I have always been drawn to the culture and excitement of New Orleans. I constantly visited from my home in Pensacola, Florida, and was seduced by the city’s charm. Sometimes I’d make the trip for no particular reason, just to wander around. Throughout my explorations, I understood how art, music, and food are deeply embedded in New Orleans’ culture. As a visual artist, musician, and food lover, it was inevitable that I’d eventually make the move here.

One overlooked aspect of New Orleans is its reputation as a Vietnamese hub; the city is home to one of the largest Vietnamese populations in the United States. After the Vietnam War, many Vietnamese refugees relocated to the gulf coast, which offered a similar climate to Vietnam and jobs in shrimping and fishing. I began immersing myself within the NOLA Vietnamese culture and felt a familiarity I hadn’t experienced since my youth in the Vietnamese community of St. Petersburg, FL. As I got older, my family began to move around, weakening my connection to Vietnamese-American culture. New Orleans became a place where I could reconnect with this community. The city has been a huge influence on my artwork, which focuses on celebrating the success of Vietnamese-American culture.

Over the decades, a unique culinary mixture that has developed into something of itself is the Viet-cajun cuisine. When people think about New Orleans food, they imagine the classic dishes: gumbo, red beans and rice, and po-boys. All are undeniably New Orleans staples. However, a Vietnamese influence has heavily impacted the city’s food culture. Here’s a list of some of my favorite New Orleans spots: 

Lily’s Cafe

I have been eating traditional Vietnamese food my entire life, but I have never tasted these dishes the way they make them at Lily’s, located in the Lower Garden District. At this point, I have tried everything on the menu, and it never gets old. The cafe is a tasty spot I can’t live without. 1813 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130. @lilycafenola

Vy Linh (Viet Cooking Nola)  

Vy Linh is a New Orleans native that began recreating her late mother’s recipes during the pandemic, using cooking as a way to keep her family’s traditions alive and reconnect with her mother. Vy Linh has slowly been translating her mother’s recipes, using memory and intuition to prepare each dish just right. She serves traditional Vietnamese dishes, such as bún riêu cua ốc, rarely seen on your typical Vietnamese menu. Although her phở gà is truly remarkable, Vy Linh’s take on her mother’s signature bún bò huế recipe is expertly layered with beautiful and complex flavors. @vietcookinnola

Deli at the Hong Kong Food Market

Over in the Westbank is an Asian grocery store called Hong Kong Food Market. Inside the market to the far right is a deli that sells the best bánh mì in New Orleans. The Vietnamese cold-cuts are made perfectly and the french bread and vegetables are always fresh. The deli sells many Vietnamese baked goods and dishes that are made daily. 925 Behrman Hwy #3, Terrytown, LA 70056. @hkmnola

Seither’s Seafood

Located in Harahan, Seither’s Seafood serves award-winning po-boys that are delicious. Unbeknownst to most tourists,  Seither’s makes some of the best po-boys right outside of town, the roast beef po-boy being a particularly popular, classic New Orleans dish. 279 Hickory Ave, Harahan, LA 70123. @seithersseafood

Parenton’s Po-Boys

Parenton’s Po-Boys is an old-school Harahan lunch spot that’s been around since 1946. They serve daily hot lunch specials, such as red beans and rice, fried seafood platters, and chicken fried steak. This is the type of New Orleans comfort food that makes you not want to live anywhere else. You may find the owners hanging out, and drinking beers on a Saturday afternoon – they are always very welcoming. 4304 Ellen St, Jefferson, LA 70121. @parentons_poboys