New Orleans is one of those places I always wanted to visit, but never got around to. In recent years, a big part of the push back was because I didn’t want to visit a city where my diet would be a giant cloud looming over the vacation. In fact, when I finally decided to pull the trigger and book the trip, the first question everyone asked me was, “what are you going to eat?”. I was particularly nervous because this would be my husband’s first big trip as a vegan, so I wanted him to have a great experience. Turns out I had nothing to worry about because the food was amazing, the people were super friendly and it’s a beautiful city we plan to keep visiting.
This trip was a Christmas gift to my husband, so I went all out and booked the Ritz-Carlton. This might be out of reach for some of you, but for those of you who can splurge and want to stay in the middle of the action in the French Quarter, I definitely recommend it. As soon as they found out we were vegan, Chef Rosie came out to chat and reassured us that we would not go hungry with him behind the wheel. If you walk into a restaurant with any sort of dietary restriction it can seem like you’re a nuisance, so it was nice to feel welcome for a change. Even though the hotel made a great effort to feed us, we wanted to see what the real New Orleans had to offer, so we limited our meals there to breakfast.
Our first official snack was at Killer Poboys in the heart of the French Quarter. It’s a banh-mi inspired, New Orleans sandwich shop that has two vegan sandwich options on the menu. It’s cheap and cheerful, the kind of place you can run into to refuel without derailing your entire day (or wallet). We also stopped by the Green Goddess a restaurant that felt like the NOLA equivalent to California’s Cafe Gratitude. Tucked away in a super cute alley, it was a much-needed break from the chaos of Bourbon street.
While we loved the French Quarter, we took the advice of local friends and decided to explore different areas. The first stop was Breads On Oak, a vegan bakery that was a bit out of the way but definitely worth the detour. The neighbourhood was super cute to walk around and the bakery was out of this world. We were in town during festival season so we managed to get a piece of vegan King Cake. We also sampled an insanely gooey brioche, a sausage sandwich and their coffee. Whatever they’re doing to mimic butter and eggs is working, because everything was fluffy and flakey in all the right places.
The Garden District was our favourite place to hang out and next time we go back we’re going to make a point to stay in that area. We only had the time to try two restaurants, but what we sampled was amazing. One night we started out at Hot Tin for drinks before heading over to Saffron NOLA. A friend of mine suggested Saffron for cocktails, but I called to see if their dinner menu could accommodate vegans and they were happy to oblige. We let the chef choose 4 courses and everything was perfect. So perfect that I have no photos of the meal because we were too busy enjoying dinner. If you’re in New Orleans and you’re vegan (or not) I can’t recommend them enough.
The next day we headed back into the Garden District for some shopping and brunch. I love Israeli food, so I was ecstatic to find Saba when researching vegan food near Magazine Street. This is exactly the kind of restaurant I wish existed in my neighbourhood. Our server was unfazed by us being vegan and he happily walked us through the menu, pointing out all of our options. We tried everything and then we ordered more. We ate so much at lunch that we skipped dinner, but it was worth it. The hummus, the falafel, the salads. The cocktails! Next time we visit New Orleans we are doing multiple trips to Saba with no regrets. We managed to snap a couple of photos, but none of then do the food justice. If you’re in the area, you must go!
We were only New Orleans for a few days, but we had a great time and found a variety of vegan food. There are definitely more options outside of the French Quarter, so I suggest taking some time to wander around and explore other areas. It’s a beautiful city that I feel sad to have ignored for so long!
I do want to mention that the airport had absolutely zero options, so don’t make the same mistake I did and eat before you head out.