Sunday, July 3, 2011

::veggie dining in new orleans::

Last year, I made a post about vegetarian dining options in New Orleans, and it was well received. My impetus for writing that was most restaurant recommendations I read for New Orleans were very meat-centric and provided very little in the way of vegetarian or vegan options. When I heard that I was going to go hungry, I took that as a challenge to research the options before I got there. What I discovered through that research and once I got there was that plenty of options abound and that I was definitely not going to be left unsatisfied. However, some of the restaurants were destinations that were outside of the French Quarter including in the Marigny, Central Business District, and Garden District. Travel by foot, streetcar, and taxi will assist to those, but fear not, there is good vegetarian and vegan dining to be had in the Quarter itself. Boston bartender and long time vegan Joy Richard explained her trials and tribulations as, "Last year was rough. I wish I had some suggestions but I mostly ate granola bars and mixed nuts. I would LOVE any recommendations for this year. I'm planning on not messing around and finding as many good places to eat as possible." What Joy and others found was that if you tagged along to a restaurant, it could be a crapshoot. For example, writer and vegetarian Camper English complained about choosing the vegetarian option and getting "the veggie muffaletta at Café M---- which was disgusting; a sandwich of olives and nothing else." The overall suggestion from those who tagged along in meat-centric groups in previous years is to take control of your dining options and either drag your friends along to places that would make everyone happy or plan to meet up with them later. Life is too short to eat bad or unsatisfying food.

Here is a list of the restaurants we went to over the last two years. I did my best efforts in web research to confirm that the restaurant's website were still up, but this is no guarantee that they will be there.

13 Monoghan, 517 Frenchman, Marigny, (504) 942-1345
Two years ago, we fell in love with Café Bamboo and their completely vegetarian menu with plenty of vegan options. Sadly, we found them closed last year, but luckily 13 Monoghan was around the corner. The establishment is a bar with a restaurant section containing 8 tables and decorated with movie posters and other memorabilia. Very important for most people's hectic schedules is that they are open from 11am to 4am! Veggie Po-Boys, BBQ Tofu Sandwiches, and Black Bean Veggie Burgers are but some of the options. The menu is diverse and seems satisfying for both meat eaters and vegans (they even have vegan mayo!). Most options were between $7-10.

Mona's Cafe, 504 Frenchmen Street, Marigny, (504) 949-4115
Vegan and vegetarian options abound at this Middle Eastern eatery chain; there are three Mona's throughout town, but the one on Frenchmen is by far the most accessible. Do not fear, Zagat's and Best of New Orleans support my claim that this is good food although the ambiance is a bit humble. While my falafel plate (pictured above) was commendable, the Lebanese iced tea with rosewater and pine nuts comes with my highest recommendation. Prices were affordable from what I recall.

Bennachin, 1212 Royal Street, French Quarter, (504) 522-1230
This African restaurant which serves lunch and dinner was one we discovered our first year, and it was so good that we returned a few times last year. Within the menu are a variety of vegetarian and vegan options. The Akara, fried black-eyed pea fritters served with a cumin-seasoned tomato sauce (pictured above), was an appetizer that was so good the first time that we repeated it last year. While I enjoyed my Baham, a gingery broccoli, cauliflower, and carrot dish served on couscous (pictured below), Andrea won with the Kone ni Makondo, black-eyed peas in an onion and tomato stew served with coconut rice and fried plantains. Lunch and dinner options were $7 and $12, respectively.

Green Goddess, 307 Exchange Place, French Quarter, (504) 301-3347
The Green Goddess is touted by meat eaters and vegetarians alike! While we splurged on a six course tasting menu paired with cocktails the first year, last year we had a scaled down chef's whim. Well, whim is probably not the proper word since the chef came out between courses to discuss what he should do for a next course. While the winner was the Indian Pancake, sort of a cross between the tangy Bhel appetizer and well, a pancake, the Niigata Bruschetta and the Fregola (Sardinian couscous) were quite delightful. The place is small, they do not take reservations, and they are closed some days and nights of the week (check the website), but the experience is well worth it. Do expect to spend a bit of time and money there -- dinner can be a drawn out event, and while I did not write down how much things cost last year, our 6 course affair was $72 each including cocktails. See last year's post for photos.

Gumbo Shop, 630 Saint Peter Street, French Quarter, (504) 525-1486
While not a very veggie friendly sounding place, they do have a rotating vegetarian gumbo option which both years was vegan and incredibly good. The first year it was black beans with rice and corn salsa, and the next was white beans with red pepper, onion, and rice. There is also veggie Po-Boy on the menu that I cannot vouch for yet. A good compromise if your dining companions want traditional New Orleans food and you need to be sure that there will be something for you to eat. Considering that they can do vegan gumbo that well, you have to assume that the rest of their menu is comparable if not better. The veggie gumbo was around $10.

Meltdown Gourmet Popsicles, 508 Dumaine St, French Quarter, (504) 301-0905
Andrea read about this place in the Edible New Orleans magazine and the establishment's name pretty much sums it up. All of the fruit options are vegan and the three cream ones were vegetarian, and the ones we tried were well worth the $3 cost. I had a strawberry hibiscus and Andrea got saffron rosewater. Open 12pm-6pm daily.

Subway Sandwiches, 112 Royal Street, French Quarter, (504) 522-0992
No, we did not dine there despite Subway being started in my hometown of Milford, CT, but it was the favorite restaurant of vegetarian writer/blogger Camper English of Alcademics. This place is conveniently located right next to the Hotel Monteleone so you can get something to eat if you are in a hurry between sessions. If you want to live the life of Camper and eat as he does, order the veggie footlong with Swiss cheese, no onions, and no green peppers. Eat enough of them, and liquor companies might start sending you around the world too.

Carmo, 527 Julia St, Central Business District, (504) 875-4132
I believe Carmo opened a little over a year ago, and this delightful "tropical café" is only open for lunch on Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11am-3pm. While the menu was small, they had vegetarian and vegan salad and sandwich options including one with veggie ham (pictured above)! Items were between $6-9 each.

Surrey's, 1418 Magazine Street, Lower Garden District, (504) 524-3828, and 1200 Carondelet Street, Central Business District, (504) 525-4300
A breakfast and lunch stop that has 3 establishments across New Orleans that was so good we went twice the first year, but due to scheduling and our bed and breakfast being in the Marigny, we did not make it last year. Surrey's has both vegetarian and vegan options including a tofu breakfast scramble, roasted vegetable omelet, and banana Foster French toast. The restaurant in the Lower Garden District has funky tables that are uniquely decorated and serves rather good coffee. The first year we went to that one, but the one in the Central Business District appears a little closer. Open 8am-3pm every day of the week.

Doson Noodle House, 135 N Carrollton Ave, Mid-City, (504) 309-7283
Yes, this place is 2.7 miles away from the Hotel Monteleone up Canal Street; however, when we began to ask around for recommendations from locals the first year, this place was named three times -- once by our waiter at Cafe Bamboo, once by the waiter/apprentice bartender at Green Goddess, and once by a friend of a friend at the cocktail reception at the Presbytere Museum. New Orleans has a large Vietnamese population, and the food seemed rather authentic. The menu contained a vegetarian (presumably vegan) section that had a pair of noodle dishes and three rice dishes. My lemongrass tofu was rather good.

A few places my research has turned up but I cannot vouch for personally yet:

Angeli on Decatur, 1141 Decatur St, French Quarter, (504) 566-0077
An Italian Place recommended on the HappyCow website. Has vegetarian options, some of which could probably be made vegan. Open weekdays 11am-2am, weekends 11am-4am.

Felipe's Taqueria, 301 N. Peter Street, French Quarter, (504) 267-4406
Felipe's is a mini-chain of three establishments also recommended on HappyCow with the one in the French Quarter being most relevant. The other is Uptown, and strangely, the third is right here a few miles away from me in Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA! Vegetarian and vegan options, and open for lunch and late night.

Salt'n'Pepper, 400 Iberville St., French Quarter, (504) 561-6070
A veggie-friendly Pakistani restaurant that also serves Indian food. Recommended by the HappyCow and open every day for lunch and dinner.

Please confirm on your own that any of these establishments are still open (they are still listed on the web but I did not call to check), and feel free to add your own suggestions to this list in the comments section! The vegetarian food was glorious in New Orleans, so do not listen to others' negativity. It was not hard to find places to go, but if you are stuck in a group with no control over the destination, that negativity might have some truth to it. Good luck and good eating!

And for more general Tales suggestions, see my recent advice post with pointers on what to bring and how to network.


Slo-Mo said...

Thank you! I'm already a fan of the site and I just moved down to New Orleans, and I happened to stumble on this. I can't wait to check some of these spots out. This is the kind of info I need down here. And I'd like to add two to the list that I already know about in my neighborhood: Cake Cafe & Bakery (amazing veggie breakfast and lunch options) in the Marigny, and Satsuma Cafe in the Bywater. Both are close to the Quarter and Tales activities.

frederic said...

Thanks for the pointers! I'll have to add that to the list. There were a few new ones that I tried this past summer (including a vegan Korean place in the Marigny) that will appear in my next write up.