According to 38 percent of respondents, New Orleans offers the most irresistible hometown specialties. Here's where to find some of the city's trademark foods.
Beignets Café du Monde may be mobbed with tourists, but locals still come here for the unbeatable beignets, those puffy squares of deep-fried dough heavily dusted with powdered sugar (800 Decatur St.; 504-525-4544).
Crayfish and Alligator Early settlers discovered the pleasures of eating these local critters. K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen, although well past its '80s heyday, is still the best place to sample the two hometown staples. Try Prudhomme's crayfish étouffée and his fall special of alligator with sauce picante (416 Chartres St.; 504-524-7394).
Gumbo For a rich, steaming bowl of this thick soup--made with a base of dark brown roux and flavored with bell peppers, onions and celery--head to Gabrielle, which offers a variety of gumbos. The turkey gumbo (available as a special) is one of the best (3201 Esplanade Ave.; 504-948-6233).
Muffuletta The basic ingredients for this sandwich are ham, salami, provolone or Swiss cheese and olive relish, served up on a massive semolina roll. (A whole muffuletta feeds two.) At Nor-Joe Importing Co., the outstanding muffulettas also include delicious extras like prosciutto and mortadella (505 Friscoe Ave., Metairie; 504-833-9240).
Po'boy New Orleans' signature sandwich is served on French bread and comes with a variety of stuffings, but the best are the meat po'boys--including a spectacular house-baked ham--at Mother's (401 Poydras St.; 504-523-9656).
Turtle Soup Turtle meat, once plentiful in the region, is now fairly scarce, so many restaurants stretch their recipes with veal. At Restaurant August, John Besh (an F&W Best New Chef 1999) uses only the real thing in his turtle soup (available as a special); the delicate flavor is enhanced by a broth made with sherry and veal stock (301 Tchoupitoulas St.; 504-299-9777).