Just in Time for Mardi Gras – Vegan in New Orleans
Kristin | On 03, Mar 2014
NOTE: I am not currently in or near NOLA. During my travels I stopped here mid-August 2012. Clearly I have a lot of writing to catch up on, and I’m workin’ on it! :) I kept loose notes about each city and restaurant I visited. Therefore the below info is a combo of reviewing my notes from this time period as well as recalling some other random fun stuff.
I figured it was high time I wrote about NOLA given that it’s Mardi Gras week and all! :) I love, love, LOVED my stay in New Orleans. Having never been before it was such a fun experience! Alrighty, we go…
Things I didn’t know, but began to love, about New Orleans:
- Almost every establishment I went into took cash only.
- Almost every coffee shop offers almond, rice, and soy milk options.
- Seemingly out of nowhere, on a daily basis, it will start raining and lightning like crazy, just for a few minutes. And then halt like nothing ever happened.
I arrived in NOLA after dark on a week night and sought out The Wandering Buddha which, as far as I could tell at the time, was the only 100% vegan establishment in all of Louisiana. I’m sorry to report that they’ve since closed. I guess they had troubles with their location and, as far as I know, were unable to secure a new spot. :(
Since The Wandering Buddha is no more I won’t go into too much detail but I will say that I’m terribly sad to see them go. The meal I had that night was like nothing I’d had before – incredibly delicious, well presented, and the cutest little patio-like seating area. It truly was a NOLA gem. Here are some pics from my dinner that night.
Oh man, just looking at these pics has me craving that latke-like flat bread pizza things like never before. ::sigh::
One of the things I remember most about dinner that night was the brief conversation I had with Christian, one of the co-owners of the eatery. He said, “I believe that if you can reach someone through their stomach, compassion is just around the corner.” Love it!!
I wish these guys were able to stick around a bit longer. They are clearly very talented and are in it for the right reasons. ::waves:: Hey guys, I hope all is well and that you’re working on your next big thing! :)
That night I found a quiet residential neighborhood with free overnight street parking and snuggled up into my sleeping bag. It got surprisingly chilly for August but I was glad for it. After spending a May week in the Florida Keys I realized I’d much rather super bundle up than sweat myself to sleep (though being in Chicago right now is making me re-think that statement). :)
My first full day in NOLA started off with a bang as I stopped by WWNO in the Earl K Long Library, at the University of New Orleans, for my first-ever radio interview as part of the Will Travel for Vegan Food project. I sat with Poppy Tooker of Louisiana Eats as she asked me why-vegan questions and what I thought of the vegan scene in NOLA (listen to it HERE).
Special thanks to Susan Laverty (my then-volunteer promo-manager) for securing the interview!
You can listen to the interview by clicking HERE.
After the interview I popped over to Superfood Bar on Magazine Street. I met up with Steph, a local student and vegan. We chatted over raw Peach and Cream Smoothies while learning more about the venue from one of the co-owners who was working that day. What a delightful little juice bar!
Hey, Steph! ::waves::
Just as I was leaving Superfood Bar I ran into Sarah, who I had met while traveling through Cincinnati a few weeks prior. I had stopped in Park + Vine, where she was working and making yummy vegan food (and awesome sweets) in their cafe section. It just so happened that she and her boyfriend were vacationing in NOLA that weekend!
This worked out incredibly well because I had been feeling apprehensive about walking around Bourbon St. alone. But Sarah and her boyfriend’s Uncle (who they were staying with) invited me to hang with them one night, so I got to experience NOLA nightlife after all! We walked around, went dancing, got some grub, and had a great time!! They also kindly offered me a portion of the couch that night so I even had a chance to shower up and sleep indoors. Woohoooooo!! :)
Thanks again to Sarah, her boyfriend, and Uncle Tom for the friendly accommodations! :)
The next day I wandered around The French Market where I was told I could find vegan jambalaya. And I did! The owner of this stall was very friendly and – based on my accent and clothes – guessed that I’m from New York. He was right about the state but not the city. Ha.. I guess wearing an all-black summer dress screamed NYC. Dunno.
I snacked on my basket of jambalaya while strolling through the rest of the market, stopping to read the wooden signs that hung every few feet, displaying the history of New Orleans.
There were moments wherein I felt like Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love wandering the streets of Italy, taking it all in. Even though… well… it wasn’t really like that at all. Haha. But a girl can dream!
As my jambalaya digested I took a leisurely stroll around some of the streets that ran alongside Bourbon Street. I was actually looking for a coffee shop to catch up on emails and do some writing when a piece of art caught my eye. A HUGE and really cool looking baby giraffe.
My friend Eric loves giraffes so I stopped in to take a photo to send to him. As I got to looking around I found more *beautiful* pieces of all sizes, featuring different animals, unique shapes, swirls, and color combos. I was mesmerized.
I stepped into Gallery Burguieres and a friendly woman approached. We got to talking about the beautiful artwork and what brought me to NOLA.
As I shared the story of my travels she stopped me and said, “My daughter is vegan too! And she’s the artist of this studio. This is all her work!” What?! Ally walked over and we immediately hit it off. I was there for at least an hour chatting about travel, food, and art with Ally and her mom. It was absolutely fantastic and so uplifting. I mean… what are the chances that of all the little shops, I’d stop in one that was owned by a fellow vegan?!
Ally and I kept in touch and we later collaborated on “Will Travel for Vegan Food” postcards. And by collaborated I mean I asked Ally if she would be interested in coming up with an idea for, and creating postcards that I could sell on the site. She did! I’m all sold out at the moment, but this is what they looked like:
Thank you so much to Ally and your momma for being so kind and for keeping in touch! It was great to see you at the end-of-trip party last August! :D xo
Another goal while in NOLA was to find the elusive vegan gumbo dish. I was told I could find it at the Gumbo Shop, a restaurant on Saint Peter St. I’ve included a picture of it below but to be honest, you guys, it wasn’t so great. In fact, I think I only had a few bites and then set out to find more food because it had very little flavor and was just kind of a big bowl of slop. I know that sounds harsh. Especially for an “award winning” restaurant. But it’s fair to say their specialty perhaps does not extend to their one and only vegan option.
Having said that, it *has* been over a year since I’ve been there so who knows. It very likely could have improved. Or maybe I just got an off batch. :)
Okay.. where are we.. on day three now? Ha.. I’m not even sure how long I was in NOLA. Probably about 5-7 days or so.
Anywho — The next morning I was yet again on the hunt for a vegan-friendly coffee shop to work out of for a bit. That’s when I found St. Coffee!!
This here is an almond milk mocha with a slice of vegan chocolate chip banana bread. They offer free wifi and have really neat artwork around. Plus, the staff was friendly and laid back – which always makes asking “the vegan question” easier. :)
After a few hours of writing and email I headed to 13 Monaghan to try out some of their vegan-friendly eats.
With a handful of vegan options including tacos, salads, subs, fries, and soups this dive-bar-like eatery comes highly recommended and, from what I gather, frequented by visiting vegans.
I enjoyed a vegan Philly Cheesesteak with portobello mushrooms, vegan mayo, and tater tots. It totally hit the spot!
I then headed to another vegan-friendly cafe/coffee shop to get back to writing. On my way I passed this neat thrift store. The sign reads, “A resale shop supporting animal welfare.” Nice!
I spent a few hours at Hey! Café. The nice thing about working out of this cafe (as a vegan) is if you get hungry you don’t have to leave! While there I ordered a vegan grilled cheese sandwich (feat. Daiya cheese) for lunch while continuing to type-away! :)
As I left Hey! Café it began to rain. Hard. I got stuck under an awning for a few and when it broke slightly I beelined it to Gerty (my van) to wait it out the second wave. I actually found it quite zen-enducing, to be honest. :)
Once the rain subsided I changed my shoes and set out to explore a bit more, and enjoyed an early dinner at Magasin Vietnamese Cafe, on Magazine St.
I was seated on a great, little bar-style stool set against a large picture window. It was beginning to get dark outside so I soon lost visual of the passersby. But I still remember *exactly* how I felt sitting there, seeing families and cozied-up couples enjoying their meals. How blessed I was (am!) to be there, in that moment. Truly, what an incredible adventure it was (and continues to be). :D
This is the “Pho Vegan” dish. And it was delicious!
I didn’t know this before arriving in NOLA but it is apparently one of the most haunted cities in the country (world?). It was my last night in the city and I wasn’t keen on curling up for bed early so I booked an inexpensive walking historical ghost tour. Eh. Why not?!
Not being much of a “ghost hunter” myself I was surprised to have really enjoyed myself on the tour. The guide spent a bit of time talking about the history of the city (in addition to those who apparently haunt it, to this day) and I quite liked learning about how NOLA came to be.
— LAST DAY! —
On my last day in NOLA I met up with these two fine fellows who run a vegan soul food truck. I think they were in the works of getting it up and running at the time, but they kindly offered me samples of their food stuffs. Which I happily brought with me on my forthcoming drive to Houston, Texas – later that day.
Unfortunately evidence points to their venture being short lived. I hope I’m wrong though. If anyone knows if these guys are still in business will you kindly leave a comment below? Thanks! :)
And finally, as I was headed out I stopped by Cafe Carmo for a late lunch/early dinner. This was my favorite (along with The Wandering Buddha of course) restaurant in New Orleans. It’s a well-lit and vibrant place with great service and wonderful food.
I enjoyed one of the most unique dishes of my trip, to-date. The base was kind of like a potato mash, and then a layer of melted Daiya, topped with their house-made smoked “meat,” avocado, onion, and tomato, with mixed greens throughout – touched with what tasted like an orange-mango sauce, which had a bit of a kick. I LOVED it!!
At the recommendation of Phil and Nick (who also happened to be in NOLA on a Mercy for Animals campaign tour :: we three met up for lunch at Feelings Cafe* one afternoon) I decided to stop off at one of the national parks to try and catch a glimpse of some gators and perhaps other native swamp life.
It was a failed attempt at best. Haha!
For starters I arrived with only thirty minutes remaining, before the park was set to close. I’m actually glad for that because as soon as I stepped out of the van I was overcome by the most aggressive and seemingly hungriest mosquitos (?) I’ve ever had the displeasure of meeting.
I grabbed a map from the ranger’s station and then ran back to the van. I loaded up with bug spray and then thought I’d take a short walk through one of the bogs. The incessant blood suckers thought nothing of my eco-friendly deterrent and chomped away. I snapped a pic or two and then ran, flailing back to the van. FLAILING.
And that was that. Hehe! :)
Goodbye, NOLA! Soon-to-be hello, Texas! :D
For new and more resources on vegan dining in New Orleans, visit nolaveggiefest.com.
Have you been to NOLA recently? Any favorite vegan eats?!
* I’m not sure how I missed including my luncheon with the MFA guys, into my schedule above. (womp, womp). I looked through my saved photos and the food pics I got simply weren’t great so I snagged these two from the Feelings Cafe’s website.
I couldn’t leave the NOLA post without including Feelings Cafe because.. well first of all, look at how beautiful this place is! Also, they have a full separate vegan menu! AND I met the owner and he is just the nicest man. I very much enjoyed my meal here and I highly suggest you check it out when/if you’re in NOLA. Nommies.