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Jul 20, 2008 07:00 AM

Any suggestions for cajun/creole vegetarian?

I have a vegetarian guest coming to New Orleans (and the US!) for the first time. While there are many places in & around New Orleans where she can eat well, I would really love for her to get a real taste of the local cuisines -- but it's hard to find etoufees, gumbos or the like that don't start with pork or seafood!

Any ideas where we might find, say, vegetarian red beans & rice, or a meatless jambalaya, that sort of thing? Just vegetarian, so no meat or seafood of any sort, but eggs, dairy etc are fine.

Many thanks for any suggestions!

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  1. Ok, the options, that I know of, aren't overly abundant...there is a vegitarian gumbo at the Gumbo Shop (of all places)... "Gumbo des Herbes" (sic) Touristy, but definitely works for vegs. I can't remember the veg special they were running when i went, but it was totally acceptable, and when you want gumbo and aren't cookin it yourself.... Ask the server what the other veg options are. Veg. Red beans will be at Praline Connection on Frenchman. Many of their beans and greens are vegitarian (though not all, must ask) and they have the traditional "soul food" sides of mac n cheese and cornbread (a little dry) for the table. I'm not gonna say it's the absolute best, but it's certainly representative. But I really urge you to take her to Bennachin; it's not "local" as its cuisine hails from Africa, but it is a delicious forray into the roots of much of our cuisine. It's a BYOB restaurant next to Mona Lisa's on Royal, and it is a godsend for vegitarians, lots of options. Do not miss their kidney bean soup and either their black eyed pea stew plate or their jama jama (sauteed spinach). Preferably both. Service can be slow, but it's also totally affordable, huge portions, unique/funky dining room and one of my personal favorites...(obviously) Hope that helps. Besides at home, I have never run across a vegitarian jambalaya or veg. etouffe.

    Oh, and if you feel like venturing out of the "new orleans" cuisine genre, take her to Kim Son on the West Bank. They have a whole page of vegitarian options on their menu. There are mis-steps though. Order the Vegitarian Hot and Sour Soup Vietnameese style (that's important, don't order the chinese one) It's the pricier soup, but it's enough for three; get it even if you only have 2. The hunan style bean greens, the vietnameese seasonal greens and most importantly the "Bean Cake with Black Pepper." I've had west coast chef/food snobs with self-professed tofu aversions break into swoon; it's that good. Their bean cake in clay pot offerings are all pretty delicious and their eggplant (dish name escapes me) is also terrific. Huge portions, each enough to share. Kim Son and Bennachin are both New Orleans crown jewels for vegitarians.

    4 Replies
    1. re: swampsue

      Many thanks! Bennachin's (and Lebanon's Cafe) are on the definite to-go list, but you have some great ideas for traditional dishes with Gumbo Shop & Praline Connection, The additional notes for Kim Son are terrific too,

      Thanks for the good tips!

      1. re: shywri1ter

        You're welcome. Being a vegitarian and a local makes it easy.

        1. re: shywri1ter

          Oh, and I am a big Lebanon's fan. Gato Negro for good (though pricey) Mexican, and EXCELLENT drinks, and I used to get tapas at Mimi's, but haven't been in a good long while.

          1. re: swampsue

            Had tapas last night at Vega in Metairie, the best meal I've had in a long time (and really wonderful service) !! With 3 of us, we each got to taste a lot of the selections, and everyone came away with stars in their eyes! Several menu items are meatless; of those I had last night, I really loved the Vega salad (a just-right combination!) and the Artichokes -- grilled with a feta relish. The soup (Harrira) was excellent, but a limited time thing for their summer tour of the Mediterranean.

            Being vegetarian, you know far better than I that your choices are often limited to the salad list, but those listed in Vega's menu made it sound like it would be a good place to do just that.

      2. Dick & Jenny's usually has at least one vegetarian entree on their menu, and its usually interesting- more than just an after thought.

        1. Traditional, tyipcal cajun and creole fare are most emphatically NOT vegetarian friendly. Even veggies have pork, or seafood, or pork and seafood. Cajun vegetarian is like gluten-free bagels (just plain bad). Neither cooking tradition is meat-centric, but smoked, salted pork products and seafod play a key role in both traditions. You might have a little luck finding vegetarian red beans & rice (though the Loyola U cafeteria is the only place I know of where you can reliably find 'em on Mondays), but meatless or seafoodless jambalaya isn't jambalaya. Congris (kinda like hoppin' john), maybe, but it's not jambalaya.

          Gumbo z'herbes is a traditional lenten dish made with greens, but beware that restaurant versions often include chicken or seafood stock, so ask when you order it.

          1 Reply
          1. try Mayas on Magazine St.
            their online menu shows some tasty veg. options.

            1. The Gumbo Shop blew my mind with their vegetarian beans and rice... they had black beans as their special this weekend... which they served with this little cup of...I don't know what it was... like a corn slaw... and wow, incredible. Although I eat vegetarian pretty strictly, I do like to sample new things if I am traveling and have the chance to try something of that particular area... my boyfriend got the platter that included 3 traditional dishes... shrimp creole, jambalaya, and traditional red beans and rice- and they all tasted wonderful- but, I still would have chosen my dish over any of his!

              2 Replies
              1. re: ncveggiegirl

                Coming on to thank you all for the suggestions -- and I have the same response about Gumbo Shop! We went in for a light lunch, got a cup of Gumbo Z'herbes (vegetarian) and a cup portion of the vegetarian entre, the black beans mentioned. PERFECT light lunch on a very wet day and left room for dinner at the other great suggestion, Bennachin's. We also made ot to Lebanon's Cafe and even Brennan's for breakfast. My guest left very full and happy, and convinced that New Orleans was head & shoulders above all the other US cities she visited in the food department! (of course, we all could have told her that...)

                1. re: ncveggiegirl

                  I had the Black Beans & Rice at the Gumbo Shop the last time we were in New Orleans. THE BEST EVER! Looking for the recipe now.