There's no contest: the very best gumbo in New Orleans is... at the home of any given New Orleanian's Mama. Most visitors to the city aren't lucky enough to get invited to Mama's house for a Friday night gumbo, though. To sample this rich stew, thickened with okra, filé (ground sassafras), or a dark roux, seasoned liberally with Creole spices, and served over rice, we have to turn to the pros.
From the city's finest gourmet eateries to down-home neighborhood joints, the vast majority of restaurants in New Orleans offer gumbo of one sort or another on their menus. And really, presuming you like the rich, smoky flavors of the dish, it's worth trying a cup anywhere in town (or in the Southern part of the state, actually). If you're really in the mood to dig into a nice big bowl, though, seek out these ten restaurants, who serve the very best of the best.
01 of 10
Liuzza's by the Track, in Mid-City, offers one of New Orleans' favorite interpretations of Creole gumbo, chock full of okra, seafood and locally-made sausage swimming in a broth made with an extra-dark roux and seasoned with 17 secret herbs and spices. At under ~$5 for a cup, it's one of the best seafood deals in town.
1518 N Lopez St. / (504) 218-7888
02 of 10
Creole and Italian specialties nestle side-by-side on the menu at Mandina's, a favorite neighborhood restaurant in Mid-City. Though Mandina's is actually best-known for having some of the finest Turtle Soup au Sherry in town, they also make an outstanding seafood gumbo. It's thick and pleasantly fishy, a reminder that gumbo almost certainly shares a common ancestor with French bouillabaisse.
3800 Canal St. / (504) 482-9179
03 of 10
One of the best fine-dining options in the French Quarter, Mr. B's serves contemporary high-end New Orleans cuisine with an emphasis on regional products and classic Creole culinary technique.
Gumbo Ya-Ya, a house specialty, is actually a fairly straight-ahead Cajun-style chicken and sausage gumbo, with a dark roux base, a big dose of the Cajun trinity (celery, bell pepper, and onion), and a heavy hand with Creole seasonings. It's simple and well-balanced, and the carefully-selected ingredients really shine.
201 Royal St. / (504) 523-2078
04 of 10
The chicken and andouille sausage gumbo at the Gumbo Shop is regularly voted as the best in New Orleans by the annual Gambit Readers' Poll. It's a straight-ahead preparation with a smoky brown broth and just enough spice.
Seafood and Okra Gumbo is also on the menu, and other preparations also occasionally make their way to the specials board -- all are worth a sample. The restaurant's location in the French Quarter, just a stone's throw from Jackson Square, makes it an easy stop for most visitors to the city, so stop in.
630 St Peter St. / (504) 525-1486Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10
Chef Frank Brigtsen made his bones in the kitchens at the legendary Commander's Palace and K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen under Paul Prudhomme. His own restaurant in the Carrollton neighborhood, Brigtsen's, features his own gourmet spin on Cajun and Creole classics.
His rabbit and andouille filé gumbo is beloved among connoisseurs of traditional Creole haute cuisine. Rabbit is a tough, lean, flavorful meat which maintains both flavor and texture in a long-cooked dish like gumbo, so this is a great way to eat it.
723 Dante St. / (504) 861-7610
06 of 10
Once a year, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival turns the Fair Grounds and Race Course into a microcosm of Louisiana culture, and the food there is second to none. Among the offerings at the 70+ booths is a pheasant, quail, and andouille gumbo from Lafayette-based Cajun restaurant Prejean's.
It's worth the (steep) price of admission, folks -- not to mention the absurdly long line -- and JazzFest is the only place to get it. You could make the 2-hour drive out to the restaurant any time, but although they have great gumbos on their regular menu, this one is a festival-only special.
3480 NE Evangeline Thruway, Lafayette / (337) 896-3247
07 of 10
The gumbo of the night is an ever-changing (but always astoundingly delicious) proposition here at Chef Donald Link's upscale Louisiana eatery in the Central Business District. It's always an elegant preparation of a timeless classic, regardless of that night's particular ingredients.
In the wintertime, warm your bones with a velvety chicken and andouille gumbo. During Lent, be ready for hearty seafood varieties featuring plump Louisiana oysters and sweet gulf shrimp. A simple New Orleans rule of thumb: if Chef Link has anything to do with a gumbo, order it.
701 St. Charles Ave. / (504) 524-4114
08 of 10
This small neighborhood restaurant in the Tremé neighborhood serves good old-fashioned Mama's house style Creole fare, and one of the many house specialties is the Creole gumbo. It's full of chicken, shrimp, sausage, crab, and is heavy with the flavor of filé and Creole spices. The recipe is an old family recipe from the venerable Baquet restaurant family, and it's worth the trip off the beaten path to give it a try.
1500 Esplanade Ave. / (504) 569-8997Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10
Finely-tuned Cajun and Creole bistro fare is the name of the game at Dick and Jenny's, an unassuming Uptown establishment that's packed to the gills with locals but seldom on the radar of tourists. A daily gumbo special changes seasonally and at the chef's whim, but includes creative twists on classic themes, such as Bedtime in the Barnyard Gumbo, with chicken, andouille, ham, and duck.
4501 Tchoupitoulas St. / (504) 894-9880
10 of 10
Chef Leah Chase has been serving up gumbos aplenty at her world-renowned Tremé restaurant since the 1950s alongside other Creole and soul food favorites. She's one of the only chefs in town, though, who regularly cooks up gumbo z'herbes (from the French "gumbo aux herbes," "gumbo made with greens").
It's a popular meatless Lenten dish, but Miss Leah's version includes pork and she traditionally serves it on Holy Thursday, as her mother and grandmother did before her. She'll also include it on the menu now and again throughout the year, so if you happen upon the restaurant on a day that it's available, order it. It's a rare and deeply traditional treat, and a delicious way to get your veggies.
2301 Orleans Ave. / (504) 821-0600