Sunday, November 16, 2008

Vegan New Orleans

When most people think of New Orleans, Cajun and Creole food come to mind. Jambalaya, gumbo, crawfish etouffee, muffulettas, po boys, and beignets usually make it to a tourist's plate. I found it difficult to find veganized versions of these New Orleans classics, though I had great vegan food throughout my stay in The Big Easy. Like a good little vegan traveler, I did some research before the trip. I checked Happy Cow's New Orleans listings, and I also found this post on World Travel as a Vegetarian/Vegan and this site to be great resources. After checking into Le Richelieu, our hotel in the French Quarter, we began to explore the area. We quickly ended up at Cafe Du Monde, right along the Mississippi River. I'd heard about their beignets (fried dough squares covered with powdered sugar) and cafe au lait, but I was careful not to get my hopes up about the vegan-ness of their famous offerings. While I didn't have any beignets (they have milk in them), I did have some much-needed coffee. With black coffee in hand, we walked up on the levee and watched the sun glisten on the Mississippi. The weather was perfect, the sun was shining, and we had a whole long weekend to enjoy in this beautiful city. Since we arrived pretty early, and breakfast consisted of Chocolate Green Super Food with Silk and some Terra Blues potato chips on the airplane (gotta love Jet Blue's free chips and individual televisions), lunch was in order. Before I talk about lunch, it's worth mentioning that the new Jet Blue terminal at JFK has a little gourmet food/health food store. They had all sorts of vegan bars and snacks. I picked up little containers of Silk that were perfect for the plane. I brought my own Chocolate Green Super Food packets, which is a truly awesome thing for vegan travelers. It is powdered green veggies, fruits, herbs, and cacoa. It makes you feel good right away, giving you energy, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and probiotics. Good stuff!
After checking out some book stores and strolling down along the Mississippi, we stopped at Sekisui Samurai, a Japanese restaurant on Decatur Street. Their vegan options included a nice, simple salad with carrot ginger dressing and miso soup. I was famished at this point so I quickly ate both. They came with my "Vegetarian's Choice" lunch special, which also included fried tofu smothered in a brown sauce that included zucchini, carrots, and plenty of fried onions. On the side are two pieces of battered and fried sweet potato.

It was great to have tofu with veggies, it was a satisfying meal. A bit too fried for me, I think I'd get some vegan sushi next time. The Fatfree Vegan Kitchen has a post about New Orleans, and it looks like Susan ordered the same meal as I did at Sekisui with the addition of some very delicious looking sushi.

We spent the rest of the day walking around the French Quarter, soaking in the incredible architecture, going in and out of shops, peaking into any courtyards that were visible from the sidewalk. There was an excellent cafe that had incredible soy lattes and soy chai right around the corner from Le Richelieu. Cafe EnVie was open from really early in the morning until somewhere around midnight. It was nice to stroll back from dinner, order a soy chai, and just keep on walking. We found the nights to be a little cool (in the 50's), so the hot chai warmed me up as we walked around. During the day, it was fun sitting at one of the outdoor tables people watching while sipping a wonderfully strong soy latte.

Eventually, the sun would set and the gas lamps would turn on. The French Quarter at night was magical. As we walked around, I felt like this place shouldn't really exist. It's like a mixture of a Disney World fantasy, something from long ago, and a really awesome dream. It feels unreal. Going on only four hours of sleep and pretty much walking all day left us tired pretty early. Our concierge recommended 13 at 517 Frenchmen Street. 13 is a bar that's open until 4AM. It also serves breakfast starting at 11AM. Vegan items on the menu include tofu scramble, cheeseless pizza, tater tots, BBQ tofu sandwich on po-boy bread, a black bean veggie burger, portabella mushroom sandwich, and a baked tofu and herb sandwich. The staff was super friendly and eager to point out the vegan options. Here is my portabella mushroom sandwich: We only ate at 13 once, and if I were to go again I would definitely order the BBQ tofu sandwich which was exactly what you would expect: hot diced tofu mixed with BBQ sauce on bread. It wasn't too mushy or too BBQ-ey, just right.
There's so much more to say about New Orleans, so there will be more to come! I loved the huge oak trees in the Garden District, the sad beauty of St. Louis Cemetery Number One, the history-rich ghost tour, and the bayou surrounding the city. I can't wait to go back!


Anonymous said...

Wow! I'm so glad you were able to eat lunch, I was getting hungry just reading about your not eating!
Sounds like a really great time, and I'm so craving a portabello sandwich right now!
(And a soy chai, just because I can't get them here and I love them and it's chilly and it sounds so good!)

alaina said...

isn't n'awleans wonderful? :)
i haven't been there since turning vegan, so i did have some beignets and cafe au lait at cafe du monde. hmm, i think beignets will be next on my list to veganize!

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to go there! Your description of the French Quarter is making that urge even stronger. Glad you had fun and found good food!

Theresa said...

Sounds like a great trip. Battered and fried sweet potato? Hello.

Krista said...

Wow! I really didn't expect very many vegan options in New Orleans, but it sounds like they have some really tasty ones!

blackhands. said...

Please come check out New Orleans newest Vegan Restaurant!
We just opened so we are only serving Sunday and Tuesday Nights.
We have vegan, gluten-free, corn-free, soy-free, treenut-free options!
And keep this a secret, but it's actually ALL vegan. No animal products in our kitchen!