04 May 2009

Vegetarian tips for New Orleans

Before I get started on vegetarian dining in the Crescent City, I will dole out some advice on meatless eats in a city that would put bacon in the drinking water if they were so permitted. With some careful planning, enjoying the simple pleasures of New Orleans' food without the burden of flesh-eating guilt can in fact be as easy as it is epicurean.

One of the more useful resources I stumbled upon in my searches was a blog Eating Out New Orleans. It's a mish mash of reviews of vegan restaurants in New Orleans. They offer short, humorous takes on the many different cuisines, markets and hot spots for all types of palates in the city. The author has moved away from New Orleans, so you might want to call these places before venturing there. That being said, I found some great places on this site, and this is a fun way for a vegetarian to walk in someone else's shoes and eat in (or out) NOLA.

When you're in New Orleans, there is obviously no shortage of big name chefs in bells-and-whistles establishments that anybody in any city would know. K-Paul's. The trio of Emeril Lagasse's restaurants. Brennan's and Commander's Palace. And while I'm sure that these places might attempt to cater to vegetarian dining requests, many other big ticket places do a better job highlighting a commitment to vegetarian-conscious dining. That is why I choose to highlight them instead.

  • August--Superstar Chef John Besh has no shortage of accolades. According to his bio, Besh has been named Top 10 Chef in America by Food and Wine Magazine, Best Chef of the Southeast by the James Beard Association and a number of other stratospheric recognitions too numerous to credit here. Suffice it to say, the guy is talented. There isn't much on the every day menu or the pre-set degustation that is vegetarian appropriate. The degustation can be ordered vegetarian with advance notice, and coupled with the atmosphere and the service, it would be certain to amaze.
  • Galatoire's-- Smack dab in the middle of the madness of Bourbon Street sits Galatoire's. It is an old-fashioned Creole/French affair where both the staff and the patrons are dressed to impress. There are a number of vegetarian side dishes in addition to the grilled vegetable platter. The salads are also mostly vegetarian.
  • Andrea's--Italian restaurants are typically very kind to vegetarians. Andrea's, considered one of the city's finest Italian restaurants, is no different. There are many salads, bruschetta, and an assortment of of pasta dishes on the menu (There were a few other Italian places with vegetarian options on the menu, including Carmelo's).

New Orleans is a giant melting pot of culture. As a result, the Crescent City's restaurants share a similar international flair.

  • Sake Cafe--This is a funky Japanese place in Uptown New Orleans. There are portabella sushi rolls, edamame, miso soup, noodle dishes and a number of other vegetarian options on the menu.
  • Hoshun Restaurant--Hoshun is a Pan-Asian spot that also has a couple of vegetarian choices on the menu. The cuisines represented on the menu are Thai, Chinese and Japanese.
  • CoCo Hut--This Caribbean outpost has many options for vegetarians and vegans alike.
  • Juan's Flying Burrito--This colorful place features plenty of international vegetarian and vegan choices in a Mexican vein. It is not necessarily the most authentic option, but the menu looks fun and flavorful. A Midwestern equivalent would be Mad Mex or Casa Nueva.
  • Byblos--Mediterranean restaurants always do a great job feeding vegetarians, and Byblos is no exception. All of the favorites, from hummus to falafel to grape leaves, are available in addition to vegetarian entrees and combos.
  • Salt N' Pepper--I eat Indian food all the time, but I must say that I have never eaten at a Pakistani restaurant. Salt N' Pepper features Pakistani food coupled with New Orleans favorites. Many of the choices are vegetarian friendly.

    There are many fast and faster food restaurants in New Orleans that cater to vegetarians. One of the most notable is the Gumbo Shop. Gumbo is not a dish most associate with vegetarianism. However, the Gumbo Shop features Gumbo Z'Herbes, a vegetarian gumbo eaten during Lenten months. Although some restaurants sneak ham bones or bacon into their Gumbo Z'Herbes, the Gumbo Shop makes its version for vegetarians. There are a number of other vegetarian options on the menu, including a veggie po' boy and a Creole vegetarian dish of the day.

    There are a number of other options in New Orleans that I haven't even begun to discuss. I'll write about a few others in the coming days. Even that won't really begin to scratch the surface of the international boiling pot of vegetarian stew simmering in this Mississippi River city.

    No comments: