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There’s really nowhere else in the world like New Orleans, where the street musicians are better than professionals and every cocktail comes with a to-go cup. But what really makes New Orleans special is the food--from old-fashioned Creole favorites like gumbo and jambalaya to some of the country’s best ethnic eats. It wasn’t easy to narrow down our favorites--we could pretty much set up shop here and eat for the rest of the year--but we took one for the team.

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1. Beignets and Café Au Lait from Café Du Monde

This is your first stop in New Orleans. It’s non-negotiable.

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2. Fried Chicken at Willie Mae’s Scotch House

Frequently called America’s best fried chicken, and with good reason. This family-run local favorite has been serving up perfectly crispy, golden birds since 1957.

RELATED: 20 Things to Eat in Charleston Before You Die

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3. Quail Salad at Bayona

This gem of a restaurant, tucked away in a 200-year-old Creole cottage, is a taste of old-fashioned French Quarter elegance. With one bite of this exquisitely smoked quail, it’s almost like there aren’t any frat boys pounding Hurricanes outside the window.

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4. Curried Cauliflower Hummus and Pita at Shaya

The hardest reservation to get in NOLA these days is for….Israeli food. Don’t question it; just go. Even if it means an 9 p.m. dinner on a Tuesday.

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5. Chargrilled Oysters at Drago’s

Fresh oysters, drenched in garlic butter and Parmesan, grilled over a charcoal fire. Pardon us as we wipe away the drool.

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6. Shrimp Po’Boy at Domilise’s

You’ll be waiting in line for 45 minutes, but that’s only because they’re battering and frying every single piece of freshly-caught seafood to order. Get it “fully dressed,” with ketchup, mayo and pickles, like the locals do.

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7. Roasted cauliflower at Domenica

Who needs meat? This impressive app is a full head of cauliflower, poached in wine, roasted in olive oil and served with whipped goat cheese.

RELATED: Spicy Whole Roasted Cauliflower

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8. Turtle Soup at Commander’s Palace

Classic New Orleans. (And if you can’t quite stomach eating a turtle, get the Shrimp Henican.)

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9. Bananas Foster at Brennan’s

For over 60 years, dinners at Brennan’s have ended with a bang--or, at least, a flaming pan of bananas, caramel and ice cream. This is the place that invented the famous dessert, and still where it’s done best.

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10. Praline Bacon at Elizabeth’s

It’s praline bacon. Do we really need to say anything else?

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11. Gumbo at Galatoire’s

Long Friday lunches at Galatoire’s are an old New Orleans tradition. Three rules: get there early, order plenty of booze and start with a bowl of the legendary seafood gumbo.

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12. Muffaletta at Central Grocery

This French Quarter deli invented the famous Muffaletta sandwich—a pile of Italian meats, provolone cheese and garlicky olive salad on round Sicilian sesame bread.

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13. Le Pig Mac at Cochon Butcher

It’s impossible to go wrong at this artisanal butcher/sandwich shop/wine bar. But we’re particularly fond of its take on the McDonald’s favorite--two perfectly smoked pork patties with (yes, you guessed it) special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions on a sesame seed bun.

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14. Satsuma Sno-Bliz at Hansen’s

The best way to beat that sticky bayou heat…

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15. Eggs Stanley at Stanley

Eggs Benedict, NOLA-style, with cornmeal-crusted oysters and Canadian bacon, served on an English muffin. Plus, anything at this Jackson Square favorite comes with a side of the best people-watching in town.

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16. Blue Crab Beignets at La Petite Grocery

As if beignets weren’t addictive enough, this new bistro stuffs them with fresh crabmeat and mascarpone, and serves them with a malt vinegar aioli. One order is never enough.

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17. Oyster Loaf at Casamento’s

Basically a fried oyster sandwich, for the uninitiated. Also a great place for raw oysters, or any other bivalve-related needs.

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18. Samoa Donuts at District Donut

Our favorite Girl Scout cookie, in doughnut form.

RELATED: 8 Ways to Cook with Girl Scout Cookies

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19. Whole Grilled Fish at Peche

Seafood reigns supreme at this perennial James Beard favorite. We love the family-style whole fish, topped with fresh salsa verde.

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20. Jambalaya at Mother’s

There’s not much atmosphere, and there’s usually a line of tourists around the corner, but when it comes to New Orleans classics--like spicy jambalaya stuffed with andouille sausage, shrimp, chicken and ham--Mother’s does it right.

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21. Potato Gnocchi with Blue Crab and Truffles at Restaurant August

Crab? Check. Truffles? Check. Creamy, perfect, melt-in-your-mouth gnocchi? OK, we’re in. Especially if it’s part of the ultra-decadent tasting menu at John Besh’s gorgeous shrine to fine dining.

RELATED: America’s 10 Best Food Cities

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