A Guest Post by Sandy
I had been to New Orleans twice before, the first time was 2005, pre-Katrina, and I wasn’t paying any mind to what I ate. Beignets, fried alligator, gumbo, po’boys, bread pudding – the works. There is no doubt that NOLA has some of the most interesting and delicious food fare, but isn’t exactly known for its clean, healthy—let alone vegan—eating! So when I went back to the “Crescent City” in early 2012, as a vegan, I found myself giving in and allowing all of that French-inspired, Southern goodness take over, wishing I hadn’t, but not knowing what other options were available to me. Was I to live on salad and peanut butter while I was on vacation? So much of exploring New Orleans is in fact the food!
Alas, I have learned much on my journey to healthy, vegan eating since then. My lifestyle had been very much an all or nothing attitude my entire life. I’d eat super healthy and then binge super terribly. The cycle was rough; I even ditched my ethics of not eating animals due to an insane mental hold food had over me.
Something clicked in 2014 though. I began to deal with the emotional attachment of food instead of “dieting”. I gave being vegan another go, knowing it was better for me both because of my autoimmune problems and because of my love of animals. I’ve stuck to it ever since and feel wonderful!
When I set out on 6 months of travel, I knew it could be a challenge finding food options, but I also knew enough about dining out while being vegan. This time, I would be in New Orleans for an entire month while staying with one of my best friends, Natalie. She loves dining out and is well-versed on all of the great restaurants in her city. However, when I read her a list of vegan-friendly restaurants off of HappyCow.net, she was perplexed. Some places she had never heard of, while others, she had no idea would be veg-friendly.
I am happy to say that New Orleans has definitely shaped up to be an allergen-friendly/more conscientious city over the past ten years! I was truly amazed. Two activities I took part in even had specific vegan-oriented fun. The first was the Crescent City Fall Classic, which is a 5K at City Park that Natalie and I participated in through her job.
After the race, there was live music and food vendors providing free samples as well as items available for purchase. Wouldn’t you know there was a section of tents that were strictly vegan? They gave away samples of vegan food and snacks as well as giving out animal rescue information and ways to get involved. I bought a box of “Rescue” bars for $30, and half of that money went to saving shelter dogs. I felt like my money went to good use, plus that box of bars that had all-natural ingredients fueled me for many mornings during the rest of my stay in New Orleans.
Another event Natalie and I went to was the Treme Creole Gumbo Festival, which highlighted a vegan gumbo contest! Popular restaurants, most of which were mentioned on my Happy Cow app, offered sample size bowls of plant-based gumbo. While many of the restaurants entered into the contest don’t usually offer many vegan options in their actual establishment, a couple of them, like Carmo and Dreamy Weenies do!
Below are some wonderful options if you’re plant-based. Keep in mind, while being vegan in New Orleans has gotten easier, sometimes it still is difficult finding healthy options. That said, splurge a little and do the best you can!
Dreamy Weenies and Dat Dog NOLA has some delicious options for hot dog lovers! Located in the French Quarter on North Rampart Street, Dreamy Weenies is absolutely amazing. With kosher and vegan options, cooked completely separate from the other hot dogs, this place makes everything in house. You can even get an Orleans-style andouille hot dog! For gluten free - get it bun free and always ask every establishment if their fries are prepared in a dedicated gluten-free fryer, if not, skip them!
With 3 locations throughout the city, Dat Dog is another great hot dog joint – especially if you’re on Frenchman Street late at night trying to soak up any alcohol you may have consumed! While they do serve veggie dogs, some of Dat Dog’s options, like alligator and duck sausage, don’t exactly sit right with me, but it is New Orleans after all, and I am grateful for the veggie options anyhow.
Carmo is a tropical café combining Carribean, Central and South American, West African and Southeast Asian cuisine. Sourcing fresh local ingredients, Carmo is a popular eatery and prides themselves on being green and sustainable. I loved their gumbo made with jackfruit!
Breads On Oak
This organic bakery not only offers tons of vegan options, but also has many gluten-free offerings. I only wished I went here more than once to try everything. So many options, so little time!
The Bean Gallery
This became a favorite hang out of mine when I wasn’t in the French Quarter. Located in Mid City, The Bean Gallery is a café that’s always packed, but offers some good coffee and options. I often got the “healthy bagel” while I sat there writing on my laptop.
I only ordered the raspberry sorbet from Stanley (yes, named after one of my favorites “A Street Car Named Desire”), but it was the best sorbet I have ever tasted! The environment was very pleasant and conveniently located right outside Jackson Square!
All right, enough food. Things to do in New Orleans? Basically, you can pretty much walk around the French Quarter and fall in love with colorful culture and music. Natalie called me a “Quarter rat”, but I couldn’t help it. I loved just sitting on a bench in Jackson Square, listening to the street musicians, and looking at street art.
I definitely recommend walking inside St. Louis Cathedral – it’s quite beautiful, as well as going on a cemetery tour, and listening to amazing jazz at Preservation Hall. Bourbon Street is something everyone should experience once, but other than the oldest bar in Louisiana, Lafitte’s, it’s not a must for me anymore. Frenchman Street has a bit more of an eclectic vibe if you want to bar hop.
Other NOLA musts: try and join a parade or wedding procession while you’re in town. So much fun! Outside of the Quarter, there are lots of great things to do as well: The World War II Museum, the Sculpture Garden in City Park, and Lake Ponchartrain are a few highlights. If you love Tennessee Williams like me, you might want to visit his house or visit during the festival. There is always some great festival going on, whether you love music, art, or food, so make sure you do some research before going!
For more on me, my travels, and novels: www.sandylo.com. Also, check out my recipes and articles on positivity at www.halffullmag.com!
Sandy was born in New York, but has found her heart in Nashville--and in each new city she visits! She is a published romance novelist, journalist, blogger and animal lover. She loves to cook, travel and dance as much as possible. Sandy also runs Half Full Magazine, a website about maintaining a positive attitude and hunger for life.
Nosh & Nurture was born of this journey I am on to better the health of myself, my family and those around me. What started as a simple compilation of recipes has grown to a all-around lifestyle journal with ways to incorporate organic products into your home, pantry and beauty cabinet. I also include stories on pregnancy, new motherhood, travel, Proverbs 31 marriage, and spiritual health, as I am a Christian who couldn't do any of this without my Lord & Savior Jesus Christ. For more of my story you can click here.
All recipes are gluten-free and dairy-free with a lot of soy-free, grain-free, sugar-free options.