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Vegan(ish) New Orleans

April 25, 2011

Sunnie and I were in New Orleans a little while ago for a conference. One of my best friends from high school, Jason, lives in New Orleans, but I hadn’t visited in many years, not since he was married. He and his wife had bought a historical home one month before Hurricane Katrina hit and were one of the few in the neighborhood to stick it out and repair their home, which is beautiful! Part of the home was built in the late 1800s, and they had decorated with local art, as well as some Katrina themed pieces, such as temporary street signs from the neighborhoods after the hurricane.

Jason gave us a tour, and there was still so much damage. Only two of their neighbors had returned and repaired their homes. It was much the same in other neighborhoods with a beautiful, repaired home amongst many others falling more and more into disrepair. There were also new neighborhoods, featuring newly designed modern houses, many of them funded by charity efforts, and they were very different, very modern, and made for a neat contrast to all of the historical homes in the area.

New Orleans French Market

We walked the French Market and really enjoyed New Orleans’ culture. It was also amazingly hot for April!

New Orleans French Market

We checked out the vegan offerings on Happy Cow, and unfortunately, New Orleans is now without a single vegetarian restaurant. I found blog posts about one that sounded heavenly, but it has since closed down. 😦

Jason and his wife took us to one of their favorite places, Mona’s Cafe, a small Mediterranean cafe in the French Market. We had a wonderful Lebanese iced tea that was great on such a hot day. I ordered a falafel platter.

Mona's Falafel Platter

The platter came with falafel, hummus, and an awesome salad. I’m normally not much a salad person, but I just devoured this. It was so crisp and fresh. They brought a large basket of warm pita bread to the table, and everything was very good.

Mona's Dolmadas

Sunnie had a dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) platter, that also had the hummus and salad. We love dolmades and these were quite good. The hummus had a mild green chili on it, and we both wiped out all of our platters.

After spending the day with Jason and his family, we had to return to our conference, but headed out for dinner, looking for places on Happy Cow within walking distance of our hotel. Very close by was Salt N’ Pepper, a small cafe serving Indian, Pakistani, and local, New Orleans food. We were pleased to see a small sign outside their door advertising that they have vegetarian and vegan options (they must be aware of their presence on Happy Cow)! We stopped in and ordered a Veggie Po Boy sandwich. The owner was very friendly and funny, but I had to explain that we couldn’t have mayo because it was made of eggs, so he still needed a little brushing up on being vegan. He did ask me if there were vegan mayo products, so I named a couple of popular brands, so who knows, maybe they’ll have it next time! I had a Po Boy with Jason before I was vegan, and they’re delicious because of the light, crisp, and fluffy bread they are made with. Since we had no mayo, we topped our Po Boy with hot sauce.

Vegan Veggie Po Boy

It only had fresh veggies on it, and the bread wasn’t too crisp, so it was more reminiscent of Subway than what I would think of a Po Boy. Really, you should have something fried on there, I’m thinking onion rings, or battered mushrooms, but it was a nice snack. The owner was very friendly, and it was very close to the hotel. We were on a quest for some Cajun food, however, so that led us to our true destination, The Gumbo Shop. It was a really cute restaurant, with brick and murals, and an open courtyard. We were a bit hot, so we sat inside. They had two vegan options for us: gumbo (of course) and black beans and rice.

Gumbo Shop's Vegan Black Bean & Rice

The black beans and rice were topped with a fresh salsa. They were more mild than we expected, but each table had a variety of hot sauces and hot pepper mixes made by the restaurant. We sprinkled a little of each in, and it was really good.

Gumbo Shop's Vegan Gumbo

The gumbo was even better. It was dark in the restaurant so the picture isn’t the greatest, but we really devoured the gumbo. It was rich and satisfying. They also brought basket with french bread (the kind used to make Po Boys) that was so light and fluffy that it was like eating air, but had a satisfying crispy shell.

We really enjoyed New Orleans. It was Sunnie’s first time visiting, and she fell in love with it. The history and culture is so evident. Jason and his wife are both archeologists, so they certainly embrace the city’s history. We wish we would’ve had more time to spend in the city (away from the conference) and Jason and his wife, Kate, have offered a room as enticement for a visit, so we hope to return soon!

During our return home, we stumbled upon Vegan airport heaven while transferring in O’Hare. There was a little market, Cibo Express Gourmet Market, between terminals 2 and 3, and they had food from Soul Vegetarian, a Chicago vegan restaurant that we haven’t tried yet, even though we thought we’d hit most of what we wanted to on our last trip to Chicago.

Cibo Gourmet Market

The market had a number of vegan options, but we settled on Soul Vegetarian’s buffalo tofu and veggie chikin salad sandwich.

Soul Vegetarian Buffalo Tofu at O'Hare

Soul Vegetarian's Veggie "Chicken" Salad at O'Hare

It’s always great to see a product clearly marked as vegan.

Soul Vegetarian's Buffalo Tofu at O'Hare

The Buffalo tofu had a nice, firm texture and was battered well. The sauce was a little ketchupy for my preference and needed some more heat, but we gobbled it down with the celery and vegan ranch dressing it came with.

Soul Vegetarian's Veggie Chikin Salad at O'Hare

I was never really a fan of chicken salad in my pre-vegan days, but this sandwich was quite good.

It was such a treat to stumble across vegan food in an airport. At Indy’s airport, there are some options, but you feel so much better buying a product marketed to vegans. Chicago impressed us again with its vegan options, and I think we’re not going to mind passing through O’Hare on our way to Korea next month!

6 Comments leave one →
  1. rebecca permalink
    April 26, 2011 11:30 am

    gumbo IS NOT a vegan option!!! its made from a chicken and seafood stock and if it doesnt have pieces of at least some seafood or chicken in it it just ISNT gumbo!!!

    • Bill permalink*
      April 26, 2011 10:15 pm

      Well, I think the restaurant is trying to accommodate those who choose not to eat dishes with animal products in them, it had plenty of meat items on their menu but were kind enough to offer vegan options, which we were grateful for.

  2. April 28, 2011 10:56 am

    Thanks for the post! I still have never been to New Orleans and have wondered what there was for me to eat. Very helpful–and delicious-looking! Luv the green sauce on the hummus up there.

    Funny you should mention Cibo Express. I just flew in from LaGuardia last night, and they have one there, too. I had never seen that before, so I started scanning their offerings really closely. I saw a couple of vegetarian/veganish sandwiches, so I was encouraged, and then I saw a whole ROW of packaged vegan eats. It wasn’t Soul Veg but rather some other (local NY?) brand. They must pick up whatever packaged vegan foods are distributed locally. It was great! I got some buckwheat soba noodles with tofu/chickeny bits. I was really grateful to see that not only was there one vegan option, there was CHOICE! 😀 Yay for Cibo!

    • Sunnie permalink*
      April 28, 2011 12:22 pm

      Hey Lu! How are you doing? I hope you’re well! It’s getting much warmer here in Indianapolis, I hope Chicago is getting warmer as well. It’s about time for us to get some nice weather. I really loved visiting Cibo Express, it’s was just so cool and hip and really, it’s so cool to hear that they use local brands as well. Very neat. Yes, yay for Cibo! It actually gets me excited about traveling, which is really an amazing thing! 😛

      • April 28, 2011 4:15 pm

        Hi, Sunnie! I am well, thanks. It’s great that you and Bill are going to Korea, hurrah. 🙂 Chicago is still chilly and gray, which I was really surprised to find on my return, because it was very warm (almost hot) and sunny in NYC. I didn’t even wear a jacket while there and packed it away on my return trip—so I had to pull it out and put it on right there at the O’Hare baggage claim. LOL.

        Since we’re on the Cibo Love Wagon, the other two things I really liked about them were (1) the attendant was very friendly and wanted to talk about all the vegan offerings she had tried from their store and how good they were, and (2) their carry bags have a nice stable bottom. See? I don’t ask for much. 😉

      • Sunnie permalink*
        April 28, 2011 10:33 pm

        Ah, yes. We experienced the same thing, our attendant also talked about her favorite among the vegan items, and yes we liked the bags, that’s why we took a picture of if! 🙂 I know, we really don’t ask for much, but some restaurants or places just act like vegans are crazy…! 😛

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