing from Louisiana State University. But her love of cooking asserted itself and she felt like she had to pursue her passion. She got a start working at Sucre and Coquette in New Orleans, where she specialized in pastries.
For now, Nguyen has left her hometown and made her way to the big show in NYC to strengthen her skill set at Eleven Madison Park and nationwide at Dinner Lab. She’s also the culinary director of Cook Space in Brooklyn, where she uses her experience in the kitchen and on Top Chef to teach home cooks how to cook like the pros.
Ready to check out some of Nini’s favorite food in New Orleans? Let’s roll!
Pizza: Pizza Delicious
I currently live in New York but when I’m back home in New Orleans, my favorite pizza spot is Pizza Delicious. These guys started making pizzas on Sundays through a little pop up many years ago and eventually grew into a real full-time restaurant. Honestly, they have better pizzas than some places in New York. I have always loved a simple cheese slice and they make it perfectly. The crust is crispy but still have a chew, the sauce is not sweet and muddled and the cheese is just the right amount to make it salty and gooey. Also, don’t sleep on their Caesar salad or pastas either.
Tacos: Taqueria Guerrero Mexico and Tacocat NOLA
After Hurricane Katrina, an influx of Latino immigrants came to New Orleans to help rebuild the city. They brought their food and culture as well. One stand-out place is Taqueria Guerrero Mexico. It is as authentic as you can get and the food is insanely delicious.
This movement of people has also inspired a second wave: If you are out and about enjoying one of the many fine bars we have in the city, try to catch this new food truck, Tacocat. They are usually parked somewhere in the city slinging amazing tacos.