By Clint Demeritt

The port city of New Orleans has always been a crossroads where cultural influences both collide and complement each other, much like the ingredients of a tasty gumbo. With its mix of African, Caribbean, French and Native American influences, the Crescent City has long been a culinary gem of the Gulf Coast.

Unfortunately, Hurricane Katrina has left an indelible mark on New Orleans, permanently changing the city’s geography and demographics. Since 2005, New Orleans residents new and old have been hard at work rebuilding the city. Though some areas of New Orleans still struggle to recover, the city is booming with startup businesses and fresh ideas. The startup rate in the city is 64 percent higher than the national average, according to National Geographic.

“There’s a lot of energy in New Orleans right now,” said Allison Plyer of The Data Center in the National Geographic article. “Katrina captured the nation’s interest, and many people really want to contribute to the city’s recovery.”

This energy is reflected in New Orleans’ food scene as new restaurants offer new flavors and fresh twists on the city’s rich culinary tradition. The city is not immune from the national gastronomic trends like fusion food (already a New Orleans mainstay), food trucks and distillery/brewery pubs. Here’s a rundown of fairly new restaurants in New Orleans, as well as a selection of great places to explore the city’s tasty culinary history.

While you’re in town for DMA &THEN, two excellent restaurants located right next to the convention center are Cochon Butcher and Cochon Restaurant, helmed by James Beard award winner Donald Link. The butcher shop offers some of the city’s most inventive sandwiches and delicious small plate fare. The Cochon Restaurant focuses on a new twist on Cajun flavors and boasts perhaps the best wood-fired oysters in a city that loves its seafood.

Compere Lapin is another restaurant only a stone’s throw away from convention festivities. Their many accolades include Creole- and Italian-inspired food such as Curried Goat Sweet Potato Gnocchi and Caribbean Seafood Pepper Pot. Nestled in the Garden District, Lula Restaurant Distillery offers delicious food, but the spirits and cocktails steal the show at this micro-distillery as house-made vodka, rum and gin are all created with 100 percent sugar cane.

If you’re looking to explore the po’boy sandwich culture of the South, look no further than Domilise’s Po-Boys. Though seafood shrimp or oyster po’boys are popular, they feature a variety of meaty fillings, dressed and stuffed with debris (Southern po’boy lingo). And if you are looking for great soul food, another New Orleans tradition, check out Dooky Chase’s Restaurant for its amazing fried chicken, fried catfish and Creole gumbo – and don’t forget the pecan pie!

To sample newer flavors, two new restaurants with rave reviews are Bywater Bakery and Turkey & Wolf. Bywater Bakery cooks up excellent breakfast and lunch, but is famous for it variety of king cakes, a sweet Mardi Gras tradition that historically includes a tiny hidden figurine. Then Turkey & Wolf is known for turning classic comfort food on its head. Try the collard green melt sandwich or fried potpie and out-there cocktails, with names such as the “When I was 10 I went to school as a dead cheerleader for Halloween.”

If you are looking for more restaurant suggestions, peruse Eater New Orleans’s The 38 Essential New Orleans Restaurants Spring 2017 and Zagat’s Hottest Restaurants and Bars in New Orleans, which helped sourced many of these fine eateries.

This spirit of reinvention apparent in their eateries makes New Orleans the perfect place for the new DMA’s &THEN conference. Infused with new energy, &THEN focus on data and getting marketers only the information they need to compete in the fast-changing internet landscape. Just like New Orleans’ passionate and experienced chefs make New Orleans the place to be for excellent cuisine, the biggest thought leaders and brands come to &THEN for the newest information and techniques in marketing.

This article is brought to you by &THEN, DMA’s annual event. Click here to join the leaders of the marketing community and explore how data transforms marketing in New Orleans, October 8-10. Save over $300 when you register online.