French Quarter Festival food brings revivals, new beginnings, diverse local flavor | Where NOLA Eats

David Volion doesn’t have his restaurant back open yet, and he still has a long road ahead. But this weekend he will be cooking his heart out anyway at the French Quarter Festival.

Voleo’s Restaurant was wiped out when Hurricane Ida drove a wall of mud through its small fishing community in Lafitte, about a 30-minute drive from the city.







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Voleo’s Seafood Restaurant in Lafitte, nearly four weeks after Hurricane Ida devastated the fishing village. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)


He was able to salvage his old cast iron kettles and piece together enough equipment to build a temporary kitchen as he plans Voleo’s eventual return. He and his crew have been hard at work preparing for the festival, and they’re going all out with a menu of smothered rabbit po-boys, fried shrimp remoulade, crabmeat boudin balls and crawfish enchiladas.







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Voleo’s smothered rabbit po-boy is an alternative to the more common po-boys, such as shrimp, oysters or roast beef. (Photo by Judy Walker, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune archive)


The French Quarter Festival returns Thursday-Sunday (April 21-24), and it brings an opportunity that the restaurants and other vendors taking part haven’t seen in years and badly need after the tumult of the pandemic.

“We’ve got to be out there, we’ve got to work,” Volion said, whose festival stand will be at the Jax Brewery Lot. “It feels like a comeback tour for sure.”

Biggest chance yet







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Fans cheer for trumpeter Wendell Brunious as he performs on the Hilton Stage during the French Quarter Festival Saturday, April 13, 2019, in New Orleans. The four-day festival wraps up Sunday with food, fun, and a slate of musicians and performers on 23 stages.




Food is a key component of the French Quarter Festival, with some 55 vendors serving hundreds of dishes (see the full list at frenchquarterfest.org/food).

It turns the French Quarter into a bastion of street food, with six different clusters of vendors spread across the festival area, which stretches from the Old US Mint on Esplanade Avenue to Woldenberg Park along the Mississippi Riverfront.

After missing two years through the pandemic, and enduring the wrenching decisions to reschedule and cancel the return, to festival is shaping up to mark a major celebration and a revival.







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Olympia Brass Band walks into Jackson Square during the French Quarter Festival kickoff parade in New Orleans, Thursday, April 12, 2018. French Quarter Festival goes through Sunday with local food and music.




Nowhere does that ring more true than at Café Dauphine, the family-run Creole soul restaurant in Holy Cross. It has been shuttered since the pandemic began. Chef and owner Tia Henry has supported herself through community feeding efforts in the early days and now events and catering.







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New Orleans chef Tia Henry, a Lake Charles native, prepares meals for community feeding efforts at her Holy Cross restaurant Cafe Dauphine. (Photo by Chris Granger | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)




In the midst of the pandemic, hurricanes roiled her tight-knit family across the state. Hurricane Laura displaced family members from their Lake Charles home in 2020, and Hurricane Ida damaged her New Orleans restaurant last year. Blue tarps still cling to the restaurant’s roof, patching damage from that storm.







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Cafe Dauphine serves a Cajun seafood egg roll at the French Quarter Festival as well as the Satchmo SummerFest. (Photo by Todd A. Price, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)


Henry hopes to reopen for normal business during the summer, but for now she’s firmly focused on making French Quarter Festival a success, with her booth at Kohlmeyer Lawn.

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Her own festival menu reads like a feast – fried ribs, seafood stuffed egg rolls, and fried green tomatoes with shrimp remoulade, each served individually or together as a sampler platter.

“It’s the first taste of Café Dauphine that a lot of our regulars out there will get in so long, so we know we have to bring it,” Henry said.

Expanding flavors, diversity

The food lineup at French Quarter Festival has been growing in diversity for years, both in the flavors presented and the New Orleans people behind it. This year brings a lot of new operators to the mix.







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Ajun Cajun’s tempura fried soft shell crab po-boy with pink sauce at the French Quarter Festival. (Photo by Ann Maloney, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)


Some vendors are still struggling with staffing and logistical issues that have plagued the industry nationwide and were unable to commit this year, said Kenneth Spears, food and beverage director for the French Quarter Festival.

But the festival keeps a list of prospective vendors, and this year 11 of them got the nod. Many of the new additions are set up near the Old US Mint, including Ma Momma’s House of Cornbread, Chicken & Waffles, serving wings and waffles, NOLA Crawfish King, with whole hog barbecue platters, and Ditto’s Food Truck, making shrimp, chicken and fried crawfish tacos.







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Prince Lobo welcomes a visitor to Addis NOLA, the Ethiopian restaurant his family opened in New Orleans in 2019.



Another new addition near the Old US Mint this year is Addis NOLA. The Ethiopian restaurant in Mid-City has been introducing more people to this traditional form of African cooking, and making a splash on the festival scene as well. Look for sambusas, crisp savory pastries filled with lentils or greens, and awaze chicken legs, the heady Ethiopian chile sauce.

Enduring tradition

These vendors will be cooking alongside some of the most vaunted names in French Quarter dining, including Tujague’s and Galatoire’s, each set up in Jackson Square for the festival. And they’re joining New Orleans food families with very long roots in the business.







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Vaucresson’s po-boys with (from left) Creole hot sausage, crawfish sausage and barbecue chicken sausage, a selection served at the French Quarter Festival. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)


This weekend will be the biggest event since the pandemic for Vaucresson’s Sausage, a staple going back to the earliest days of French Quarter Festival, and the upcoming New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival as well.

Now run by third-generation owner Vance Vaucresson, the company is putting the finishing touches on a new butcher shop and café in the 7th Ward, reviving a market the family ran in the same spot before Hurricane Katrina. That should be complete in the months ahead.







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Fans cheer for trumpeter Wendell Brunious as he performs on the Hilton Stage during the French Quarter Festival Saturday, April 13, 2019, in New Orleans. The four-day festival wraps up Sunday with food, fun, and a slate of musicians and performers on 23 stages.




For Vaucresson, taking part in festivals is an extension of what he wants to do at his shop, which is tell the story of Creole New Orleans culture through food.

“There are culturally significant dishes to Creole heritage, and we want to make it an experience and educate people about our city and our traditions,” Vaucresson said.

His chaurice po-boy, a Creole hot sausage mix and beef and pork with a spice blend deeply embedded in local tradition, is a handheld, festival ready demonstration of that. And this weekend, at long last, it will be back in circulation in Jackson Square.

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