When it comes to celebrating the start of spring with lots of great music, delicious food, and mingling with thousands of like-minded people till late at night, few places can compare to New Orleans during the annual Mardi Gras celebration. A couple weeks ago Rob and I got a chance to go to New Orleans just for that reason. We’ve been to the Big Easy many times before, including a few times since Rob and I went vegan, so it was only a matter of time before I finally wrote a post about our vegan experience there.
When we lived in Alabama, New Orleans was just 2.5 hours away, and my first visit there happened during Mardi Gras weekend of 2011. A lot has changed since, most notably our move to the Washington State, but whenever we get an opportunity to go back to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, we always know that it’s going to be lots of fun!
St. Louis Cathedral at Jackson Square in French Quarter
Since we were in New Orleans for Rob’s work-related event, we didn’t get a lot of time to experience all of the vegan offerings of this city. But we sure tried! Whenever we got an opportunity to venture out on our own, Rob and I looked for nearby places that offered vegan treats. We didn’t have a car, and getting cabs or Uber rides was complicated due to the ongoing Mardi Gras parades every day, so most of our explorations were limited to places near French Quarter that we could walk to.
A couple months ago I watched the New Orleans episodes of The Vegan Roadie show on YouTube, and I recalled the show host Dustin raving about The Crepe Cart inside the French Market. The market was within walking distance from our hotel, so we decided to check it out.
Once we found The Crepe Cart, we were glad to see a clearly marked vegan menu that offered three savory options (see below). The sweet menu had some options that looked easily veganizable.
Rob and I decided to share a Hummus crepe that came stuffed with fresh spinach, basil and tomatoes. The folks behind the counter use a separate cooking surface to make vegan crepes. I’m always glad when I find omni food places that have such an understanding of the vegan ways 🙂
The Hummus crepe – bid enough to feed two adults as a snack!
After we finished our crepe, I asked the cooks if the vegan option was popular among customers, and they said that almost half of all crepes they sold were vegan. Great to hear that!
From our previous experiences in New Orleans, I figured that this city wasn’t overly vegan-friendly. Thankfully, all of the non-vegan restaurants where we had lunches and dinners with Rob’s colleagues were quite accommodating. There were a few funny/puzzling moments, of course, that once again made me suspect that non-vegan restaurants have some odd ideas about what a vegan meal should look like. For example, one of the group dinners was set to happen at Restaurant August, one of the fancy non-vegan eateries by a Southern chef John Besh. I emailed them in advance explaining our vegan preferences, and thankfully, the restaurant put together a four-course vegan meal just for the two of us. However, while the rest of our party was eating more filling fare like crab bisque and redfish entrees, Rob and I received a meal of two salads and an entree consisting of a quarter of a grilled fennel bulb per person, followed by a dessert of a tiny scoop of coconut ice cream. Everything was delicious, I’ll admit, but if it wasn’t for the endless supply of ciabatta rolls, we both would have left the restaurant hungrier than when we arrived 🙂
In most places that I didn’t get a chance to contact in advance, we had extensive conversations with the waiters explaining our needs, which quickly got exhausting both for us and Rob’s colleagues who were with us. Thankfully, everyone stayed polite, but I felt bad for the vegan cause because our experience was making it look too complicated to our omnivore companions. ‘If being vegan is so hard, why are you even doing this?’ – ‘Well, where do I start…’
Out of all omni places that we ate at, one restaurant had a designated vegan dish on the menu. We found this vegetable curry at Muriel’s – a restaurant located in the legendary Jackson Square, the heart of the French Quarter:
Even though this wasn’t the traditional Louisiana fare that everybody else was enjoying, we were glad to finally not be the most complicated people in our dinner party 🙂 The coconut milk-based curry was pretty tasty, but I think I would have liked it even more if it had some peas or garbanzo beans in it for extra stick-to-the-ribness. Also, I can’t vouch that the pita triangles served with the dish were fully vegan – those oftentimes are made with dairy.
The best vegan experience of our trip happened, not surprisingly, at Seed – the only 100% vegan restaurant in New Orleans, open 7 days a week until 10 pm. I was so excited to see it packed on Sunday!
Needless to say, Rob and I feasted like kings! I was really craving the traditional Cajun flavors that this city is so famous for, and thankfully, Seed was perfect for that. We had delicious vegan gumbo, BBQ seitan on a sandwich, a mango-kale salad and fries. Okay, the last two aren’t the traditional NOLA food, but hey, nutrition matters, right?!
Our meal at Seed in New Orleans
After this meal, we ordered some beignets – another New Orleans tradition that one just can’t skip when visiting this town. My only criticism of Seed would be that their portions were on the smaller side. However, this also makes their prices more affordable, so I can understand their reasoning.
Tip: If you go to Seed looking for a sandwich, may I suggest their amazing Eggplant Po-Boy. I had it once before, and I still have the fondest memories of it 🙂
A couple places that I’ve read about on the interwebs but didn’t get a chance to check out during this trip:
Breads on Oak – amazing-sounding vegan sandwiches, pastries, salads, soups, quiches, etc. This place isn’t fully vegan, but the website suggests that most items on the menu are vegan-friendly. 7 am to 3 pm, Wednesday through Sunday.
Green Goddess – another vegan-friendly restaurant with clearly marked vegan and vegetarian options on their menu. Located in the good ol’ French Quarter. Serves lunch and dinner Wednesday through Sunday.
Soooo, next time you find your hungry vegan self in New Orleans, I hope my little guide here helps you make some educated decisions 🙂
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