The manager of Sidewalk Food Tours New Orleans contacted me before the COVID-19 shut down to go on one of their food tours in exchange for a blog review! Sidewalk Food Tours New Orleans offers guided food walking tours at a variety of restaurants in the French Quarter and The Lower Garden District area. In addition to eating, the tour guide will share stories on New Orleans history, culture, and cuisine while you and your group restaurant hop up the New Orleans sidewalks.
As a native of New Orleans, I was a bit hesitant because travel tours are considered touristy and pricey. Well, all things downtown New Orleans area known as the Tourist Trap to those of us born and raised here. Most work in the hospitality and tourism industry and tend to avoid the area as if it was the plague on their days off. But I take advantage of being a tourist in my city, and I love it! As you know, I’m a Foodie, and the list of restaurants and their tasty offerings pulled me in. I accepted the offer and booked the French Quarter experience. I’m happy that I booked when I did because the Sidewalk Food Tours are only offering private food tours for two people due to COVID-19 restrictions. A private tour may be nice, but being with a group was so much fun.
I booked the French Quarter menu because the selections were more authentic to New Orleans than the Garden District tour. I thought it was odd to have restaurants that offered Mexican and Asian cuisine on a New Orleans food tour as it has nothing to do with the food history here. New Orleans fusion is not New Orleans cuisine, but hey, whatever tingles your taste buds while in NOLA. Plus, the French Quarter restaurant menus were known New Orleans dishes and were guaranteed to satisfy my palate and a great review. The three-hour (our tour was two hours) walking tour included tastings at the following restaurants. Drinks are not included.
- Felix’s Oyster House: Freshly shucked oysters & Creole staples in a relaxed and fun setting
- Leah’s Pralines: Family-owned, female-run confectionary that has been in the sweets and treats business for over 70 years
- Central Grocery & Deli: The birthplace of the world-famous muffuletta sandwich also sells a wide variety of imported specialty foods
- Chartres House: Iconic Cajun-Creole headquarters serving South Louisiana’s finest foods in a gracefully snug historic building
- Nola Po-boys: Up-and-coming sandwich company with dozens of expertly crafted classic and contemporary PoBoys, plus great sides
- Cafe Beignet: Café Beignet is a cup full of New Orleans’ best European traditions and crisp beignets (ben-yays)
As a native and local, I may be a bit of bias. Sorry, not sorry. But going in with an empty belly and eager tongue, I just knew I was about to be Thanksgiving day stuffed, but this is where paying attention to detail is critical. As noted in the description, the food tour included “Tastings.” And I would find a tasting is nothing close to tapas or appetizers. Now, remember, I’m a local, and my mindset and money flow differently than a tourist who is here to splurge, so please know I’m not coming from a negative place. It’s just for the price per person one would expect to indulge and not share to the extent that we did. I can not complain about the quality or taste of the food, because everything offered at each restaurant was spectacular, hot, and delicious. It could have been that we had a large group of 14 people, and we had to share and divide portions at several restaurants.
Here’s a breakdown on our stops. Before I move on, let me add that our local tour guide Misty was an incredible storyteller with a wealth of knowledge on New Orleans history. Her lively personality matched the spirit of New Orleans which made the tour that much better.
1st Stop Felix’s Oyster House
Located in the heart of the French Quarter and locally owned since the 1940s. Felix’s quoted as being “the NEW ORLEANS OYSTER BAR since before, there were oyster bars!” And this very much may be true because Felix is my go-to restaurant when I’m craving raw oysters. If you were to asked me where to go for oysters, I would direct you to go to Felix and sit at the counter with the oyster shuckers. Let me see what I can say, especially being that I love this restaurant. Well, we had an average of two oysters and a piece of French bread. It wasn’t enough!!! But still so good as it is always.
Tip: Sit at the counter. The first oyster at the counter is free, and the staff will give you a huge one. Plus, you get to see the shuckers shucking those oysters like they popping open a beer. The Oyster Shuckers at the counter make it a total experience.
There’s a longtime shucker who goes by Senior. They call him Senior because he is not only the oldest one, but he has been shucking oysters there for over two decades. Senior is known for cracking em open and feeding customers oysters straight from the shell. I always have a wonderful time when I go in there, and he remembers me, but I guess so because he fed me so many times. So, if you go to Felix’s, make sure to ask for Senior and tell him I sent you!
2nd Stop Leah’s Pralines
Located in the heart of the French Quarter, Leah’s Pralines has been in the same location since 1944. Leah’s is a small, family-owned and operated candy shop, where everything is handmade in an old-fashioned way, meaning delicious! In addition to various flavors of pralines, Leah’s makes brittles, frosted pecans, dessert sauces, artisanal chocolates, and a full line of Creole seasonings. We received a full-size Leah’s Orginal Praline (aka pecan candy) to NOLA Native as part of the tour. As our tour guide gave us the history, one of the workers handed us a plate with broken pieces of bacon pecan brittle to sample. My goodness, that brittle had me scooping up crumbs. The combination would not seem like it would taste good; however, the “salty and sweet” taste is addicting. I need some now that I mentioned it!
Tip: Leah’s sells candy rejects, you know, like the ones that broke apart, crumbles, and so on. It all tastes the same, but not as eye-pleasing, but a $1 will get you about 6oz of pralines, brittle and etc. You can eat it as is or sprinkle it on top of a cake or ice cream.
3rd Stop NOLA PoBoys
NOLA PoBoys Shop is located right on Bourbon Street, just a couple blocks past all the partying. This was my first time eating there for my local bias as I assumed this place was just another overpriced tourist trap…But I had a change of thought once I sank my teeth into their traditional hot roast beef and gravy PoBoy. It wasn’t that sloppy goodness of a roast beef Po-Boy, but just as good. The roast beef was soaked with a rich gravy and served a nice piece of crusty French bread. I enjoyed it so much my group voted to give me the extra one. The portion was a nice size, I would say about 4in and a nice bit of roast beef. Typically a Po-Boy comes in 6in, 12in, and 24in full loaf servings.
One of my tourist friends asked me if I heard of the Po’Boy Ice Cream Sandwich served there. I had not, and I immediately envisioned vanilla ice cream sandwiched between French Bread. She pulled out her phone to show me a picture of it, and we agreed to share one. It came out prepackaged, nothing I thought of, and had nothing to do with a Po-Boy at all. New Orleans Ice Cream Company makes the Po’Boy Ice Cream Sandwich, and like any other ice cream sandwich, the main ingredients are vanilla ice cream, chocolate cookie sandwich, but it’s dipped in milk chocolate. I am an ice cream lover and didn’t find it taste any different from a store brand. This was one of those gimmicks to get tourists to spend their money on anything with New Orleans.
The Host heard my disappointment with the ice cream sandwich and treated me to come to the front to pick out an ice cream scoop. The restaurant was jammed packed with customers when we entered, and we could barely see the floor, no less the giant menu board featuring 45+ offerings and ice cream due to it being jammed packed with customers. Not only did I get a sample, but a full tasting of all eight flavors! I was literately full off ice cream and to get a bag for my sandwich.
Tip: Even if you’re a local, stop in for ice cream made with local ingredients, including Creole Cream Cheese, Coffee & Chicory, and Ponchatoula Strawberry.
4th Stop Central Grocery & Deli:
Located on Decatur Street in the middle of New Orleans’ French Quarter, founded in 1906 by Salvatore Lupo, who created the Muffuletta. We had their famous Muffuletta sandwich, one of New Orleans’s most quintessential foods. As they say, “Uniquely New Orleans from start to finish, and nobody does it better than the originators at Central Grocery.” The Muffuletta is made on a 9″ round Sicilian sesame loaf that stays crusty despite its messy fillings. It’s stuffed with ham, salami, mortadella, swiss, provolone, and a signature briny marinated olive salad filled with Kalamata and green olives and other tasty pickled veggies… So, good, especially when you need a salty fix.
Tip: Get your Muffuletta to go, grab a few drinks, and walk to Latrobe Park (a block away) for a mini picnic or at least to rest your feet.
We literally had a Sidewalk Food Tour at Central Grocery because the line stretched out the door and down to the corner. Most of the group didn’t mind eating outside on the sidewalk, like in NOLA, Baby. And you have to “Do what ya gotta” to have a good time. Our tour guide went in alone, as she could go straight to the counter to get our food.
5th Stop Chartres House:
Located in the French Quarter, opened in 2004. The Chartres House is a historical landmark built in 1830, by Major Gally, founder of the “Battalion d’ Artillirie” during the Mexican War of 1846. Chartres House was said to be a local favorite, maybe it was, but it had a touristy feel and very expensive. Over the years, I have passed the restaurant and never felt inclined to go in, nor has it been recommended to me, so I was excited to try a new place, especially one with a deep history known to be haunted by Tennessee Williams.
We had the BBQ Shrimp and Bread Pudding. As I mentioned earlier, we had to share, and out of all our stops, the Chartres House came up short. To start, they didn’t have our reservation, so we had to wait outside while they made room for us. Next, they were short-staffed. Our tour guide offered to go down to the bar to order drinks while waiting on the food to help out the staff. The shrimp came out in small ceramic ramekins that had more sauce than shrimp. If you never had New Orleans BBQ Shrimp, let me tell you that there’s no barbecue sauce or grill involved despite the name. It consists of big, juicy shrimp with heads and shells on bathing in a delicious savory sauce of butter, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, lemon, and spices served with crusty French bread for mopping up all that tasty goodness. Now, what we received at Chartres House was small peeled shrimp sauteed in a sauce made with similar ingredients, but it was creamy as if for pasta. Let me not forget the baby pieces of French bread. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t New Orleans BBQ Shrimp either.
I love love love bread pudding, and I know that taste, texture, and ingredients can vary with each cook, home, and restaurant. I was disappointed with the Chartres House Bread Pudding. The texture was perfect, light, and fluffy, but it lacked sweetness. The menu mentioned raisin, but the small square was a raisinless piece of cinnamon bread pudding topped with a whipped cream sauce.
I believe my experience at Chartres House is based on a lack of staff trying their best to accommodate a restaurant full of customers during the peak travel season. Even though they were overworked and understaffed, all of the employees remained composed and cheerful. We were seated in a private overflow area and had a perfect view of the balcony’s French Quarter. Being out on the balcony helped with feeling disappointed as a picture on a New Orleans balcony is an experience of its own.
The Chartres House concluded our Sidewalk Tour. My neighbor and I had a wonderful time. We both were born and raised in New Orleans and learned so much about our city that we did not know. It’s something how you can live somewhere all your life and not know about some of its important histories. It felt like we were on an adult field trip! I loved meeting the tourists and hearing about their love for my beloved city. It all was absolutely fabulous!
As I mentioned, our guide rocked! Her experience shined through as we maneuvered through the crowded streets and long lines in the French Quarter. For $69 per person, you get a guided walking tour of New Orleans with a very informative guide who shares the history of the city and cuisine as you eat and walk through the selected neighborhood isn’t that bad at all. Traveling to a new city and being educated on it’s history by way of local is priceless. Plus, being out with a reputable outgoing local adds a sense of security, which is also invaluable. Another plus is being a part of a group and meeting people from possibly all over the world. Minus having your taste buds teased by the portion sizes, I highly recommend that you book Sidewalk Tours. The restaurants mentioned need to be on your list as well. The food and service at every stop were top notch.
Please click the link to book your next reservation and learn more about Sidewalk Tours New Orleans! https://sidewalkfoodtours.com/new-orleans
Tip: Sidewalk Food Tours deals are frequently offered on Groupon! This is a great affordable option for those of us on a tight budget.