10 Best Food Festivals in New Orleans

10 Best Food Festivals in New Orleans

by Shane Finkelstein

There are literally food festivals every weekend in New Orleans, celebrating everything from indigenous Louisiana dishes like jambalaya, poboys, and gumbo to comfort foods like tacos, mac ‘n cheese, and beignets. Other festivals like the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and French Quarter Festival use the music to draw people in, and the food to keep them coming back for more. 

While the New Orleans’ weather is ripe for festivals all year round, there are always risks with the potential for thunderstorms in the hotter months and freezing temperatures in January and February. That’s why the bulk of the food festivals are between March and May, and September and November. Without further ado, here are the best food festivals in New Orleans with some tips on what to get and how to navigate the event so you aren’t wasting your precious time standing in line or eating something less than desirable. Although, something less than desirable at a New Orleans’ festival is probably better than what you would get in any other city.


Fans wait on line for a Cochon de Lait Po-Boy at Jazz Fest

April 28-May 9th, 2022


The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is the granddaddy of them all. Since its inception back in 1970, Jazz Fest has been providing the city with epic music and some of the best festival food in the world. After a two-year hiatus due to Covid, fans of the Fest will be clamoring for some cochon de lait po boys and crawfish bread.

Vendors like Vaucresson have been serving up sausage since the early days at Armstrong Park. Other vendors may be newer, but once you’re on the bill, you don’t give up the coveted spot. One thing they all have in common is they’re all from Louisiana. You won’t find corndogs and chicken sandwiches here. All the items stay true to their roots as local specialties. 

Some of the most popular dishes actually require a double booth so when you see the line for Crawfish Bread, Cochon de Lait po boys, or Crawfish Monica, you know it’s gonna be a hit. Other items like the Caribbean Fish from Palmer’s over by Congo Square or the Yakiniku Po Boy from Asian Cajun may not have the longest lines, but they are just as tasty as the others, maybe even moreso. 

The beer selection is nothing to write home about at Jazz Fest, but there are a few drinks worth getting. Start your day with a Frozen Cafe Au Lait and keep staying hydrated all day long with a refreshing Strawberry Lemonade or Mango Freeze. Also, remember to stay hydrated because the heat in May can take even the best of us down. 


You can never go wrong with a Soft Shell Crab Po-boy at French Quarter Fest


April 21-24, 2022

French Quarter Festival is another New Orleans gem that missed two years due to Covid. Hopefully back for 2022 with twenty stages around the French Quarter featuring local and regional musicians over four days in April. While the funk, brass, jazz, R&B, folk, blues, bluegrass, and Cajun music is what fans flock to New Orleans for, it’s the incredible array of food that keeps them, and the locals, coming back. 

One thing that makes FQF unique is that the food booths feature the best of New Orleans restaurants as opposed to Jazz Fest which features caterers and vendors you can only get at Jazz Fest. So if you can’t afford to dine out at places like Galatoire’s, Muriel’s, or R’evolution, you can get some tasty bites from these restaurants and dozens of others for less than $10. Just about everything at French Quarter Fest is priced between $6-$9 so you can try several different items without breaking the bank. Many of these vendors have been serving since the festival’s inception back in 1984.

The Cochon de Lait Poboy and the Yakiniku Poboy are both on the menu at FQF, but there are definitely other items worth seeking out. Try the crawfish and goat cheese crepes from Muriel’s or the Seafood Stuffed Mirliton from Tujague’s over at Jackson Square. Down on the riverfront at Woldenberg Park, you’ll find the succulent Prime Rib Po Boy from the Rib Room, Fried Green Tomatoes and Shrimp Remoulade from Cafe Dauphine, and the Crawfish Mac ‘N Cheese from the Big Cheezy.

French Quarter Fest can get really crowded at times, especially Saturday afternoon so head over early, bring your chair and a blanket and set up shop along the river. Stay away from Jackson Square at peak times because it gets unbearably crowded. 


Tacos ready for the masses at Top Taco Fest


October 20, 2022

Who would have thought that one of the best food festivals in New Orleans would be a taco festival? Well, this one is truly something to write home about. Top Taco has been around since 2017 and managed to pull off an amazing event in October at Lafreniere Park in Metairie. Event organizers plan to return to Jefferson Parish in 2022.

With over forty restaurants competing to see who can create the Top Taco and Top Margarita in the city, you can expect the competition to be fierce. Previous winners have included the Fish Taco from Barracuda, the Cauliflower Taco from Aaron Sanchez’s restaurant Johnny Sanchez, and this past year’s Brisket Burnt Ends Taco from Bywater favorite The Joint. Popular Lakeview Mexican restaurant, Velvet Cactus, has taken home the award for Top Margarita two years running with their Strawberry Jalapeno Margarita. Fans and celebrity judges vote.

Top Taco also has tequila tastings, live Latin music, luchador wrestling, DJs and creative pop up lounges spread out over the festival grounds. Tickets are all-inclusive and start at $75 for General Admission, but it’s worth paying for 1st Tasting or VIP and getting an extra hour of sampling and shorter lines. Early bird tickets are available for 30% off so keep your eyes open for the ticket launch.

Event organizers have now raised over $100,000 for local children’s charities so you can eat amazing tacos for a great cause.


Team Fleur de Que partying on their double-decker installation


April 1, 2, 2022

Hogs for the Cause is another festival that pulled out of Orleans Parish in order to host an event in 2021. The massive pork-centric festival headed to Belle Chasse for the year, but plans on returning to the New Orleans Lakefront in 2022. With over 80 BBQ teams competing for awards like Best Ribs, Best Pulled Pork, and Best Whole Hog, you can rest assured that the competition will bring their A Game.

The BBQ teams are also in it to raise money for charity. Hogs for the Cause has raised over $3.5 million dollars for children’s pediatric brain cancer since it debuted back in 2010. The onus  is on the teams to do the fundraising and special awards are given out to the top fundraisers. The teams also create their own activations where they smoke their BBQ and entertain their guests with DJs, lawn games, drinking games, and more. 

The live music at Hogs for the Cause is nothing to sneeze at. With national acts like Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers, Shakey Graves, and Yonder Mountain String Band to go along with local favorites like Galactic, New Orleans Suspects, and James Andrews, you can expect this year’s event to sell out way in advance.

While Saturday is the big day with the competition in full effect, don’t sleep on the Friday night party where the teams let loose and the bacon is flowing all night long.


Honey Island Swamp Band performs at the Oak Street Po-Boy Fest


November 2022

In the mid-2000s, Maple Leaf owner Hank Staples was looking for a way to rejuvenate Oak Street after Katrina forced the closure of some of the street’s long-time businesses. Staples, Jacques Imo’s owner Jacque Leonardi, and the Oak Street Neighborhood Association decided to honor the classic New Orleans sandwich with its own festival. The Po-Boy Fest was born.

Dozens of vendors line the streets on the eight blocks from Carrollton to Cowbell with stages on the side streets featuring some of the best local brass and funk bands around. There really is no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than tasting sample size po-boys like 2019 winners, Smoked Fish from Grand Isle, Garlic Stuffed Roast Beef from Sammy’s Deli, and Red Fish Grill’s Grilled Shrimp with Blackened Avocado.

The Po-Boy Fest has jumped around the fall calendar, usually falling on the Sunday that the Saints have a bye week. Gambit Weekly readers have consistently voted this event the Best Food Festival in New Orleans.


Champions Square lights up for Boudin, Bourbon & Beer


November 4, 2022

Chef Emeril Lagasse Foundation was founded in 2002 with a mission to inspire, mentor, and enable youth to reach their full potential through culinary, nutrition, and arts education. Shortly after, Emeril’s signature event, Boudin, Bourbon & Beer, hit the local scene with the top chefs in the city inspired to create unique dishes using Louisiana’s specialty boudin. 

After its humble beginnings on Julia Street in the Warehouse District, Boudin, Bourbon & Beer moved to Champions Square, where over seventy chefs compete for awards and honors. In addition to tasting their takes on boudin which might include proteins like crawfish, oxtail, or the traditional pork, festival-goers can run elbows with the chefs like Susan Spicer, Donald Link, Alon Shaya and Michael Gulatta in an intimate setting, while sipping on stiff cocktails made with Buffalo Trace Bourbon.

On the main stage at Boudin, Bourbon, & Beer, you’ll find nationally-renowned musical acts. In 2019, Trombone Shorty was the headliner, and in 2018 it was Railroad Earth. 

At $135 per ticket, Boudin, Bourbon & Beer might be a little expensive, but that’s nothing compared to the $250 and up Carnival du Vin which takes place the following evening. Combined, these two events have raised over fifteen million for teens in New Orleans, Las Vegas, and the Gulf South.


Bayou Hot Wings serving up some tasty wings at Fried Chicken Fest


October 1, 2, 2022

The National Fried Chicken Festival burst on the scene back in 2017 when event organizer Cleveland Spears brought together some of the best fried chicken vendors in the city to Lafayette Square. The event was almost a failure as too many people showed up and most of the vendors ran out of food before the end of the day.

Year two took the Fried Chicken Fest to greater heights at Woldenberg Park along the Mississippi River. Over a hundred and fifty thousand people turned out for live music on multiple stages and over thirty different local and national chicken restaurants served up traditional and creative fried chicken dishes. The famous Gus’s Fried Chicken won the grand prize that year, and it inspired the Memphis-based restaurant to open its first location in Louisiana in the New Orleans’ Warehouse District.

2020 was supposed to see the Fried Chicken Festival grow even more with its move to the spacious Lakefront festival grounds, but the past two festivals were canceled due to Covid. Expect a return on the first weekend of October with free admission, tons of chicken, great local and regional bands, and fun, interactive games and activities.


Fans line up for beignets at Beignet Fest


September 24, 2022

Beignet Fest is another recent addition to the New Orleans food festival scene. Held annually at the festival grounds at City Park, Beignet Fest is probably the most family-friendly of all the aforementioned festivals. From traditional sweet treats covered in powdered sugar to savory options bursting with seafood, cheese and more, Beignet Fest features more than thirty beignet dishes from some of New Orleans best restaurants, caterers, and food trucks.

In true New Orleans style, the festival also features live local music, a kid’s village, artist market and beer garden. There’s also a competition for the Best Savory and Best Sweet Beignets so expect some delicious options to choose from. Proceeds from Beignet Fest benefit the Tres Doux Foundation, which was created to raise awareness and funds for autism programs. 


Oysters on ice at the American Cancer Society’s Shuck Cancer


November 17, 2022

Shuck Cancer might be only three years old, but it’s certainly one of the best food events in the city. Scheduled for a Thursday night in mid-November as most of the city is gearing up for Thanksgiving, Shuck Cancer is importing and shucking some of the best regional and national oysters around. In addition to over twenty different oysters, mostly from the gulf coast and east coast, there are over a dozen top local restaurants like Sidecar NOLA, Johnny Sanchez, and Mister Mao sampling creative dishes and cocktails. 

Shuck Cancer is the biggest fundraiser for the American Cancer Society with events in multiple cities across the country. In New Orleans, local businessmen (and women) and minor celebrities are tasked to “guest shuck” by raising money through ticket sales and donations. The 2021 event at Crescent Park raised over $450,000 for the non-profit.

Republic Beverage is one of the big sponsors of Shuck Cancer and they brought out the heavy hitters. Suppliers like Belvedere Vodka, Ford’s Gin, Woodford Reserve Bourbon, and Four Roses Bourbon were on hand for straight sampling and mixed in cocktails. In addition to the great food, plentiful raw oysters, and tasty drinks, there were panoramic views of the downtown skyline, and live music rocking all night long.


The loaded mac ‘n cheese at the Mac ‘n Cheese Festival at Armstrong Park


October 2022

Yet another food festival that debuted in 2018, the Mac ‘N Cheese Festival gave fans of the popular comfort food something they didn’t even know they were missing: over a dozen different types of mac ‘n cheese dishes from fried balls to sourdough sandwiches or on a plate mixed with crawfish or big chunks of brisket, the combinations are limitless. Believe it or not, there are even vegan options available.

Mac ‘N Cheese Festival takes place in mid-October at Louis Armstrong Park in the Treme, just outside the French Quarter. The free festival has presented great local musicians like Robin Barnes, Big Chief Juan Pardo, and Sam Price & the True Believers in the past. The event also includes an artist market and kid’s designated area. If you’re feeling foolish, you can enter the mac ‘n cheese eating competition or dress in your silliest costume to earn the prestigious title of Biggest Mac ‘N Cheese fan.

A portion of the proceeds from the Mac ‘N Cheese Fest goes to the Special Olympics of Louisiana, which hosts the Unified Play Area for youngsters at the fest.

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