Saturday, June 26, 2010

:: veggie dining in new orleans ::

Every year for Tales of the Cocktail, Chuck Taggart of the Gumbo Pages blog posts an entry about where people should eat that year. Unfortunately for me, most of his restaurant suggestions do not seem that vegetarian friendly. When I started inquiring about options, I was met with a lot of "you're gonna go hungry, son" sort of comments; however, as we did a little research, I quickly realized that this was not going to be the case! After two days in at Tales last year, I decided that I would make this post especially after providing a vegan Boston bartender with a daily update of restaurant pointers replete with foodporn photos and copies of menus. Below is a summary of our outings listed in the order we went there. Note that some of the destinations are a distance from the Quarter, and these restaurants would not only be satisfying to someone seeking vegetarian/vegan dining but to anyone seeking a change of pace with some vegetables on their plate. At Tales, we walked everywhere (including out to the Cure through the Magnolia Projects, but that is another story and not recommended), but taxis and streetcars can assist the time strapped.

Bennachin 1212 Royal Street, French Quarter, (504) 522-1230
This African restaurant serves lunch and dinner and has an extensive vegetarian section on their menu. The fried black-eyed pea fritters with a cumin-seasoned tomato sauce appetizer was the win! My plantains, vegetables, and vermicelli was quite satisfying as well. Lunch and dinner options were around $7 and $12, respectively. Hip waitress!

Surrey's 1418 Magazine Street, Lower Garden District, (504) 524-3828
A breakfast and lunch stop that was so good we returned for a second time. Surrey's has both vegetarian and vegan options including a tofu breakfast plate (pictured above), roasted vegetable omelet, and bananas Foster French toast. The restaurant has funky tables that are uniquely decorated and rather good coffee.

Cafe Bamboo 435 Esplanade Ave., Marigny, (504) 940-5546
This place was heaven! Imagine a meat-free speakeasy with a full bar and Tiki flare! Another place so good we went twice. They serve a collection of tofu, seitan beaf, and sol soy chik'n dishes that are mainly vegan and weigh in at around $10-13 per entrée. For example, we had the Collard Green Rolls as an appetizer which were soy hamm-filled spring rolls with a sweet chili dipping sauce, and Voodoo Sticks as a main course which was grilled seitan, pineapple, and bell pepper kabobs with brown rice and collard greens. The photo above is my sandwich from our second outing where we had lunch. Andrea might have won with her tofu and rice bowl with mafe -- a West African spicy peanut sauce with creole tomatoes, cabbage, yams, and onions! They are open every day but Sunday from 10:30am - 10pm. Post note: RIP Cafe Bamboo. The bar and club are still there, but the restaurant is no longer.

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 option. That night, the black beans with rice and corn salsa was also vegan! 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.

Green Goddess 307 Exchange Place, French Quarter, (504) 301-3347
The Green Goddess is touted by meat eaters and vegetarians alike! They had just received their liquor license so we decided to do a vegetarian tasting menu paired with cocktails for $72/person. Our dinner that night was six courses that included cucumber and sumac soup with Lebanese yogurt and Pimm's that was paired with the Pimm's Chalice and a fragrant slice of kou kouye -- a Persian frittata served with Havashu naan and pickled turnips -- paired with Shamsi's Refreshment (pictured above). More food and drink information can be found in those two links. The Green Goddess even made Chuck's list!

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, 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.

Mona's Cafe 504 Frenchmen Street, Marigny, (504) 949-4115
Vegan and vegetarian options abound at this Middle Eastern eatery. The sautéed veggie sandwich, falafel, veggie kabobs with hummus, and Turkish coffee all met with our approval and the posted Zagat's-Rated and Best of New Orleans awards on the door mean that others agree as well.

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 properly stalk Camper, eat as he does with an order of a veggie footlong with Swiss cheese, no onions, and no green peppers.

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. Perhaps for next year we can even plot a vegetarian spirited dinner... Good luck and good eating!

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