New Orleans Saints may be tops for every local football fan, but there’s no doubt about the city’s favorite sport: scoring delicious, cheap eats. From French Quarter markets and Uptown gems to colorful roving kitchens, those who know where to find cheap eats in New Orleans are rewarded with a culinary scene infused with pride in rich traditions and one that’s always striving for creativity and fun.
Cheap Eats in New Orleans
With sampling and sharing as the winning strategy, here’s your game plan for tasting the best cheap eats in New Orleans.
This historic French Quarter market’s well-deserved claim to fame is being home to the muffuletta, a sandwich so revered by New Orleanians that the composition is considered high art. Since 1906 when Sicilian immigrant and culinary visionary Salvatore Lupo took to layering meats, thinly-sliced in-house, on rounds of freshly baked-bread with olive spread, locals and visitors have happily stood in line for the tasty original.
For less than $10, you get a delicious helping of New Orleans heritage, large enough for two. Be oh-so-NOLA with a bag of Zapp’s spicy Voodoo chips and cool Abita Amber too.
Hot dogs and cool jazz make a delicious Frenchmen Street pairing. Take a break from club-hopping to fill your belly with inventive goodness from one of the most popular cheap eats in New Orleans. Choose your sausage—traditional, crawfish, alligator, and more—then go wild with toppings ranging from blue cheese to crawfish etouffee in what Dat Dog calls “jazz improvisation on a bun.” Or let the bandmaster lead with specials like the Bacon Werewolf with Slovenian sausage and sauerkraut. Vegetarians and vegans are in on the jam too, with inventive options like a smoked apple and sage veggie dog.
Most dogs ring the register under $8. Order at the counter, then snag a balcony seat overlooking the late-night action at this top dog among cheap eats in New Orleans.
New Orleans is famous for go-cups (usually filled with neon daiquiri concoctions). This cute café in the Bywater neighborhood offers a twist on that notion and one of the best deals in town. Grab a Breakfast Geaux Cup of hot and delicious shrimp and grits for $8 or go with a classic egg, bacon, and grits, or tofu scramble for $6. Owner and baker Chaya Conrad is also acclaimed for signature cakes like the Coconut Chantilly, so beautiful you won’t want to cut in—but you will, and you’ll savor every bite.
Neyow’s Creole Café
This Mid-City classic features daily specials of New Orleans’ favorite comfort foods. Tuesday may find you gobbling up white beans and rice with fried chicken or hot sausage; then Wednesday, you’re devouring mustard greens and pork chops. A heaping plate will lighten your wallet by about nine bucks at star among this cheap eats in New Orleans.
Any day with the word “day” in it is reason enough for Neyow’s renowned chargrilled oysters and crawfish balls. Take friends or make a few on the spot in this friendly cheap restaurant in New Orleans where sharing is definitely the go-to play.
New Orleans’ restaurants elevate brunch to an art form, and while this Bywater favorite will set you back $10 to $19 for entrees, the dish you will go home and tell your friends about registers at just $6. Elizabeth’s praline bacon is crispy smoked bacon glazed with cane syrup and brown sugar-sweetened pecans, and it’s the stuff of foodie legend.
The menu is rich with other small plates and cheap eats too. Sample and share grit cakes covered in gravy, then dig into creole mustard-spiked boudin balls. These dishes are pure indulgence, best enjoyed with famously spicy Bloody Marys.
Parkway Bakery & Tavern
Heralded as serving the best po’ boy in America, Parkway Tavern has been a New Orleans cheap eats institution for over 100 years. Must-try po’ boys include wild caught Louisiana shrimp, fried to crispy perfection; and surf and turf, layering shrimp, slow-cooked roast beef and gravy. For between $12 and $15, you have a feast for two.
Order a side of fried pickles too, and save room for the divine bread pudding or banana pudding—you are on vacation, after all.
This Decatur Street New Orleans cheap eats classic has been serving up Creole specialties with a side of playfully snarky attitude for 30+ years. Some may call it a hole-in-the wall, but to others it’s casual dining heaven. Savor a big bowl of rabbit and sausage jambalaya for $7.75, or up your game with the supreme jambalaya with shrimp, crawfish, and tasso for less than $12. There’s no reservations, and no one under 21 allowed, for this always lively, sometimes noisy, culinary experience.
History seeps from the peeling-paint clad walls and slanted, uneven floors and that’s part of the magic of this classic French Quarter haunt, believed to have been intended as Napoleon’s home in exile. Grab a bar stool perch and order a classic Pimm’s Cup and muffuletta served warm, somewhat of a novelty in the Quarter.
When just a snack will do, order a quarter for $5.25 or half at $9.50. And make a note that some of the city’s best jambalaya can be savored for less than $7 at this cheap restaurant in New Orleans.
Whether you crave a sugar rush or savory treat, this cool spot on Magazine Street has you covered. The dishes at this New Orleans cheap eats superstar include donuts, sliders, and beer. Locally sourced ingredients are the focus and the spirit is always fun and lively.
A cheeseburger slider will set you back a little over three dollars, or you can get a pork belly slider for less than five. The best deal is the Brown Bag Meal with two sliders, waffle fries, and a soda for $10.50.
Samuel’s Blind Pelican
One of the city’s most celebrated delicacies is also a New Orleans cheap eats score in this bustling Uptown spot. Beloved for many reasons, including its 25-cent oysters, the Blind Pelican features a courtyard that’s an ideal setting to while away an afternoon. And, over-the-top generous happy hours from 4 to 8 every single day of the week make that an easy goal.
Chargrilled oysters are a splurge at $10 a dozen, but they’re worth every bite, especially since well drinks are two-for-one. If your visit coincides with crawfish season, don’t miss one of the famous boils.
Frencheeze Food Truck
This instantly recognizable food truck celebrates the simple deliciousness of butter, cheese, and fresh bread with grilled cheese treats that venture beyond classic. Try the spicy pimento or saucy craw-daddy, with a side of fried macaroni and cheese balls.
Craving more cheap eats in New Orleans of the food truck variety? Food Drunk NOLA’s signature King Cake Burger and duck fat fries will have you marching in the street with joy, and Taceaux Loceaux’s BBQ pork tacos are worth scouring town for.
Follow any of these food trucks on Instagram or Twitter for updates on current locations.
Willie Mae’s Scotch House
The James Beard Foundation recognizes this family-owned restaurant in Tremé as an “American Classic” for what locals have long known: Willie Mae’s serves America’s best fried chicken. Willie Mae Seaton began providing nourishment with soul for the neighborhood in 1957 and, today, her great-granddaughter Kerry Seaton continues the rich tradition. President Obama and Anthony Bourdian are fans, you will be too.
A plate will set you back $15, but when you see the portions, you know it’s a deal to share. Your belly will be set for the day and you’ll be ready to imbibe other classic NOLA indulgences.
- Original reporting by Jess Simpson