Some people dream about playing professional sports. Others want to take the stage in front of thousands of screaming music fans. Me? I just want to experience 300 years of cultural food traditions and eat my way across Louisiana. Gumbo. Boudin. Pralines. Beignets. Jambalaya. If you’re a food lover traveling through Louisiana, here are five destination restaurants you won’t want to miss.

Ernest’s Orleans Restaurant

Shreveport, LA

http://www.ernestsorleans.com/

Starting in the northern part of the Pelican State, we begin our culinary journey at Ernest’s Orleans Restaurant overlooking downtown Shreveport. Diners have been enjoying chef features and fine beef, seafood and Italian cuisine for more than 60 years. Low lighting and Old World décor creates a cozy atmosphere for a special dining experience. Ernest’s famous marinated crab claw appetizer is the best way to start your meal. The taste is out of this world, but don’t ask for the recipe…it’s a secret.

Cajun Landing Restaurant

Alexandria, LA

http://www.cajunlanding.com/

Next we travel south down I-49 to Alexandria, almost the exact geographic center of Louisiana. Think this land-locked city is too far north to have fresh seafood? Think again. Locals make Cajun Landing Restaurant their go-to place to satisfy Cajun food cravings. Deep fried gator bites and frog leg appetizers are tasty starters that set the table for authentic, Louisiana-flavored main courses like stuffed snapper or house specialty crawfish etouffee.

Charley G’s Seafood Grill

Lafayette, LA

http://charleygs.com/

Continuing our journey southward we head to Lafayette, home of former major league pitcher Ron Guidry and Charley G’s Seafood Restaurant. When you walk through the doors of this southern charmer, you are greeted by rows of white linen-covered tables and a ceiling outlined by soft mood lighting. Whether you order the crab cakes with creamy creole green beans and bell pepper coulis, the pistachio curry crusted salmon, or the pan seared sea bass, be prepared to experience an explosion of incredible taste. You’ll want to clean up and wear your nice clothes to Charley G’s, but it’s worth it.

Rico Louisiana Latin Cocktails and Cuisine

Baton Rouge, LA

http://ricolouisianalatin.com/

Moving east we set our sights on Baton Rouge for Creole-Latin fusion dishes. The menu features white corn tortilla chips with Louisiana boudin queso. Paella with a Cajun twist—Spanish muscles and jumbo Louisiana Gulf shrimp mixed with perfectly cooked rice. And a large Cubana sandwich with potatoes and jicama slaw. But the star of the menu has to be the empanadas. You simply won’t be able to stop eating them. To save some money, plan your trip so you can visit Rico’s on Taco Tuesday.

Café Amelie Restaurant

New Orleans

http://www.cafeamelie.com/

We pull into Café Amelie in New Orleans to wrap up our Louisiana food journey. The restaurant is located in a repurposed carriage house and oozes with southern NOLA character. Open brick walls and arched windows create a picturesque, cozy atmosphere. But if the weather cooperates, choose to dine al fresco in the courtyard. Tucked under a canopy of large leafy bushes near a large bubbling water fountain, you can enjoy a leisurely meal in relaxing peace. Popular dishes include Amalie baked oysters with creamed spinach and artichoke dip, shrimp and grits (a staple in this area), and the cochon de lait, which is called a pulled pork sandwich in other parts of the country.

These are just five don’t miss restaurants to discover in Louisiana. There are thousands and thousands more just waiting for the chance to tempt your taste buds with unique southern cooking. By the way, if you think Cajun and Creole cuisine are the same, you’re wrong. Creole recipes come from French, Spanish and African traditions that often use ingredients like shrimp and oysters not native to the area. Cajun recipes, on the other hand, typically include local plants and animals (like rabbit and alligator) that are all cooked in one pot. Cajun food also tends to be spicier than Creole. Now you know.

And now you’re ready to begin your own Louisiana food journey.