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New Orleans to Memphis w/ 15 high school students, inc. VEGETARIANS

Taking a group of California high school students on a road trip from New Orleans to Memphis in April. Not worried about New Orleans, but I need ideas for meals for the rest of the trip. My goal is to avoid chains entirely and concentrate on local specialties. I also need to keep costs down (the kids need to be able to find decent options at $5-7 for lunch, and around $10 for dinner). The biggest challenge is that a handful of the students do not eat meat.

Here is our basic itinerary:

Monday/Tuesday: New Orleans
Tuesday Afternoon: Laura Plantation
Tuesday Night: Stay in Vicksburg
Wednesday Morning: Drive to Helena to visit Delta Cultural Center
Wednesday Afternoon: Drive to Indianola to visit the BB King Museum
Wednesday Night: Drive to Memphis (with possible stop in Clarksdale)
Thursday/Friday: Memphis

I do realize that our Wednesday Itinerary is a bit crazy, and involves lots of retracing of our steps. While it would make more sense to do Indianola in the morning before heading to Helena and Clarksdale, I'd really like to be at the Delta Cultural Center at lunchtime for King Biscuit Time.

My greatest needs are ideas for:
1. dinner in Vicksburg. (Will we have better luck if we take 55 to Jackson and eat dinner there before heading to Vicksburg?)
2. quick take-away lunch in Helena before or after King Biscuit Time.
3. dinner in Clarksdale or elsewhere on the way into Memphis. (How is the food at Ground Zero? They seem a bit more veg friendly than most, though still not very.)

Last time I took students to Memphis the Arcade worked well for us. Though there is great debate about the Rendezvous, I expect we'll return there (They're one of the few barbecue options with a meat free Red Beans and Rice, they also offer a Greek Salad, and I will cry if I don't get to have the Lamb Riblets) I'm very open to other ideas.

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  1. Laura, Evergreen and Oak Alley are within 10 miles of each other. You can reach these homes in about an hour. Evergreen and Laura are very good tours that are presented from a historical perspective.
    Take I 10 E to Exit 194 and take Highway 641 S to Gramercy Bridge. Cross the river and turn right on Highway 18 and go W to Laura Plantation. The tour information is available at the LP website. Tours are available daily except holidays. To get to Evergreen Plantation take a left when you cross Gramercy Bridge and go E on Highway 18/River Road. Evergreen Plantation is a working plantation with 37 buildings in the National Register of Historial Places. Tours are available daily.
    Laura Plantation @ 2247 Highway 18, Vacherie, LA 225 - 265 - 7690.
    http://www.lauraplantation.com/
    Evergreen Plantation @ 4649 Louisiana 18, Edgard, LA 985 - 497 - 3837. (51M/60Minutes
    )http://www.evergreenplantation.org/
    After you tour Laura Plantation and/or Evergreen go W on Highway 18 to Oak Alley Plantation. You can view the home from the Highway and see the grand oak trees lining the driveway from the river road to the house. Take pictures from the road. There's no use touring OA. It's not very impressive.
    Oak Alley Plantation @ 3645 Highway 18, Vacherie, LA 225 - 265 - 2151.
    http://www.oakalleyplantation.com/
    After you leave OA drive W on Highway 18 to Donaldsonville, LA and have lunch at Grapevine Cafe.
    Grapevine Cafe and Gallery @ 211 Railroad Avenue, Donaldsonville, LA 225 - 473 - 8463.
    http://www.grapevinecafeandgallery.com/

    1. If you have never been to Middendorf's Restaurant you must stop at Exit 15 off I 55. Go E to Highway 51 and turn right. Go S about a mile to some fine fresh seafood right off the boat. They also serve great salads, gumbo, sandwiches and steaks. Stop to rest even if you don't eat. Get a cold drink and head back.
      Middendorf's @ 30160 Highway 51, Akers, LA 985 - 386 - 6666.
      http://middendorfsrestaurant.com/
      BBQ Station is a good stop in Independence, LA. Get off I 55 at Exit 40 and go E on Highway 40 to Railroad Avenue. Take a right and go two blocks for good BBQ.
      Bar B Que Station @ 563 W. Railroad Ave., Independence, LA. 985 - 878 - 3747.
      If you take a rest stop near the LA/MS state line at Osyka, MS get off I 55 at Exit 1 and go E on Highway 584 and go to Second Street. Take a right and go to Nyla's for outstanding burgers. The nearby town of Kentwood, LA is the home of Britney Spears who is a frequent visitor at Nyla's.
      Nyla's Burger Basket @ 1071 Second Street, Osyka, MS 601 - 542 - 5032.
      For the best southern cooking in the US go to Dinner Bell in McComb, MS. They are open for lunch only Tuesday through Sunday. Get off I 55 at Exit 17 and go E on Delaware Avenue to S Broadway. Take a right and go 2 blocks to 5th Avenue. Take a right and go to Dinner Bell. You will sit around large lazy susan tables filled with southern specials like fresh vegetable casseroles, fried eggplant and fried chicken. Stop by on your way N.

      The Dinner Bell @ 229 5th Ave., McComb, MS. 601 - 684 - 4883.
      http://www.thedinnerbell.net/index.html
      If you want good soul food near Summit, MS get off I 55 at Exit 20 and go W. Take your first right on Old Brookhaven Road and go N to Doretha's.
      Doretha's @ 1139 Old Brookhaven Road, Summit, MS 601 - 276 - 9594.
      For good BBQ get off I 55 at Exit 72 in Crystal Springs, MS and go E on Highway 27. Go E for about a mile to the Intersection of Highway 27 and Highway 51 to Louise's for outstanding BBQ. Google has Louise's home address so a GPS may take you to the wrong place. Just go straight from I 55 on Highway 27 to the IS of 51 and 27. It's in a brown frame building with a high yellow sign. Here's a link to their menu. They are open to about 9 PM.
      urbanspoon.com/r/176/993196/restaurant/Jacks…
      Bring an ice chest and pick up some custom processed meat from Wilson's Meathouse in Crystal Springs. Get off I 55 at Exit 68 towards Crystal Springs and go E for .4 mile to Highway 51. Take a right and go 1.1 mile and Wilson's will be on your left.
      Get off I 55 at Exit 81 and go W to Terry Road. Take a right and go to Wyndale's for outstanding steaks.
      Wyndale Steakhouse @ 6672 Terry Road, Terry, MS 601 - 878 - 2695.
      In Vicksburg you could tour the old antebellum homes and the Vicksburg National Military Park.
      Have lunch/dinner @ Rusty's River Front Grill @ 901 South Washington St., Vicksburg, MS 601 - 638 -2030.
      or @ Walnut Hills @ 1214 Adams Street, Vicksburg, MS 601 - 638 - 4910‎ for southern cooking.

      You might want to stop an hour S of Helena, AR at Rosedale, MS for good inexpensive road food at Blue Levee or pick up some great tamales at White Front Cafe for the road. They onley serve tamales but you can eat in the restaurant. Blue Levee and WFC have the only food between Rosedale and Helena. Drive straight N on # 1 to Helena.

      Blue Levee @ 1310 S. Main St., Rosedale, MS. 662 -759 -6333.
      Joe Pope's White Front Cafe @ 902 Main St., Rosedale, MS. 662 - 759 - 3842.

      1. There's not a lot of joints in Helena except chain restaurants. Pasquale's has great tamales. Maybe some of the kids can eat at Roadkill and some at Pasquales. Tamales are good.

        Pasquales Hot Tamales @ 1005 W. Hwy. 49, W. Helena, AR. 870 - 338 - 1109.

        http://www.sucktheshuck.com/

        Here's a link to the festival. Click on dining. Roadkill Grill is a good joint on Cherry Street where the festival is located.

        http://www.bluesandheritagefest.com/

        http://www.roadkillgrill.net/

        Delta BBQ is pretty good too.

        Delta BBQ @ 3136 U.S. 49, West Helena, AR 870 - 572 - 0125.

        1. When you reach Clarksdale you will be on U. S. 61 which bypasses the city. Take N State Street and The Ranchero will be on your left and Abe's will be on your right. Before you get to Abe's you will come to Sunflower which is just before the Sunflower River Bridge. Turn left and go N on Sunflower to the railroad tracks. Go back to your right just past the RR tracks and you will find Ground Zero and The Blues Museum. Madidi's is a few blocks to your N. Hick's is on N. State St. so go back S on Sunflower to N. State St. and go to the right cross the bridge and Hick's is on your right. President Clinton had lunch with Eugene before he left office but Hick's was in an old location back near the RR tracks. Ask for Eugene and ask him to show you his President Clinton photo's. He loves to show them.

          Stop at The Ranchero and get a cold drink. Charlie Conerly who was a famous QB for the NY Giants lived in Clarksdale and there are all kinds of old sports photo's there of Conerly and some of his old buddies. It's a fun place and the food is outstanding.

          The Blues Museum in Clarksdale opens at 9AM. Park at the Blues Museum in Clarksdale and visit there. You can walk several blocks N and be in the middle of downtown. Let the kids shop a bit then have lunch at Ground Zero around 11AM when they open. After lunch head back S on Sunflower by the river and stop at Hick's just to visit. Take a right on Highway 61 which is State St. Go across the river and Hick's is on the right in nice red brick building. Go in visit and get a cold drink. Talk to Eugene and look at his pictures when President Clinton visited. Then head N on State St. Stop at The Ranchero on the left for another cold drink and look at all the sports pictures there of Charlie Conerly and his friends.

          Have breakfast or lunch at Blue and White in Tunicaon your way to Memphis. Blue and White is on the right as you go through Tunica. It's Blue and White and used to be a service station.

          http://www.groundzerobluesclub.com/

          http://www.hickstamales.com/

          http://www.deltabluesmuseum.org/

          http://www.madidires.com/

          http://www.theranchero.com/

          I would have dinner at Blue and White in Tunica.

          Blue and White Cafe @ 1355 Highway 61 N, Tunica, MS 662 - 363 - 1371.
          http://www.roadfood.com/Restaurant/Re...

          11 Replies
          1. re: Littleman

            Thank you for the tasty suggestions. My problem is that looking at the menus for most of these places, there is not a single thing for the vegetarians to eat. Not even a grilled cheese sandwich. These kids can't go for a week on nothing but fried dill pickles and onion rings. I want tamales, but I don't think there's a veg option at any of the tamale places.

            I've changed our schedule a bit so we'll not be doing the crazy backtracking initially planned. We'll do Laura on Monday, because much in closed in New Orleans on Monday. We could use a Monday lunch suggestion on our way back to New Orleans from Laura. We'll be spending the afternoon and evening in the French Quarter. Dinner at Gumbo Shop that night, because they have a daily veg special.

            We'll drive to Vicksburg on Tuesday evening. I need something between New Orleans and Vicksburg (or in Vicksburg proper) for dinner.

            Wednesday morning we'll be in Indianola, and then hit Clarksdale for lunch. I think that we're covered for Clarksdale, with either the fried green tomato sandwich at Ground Zero or hummus and tabouli at Rest Haven.

            That night we'll eat in Memphis, where the vegetarians will have to make do with the Greek salad and veg red beans and rice at the Rendezvous. We'll be fine in Memphis on Thursday and Friday.

            The big questions remaining are: 1)where to eat on Tuesday night near or in Vicksburg, and 2)where to have lunch on Monday between Laura and the French Quarter.

            -----
            Ground Zero
            2230 University Blvd, Tuscaloosa, AL 35401

            Rest Haven
            419 N State St, Clarksdale, MS 38614

            1. re: lexdevil

              As someone who is an ex-vegetarian, I was always -- always -- able to find something to eat anywhere I went. And I travel extensively. Perhaps I ordered two, three, or four side items to eat. Sometimes I simply ordered a sandwich minus the meat. Salads are always easy. I could go back to being a vegetarian today, and not spend a moment of worry about ever finding something filling and delicious anywhere here in the South.

              As for your question about where to eat in/near Vicksburg, my vote goes to Walnut Hills. Tons of vegetables and you can ask the staff to point out the items that have not been seasoned with meat. Call them in advance if you'd like to get a sense of what will be available. Not too many revolving table restaurants still around; a nice experience. http://www.walnuthillsms.net/

              Why not have your other meal on Monday in New Orleans? It's not a long drive, lots of nice options. For veg-centric questions, post your inquiry (or search) on the NOLA board.

              1. re: deepfriedkudzu

                I hope it's that easy. I brought a group to Memphis for a week a few years back and it was very difficult. The veg options were mac and cheese, fried dill pickles, fried okra, onion rings, french fries, fried mozarella, fried green tomatoes, salad w/out any protein, and on the rare occasions where they did not include meat, beans. In most places, there were only one or two of these options, so being veg was no fun at all. By the end of the week the veg kids were physically ill from having eaten nothing but fried food.

                1. re: deepfriedkudzu

                  Just spoke to Walnut Hills. I would love to eat there, but the veg options are limited so I need to think about it. The only vegetables they serve w/out meat are squash, carrots, and coleslaw. They also have white rice and gravy, which they say has no meat, but I'm a bit suspicious of this claim. They also suggested their tomato aspic, and I decided not to get into the whole gelatin is not vegetarian discussion. On their a la carte menu there are the usual fried mozarella, fried dill pickles, and batter fried potatoes. They also appear to do a side green salad.

                  1. re: lexdevil

                    Lexdevil, it amazes and saddens me that you would spend a week in Memphis (Memphis!) and have kids come back home "physically ill from having eaten nothing but fried food."

                    I just checked the Walnut Hills menu. I see a chef salad that could easily be adjusted to various needs. There's also a simple house salad and a 'homemade vegetable soup'. Ask if these meals can be supplemented with vegetables from the lazy susan. At WH, the gravy is served separately from the rice. You are in the home of hospitality, so allow people to cater to your needs. Explain your situation (here and at other establishments) and simply ask if items can be prepared to your specifications.

                    Open Wed-Sat lunch, I'd also suggest Anchuca (an antebellum B&B with a restaurant open for lunch) in V'burg as they have a lovely menu with veg-friendly options: http://www.anchucamansion.com/lunch.pdf

                    Going from New Orleans to Vicksburg, there are two good ways to do it, and one is to go into Jackson then head west, straight-shot, to Vicksburg. In Jackson, there is the High Noon Cafe at the Rainbow grocery (http://www.rainbowcoop.org/cafe.htm) which is all-veg. There are also lots of things to do/see in Jackson.

                    Do you have your itinerary set? It looks as though you're trying to give these kids a flavor of the South, with your plantation, music, and cultural center stops. Would you like the kids to tour the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience? It's in Utica, MS about 40 minutes from Vicksburg. I can probably set you up with a personal tour. You must, must drive the National Military Park / Cemetery in V'burg. Contact me if you like and let me know what y'all are looking for and I'll try to help with this or other worthwhile cultural items: ginger AT ...deepfriedkudzu... DOT ***com***

                    Not going to let you go hungry or stuffed on fried foods, promise!

                    1. re: deepfriedkudzu

                      Thank you for the help! The Anchuca menu looks much more suited to vegetarians. Sadly, the vegetable soup at Walnut Hills uses beef broth.

                      The focus of our trip is American music and the social conditions that shaped it. Our itinerary is:

                      Sunday, April 3
                      7:20 PM Arrive in New Orleans, LA (MSY)
                      9:00 PM Check in to TownePlace Suites Metairie/Harahan, LA

                      Monday, April 4
                      10:00 AM Laura Plantation Tour http://www.lauraplantation.com/index.asp
                      1:00 PM Lunch?
                      2:00 PM French Quarter Visitors Center http://www.nps.gov/jela/french-quarte...
                      3:00 PM Self Guided Walking Tour of French Quarter
                      5:30 PM Dinner at Gumbo Shop http://gumboshop.com/index.php
                      8:00 PM Preservation Hall http://www.preservationhall.com/hall/...

                      Tuesday, April 5
                      10:00 AM Backstreet Cultural Museum http://www.backstreetmuseum.org/
                      12:00 PM Lunch from Central Grocery
                      1:00 PM Unsung Heroes exhibit at the Cabildo http://www.ponderosastomp.com/unsung_...
                      3:00 PM Drive to Vicksburg (3.5)
                      6:30 PM Check in to Comfort Suites in Vicksburg, MS
                      7:30 PM Dinner?

                      Wednesday, April 6
                      8:00 AM Drive to Indianola (1.45)
                      10:00 AM BB King Museum, Indianola, MS http://www.bbkingmuseum.org/
                      12:00 PM Drive to Clarksdale, MS (1.20)
                      1:30 PM Lunch at Ground Zero Blues Club or Rest Haven
                      2:30 PM Drive to Helena, AR (.40)
                      3:15 PM Delta Cultural Center, Helena, AR http://www.deltaculturalcenter.com/
                      5:15 PM Drive to Memphis (1.45)
                      7:00 PM Dinner at the Rendezvous http://www.hogsfly.com/
                      8:30 PM Check in to SpringHill Suites in Memphis, TN

                      Thursday, April 7
                      10:00 AM Smithsonian Museum of Rock’n’Soul http://www.memphisrocknsoul.org/
                      12:00 PM Lunch at the Arcade or Gus’s Fried Chicken (we'll split up)
                      1:30 PM National Civil Rights Museum http://www.civilrightsmuseum.org/home...
                      5:30 PM Dinner and music at BB King’s Club on Beale Street http://www.bbkingclubs.com/index.php?...

                      Friday, April 8
                      10:30 AM Sun Studio (tour at 11:00) http://www.sunstudio.com/
                      12:30 Lunch at Four Way Restaurant
                      2:00 PM Stax Museum of Soul Music http://www.soulsvilleusa.com/
                      5:00 PM Arrive at MEM

                      I don't know if we could fit the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience this time, but I would love to go sometime. Bought a copy of Matzoh Ball Gumbo last time I was in Memphis (and was disappointed that the book didn't feature the title recipe!). I plan to come back sometime soon with my husband, who has never been to the South.

                      1. re: lexdevil

                        Check out the Main Street Market in Vicksburg.

                        http://www.mainstreetmarketcafe.com/

                        -----
                        Main Street Market Cafe
                        902 Cherry St, Vicksburg, MS 39183

                        1. re: Littleman

                          Sounds tasty, but it's well out of our price range. Love the lack of deep fried stuff. No veg options at dinner that I could see, unless they're willing to serve the quiche that's on their lunch menu. The website says they will arrange special menus for groups/special occasions, but I doubt that they'll want to do something at our price point. I'm hoping for $10-15 a head for dinner, and their dinner menu starts in the $25 range. I'll talk to them, but my guess is that the answer will depend on how hard they've been hit by the state of the economy, and how slow their Tuesday nights are.

                          1. re: lexdevil

                            Green Goddess in the FQ in NOLA has vegetarian options.

                            http://www.greengoddessnola.com/

                            1. re: Littleman

                              Looks good for Monday lunch. Thanks!

                        2. re: lexdevil

                          Oak Alley has a restaurant. Give them a call. I bet they will prepare a vegetarian plate if you tour the home.

                          http://www.oakalleyplantation.com/

                          Freneir's Landing is near I 10 and I 55 on Lake Pontchartrain. They might help out.

                          http://www.frenierlanding.com/

              2. To answer Question 1: Yes, you would have a ton of options in Jackson, especially ethnic (Mediterranean, Indian, Japanese, etc) vegetarian food.