[You may have noticed that my blog has been rather quiet lately. I've had to take a sort of "leave of absence" from blogging due to some personal matters. I hope to return to regular blogging soon. In the meantime, enjoy this guest post from Elizabeth over at Creative Dish, on her recent trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, vegan-style.]
Going Veg in the Big Easy
Ah, New Orleans. A magical place where just about any event calls for celebration in the form of a parade; where it is nothing to shut down a whole city for a party in the streets with thousands of your closest friends and neighbors. A land where plastic beads are treated like a form of currency.
Unfortunately, it’s also the land of crawfish boils, sausage gumbo and chicken jambalaya. It’s not exactly a vegan paradise.
However, don’t fret, you vegan party animal, you. There is still fun to be had and food to be consumed, even if heavy cream and andouille is not your thing. And while it might be tempting, you don’t have to settle for boozy liquid lunches for breakfast, lunch and dinner (even if you kind of want to).
Whenever I visit the town I briefly called home, there are a few can’t-miss stops on my dining tour.
1. Slim Goodies (3322 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115)
This place is an absolute delight. Located in the heart of the garden district, it is a beloved greasy spoon diner. It was one of the first restaurants to open its doors after Hurricane Katrina and it has been going strong ever since (as evidenced by absurdly long lines on any given morning). The always fun, though sometimes sassy staff keeps you on your toes and—gasp—they are familiar with the vegan lifestyle. Might I suggest the Garden Slammer as the best veg-friendly hangover cure in town? Tofu scramble with vegan chili and tempeh bacon over a bed of hashbrowns. If you ask nicely, they’ll even sub a bowl of fresh fruit for the non-vegan toast side.
2. Theo’s (4218 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115)
Pizza, pizza, pizza done right. Light, fresh and totally delicious. Over the past few months they have even introduced an entirely vegan pizza called the “Veganator,” though you can also get the “Hippy” with no cheese. The Veganator features an almost ridiculous amount of produce, from black olives to tomatoes, squash and entire roasted garlic cloves. Wash it down with your favorite Abita beer (also vegan-friendly).
3. Mona’s Cafe (Several locations Uptown, Carrollton and Midcity)
I was going to get a picture of the falafel sandwich I got here, but I can’t lie. I woofed it down before I even thought to lug out my ancient camera. Service is slow and the atmosphere is not much to write home about, but for the money and flavor it really can’t be beat. There are several locations around town, so you’re never that far away from their hummus and pita chips.
4. Bennachin (1212 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70116)
Nestled in the French Quarter between voodoo museums and tacky souvenir shops featuring bizarre t-shirt slogans (who brags about putting “ketchup on their ketchup?”) lies Bennachin. This delicious African restaurant is ideal for romantic date nights or a fun dinner with friends. Don’t be in a hurry, the limited staff will keep you waiting, but you will not walk away disappointed. It’s small, but not at all cramped. To access the restroom you have to step through the kitchen, which I find strangely charming. There are several vegan-friendly options on the menu, so don’t be afraid to ask if you are not familiar with any of the descriptions.
For Mardi Gras, getting fed is often the last thing on your mind. But I do have a few recommendations for surviving a day of parades away from your tofu press. Visit the local grocery store chain Breaux Mart for a prepackaged ginger cake to munch on in between catching beads with reckless abandon.
Whole Foods in uptown carries standard veg-friendly fare, but they even make vegan king cakes if you order in advance.
Never had a king cake you say? You simply must. I recommend this recipe here (http://dairyfreecooking.about.com/od/cakes/r/vegankingcake.htm). During parades in the French Quarter you may have to resort to French fries and dry garden salads, but just go with it. There’s too much fun to be had.
Perhaps the best form of advice I can offer for a vegan NOLA traveler is just to go ethnic. New Orleans has no shortage of Indian, Thai, African and Mediterranean style food to keep you fat and happy. If you simply insist on trying something uniquely N’awlins that is veg-friendly, you can always go for a French fry po-boy at nearly any po-boy establishment (try Parasol’s or Mahoney’s). Just hold the mayo and gravy.