We were guests of Mobile, New Orleans, Coastal Mississippi and Gulf Shores while on this amazing 12 day girl’s trip. Meals, flights, accommodations and more were paid for by the tourism partners listed here. This is my honest opinion on the Southern Foods below.
Whether it’s the Acadian influence, the flourishing port cities bringing easy access to imported spices, or the jubilant approach to cooking that makes the difference, there’s something unique and thoroughly magnificent about Southern Foods.
Whatever the reason for the impressive range of dishes all throughout the Gulf Coast, the flavours of the south will knock your socks off and then some. The flavour profiles along the Gulf Coast are rich and multi-layered and any visit to the south should include several of these memorable dishes.
Recently, we visited the southern US on a 12-day hosted girl’s trip. We explored New Orleans, Louisiana Northshore, Coastal Mississippi, Mobile, Alabama and Gulf Shores, Alabama. Three states in total over 12 days and so much amazing rich and fresh food.
I knew going in that there would be great food, but I had no idea which southern foods I would love and which of those would leave me dreaming of a return trip as soon as humanly possible.
Table of Contents
Gulf Coast Favourite Southern Foods
Fluffy and light, these are the bomb. We sampled three different varieties of beignets in New Orleans and each one was dramatically different. Of course, Cafe du Monde is world renowned for beignets, powdery light dough pastries, that are a bit like donuts but lighter and more exotic. Served covered in powdery sugar, it’s a challenge to eat these and not get that powdery goodness everywhere.
When in New Orleans you have to try beignets at Cafe du Monde, but also lesser known beignets restaurant is the Ritz Carlton. Here the beignets are lighter and fluffier, hollow even and most importantly they come with dips. The sauces are vanilla, chocolate and caramel. Served this way, these beignets are quite simply irresistible.
Finally, we had some crawfish beignets at the Treme Gumbo Festival. Tasty and warm, but more like hush puppies than beignets to be honest.
OH MY goodness. So here’s the thing. We attended a Gumbo Festival for a bit and I was lukewarm over gumbo. Then I ordered it in a restaurant in New Orleans and had the same reaction. I could take it or leave it, but was glad I tried it actually because gumbo is one of those southern foods you simply have to try, right? However, later that day during our girl’s trip to New Orleans, we did a cooking school lesson at The New Orleans School of Cooking. We made our own gumbo starting with a roux from scratch. I have never ever done that before. It requires patience, trust and a lot of stirring the pot.
We took our time and we enjoyed the wine, or beer as we cooked. I started to think maybe this is the difference. Time and enjoyment, savouring the process and even just being mindful of where we are at that given moment making something extraordinary. Perhaps, that is the catalyst for great southern foods.
Sounds questionable, right? Actually quite the opposite. We had fresh pimento cheese at several spots and I loved it, especially at Southern National. Creamy cheese with a kick.
Big crazy prawns that were super delicious in Alabama. This might have been one of my favourite Gulf Shores Alabama foods. Huge tasty shrimp. Now here’s the thing. I have a spouse with a seafood allergy so we never ever have seafood at home. That means, when I travel solo or with the girls, I am all over seafood and I know good seafood. These are worth trying.
Stay tuned for more on shrimp, because I sampled all the shrimp at pretty much every restaurant where it was on the menu.
Even before we got to the Napoleon House, I heard rumblings of how much I would love this sandwich. I was a skeptic though, because honestly bread and sandwiches are not my thing. But this is unlike any sandwich you’ve ever had. It is a giant bun big enough to feed two or four people with ample meat and cheese and a layer of olive spread which doesn’t sound like it would be that exciting, but OH BOY it actually is spectacular.
Consider Doing This Food Tour When You Visit – > Napoleon House and NOLA Food Tour
Napoleon House is iconic and an essential part of any girl’s trip to New Orleans. This is the best place to have a muffuletta sandwich in New Orleans. A Muffuletta sandwich is a made with cured meats, cheeses and olive spread served on a warm seeded bun. Insanely delicious when done well, and Napoleon House does these extremely well. This is one sandwich I dream about all the time now and trust me that’s something because, as I said, bread is not my thing typically.
While you are at Napoleon House consuming a Muffuletta sandwich, add a Pimms Cup, a cocktail made with Pimms, a British gin-based liqueur with lemon-lime soda, and a slice of cucumber, which is über refreshing. Perfect with the Po Boy sandwiches and the Muffuletta.
OH my word. I have basically only ever eaten raw oysters, but these at several spots were exceptionally tasty. Desire Oyster Bar had the most amazing grilled oysters! These are exceptionally fresh. I mean you can see them shucking them right beside the tables practically.
I am not a bread fan. To be honest, I often eliminate it from my diet entirely. But when traveling, I enjoy trying all of the local specialities. So, I had my share of biscuits when we were driving through three southern states on our girl’s getaway this season. A true southern biscuit is irresistible. Also, multiple times we heard SOP it. So, we needed to give the biscuits a try a few places in order to SOP it like a southerner.
Alright, so again I have already told you my bread story above. Not my thing. But at the New Orleans School of Cooking, we had a chance to make our own bread pudding. So, there you go. New fan made. I wonder if this is one of those things like red wine for me. I never really liked it because I simply hadn’t tasted a great one. In New Orleans, I tasted some exceptional bread pudding and then I made bread pudding with Margarita Ibbott and now I know what it should taste like. Rich and flavourful and it can’t be rushed.
Oh, I know what you are thinking…Tater Tots? Really? How is this something southern to write about? How is this even a thing? Well, until I hit Alabama I actually thought people were kidding about this, but then someone ordered them at the extremely trendy new restaurant Southern National in Mobile. I held my tongue. In Ontario, at the grocery stores these are something we serve children occasionally, so what’s unique about them?
Well, let me tell you. I then went to the Anchor Bar and Grill in Orange Beach and we had a scrumptious tater tots snack with it was either pork belly or brisket on top with some sort of savoury jelly and salsa with a kick topped by a sunnyside up egg. Sounds bizarre, but was genuinely a dish I could eat every day for a week.
Marshmallow between two thin cakes. Yum. A classic. Go find the Moon Pie store in Mobile Alabama and stock up. Or go on New Years to Mobile and watch the gigantic Moon Pie drop from a very tall building in downtown Mobile. A tip of the hat to history and the Mardi Gras culture that Mobile is famous for.
This was a Louisiana Northshore treat at Liz’s Where Y’At? We were clearly all told that it was not negotiable. You need to try debris. Don’t let the kooky name distract you from ordering. We had a spectacular brunch meal at Liz’s. Read more about that here and then do me a favour and try the debris. Leave a comment below if you have ever had this. It’s not unlike burnt ends of a barbecue meal. You either love it or hate it.
In some areas of the south, Alabama, in particular, the reliance on salt was a bit too heavy for my liking. But the fresh seafood, cajun spices and genuine appreciation of dining and eating as pleasure is infectious.
Visit The South
The Southern states are full of sprawling beaches and miles of coastline. But the food, for me, was a big drawing card. In some areas, it is too salty, but for the most part, it will keep you coming back for more.