What should we do/see in New Orleans?
May 26, 2011 12:58 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I are traveling to New Orleans between June 14th and June 18th for our 1st anniversary. What should we do there? Relevant details: we're both vegetarian, both like jazz and beer and museums, I love funk music, she's into fancy cocktails and cool-looking old buildings. Neither of us have ever been before. Any recommendations for vegetarian restaurants would be especially appreciated.
posted by IjonTichy to Travel & Transportation around New Orleans, LA (23 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
The Green Goddess in the French Quarter. Vegetarian friendly, fantastic food, lots of interesting cocktails. I want to go back to NOLA just to eat at that restaurant again.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 1:09 PM on May 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

Go to Bayona. Although the menu doesn't seem vegetarian-friendly, if you call ahead and tell them you're vegetarian they'll make you a really great meal. I'm vegan, and they went all out for me - it's one of the only fine dining restaurants where I've actually gotten a true vegan entree, rather than a cobbled-together plate of roasted vegetables.

The Gumbo Shop is an inexpensive, more touristy place that has a fun atmosphere and a vegetarian entree of the day. We got there a little before 6:30 and didn't have to wait for a table, but by the time we left there was a line out the door. So go early, if you go.
posted by something something at 1:11 PM on May 26, 2011

Central Grocery will do a vegetarian muffaletta for you and it's quite tasty, even if it strikes people as odd. It's sort of a quintessential New Orleans stop, but you don't have to skip it because it's not vegetarian, if you don't want to. We always grab a sandwich there, something to drink at one of the liquor stores nearby and eat the sandwich by the river.
posted by crush-onastick at 1:14 PM on May 26, 2011

Grab a bottle of wine and take it to Lola's (byob). Eat their vegetarian paella.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 1:30 PM on May 26, 2011

Have you seen all the previous New Orleans posts? What part of the city are you staying in?

But FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY (okay not really, this is just a pet peeve), eat somewhere other than The Gumbo Shop.

For a neat, romantic-friendly, veg-friendly restaurant, I recommend La Crepe Nanou.

Green Goddess is also awesome.

Columns Hotel
(site of 10th Anniversary Meetup) has a great bar - you can sit outside on the huge porch overlooking St. Charles Ave, or inside (parts are non-smoking) and enjoy the neat architecture and furnishings.

I always recommend Mardi Gras World as a great way to learn about the City and Mardi Gras...it's really fascinating and you get to see the floats up-close.

I found some veg lists on Yelp. Christine D.'s list recommends Ninja, which is my favorite sushi place. I didn't know they had a veg menu but their regular sushi is great so I am not surprised. Also Cafe Rani is great, especially if you spend the day shopping on Magazine.

General recommendations: wear deodorant and bug spray, the weather here is gross and the bugs are vicious! :)
posted by radioamy at 1:32 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Places that were recommended to me when I visited in 2006:
Napoleon House for cocktails & food
Grapevine for vegetarian food
Hotel Monteleone for cocktails

I did not actually make it to any of these places-- a couple of them were still closed following the flooding, or were too far from the hotel.

I stayed at The Biscuit Palace and enjoyed it greatly, and ate at The Gumbo Shop and Central Grocery, and concur that The Gumbo Shop was okay but not great, and Central's veg muffaletta is delicious.

Cure is supposed to be a great cocktail bar, though, again, I haven't visited myself.

I loved New Orleans, and I'm envious of your trip. Have a lovely time.
posted by Kpele at 1:50 PM on May 26, 2011

I'll just add snug harbor for jazz and frenchman street clubs in general (dba and the spotted cat as well). For fancy cocktails, Cure is over the top.
posted by umbú at 1:53 PM on May 26, 2011

Wife of OP here. radioamy, we're staying at the W in the French Quarter. I've looked through a lot of the other New Orleans posts, but a) there are so many of them, and b) a lot of those are very specific, or specific in different ways than this question is specific. Thanks for all the suggestions so far! Looks like Green Goddess will be one of the first stops, given proximity to the hotel.

Our flight gets in at 8:45pm on our actual anniversary, so if anyone has any late-night dining suggestions near the hotel, that would be peachy. I guess we'd be able to make a 10pm reservation.
posted by booknerd at 2:00 PM on May 26, 2011

Oh, you mentioned museums-- The Pharmacy Museum was entertaining.
posted by Kpele at 2:04 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'll second Napoleon House for cocktails. Try a Pimm's Cup, especially if it's a hot day- very refreshing.

When I went with my wife, we took a self guided walking tour around the historic houses in the Garden District. It turned out to be a romantic walk around some pretty houses. Most guidebooks have a walking tour section if you don't like the linked one. Also, bring a smartphone or a map with you in case you wander off.
posted by mintymike at 2:13 PM on May 26, 2011

Bennachin Restaurant, on Royal, serves African cuisine and has a lot of vegetarian options.
posted by mkultra at 2:13 PM on May 26, 2011

I had fun at the Southern Food & Beverage Museum which also contains the Museum of the American Cocktail. They have events sometimes.
posted by beyond_pink at 2:19 PM on May 26, 2011

This is exactly the question we had a couple years ago.

I'd go back just to eat at Bayona alone. The Gumbo Shop was OK, but nothing I'd cross the street for; the Camellia Grill was all that and a side of chips.

We had a good time at Preservation Hall, enjoyed the New Orleans School of Cooking and had a lot of fun on a riverboat ride.

We had the most fun just wandering around though. I think we spent the whole weekend mostly walking. Bring comfortable shoes.
posted by bonehead at 2:29 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Take the ferry from near the French Market across the river to Algiers (it's free for pedestrians!), a beautiful neighborhood full of friendly people on their porches who will want to talk to you about your travels and probably offer you a beer, and admire the lovely residential architecture. When you get off the ferry, ask the nearest person the way to Tout de Suite, the most wonderful local coffee shop of all time. While you're there, eat your fill of local vegetarian home-made fare for ridiculously cheap, and tell the lady behind the counter that you're new in town and what your interests are. She'll tell you where to go from there.

On my spring break trip to N'awlins with some friends, we did this by accident on the first day, followed the lady's advice, and the rest is a haze of costumed street-players, amazing brass-band jazz, including my sweetheart, who is a trombone player, being invited to play with local bands, delicious beer, eating until we were sick, smoking out on homegrown with a sweet waiter who looked like a pixie behind a local restaurant, and lots and lots of laughter and new friends. I can't imagine a better NO trip and it's all due to the folks at Tout de Suite.
posted by WidgetAlley at 2:41 PM on May 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

The answers here may be useful or not, depending on your taste and where you're coming from. Compared to all other U.S. cities and both coasts in general, eating in New Orleans is a very vegetarian-unfriendly experience. You should expect to have to explain what you eat and don't eat, and to meet with some discomprehension and/or surprise meat from servers. Many of the places people are recommending above are grossly overrated and/or serve virtually nothing vegetarian but side dishes — Camellia Grill, for instance, has nothing veg. besides eggs and fries, which is typical in New Orleans but unlike most diners in the rest of the country (where these days one expects a veggie burger on the menu). Green Goddess is okay but not at all special, and quite overpriced.

Here are a few good bets in walking distance from your hotel. For veggie sandwiches and fried food, 13 Monaghan on Frenchmen Street is fun, open late, and within spitting distance of a ton of music venues. For nice cocktails, you can't beat Bar Tonique.
posted by RogerB at 2:48 PM on May 26, 2011

Be sure to check out Frenchmen Street in the Marigny one evening (it's just across Esplanade from the French Quarter). There are some nifty clubs that play traditional (ish) jazz, or just good local bands.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:19 PM on May 26, 2011

And Pravda, on Decatur Street, is a pretty neat bar, and very un-Bourbon Streetish. Be sure to see if there's a show or performance in the back courtyard (we once saw a fire dancer).
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:21 PM on May 26, 2011

I would like to second green goddess ...
... because chef paul is my homey. i think he usually takes care of lunch.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 4:57 PM on May 26, 2011

Great advice so far. Three pieces of advice for you:

1. It is going to be hot as balls. Just know that.

2. The vast majority of restaurant staff will assume you eat fish and/or shellfish if you simply tell them you're "vegetarian". It is very common in Louisiana to refer to yourself as vegetarian with a straight face as you dismember a crawfish to get at its tasty, tasty insides. Be sure to specify that you don't eat any animal flesh at all, even seafood.

3. You're probably going to have to adopt a Don't Ask Don't Tell policy about stocks, gravies, what kind of fat things are sauteed in, whether your dish was cooked in the same pan that spends the rest of the day full of bacon grease, etc. Either that or skip pretty much all restaurants except Green Goddess.

Another bar recommendation - Molly's At The Market, on Decatur.
posted by Sara C. at 4:59 PM on May 26, 2011

If I were in your shoes, I'd visit the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, perhaps on June 16th when they'll host an after hours concert with The New Orleans Moonshiners.

While in New Orleans, I'd also go out of my way to see the Rebirth Brass Band. I saw them perform at the Ogden and was blown away.

Regardless, congratulations and have fun!
posted by Verdant at 5:06 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is interesting, I'm also a veg and NOLA is on my wishlist of travel locals. I've heard Napoleon House is a must-see/try, as well as Commander's Palace.

My advice would be to go to tripadvisor and look up NOLA and select restaurants. When you see one you like, check out their website and menus. Most restaurants provide full lunch/dinner/cocktail menus on their sites now. I always do this check before traveling and it never fails me.
posted by JeSuisLibre at 7:32 PM on May 26, 2011

The W is in a good location for a lot of good stuff. You're right outside the French Quarter, and you can easily take the streetcar Uptown if you want. You can always hop a cab anywhere too - the city is pretty small and cab fares are way lower than most cities. I recommend using United Cab, as they're the most reliable. Keep their number 504-522-9771 in your phone (all Tulane students memorize it when they move into the dorms!).

I've never done a "self-guided" tour of the Quarter but that sounds like a great idea. The Quarter is a great place to just wander around in and marvel at. You end up finding a tucked away little coffee shop or restaurant to eat in, meet random weird locals, see all sorts of cool architecture.

If you're into history and/or museums, the World War II museum is great. I'm actually not into either but my fiance and dad are, so I have been with them a few times. It's also in the "arts district" so there's other stuff around. I've heard that the on-site restaurant, the American Sector, is rather disappointing however. Although it's near the Sun Ray Grill which is good.

Nthing Frenchman Street. Soul Rebels Brass Band are playing at Blue Nile on Friday 6/17, they also play Thursdays at Bon Temps. I'd probably go on Friday because Frenchman is a fun neighborhood, and Bon Temps is kind isolated. If you've never seen a brass band, you're in for a treat! It's really fun and upbeat and you can't help but dance. There's always a really diverse group of people dancing and enjoying the music and such a great energy in the air!
posted by radioamy at 8:39 PM on May 26, 2011

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