Along with jambalaya, gumbo is just about the most controversial local culinary favorite and one that can readily spark a heated debate among foodies. While one version is not necessarily better than another, each offers its own distinct style and flavor profile, from the classic seafood and okra, to the equally delicious, but lesser known gumbo z’herbes. In a city famous for this beloved delicacy, it is impossible to feature every great gumbo available, so this is merely a small sampling of some of New Orleans Living’s favorite examples. Of course, none of them can come close to my Grandmaw Gee Gee’s though!
1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221
Like many restaurants, Commander’s Palace often changes its gumbo, but any of its tasty versions will hardly disappoint. One traditional gumbo starts with a blond roux, which evolves into an incredibly concentrated thick, dark base filled with plump oysters, large shrimp, okra, a hint of tomato and the perfect touch of heat.
201 Royal St., 523-2078
One of the most famous gumbos in town, Gumbo YaYa, can be enjoyed at this iconic French Quarter establishment. Generous portions of andouille sausage and tender roasted chicken are swimming in the savory, dark roux. Boldly flavored, it is a fine, classic example and one that every local and visitor must experience.
1500 Esplanade Ave, 569-8997; 610 Poydras St. (in the Whitney Hotel), 581-4222
For fans of a thinner roux-based gumbo, this filé-flavored version will be right up your alley. Packed with crabmeat (including a gigantic claw dangling over the rim of the cup), generously sized shrimp, smoked sausage and the addition of hot sausage (removed from the casing, so it adds an interesting texture), this gumbo delights with a mouthwatering, spicy kick.
701 St. Charles Ave., 524-4114
Donald Link serves up bowl after bowl of his dark, hearty gumbo that is loaded with savory shredded duck meat and chunks of andouille sausage. Intensely concentrated and incredibly well balanced, the rich texture is almost silky and glides across the palate.
630 St. Peter St., 525-1486
This mainstay for gumbo offers a classic take on the local favorite. Its seafood and okra gumbo starts with a thick, dark brown roux base with a tinge of tomato and the perfect amount of filé and spice. Generous portions of okra, shrimp and crabmeat make this one a must.
700 Tchoupitoulas St., 613-2350
Chef Chuck Subra holds his granny’s recipe close to his heart and won’t allow any of his staff to see the secret blend of ingredients. A delicious thick, dark roux is perfectly seasoned with spicy andouille sausage and tender bits of duck to create this masterful and succulent concoction.
2854 St. Charles Ave., 895-9524
The mastermind behind this must-try treat likes to “keep it simple.” Tender pieces of shredded chicken breast and thigh, celery, green pepper and onion are melded with a thick and dark spicy roux, flavored to perfection with just the right touch of filé. A generous douse of andouille sausage adds a fiery kick to this lip-smacking-good bowl of bliss.
3454 Magazine St., 899-3374
This unassuming Uptown po-boy shop serves up one tasty bowl of gumbo, but only on Fridays, so get there early as it’s likely that it won’t last long. A savory, medium-bodied roux is chock-full of fresh seafood, including crab (half a crab floated in our bowl), large shrimp and oysters, seasoned with filé and a fine dash of heat.
2301 Orleans Ave., 821-0535
For those who have not experienced gumbo z’herbes, you don’t know what you are missing! This version, from Leah Chase, the matriarch of Creole cooking, is only available on Thursdays, but it is well worth the special trip. This divine combination of nine different greens melded with chicken, ham, sausage and a hint of filé is, simply put, heaven on earth!
1011 Decatur St., 522-5565
Newly reopened by chef-owner Glen Hogh of Vega Tapas, Café Sbisa offers a robust, richly flavored smoked duck confit and andouille sausage gumbo that’s sure to satisfy. The concentrated, deeply colored roux gets an added dimension from a helping of red onions and Hogh’s special ingredient, roasted red peppers.