Essence Music Festival: Top 5 New Orleans soul food restaurants to enjoy between Essence Fest concerts

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Fourth of July weekend celebrations usually come with the common menu of hotdogs, burgers and barbecue chicken. However, if you plan to head down to New Orleans for the Essence Music Festival, we want you to add more ‘YUM’ to your Big Easy dining experience by sampling the local fare.

From spicy jambalaya made from scratch, to the pleasures of what some call “Americas best fried chicken,” theGrio offers below what we are told are the most authentic Louisiana-style restaurants in the area.

So between jamming out to New Edition and learning some new empowerment tips at the Essence Music Festival and its Empowerment Experience, sit down for a fantastic meal at at least one — or perhaps all — of these “must-dine” restaurants in the Crescent City.

Li’l Dizzy’s Café
1500 Esplanade Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70116

From the finger-licking good fried chicken, to the out-of-this-world gumbo, this slice of heaven nestled in the Tremé area has some of the best authentic Louisiana cooking in town. (Some of you may know this New Orleans gem from the hit HBO series Treme.) Small in size, but huge in flavor, Li’l Dizzy’s Cafe is your homegrown neighborhood “hole in the wall” serving crawfish étouffée and macaroni and cheese buffet style, along with a limited menu of other mouthwatering selections. And, before you leave this place, you must try the bread pudding. It’s so good that it might make your knees buckle. The restaurant is open Monday-Saturday, from 7 am – 2 pm, and Sunday from 8 am – 2 pm.

The Praline Connection
542 Frenchmen St.
New Orleans, LA 70116

If the locals in the area recommend this place, then you know this Creole, southern-style restaurant must be good. Indulge in fried pickles, jambalaya, fried chicken wings and some of the tastiest desserts around. The Praline Connection is best known for their ‘Taste of Soul’ platter, which includes fried gumbo, catfish strips and a touch of Louisiana love. Enjoy decadent cheesecake glazed in praline sauce and their signature peach cobbler. This place is also perfect for people watching! Visit from Monday-Saturday between 11am – 10pm, and Sunday from 11am – 9pm.

Willie Mae’s Scotch House Restaurant
2401 St. Ann St.
New Orleans, LA 70119‎

Right off the beaten path of the French Quarter, Willie Mae’s Scotch House has been a staple in the neighborhood for over 50 years. Its family tradition of serving down-home wholesome cooking to the masses still lives on to this day. Don’t be discouraged by the long lines that stretch down the block, because the food is so worth the wait. The moment you walk in, the atmosphere is inviting with black and white photos of Willie Mae hung high on the wooden walls. The aroma of “home-style cooking the way Mama used to make it” hugs your soul instantly. Come see why celebrities from all over the country including Spike Lee and rapper Drake make sure they stop at Willie Mae’s when they’re in town. If you’re a first-timer, we encourage you to try the famous golden fried chicken. You can thank us later.

Olivier’s Creole Restaurant In the French Quarter
204 Decatur St.
New Orleans, LA 70130

For five generations, the owners of this Creole restaurant have prided themselves on running the only family-owned restaurant in town that combines tradition with innovation in their unique dishes. Its classy ambiance is laced with a touch of Southern comfort, its cooking always made with authentic Louisiana flair. Olivier’s moist, fluffy cornbread coupled with their homemade honey butter is a great start to a rewarding meal. Menu items include Great Grandma Jeanne’s Shrimp Creole, made with fresh Gulf shrimp simmered in a classic Creole sauce sprinkled with oregano and served with rice. But, don’t be steered away by the prices. Food this good is worth it.

Two Sister’s Kitchen
223 N. Derbigny St.
New Orleans, LA 70112

Two Sister’s Kitchen (not to be mistaken for the Court of Two Sisters restaurant) has exceeded the standards of French-Creole soul food cooking. The brunch buffet alone will have your mouth salivating in delightful anticipation. With its jumbo shrimp, fried catfish, smothered chicken and the liquid heaven also known as its sweet tea, this Creole soul food paradise located just two blocks off Canal Boulevard never disappoints. After enjoying “more than you can eat” traditional Louisiana-style cooking, don’t be surprised if you find yourself taking some food to go. You have to see for yourself why this place is always booming with satisfied customers. Two Sister’s Kitchen has great food — and while it’s cash only, and it’s prices are always in the budget. Who could ask for anything more?

These foodie favorites will surely excite your taste buds. Will you be trying them out during the Essence Music Festival.

Wanjira Banfield writes about travel and entertainment for theGrio. You can find her at and follow her on Twitter @wanjirasworld.