Saturday, July 7, 2012

::veggie dining in new orleans::

With Tales of the Cocktail coming up in a little over two weeks, I figured that it was time for my annual guide to vegetarian and vegan dining recommendations in New Orleans. Unfortunately, I will not be in attendance for we will be spending our resources at other cocktail events this year; however, I wanted to share my notes from the past three years.

My impetus for starting this series back in 2010 was that at our first Tales in 2009, all of the restaurant recommendations were rather meat-centric and I was told that I would probably go hungry. When I heard that, I took it as a challenge to research and explore to make sure that statement was anything but the case. What I learned was that there were plenty of very satisfying options, although many were outside of the French Quarter. With a little travel by foot, streetcar, or taxi, there were numerous options in the Marigny, Central Business District, and Garden District. The vegetarians who have complained in the past were the ones that tagged along with meat-centric groups, and I highly recommend taking control of your dining options. Whether it is dragging them along to where you want to go or planning on meeting up later, life is too short to eat bad or unsatisfying food.

The 2010 and 2011 veggie dining guides might be worth a look if only for the photos of the dishes tried during each trip; there are a few restaurants in 2011's post that I did not include in here for brevity's sake but would serve as good data points for more options. Here is the updated list of the restaurants over the last three 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.

Green Goddess, 307 Exchange Place, French Quarter, (504) 301-3347
The Green Goddess is touted by meat eaters and vegetarians alike! This is one of the threepeats of my New Orleans dining experiences. I have tried everything from small plates to a six course tasting menu paired with cocktails. I highly recommend the chef's whim especially if you have dietary concerns that the chef can work with or around. Last year I went twice, once with Camper English of Alcademics and the other with the Glassers of the Bittermens Bitters. One of the highlights included an Adobo Mess o' Greens "Cuban" Sandwich that was a Filipino-inspired dish dressed the same as a regular Cuban sandwich; it paired rather well with a cherry wood-smoked wheat beer from Bayou Teche. Meals there have ranged from $25-72 a person and see the previous posts for food pics.
The Wandering Buddha, 2239 St. Claude Ave, Marigny, (504) 945-9428
The Wandering Buddha was a new one last year for they had just opened two weeks before Tales! This Korean vegan restaurant with the punk rock aesthetic was worth the walk all the way out to the Marigny, but if the distance is too great, don't despair! Joy Richard took advantage of their delivery service a few times during the week. Food highlights included Ssambab which were lettuce wraps filled with rice, marinated tofu, vegetables, and a spicy sauce ($3.50), and Bibim Naengmyeon which was the cold buckwheat noodle and veggie dish pictured above ($10). It's at the back side of a rock club and they only take cash, but it was definitely a trip highlight!

Bennachin, 1212 Royal Street, French Quarter, (504) 522-1230
We discovered this African restaurant the first year and it has served as another 3-time winner for both lunch and dinner. The menu contains a good number of vegetarian and vegan options, including Kone ni Makondo which are black-eyed peas in an onion and tomato stew served with coconut rice and fried plantains. Lunch was options were around $8 and dinner options are probably around the $12 price point they were back in 2010.
Carmo, 527 Julia St, Central Business District, (504) 875-4132
Carmo opened right before Tales 2010 and this "tropical café" was so good that time that I dragged Dr. Bamboo for lunch last year. Since then, they have apparently expanded to dinner as well. Our lunches were $9 including my Sultan's Delight, the smoked eggplant, tofu, and veggie dish pictured above, and Dr. B's spiced tofu, vegetables, and apricot rice dish.

Mona's Cafe, 504 Frenchmen Street, Marigny, (504) 949-4115
Vegan and vegetarian options are plentiful at this Middle Eastern eatery chain that has been another 3-timer; 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. I returned to the falafel plate ($9) this year along with the ever amazing Lebanese iced tea with rosewater and pine nuts ($2.25).
Sylvain, 625 Chartres Street, French Quarter, (504) 265-8123
Sylvain opened late in 2010 but it already had a buzz from Chuck Taggart and others as a place to go. While not the most veggie friendly restaurant around, there were a good number of salad and appetizer options and I was quite pleased with the quality. Pictured above was the roasted beet bruschetta with goat's milk cheese and the heirloom tomato-based ricotta and sprout salad that I ordered. The beer list was also good such as the Brasserie Dieu du Ciel "Aphrodite" Stout that was brewed with cacao and vanilla beans. Appetizers and salads were in the $9-10 range.

Meltdown Gourmet Popsicles, 508 Dumaine St, French Quarter, (504) 301-0905
We hit this in Tales 2010 and I returned again this year to get a pineapple basil popsicle. Well worth the $3 heat-beating price and all of the fruit options are vegan and the cream ones are vegetarian. Open 12pm-6pm daily.
Surrey's, 1418 Magazine Street, Lower Garden District, (504) 524-3828
A breakfast and lunch stop that has a few establishments across New Orleans that was so good we went twice the first year and I went twice last year. Due to staying in the Marigny in 2010, we unfortunately did not make it there that year. Surrey's has both vegetarian and vegan options including a tofu breakfast platter ($7.75) which was a delightful vegan stirfry and Bananas Foster French Toast ($9) pictured above. Open 8am-3pm every day of the week.

13 Monoghan, 517 Frenchman, Marigny, (504) 942-1345
13 Monoghan is a place we went in 2010 but I did not have a chance to go there again this year. This movie poster-decorated restaurant within a bar serves a good number of vegetarian and vegan dishes such as Veggie Po-Boys, BBQ Tofu Sandwiches, and Black Bean Veggie Burgers. The menu is diverse and seems satisfying for both meat eaters and vegans (they even have vegan mayo!). Most options were between $7-10, and they are open late from 11am to 4am.
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 three years in a row was vegan and incredibly good; last year it was the black beans and rice ($10) pictured above that went well with an Ambita Amber Ale. I believe there two other veggie-friendly options as well including a veggie Po-Boy. 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.

Subway Sandwiches, 112 Royal Street, French Quarter, (504) 522-0992
No, I have never dined there in New Orleans despite Subway being started in my hometown of Milford, CT, but it was the favorite restaurant of vegetarian 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.
Café du Monde, 800 Decatur Street, French Quarter, 1(800) 772-2927
Breakfast at Café du Monde is a must, and three beignets and coffee for under $5 is a great start to the day. Just don't wear black or that powder sugar will be the bane of your existence!

There were a few more suggestions in the 2011 post that might be worth reading. Again, 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!


Anonymous said...

Another great option:

I'm not veggie/vegan, but every time I've dined there, I've had a veggie selection and it's been stellar.

Laughlin said...

If you're going again this year, we have two new acclaimed restaurants that are vegan or have a strong vegan menu: Bhava (in the Marigny) and Seed (Lower Garden District, near CBD). Bhava is all-vegan and right above Feelings Cafe, a beautiful restaurant you probably know that has its own all-vegan menu as well. I also highly recommend Lucky Rooster in the CBD: asian fusion with several tofu options, and a killer cocktail program.