You can definitely take a trip to New Orleans and leave without breaking the bank. It is an affordable city that can be easy on the wallet, if you do it right. After all, New Orleans is home to the original po-boys – an affordable French bread sandwich typically stuffed with roast beef or anything fried, even French fries. During the early 1900s, two brothers, Benny and Clovis Martin, opened up a restaurant and served local streetcar workers who were on strike for free. When a striker would enter their restaurant, they would call out, “Here comes another poor boy!” The sandwich was called po-boys and the Louisiana classic was born.
While the city certainly has some upscale five star restaurants, it’s not necessary to blow your vacation budget to experience some of the best New Orleans food when you can just visit these restaurants instead.
- Parkway Bakery – A Mid-City institution that serves the best poboys in my humble opinion. (Order the surf & turf, combination of roast beef and shrimp)
- Coop’s Place – A Cajun dive opened from “11am to close” that’s been deemed as serving the best jambalaya, including rabbit, shrimp, tasso, and sausage jambalaya.
- Cochon Butcher – Not to be confused with the Cochon restaurant that is more upscale and located next door, Cochon Butcher is a casual sandwich shop and wine bar that puts a unique spin on the muffuletta and serves a great Cuban.
- Willie Mae’s Scotch House – A Nola staple serving soul food since the 50’s that’s been dubbed the best fried chicken in the world by the James Beard Foundation. The fried skin literally melts in your mouth.
- Camellia Grill – Equipped with throwback style counter seating and an open kitchen, this classic serves diner fare including enormous breakfast omelettes, chocolate pecan pie, and specialty sandwiches. Oh, and the most expensive item on the menu is $7.99.
- Bratz Y’all– A Bywater German beer garden where you can get giant pretzels covered with bacon and cheese, wursts, schnitzels, and brats to pair with a variety of German beers.
- Stein’s Market & Deli – If you’re window shopping on Magazine Street and don’t feel like spending a lot of money on lunch, drop by Stein’s Deli. This traditional Jewish deli makes a mean Italian Hoagie and Reuben.
- Pizza Delicious – I’ve heard quite a few locals say that this is the best pizza in New Orleans. Personally, I think it’s a toss up between here and Pizza Domenica. If you’re a Brooklyn thin crust person then this is your place. The slices are huge and you can order them by the slice, ranging from $2.25 – $3.25. The Hot Coppa is my favorite.
- Pizza Domenica – The other best pizza joint in Nola, in my opinion. And the garlic knots with aged provolone fonduta are heaven in your mouth. Stop by for a late lunch when pizza, wine, and draft beer is half price from 3-5pm.
- Commander’s Palace – If you’ve been at this five star restaurant for dinner and reading this thinking, what the hell is this doing under Cheap Eats, Commander’s Palace offers a very affordable three-course prix fixe lunch, with prices starting under $20. Don’t plan on going back to work after lunch. A true Commander’s lunch wouldn’t be complete without a few of their signature 25-cent martinis. (Reservations typically need to be made +1 month in advance).
- Port of Call – There is nothing fancy about this 50 year old burger dive. It’s dark. You’re gonna wait in line. But they cook up a damn good burger and loaded baked potato. And they serve their infamous Monsoon drink. It’s $11 but it has your evening’s worth of liquor in it.
- Hansens Snow Balls – If you’re having a sweet craving or just looking to cool down from the scorching summer heat, swing by Hansens. Locals claim they’re the best snowballs in town. Order the Brown Pelican stuffed with ice cream and topped with whipped cream. (Cream of Root Beer).
Dirt Cheap Oysters
- Le Bon Temps Roule – free raw oysters on Fridays beginning at 7pm until they run out
- Blind Pelican – 25¢ raw oysters with purchase of any adult beverage, 4-8pm everyday
- Basin Seafood– 50¢ raw oysters every Monday, 3-10pm
- Superior Seafood & Oyster Bar– 50¢ oysters every weekday, 4-6:30pm
- Red Fish Grill– 75¢ raw oysters Monday through Thursday, 3-5pm
- Grand Isle– 75¢ raw oysters Monday through Friday, 4-6pm
- Luke– 75¢ raw oysters, $1.25 fried oysters, every day 3-6pm
- Elysian Oyster Bar (St. Roch Market)– $6 for 6 oysters, Mon-Fri, 4-6pm, every day 9pm – close
- Twelve Mile Limit – Known as the “neighborhood cocktail dive,” Twelve Mile offers well crafted but affordable cocktails between $6-9 and is named one of the top ten bars in New Orleans yearly. The dive bar is located in a building that served as a bar in the 1920’s and barely survived Hurricane Katrina as another bar, Marvin’s.
- Verret’s Lounge – This “gentrified” Central City dive is home of the six dollar Bulleit bourbon old fashioned and $2 tacos & $4 margs on Taco Tuesdays.
- Mid-City Yacht Club – This neighborhood bar hosts $6 plate boils during crawfish season, has 15 tvs & Sunday Ticket so you never miss a game, limited release craft draft taps every week, & $2 beers. Oh and if you’re a Carolina Panthers, Ohio St., or Penn St. fan and looking for a bar in Nola to watch the game, the Yacht Club always has these teams on their tvs.
- Chart Room – This dark, no frills cash only dive located in the heart of the French Quarter has $4 mixed drinks and provides an escape from the chaos of the French Quarter.
- The Club Ms. Mae’s – The cheapest bar in New Orleans and if you want your stomach being pumped to be the last thing you do here, try the dive bar’s 24-hour challenge. Drink at least one drink an hour for 24 consecutive hours. And if you fail and pass out, you will end up on “Ms. Mae’s Wall of Shame.”
- Broussard’s Empire Bar– Home to one of the best happy hours in town, including 95 cent menu items such as beef brochette, chicken satay, and daily punch specials. If you really want to splurge you can order one of their $3-$6 dishes like the crab & corn fritters.
- Araña Taqueria y Cantina— You are either going to want to stop at this Yucatan restaurant for Sunday brunch to get your $15 bottomless bloody Marys & mimosas on. Or 3-7 pm Monday through Friday for half-priced tacos. If you’re a tequila fan their different flights of tequilas and mescals is also a good reason too.
- Bruno’s Tavern – This college bar has $5 bottled wine Wednesdays, 1/2 off food for Undergrads Wednesdays, 1/2 off food for graduate, law, and med school students on Thursdays from 4-9pm, & $5 beers and a shot every day.
If It’s Free, It’s For Me
- Free admission at The Old US Mint that produced over 400 million gold and silver coins in the 19th and 20th centuries and is now home to the New Orleans Jazz Club Collections of the Louisiana State Museum.
- FREE BEER. Take a free brewery tour and enjoy free samples at Nola Brewery on Fridays from 2-3pm.
- FREE WINE. Partake on free wine and art gallery receptions among Julia Street’s dozen art galleries on the first Saturday of the month, from 6-9pm.
- Free admission for Louisiana residents on Wednesdays at the New Orleans Museum of Art.
- FREE CRAWFISH at the R Bar on Fridays at 6pm during crawfish season. Word on the street is anyone drinking at the bar at this time on a Friday gets free food from the cook.
- Catch a free flick (that you probably haven’t heard of) while pounding $1 beers or your own at the outdoor Burgundy Picture House in Bywater.
- Enjoy Ogden After Hours, free live music art at the Ogden Museum on Thursday evenings from 6-8pm.
- If you’re a Louisiana resident, enjoy free admission to some of the finest collections of southern art at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art on Thursdays from 10am – 5pm.
- Get your cardio and Nola bounce moves on at 5:45pm on Tuesdays at Bounce Ya Brass at Crescent Park, a free weekly fitness dance class.
- Listen to some of the best & worst jokes for free at Hi-Ho Lounge’s Nola Comedy Hour, a weekly open mic night at 8pm on Sundays. If you’re lucky, a celebrity comedian will drop by.
- Place $1 bets on the ponies at the Fair Grounds and watch the races from the grandstand. General admission is free (early November – late March except on Stakes Day, Starlight Racing and Louisiana Derby Day).
Free Things to Do
- Festivals – French Quarter Fest, Bayou Boogaloo, Poboy Fest
- No, not THE Running of the Bulls. But Nola’s version (San Fermin in New Orleans), where members of ladies roller derby teams chase after you with plastic bats lmao
- Take a stroll in the Frenchmen Art Market – A beautiful outdoor market open at night located on Frenchmen street that showcases art, jewelry, and crafts by local artists.
- Even though it’s become a bit touristified over the last few years, a night on Frenchmen Street is still worth an experience. Frenchmen Street is the gateway to New Orlean’s de facto music district. It’s located on the outskirts of the French Quarter in the heart of the Marigny. Live music literally pours out of every venue and sometimes even into the streets, where you might catch a street performance by a brass band. Take a “To Go” cup and walk up and down the street, listening to live, free music and seeing sights you might only see in Nola. There are also several clubs on the street that don’t require a cover charge,require 1 drink per set, or is $5-10 depending on the music act (The Spotted Cat, D.B.A., Maison, Three Muses, Blue Nile, Café Negril)
- Antique window shopping on Royal Street
- French Market – The “Flea Market” is the oldest open air market in the country (Since 1791) that feature’s merchants selling clothes, antiques, art, jewelry, crafts, used items of every description, and food. Get the full flea market experience and haggle with a merchant over a $10 pair of sunglasses.
- Take a walk in the iconic Jackson Square and take an obligatory selfie in front of the famous Andrew Jackson statue
- Attend mass at one of Nola’s most notable landmarks, the St. Louis Cathedral
- If you’re visiting in the spring or summer and need a break from the Quarter, head over to the CBD and enjoy free music on Wednesdays at Lafayette Square (Wednesdays at the Square concert series)
- If you’re surprisingly not hungover and want to burn off all of that rich, New Orleans food and beers you’ve been pounding since you landed, Nola has plenty of parks to get your fitness on. Play Frisbee golf, regular golf, or mini golf at City Park. Run, walk, or bike and enjoy some of the best scenery at Audubon Park. Bike or run along the Mississippi River at Crescent Park, which offers Instagram worthy breathtaking views of downtown New Orleans. Run or bike on the Lafitte Green Way, a 2.6 mile urban bike and running path that stretches from City Park to Armstrong Park. And if you want to carb back up, grab a beer at the new Wrong Iron bar, located steps off of the Green Way in Mid-City.
- Take a walk along Magazine Street. This is a Broke-Traveler favorite and in my opinion, the true essence of New Orleans. This street has everything you’re looking for.
- Ride the St. Charles streetcar to see some of Nola’s grandest homes
- Head to the Crescent City Farmer’s Market to “Make your groceries.” Uptown Tuesdays – 200 Broadway St. near the River; Bywater Wednesdays – Chartres St. at Piety St.; Mid-City Thursdays – 3700 Orleans Ave. at the Bayou; Downtown Saturdays – 750 Carondelet St. at Julia St.
- Take a self guided literary tour of the homes of some of the most famous writers: Truman Capote – The character “Dill” in To Kill a Mockingbird was based off of and whose noted work is Breakfast at Tiffany’s (811 Royal St.); William Faulkner – Nobel Prize winner whose notable works include The Sound and the Fury (624 Pirate’s Alley); Anne Rice – Author of The Vampire Chronicles (2301 St. Charles Ave., 1239 First St. at Coliseum); Tennessee Williams – Author of A Streetcar Named Desire (722 Toulouse St., 710 Orleans St.)