Vegan traveling to New Orleans with non-vegan parents
May 3, 2016 2:29 PM   Subscribe

So, have been vegan for just a little while now, and living in San Francisco, it's been great. However, I have a trip to New Orleans planned in a couple weeks which wouldn't worry me that much except I'm meeting my folks there and they're definitely not vegan.

I don't want to spoil their experience by only taking us to super-vegan friendly spots (which I'm sure exist and are easily google-able), and on the other hand I don't want to deny myself good food. Basically looking for restaurants that serve a range of delicious comfy/carnivorous/cajun options alongside vegan friendly fare. Anyone have any good ideas? FWIW I'm not that strict a vegan so the odd beignet or two may get chomped along the way...
posted by garethspor to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I've done some stints as a vegan and have no real issue with it as a life choice, but you are going to have a really hard time finding interesting and local-cuisine-appropriate vegan food in New Orleans.

I found this map, though I find it to be a little deceptive or maybe wishful thinking. For example it lists The Gumbo Shop, which is a popular tourist restaurant with an authentic-enough menu. However, the last time I was there, I had the "green gumbo" mentioned in the listing and IIRC it straight up had ham or sausage in it. You may be able to ask them to hold the meat products, but there's a strong chance that the broth base is chicken stock. Also a lot of the entries on the map are dull sandwich joints where the main thing they have going for them is that they have *a* vegan option. (If you can trust them, see above re the "green gumbo".) You'll also run into the problem where there is that *one* poboy spot that does a vegan option, but this assumes that veganism is your top meal priority and you're willing to make a special trip to this one out of the way place that really only has this one particular thing going for it.

Aside from Green Goddess, none of the map's French Quarter entries are really appealing or anything I'd recommend to a visitor.

Your best bet is probably going to be to go to whatever local specialty place your parents want to visit and ordering a salad with vinaigrette. Or simply taking a vacation from your veganism.
posted by Sara C. at 3:11 PM on May 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

Correction: I just googled the Gumbo Shop menu because I was so disconcerted by a supposedly vegan map of New Orleans restaurants blithely sending people to a restaurant for a dish that has meat in it. While I couldn't shed light on the gumbo situation, there is a Meatless Meal Of The Day. Which is probably about as good as it gets in terms of vegetarianism at a restaurant serving classic Creole cuisine. No telling whether the Meatless Meal is vegan, though.
posted by Sara C. at 3:18 PM on May 3, 2016

Best answer: One of our favorite meals in New Orleans last year was at MoPho, with cuisine that has been called "Vietnamese-Creole fusion". In a strip mall in mid-city. Very, very good food, mostly not vegetarian, but has a number of dishes that appear at least to be vegan (e.g. "eggplant bowl with curried field peas and Mrs. Tole's tofu")
posted by mr vino at 3:54 PM on May 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Longtime strict vegan here. I'm sure there are locals on the ground who know where the secret omni-and-vegan-friendly spots are, but I visited for a week not too long ago and I probably would've starved if it wasn't for the Vietnamese place up the block from my hotel (Moon Wok, fwiw).

Probably the only place I went to that kind of fits your criteria is Carmo, but even that's probably more explicitly vegan-friendly than you're looking for. I try to avoid spending a lot of time looking for and going out of my way just to get food whether I'm on vacation or traveling for work, and it was pretty much unavoidable in New Orleans. Sorry, I wish I had better news for you!
posted by amnesia and magnets at 4:11 PM on May 3, 2016

I can't find the restaurant on Yelp at the moment, but I went to a gumbo shop that had vegetarian, if not vegan gumbo, on the menu. Like you, I'm not a super strict vegan, and I had to loosen up some, but I didn't have all that much trouble when I was in the French Quarter for s five day conference.

I also recall a great Afgan restaurant as well as some of the best tacos I've every had.
posted by buttercup at 4:35 PM on May 3, 2016

Make sure you have at least a refrigerator and a microwave in your room, and always pack snacks (nuts, carrot sticks, chewy bread) wherever you go.
posted by amtho at 5:04 PM on May 3, 2016

Seconding MoPho. So delicious.
posted by umbĂș at 6:36 PM on May 3, 2016

I noticed on the map that Sara C. posted that quite a few places had a note saying they would make you a vegan meal if you called ahead- Muriel's and Antoine's were the ones I noticed as being well known fancy Creole places in the Quarter, as well as Bayona- so I might try one of those for a fancy meal out. New Orleans restaurants are supposed to be known for their service, as well, so accommodating you at a nice place could happen if you arrange it in advance.

Otherwise, Vietnamese is a great option (and so good here omg).
posted by MadamM at 6:45 PM on May 3, 2016

My boyfriend lived in New Orleans for several years as a vegan. He was a big fan of Commander's Palace and Arnaud's, so I guess they must accommodate vegans pretty well. (On the other hand, he refuses to set food in Antoine's ever again due to the terrible vegan alternative they served.) Lebanon's Cafe was also a favorite.
posted by phoenixy at 7:07 PM on May 3, 2016

(Last time we were there, we also had a wonderful meal at August, which did a great job of accommodating vegetarians, but I'm not sure whether they do vegan or not.)
posted by phoenixy at 7:12 PM on May 3, 2016

You should check out Shaya. They just won a James Beard Award (literally yesterday) and look very vegan friendly.
posted by joan_holloway at 7:25 PM on May 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Green Gumbo is often called Gumbo z'Herbes, pronounced "gumbo zee-ehrbs" by locals, and it was traditionally made with a vegetable stock because it was designed to be Lent-safe. I had a version at the aforementioned Gumbo Shop that had a mushroom stock base and it was lovely--however, I was actually there during Lent and that might make a difference in what they were serving. It was chock full of different kinds of leafy greens and fresh herbs and it was really rich and flavorful, and clearly denoted on the menu as vegan.

We attended a cooking demo at the New Orleans School Of Cooking which was really fun, and the chef talked a bit about ways to modify foods to different dietary needs, since the demos are presented to a dozen or so smaller groups at once that invariably include a few people with those needs (meat free, vegan, low carb even!). She actually showed the preparation of traditionally meat based foods but explained alternatives as she went along, and those alternatives were then available for guests who had specified their requirements when reserving (the demo includes a full meal!). So this could be a thing you and your family could do together, listen to some fun stories about local foodways and get some great recipes and everyone gets the kind of food they like to eat.
posted by padraigin at 8:24 PM on May 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

He was a big fan of Commander's Palace and Arnaud's, so I guess they must accommodate vegans pretty well.

It should be noted that this is a little like saying it's possible to have a great vegan meal on the Concorde. Those are two of the most high-end restaurants in the city, possibly even the entire US in the case of Commander's. August isn't far behind. It doesn't surprise me to know that restaurants at this level accommodate vegans, since for $100+ per meal before liquor or tip, they'd better. That said, yes, if your parents were planning to eat at high-end spots around town, asking in advance will probably result in something you can eat.

Green Gumbo is often called Gumbo z'Herbes, pronounced "gumbo zee-ehrbs" by locals, and it was traditionally made with a vegetable stock because it was designed to be Lent-safe.

Seriously PLEASE KNOW that, if it's not actually lent when you're in New Orleans, this is almost certain to be made with a ham hock, if not meat visible in the dish. The Gumbo Shop may exclusively do vegan because they're a tourist institution (though this was not my experience last time I was there), but you really can't order gumbo z'herbes from any menu and assume it's vegan. It's also somewhat of a rarity on restaurant menus around town. I think Gumbo Shop and Dooky Chase are the only places that are really famous for it. It's by no means a staple of Creole cuisine.
posted by Sara C. at 9:06 PM on May 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Happy Cow is a great resource for traveling anywhere.

I was just recently in NoLa but had to relax my vegan standards a bit. I really wanted to check out Seed and Breads on Oak but never made it, unfortunately. I've heard Commanders Palace can accommodate vegans but it's recommended you call ahead and give them a heads up.

Also, check out the Vegan New Orleans FB page for some other restaurants or menu items.
posted by lannanh at 9:07 PM on May 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think the sweet potato po boy at killer po boys (which on googling now appears to have two locations) is vegan. We got po boys from the one inside the Erin Rose bar (pretty sure the frozen Irish coffee isn't vegan but your parents should get them). It's only one vegan item but that makes it about 20% of the menu. Environment is fun divey bar.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 9:07 PM on May 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I had an awesome vegan meal at Bennachin a few years ago, and when I had dinner at Muriel's last summer they had a vegan curry on the menu that wasn't bad.
posted by mollywas at 1:01 AM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

My best meals at New Orleans were at Siberia, which is an awesome dive bar, serves Polish food, and has a monstrous, killer beet burger that pretty much upended my world, you can ask for it to be made without cheese. For the parents, the Slavic platter with pierogies, sauerkraut, sausages, and mustard are so good. You're gonna get a lot of opportunities to eat Cajun/Creole food, but Siberia is one of the best meals I've had anywhere, and the fact that it's located on Frenchmen St with fantastic jazz and music clubs, and the whole environment of it, it's very actual, city-living New Orleans to me.

Katie's Restaurant and Bar is so nice, you'll be taken care of there. Sit at the bar, and if you're lucky, you'll get to meet Katie and drink a lot of bottomless mimosas and sangrias. Another Broken Egg Cafe, which has several locations, has vegan/vegetarian options and some really delicious brunch.
posted by yueliang at 2:59 AM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would suggest that you download Instagram and search for the hashtags #veganneworleans #vegannola and variations on that. This is the primary way that I, and many others, find vegan food options these days. Much more up to date than Happy Cow most of the time.
posted by veids at 10:16 AM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Happy Cow and the Vegan New Orleans FB page, for sure. They saved me while I was there in 2012. If the Wandering Buddha has settled anywhere or still in existence, I swear by them, they were so good. (They also do delivery!) Also, I loved Dreamy Weenies over on Rampart. I still think about their vegan options.

Personally, vegan in New Orleans is not impossible but does take some legwork and research.
posted by Kitteh at 10:23 AM on May 4, 2016

Dat Dog has vegan options but is very omnivore friendly. I cannot speak for their vegan sausages, but the meat sausages I've tried have all been really delicious, and their buns are AMAZING. And they have multiple locations now.
posted by Carmelita Spats at 3:02 PM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

13 Monaghan on Frenchmen St is more like a bar with food, but they have veggie options that can be made vegan, and the kitchen there is very scrupulous about food restrictions of all kinds. It's practically across the street from one of the locations of Mona's Cafe, which has solid Middle Eastern food and lots of good salad options.
The food at Siberia is great and vegan-friendly, but it hosts a lot of punk and metal shows, which might not be ideal for your parents. They do takeout, though.
I'm a big fan of Sugar Park, on St. Claude in the Bywater. They have some really excellent veggie burgers--I'm not sure if removing the cheese would make 'em vegan though. If you go, sit out on the patio, it's really pleasant.
Shake Sugary nearby is a hippie bakery that usually has something vegan, and is good for a light breakfast and coffee.
Both locations of Satsuma (breakfast and sandwiches) are pretty vegan-friendly as well, and their food is excellent.
All the places above are pretty affordable, in the $7-to-$12 range for an entree.

And don't forget to enjoy that randomly vegan New Orleans staple, the snowball! Yes, it's already going to be hot enough. Just skip the condensed milk or ice-cream add-ons, and get a fruity flavor, and you're good to go.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 7:43 PM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

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