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Healthy Eating; Restaurant Etiquette

christina_hunnicutt Jun 30, 2007 10:10 PM

I will be visiting New Orleans for a week, and I, unfortunately, am on a diet. I don't expect to lose weight in NO- I've been to New Orleans before and came back ten pounds heavier- but I would like to find some healthier options for some of my meals. Does anyone have a restaurant that they enjoy that has healthy entrees? I know I can always go with a salad (boring!) but I am seeking out innovative, healthy main courses.

Because I am trying to eat lighter, I was curious as to whether or not it is OK to order appetizers as a main course in some restaurants. For example, I was interested in The Bank Cafe's mussels appetizer, but didn't want to eat that and a main course. I would probably order soup as a starter and a cocktail. What is the protocol in New Orleans restaurants?

Thank you for your help!

  1. Adrienne Jul 8, 2007 11:36 AM

    There are a lot of great tips here. I second Cafe Rani (open until 9 pm on weekdays), and sushi is a great idea -- fish in New Orleans is so good, I've never had bad sushi here, even at the smaller, less-exciting places. You might want to consider not going to real restaurants for breakfast, and just grabbing some fruit or a breakfast bar or cereal somewhere, because breakfast for me is one of those things that always gets out of control on vacations.

    As far as dinner, the best idea here, I think, is to share an entree. If you get a salad to start, a single entree in New Orleans is definitely big enough for two. And that way instead of depriving yourself of tasting good, unique, local food, you'll just be preventing yourself from overeating. But if you do find yourself without a person to share with, ordering a salad and an app is not an unreasonable diet plan (and I don't think any servers will give you trouble)-- but I definitely agree with the poster who said to stay away from soup and to think through or ask about what's going to come on that appetizer, some things here have more fat in and around them than you might expect.

    1. m
      MakingSense Jul 6, 2007 11:16 AM

      A contrarian view. Appetizers and soups may not be the wisest diet strategy. Appetizers are calorie bombs. Regular WMDs. And there are more calories hidden in many of soups than you would guess.
      Daddy was Cajun, Mama was from New Orleans, both sides of my family go back a long, long time and I grew up eating and cooking that food. I know how much butter, bacon, sausage, tasso, and other fat go into those glorious appetizers that seem so small. The soups start with fat to make a roux and often include lots of hidden calories. I don't gain weight there - could be my DNA - but it could also be that I usually have an entrée (usually a relatively simple fish) or have one appetizer as my entrée with a simple salad.
      Old Creole and Cajun food wasn't nearly as heavy or sauce-laden as it is today. The desserts were much simpler. I am more likely to eat like my parents and grandparents ate.
      Look at some recipes before you go so you have an idea of what you're ordering. I think you can get fat just walking past K-Paul's. Small doesn't mean lean in New Orleans. And alcohol has an astonishing number of calories when the drinks contain fruit juices.
      Maybe you should just enjoy yourself and diet when you get home.

      1 Reply
      1. re: MakingSense
        Bill Hunt Jul 6, 2007 09:26 PM

        Good observation. My wife, who is a "calorie counter," always checks my pour of wine, when at home. I have a light hand, but her count does point out a potential problem. I also agree with the appetizers, as they are usually about culinary gymnastics and taste.

        For us, it's diet before, and after. Same for an extended trip to San Francisco.

        As I have mentioned in other posts, I once hosted a dinner for 13 at Commander's. One attendee was a "leaf & twig" person, from Boulder, CO. When the server came to take the orders, he asked, " where are the 'Healthmark' selections?" Her reply was, "dawlin', this is New Orleans, and we don't know anything about Healthmark!" There is something to be learned from that exchange, those many years ago.

        Hunt

      2. Bill Hunt Jul 5, 2007 09:03 PM

        Normally, my wife and I diet BEFORE & AFTER New Orleans, but we have shared appetizers and order them for our entrées in much of the City. No server has ever, so much as raised an eyebrow. All have accommodated us, without question. Now, I do admit, that I am never on a wine diet, so the tab for our table of two, is probalbly +20% of any other, ordering a more conventional menu.

        Do not fret. New Orleans food is about the enjoyment and little else.

        Hunt

        3 Replies
        1. re: Bill Hunt
          j
          JGrey Jul 6, 2007 06:35 AM

          That is a good point, though, about the tab. If you do order very lightly, it doesn't hurt to leave an extra big tip, percentage-wise, to bring it more in line with what an average tip might be from a table ordering more normally. This is a nice thing to do, though not strictly necessary from an etiquette standpoint.

          1. re: JGrey
            Bill Hunt Jul 6, 2007 09:21 PM

            Yes, if the service warrants it, I tip well - even in Europe. Also, if the wine-service is really good, I tip on the total, and do not deduct the wine from the bill. Same as if I have a Gift Certificate, I tip on what the full bill is, regardless of any "comps," etc.

            OTOH, a couple of three appetizers can certainly run the total bill up, over an appetizer + entrée. Also, many chef's really "cut loose" with the appetizers, and too often, the entrées can be more "mainstream."

            Hunt

            1. re: Bill Hunt
              j
              JGrey Jul 8, 2007 11:10 AM

              Hi Bill, sorry, I wasn't intending to imply anything about your tipping, my post was directed at the OP, just that you bringing up the tab reminded me of this point. I'm pretty certain you tip better than I do. :)

              And it's so true about the apps, at many places it's certainly not cheaper to order a few apps rather than an entree. But often they are more appealing to me.

        2. b
          baconfat Jul 5, 2007 04:44 PM

          Mimi's in marigny has delicious tapas upstairs. On top of the small portions the place is primarily a bar, so you can get your cocktails and they have live music pretty much every night of the week, not loud, mostly jazz or plugged-in and turned down. same neighborhood as the bank but further down river.

          1. Chinon00 Jul 5, 2007 10:57 AM

            split the entree with someone or just order half portions at every meal.

            1. t
              tia jenn Jul 3, 2007 01:28 PM

              I'm a big fan of appetizers as entrees. In fact, several restaurants are currently offering app specials. We went to Ralph's on the Park last week- 3 appetizers and a glass of wine for $28 offered any time. It was great. Commander's Palace and Cafe Adelaide have a 2 small plates and cocktail for $20, but is only offered from 5:30 - 6:30pm.
              Herbsaint and Cochon both offer "small plates" that are wonderful and not too heavy.

              1 Reply
              1. re: tia jenn
                b
                bronwen Jul 5, 2007 10:48 AM

                There is so much seafood in New Orleans, it's no problem. Oysters are very low in calories. Galatoire's is a good place to eat as you can order meat and fish without any sauce.

              2. r
                roxanne207 Jul 1, 2007 12:27 PM

                Depnding on when your here, boiled crawfish are a great coice. And, you can get boiled shrimp any time of the year. Even though its summer I had raw oysters at Acme last night and they were delish!

                5 Replies
                1. re: roxanne207
                  christina_hunnicutt Jul 1, 2007 12:43 PM

                  I'll be in New Orleans in December-- is that a good time of year for seafood?

                  1. re: christina_hunnicutt
                    r
                    roxanne207 Jul 1, 2007 12:46 PM

                    Excellent time of year for crawfish, shrimp and oysters.

                    1. re: roxanne207
                      christina_hunnicutt Jul 1, 2007 12:48 PM

                      Thanks!

                    2. re: christina_hunnicutt
                      c
                      cor Jul 2, 2007 02:04 PM

                      I think it is too early for crawfish - the season doesn't usually get going until late January.

                      1. re: cor
                        h
                        Hungry Celeste Jul 2, 2007 03:03 PM

                        Same sentiment, but slightly different take: it's too LATE for good boiled crawfish. They're still available many places, but the shells are very hard, so it's not an optimum experience. Once the weather turns really warm, the shells get hard, usually mid-May/early June.

                  2. s
                    Spencer Jul 1, 2007 09:59 AM

                    Don't know if you are into exercise or not. We visit NOLA 2-4 times a year. I am a jogger and some of my most favorite runs have been early mornings in the Quarter, along the River, and finishing through the Marigny. A brisk walk would also work. Heck, I'd do just about anything to kill calories so I could eat as I want in NOLA.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Spencer
                      jenni Jul 2, 2007 11:01 AM

                      We end up walking so much more in New Orleans than we do at home that weight gain isn't a problem. Early morning walks on the Quarter are terrific.

                    2. j
                      JGrey Jul 1, 2007 08:33 AM

                      Ordering apps as entrees will not be a problem, I often do it. Many restaurants have at least one grilled fish/shrimp entree. Go for the sushi places (Horinoya) or spanish places (RioMar) for seafood without all the cream sauces.

                      But I second what marchperson said: do it the French way. Eat very lightly for 2 meals, walk everywhere, then have something rich and delicious for dinner, in small portions.

                      1. m
                        marchperson Jul 1, 2007 06:25 AM

                        Cafe Rani on Magazine has some really delicious and healthy menu items. And...the shopping is great on Magazine. Also, in many places there may be some salad, soup combinations that could be lower in calories.

                        Order the dressings on the side. Another possibility (don't know how the restaurants feel about this) is sharing an entree with a friend. That would allow you to taste the good stuff, but not becoming engorged on it.

                        Also, you could try eating really light at most meals and splurge at one.

                        Good luck. Enjoy!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: marchperson
                          christina_hunnicutt Jul 1, 2007 12:13 PM

                          Thanks for the info on Cafe Rani. I've heard about it, but it's nice to get a rec from someone who's actually been there.

                          I am planning (looking forward!) to eating a indulgent meal once a day and sticking to lighter meals the rest of the time. Thanks again!

                          1. re: christina_hunnicutt
                            m
                            marchperson Jul 1, 2007 05:47 PM

                            Be sure to check the hours of Cafe Rani. I just returned from a day trip to New Orleans (I am from Baton Rouge) and Cafe Rani closed at 4 p.m. Of course that was their Sunday closing time, but call first just to make sure. We spent the afternoon in the WWII Museum. I highly recommed that as well.

                            Since we couldn't eat at Cafe Rani today we went to the newly reopened Camellia Grill. If you are avoiding fatty foods, stay away from Camellia Grill..They do however, have wonderful breakfasts and killer chocolate pecan pie.

                            If you do walk to the Marigny area, try Marigny Brasserie on Frenchman Street. I can really recommend it. We love to go there. It has a neighborhood feel, but elegant food. Good wine list, too! In addition, if you walk after dark, stay on the well lighted and busy streets. Don't take any side street short cuts. I am sure that natives of the city would be offended by that,but it's like any big city. Stay where the crowds are.

                        2. i
                          Isabella Jul 1, 2007 01:45 AM

                          First, The Bank is closed.

                          Personally, I think no one is really going to mind if you order just apps.
                          I often do it.

                          However, I cannot imagine coming to New Orleans and being on a diet.
                          Oh, you could do it, and salads would be helpful, but unless it is for a life threatening reason, I still can't imagine it.

                          Not trying to be sminky, just honest.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Isabella
                            t
                            Tonto Jul 1, 2007 12:00 PM

                            When did The Bank close?

                            1. re: Isabella
                              christina_hunnicutt Jul 1, 2007 12:02 PM

                              When did The Bank close? Their website doesn't say anything (http://www.thebankcafe.com/index.htm).

                              1. re: christina_hunnicutt
                                i
                                Isabella Jul 2, 2007 11:19 AM

                                I don't know when it closed, my memory of hearing about it is vague.
                                If you click the link you provided, nothing comes up.
                                Their phone is disconnected.

                                Just this week, a friend mentioned she spoke with the owner of The Bank and in their conversation he was telling her why he closed the restaurant.
                                Now unless, there are glitches with the phone service & their website (which is entirely possible) and maybe the guy was an imposter . . . .
                                It would seem that all signs point toward them being closed.
                                Sorry to be the bearer of this news.

                                1. re: Isabella
                                  c
                                  cor Jul 2, 2007 02:03 PM

                                  It is totally closed - we tried to go there a few weeks ago and it is all locked up and for sale! The website fooled me too - they need to take it down!

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