This isn’t our first time in New Orleans, in fact it was pretty much the city that ushered us into the second stage of our US travels. It’s where we decided to upgrade to a much larger trailer and truck setup back in 2010 (about 6 months into our travels), it’s where we adopted our cat Susa and where we discovered how great the South can be. We spent 4 months here, saving up for the trailer and truck, getting ready for the unplanned long term traveling that we’ve been up to ever since.
Both times visiting this awesome city, we’ve explored a lot. New Orleans is different than any other city in the world, and aside from what you might already know about it (possibly things like Mardi Gras, Bourbon Street and Po’ Boys) like most places with huge international reputations, it has so much more to offer than a quick party.
We made up a guide of our new and old favorites in this awesome city, and although it’s not full of war museums, blues music and mansions (other interesting things about the city), it’s a list of our favorite places that we hope some of you will remember or get use out of down the road!
Vegetarian/Vegan New Orleans
The whole country is, overall, not very vegetarian/vegan friendly when you leave the safety of large liberal cities, but Southern towns and cities can be completely unaccommodating. In this regard, New Orleans is definitely an oasis in a desert. There isn’t much in the way of vegetarian for a few hundred miles in any direction. Rural Louisiana may have the occasional natural store and chain grocery stores have an OK selection, but as far as eating out, It’s pretty much Chili’s for a blackbean burger ( if you can keep them from putting bacon on it).
13 : This restaurant bar is in our favorite neighbourhood, Marigny, It’s a funky little area just outside of the French Quarter where we always park when going anywhere downtown, as the streets are always full and narrow. 13 doesn’t have much vegan food but it does have great BBQ Tofu Po’ Boys that are great before or after wandering the streets of the French Quarter in search of drinks and interesting people.
Sneaky Pickle: This was one of the only places that actually came up in search as “vegan” and actually had vegan options, although it is not really a vegan restaurant (although the claim it, the table next to us ordered fish). It’s basically a tiny cafeteria designed by hipsters and grandmas, but that works out pretty great. It’s a little hard to find, as it’s just on a cruddy road surrounded by tons of mechanics and boarded up shops but worth looking for. We both got a delicious and enormous Vegan Ruben sandwich that I should not have finished but was definitely worth the money! They also offer Jarritos Mexican soda, something you don’t often see east of Texas. yousneakypickle.com
Yo Mama’s: This place has been in the back of my mind since we first are there years ago. We were of course eating lots of spicy foods, as always, but I was still training for the 9 out of 10 level that I am today (hot sauce bar hotness scale at least). Yo Mama’s had a great black-bean patty that you could get put on their Bull Fighter burger that we expected to cause us some nostalgic woe. The bull fighter used to feature a pile of about 15 raw jalapeno slices so hot that I’d painfully gnaw my way all the way to the end just to prove I could, but alas, they no longer pile them on like they used to. This time we got about 4 per burger, and although they were still spicy, there was no pain and suffering and it wasn’t just because of our tolerance this time. We went 3 times anyway and loved it every time. There’s not many places in New Orleans to get a good veggie burger so we will always be repeat customers. The upstairs is the best place to sit if you can.
Good Time Sushi: This was another favorite of ours, far from the crowds and traffic in northern New Orleans (if you can call it that). They have some vegan appetizers, miso soup and a few vegan sushi rolls. We always love our meals there without feeling taken for a ride (as sushi often makes you feel). When we used to go there they would be playing crime TV shows on a TV near the middle of the dining area but unfortunately they removed it. No more laughing with the sushi chefs and eating fried tofu while rednecks get arrested for us! Still, great food, and it’s a Good Time.
Slim Goodies Diner: In every decent sized town we always look long and hard for a breakfast tofu scramble. After some menu searching we finally came up with Slim Goodies on Magazine Street. When we got there after a long drive across town, the place was super crowded and there was a bit of a wait. Eventually we managed to make it to some seats at the counter on some very diner like stools that were a bit close together but not entirely uncomfortable. While waiting, we had some time to look at other people’s meals and I noticed something with corn tortillas and tofu, which I ended us getting. The only other option on the menu was the scramble, which turned out to be more of a hash-tofu mash, but Ross seemed to enjoy it. The downside is that we did have to sit about 2 feet from the fryer where they cooked bacon almost constantly, aside from that it pretty great. We didn’t go back but that was because we rarely eat breakfast and it was 15 miles from our RV park, not because it wasn’t delicious, because it indeed was and I’d definitely recommend Slims for breakfast!
Sucré: Sucre was a big favorite of ours the last time we were here but since we’re not eating dairy anymore, we figured our options would be almost null at Sucré this time. We were wrong! Well, at least a little wrong. They do have a few sorbet flavors and since I prefer fruity things to Chocolate or Vanilla any day, it worked out great for me. I got a scoop of Pineapple Passion, which oddly have cilantro in it (not normally a fan), but still turned out to be quite great. They have a big selection of chocolates, gelatos and macarons, and if you want to drop a bill, you can get a super fancy cake.
Mellow Mushroom: This is one of the best chain restaurants in the South (and now all over the US). When we first traveled the South it was one of the “sure bets” in some of the less compatible towns we visited. Back then, they didn’t even have Daiya vegan cheese, but now that they do, I’m always willing to go to Mellow Mushroom. They have great pizza, with a couple vegan protein options, a tempeh melt sandwich and a BBQ tofu sandwich. It’s always satisfying to get 2 meals out of one and we usually do with their pizzas and full sandwiches. They always have a great beer selection, often many local beers on tap, and their decor often features local artist’s murals, sculptures and their patented stoned looking mushroom man. They’re just about to celebrate their 40th anniversary!
Aunt Tiki’s: This place is just on the edge of the French Quarter and Marigny neighbourhoods, making it a place lots of people walk by but tourists rarely seem to enter. There’s some regulars and people like us who like the music and decor and pop in for a drink. Aunt Tiki’s is tastefully decorated with Halloween decorations, the best being a giant spider that hangs from the ceiling over a suspicious but comfortable couch. They don’t offer anything special in the way of drinks and have an average selection of beer but it’s a good place to pop in for at least one before wandering towards the teeming masses of Bourbon Street.
The Dungeon: So, Google Maps has this place marked as closed, but it certainly is not and despite my attempt to get it marked as opened, they decided it’s still closed – so ignore Google’s advice and visit it anyway (maybe they want to be listed as closed.. who knows). This bar is one of the only Rock bars in the French Quarter and lucky for everyone, it’s not directly on Bourbon Street. You find it by a fairly noticeable sign on the road that points down a long dark, narrow alley way, barely wide enough for a drunk person with their elbows out. After a curious walk down that, you are then spat out into a nice little courtyard with a suspicious looking statue of a bear-pig-cat and a large bearded man who will hold open the door for you and ask for your ID. Then, The Dungeon. Quite tiny by any definition but rife with interesting seating options, especially upstairs if it’s open. There’s always metal playing the the place is often filled with smoke. The mixed drinks are ALWAYS strong because the bartenders are awesome and the decor fits the dark, metal, doomy feel of the place. Lots of cool dragon skulls and such. I’m glad I got a shirt when I did back in 2010 because we weren’t impressed with new design but this place will always be a favorite. They don’t allow photos so.. sorry!
The Bulldog Mid-City: This place we found sort of out of necessity after an afternoon in City Park with Sherlock. Since we adopted her, we’ve been looking for places that allow dogs, and sadly finding that the South, so far, doesn’t really “do that”. The Bulldog was the only bar we found that allowed dogs in its outdoor seating area and oddly you have to go through the bar to get to it. I didn’t get to spend any time looking around the place, just ran through the bar to the outdoor seating, but the selection of beer was quite vast I hear, and I wish I’d had more time to peruse. The outside, awesomely enough, had a couple fountains for dogs to drink out of (my guess anyway), and some natural shade for her to rest under when she wasn’t sitting in my lap. There was at least one other dog out there with its owners who were attentively watching a World Cup game. After walking by the Magazine Street location at a later date and seeing a line outside, we were glad we visited this one in Mid City and had some space to ourselves.
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop: Everyone has to go here, there’s really no excuse. It’s the oldest continuous bar in the country and it was owned by a pirate. If that isn’t the coolest place to have a drink in the United States, I don’t know where is (yet). Sometimes this place can get a bit busy, and even when it’s not super busy, it can get a bit shouty, and by shouty I mean “singing Piano Man at the top of your lungs” shouty, because Lafitte’s is a piano bar. Strange I know but it sort of fits when you see it – aside from the type of music being played that is. The piano player/singer is the same guy who was there in 2010, singing and playing the same songs, night after night, and keeping a good spirit about it. The bar itself really does resembled a blacksmith’s shop. Low ceilings, dark oily wood and a great bit fireplace in the middle. We’ve been here at the end of just about every night we’ve spent wandering around the French Quarter and I usually get a pretty strong, if not too strong, rum and coke here. You have to get rum at a pirate bar.. you just have to.
Pepper Palace: I don’t remember seeing Hot Sauce Bars the last time we were in New Orleans but I’m so glad we found them this time. We ran into a few but the Pepper Palace was by far the best. Boasting a much larger selection and variety than the others, and not just a majority of Louisiana hot sauces but also the painfully spicy ones we love, as well as salsas, mustard, jams and a gigantic variety of joy for anyone who loves all things hot.
French Market: Even if you don’t buy anything at the French Market it’s worth walking through. The market spans 6 blocks and features everything from hot food (even some vegetarian options) to cheap beads to live plants. We passed through it on our way to the above mentioned hot sauce bar and after passing over tables and tables of imported decor and jewelry we found a great little hot sauce bar there too! This one featured a majority of locally made sauces, though not necessarily in the “Louisiana hot sauce” style (think, Tabasco). I picked up a couple Scotch Bonnet sauces for me and a friend and we tasted about 8 of their great variety of flavors. On the way out of the market we passed a live plant stand and I grabbed two dried up resurrection plants, something I’ve been wanting for a while – a plant that won’t die!
More Fun Comics: You can’t loose with a great comic book store, and whether you’re REALLY into comic books or a casual reader like me, this place is great for nostalgia or the newest publications. The staff are funny and a bit on the “know everything” side, but nice, and it would be fun to pick their brains if I had anything to pick with. It’s the kind of place to just hang out and get lost in for hours, appreciate art and geek out.
Hong Kong Market: We always look forward to large asian grocery stores, if not only for the opportunity to see new and interesting foods and spices. They also typically have strange and interesting varieties of vegan “meats”, sometimes awkwardly shaped like the animal they’re meant to resemble in taste. They also have canned mock duck, a favorite of mine, and best of all, meatless jerky. We end up leaving with a pile of fake meats, new spices and sauces and small pile of strange snacks. Hong Kong is probably the largest we’ve been to in the country, one in Portland, Oregon running a close second. If you love asian foods (from Indian to Thai to Chinese) this is the place to go! Hong Kong Market is technically in Gretna.
Neighbourhoods and Parks:
Magazine Street: This area is great for food, offbeat shopping, coffee, antiquing, you name it. It’s a very walkable area too and every time you stroll, you notice something new and go inside. The shops are friendly and there’s a real “local” feel to it – much different than downtown in that regard. It’s nice to see cashiers talking to customers they know, smiling, happy, rather than irritated by tourists all day. We love this area for food and shopping at places like Buffalo Exchange and Funky Monkey. The antique shops are unbeatable, I stocked up on skeleton keys and vintage luggage last time we were here and I still use the luggage every day for my etsy stock. A must visit.
Marigny and Decatur Area:
This neighbourhood is the more down to earth neighbour of the French Quarter. There are some funky shops and book stores, the restaurant/bar 13 that I mentioned earlier, and several bars good for wandering into like the Dragon’s Den (where they seem to always have live music – Rock rather than Jazz). One of the other perks of this neighbourhood is that it always has parking (and for larger vehicles) unlike any other part of downtown. Sometimes you have to go into a lot and pay, and sometimes you get a meter (free in the evenings), but there has always been a spot for us, even in our giant trucks, and even when we drove the Brougham (our first RV).
Leaving Marigny is where you find Decatur Street, which is the street we take most of the way to the Bourbon Street area. Here is where our favorite Hot Sauce bar and “away from the mess” dive bars are. There’s also a few Irish pubs along this walk that are interesting to pop into and get a pint!
Oak Street: This is a small neighbourhood, only a couple blocks long but packed full of good things. Anywhere with a comic book store, vegan food and a coffee shop within 2 blocks of each other is awesome in my book. We went to Mellow Mushroom to get one of their delicious vegan pizzas, admired their fun decor (as always) and walked down the street to get a coffee. On the way I noticed an interesting door to an unknown place so I took a photo, on the walk back to the truck we discovered it was in fact a great comic book store! I tried not to buy anything but of course left with a graphic novel and a magazine. It’s a great little neighbourhood for a lazy afternoon before or after visiting City Park.
Jackson Square: Now this place is really touristy and we’ve never gone into the adjoining shops or cafes but it’s just someplace you have to walk through, whether to people watch or to look at the art, there’s always something going on any day of the week.
City Park: City park is one of the best parks we’ve encountered in the country. It’s well maintained and features miles of walking and biking trails, a pond with kayak and paddle boat rentals, a train ride, a dog park, a cafe, a sculpture garden and an art museum. You can easily spend an afternoon here and make of day of it with the nearby St Louis Cemetery III. We’ve visited several times but on our last visit finally saw the resident sculpture garden, formerly a botanical garden, which makes for a gorgeous place for art.
Bourbon Street and Canal Street: Bourbon Street is bearable to walk down depending on many factors, time of day, day of week and tolerance of smell. Bourbon Street stinks, sometimes more than others and sometimes it’s just so crowded you can’t bear it any more. Sometimes the street smells like a mix of horse urine, vomit and old garbage, and sometimes’s it just smells like city. We walk fast, weaving in and out of drunk people and tourists with their young kids stepping in vomit (it’s a good experience for them), but sometimes breakdancers, magicians, musicians or body painted women will hold up the entire street and you just have to stop and watch the performance. The bars go from insanely cheap to “why did I just pay $6 for a lager”, depending on what part of the bar you’re in, how much you drink (more seems cheaper) and what you prefer. If you want to drink sugary red grenade’s all night you can probably get drunk cheap, but if you just want a pint, maybe leave Bourbon Street for pretty much any other street. We usually just people watch and move on to side streets. Fighting the crowds, looking for interesting people sounds like a weird hobby but it’s quite fun. We rarely stop at any of the bars until we get to the end of the street at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. On the nights we go to the French Quarter, we walk a lot and usually end up on Canal Street at some point. This street is where the trolley can take you from the French Quarter to Magazine Street and where many of the larger hotels (and casinos) reside. The sidewalks are larger but most of the people on them late at night are drunk people heading back to their hotels so expect to dodge a drunk here and there.
There’s a lot to be said for this area but mostly I admire its feel. The debauchery, art, tourist attractions, alcohol, talented and “less than talented” performers – every night of the week. It’s extremely easy to forget what time it is while walking around the French Quarter, the party never seems to stop… just slowly tapers off, then naps a bit, and is ready again by noon the next day. The city that naps for a short, sometimes (“the city that never sleeps” was taken).
There’s countless places to visit in New Orleans, and many we didn’t mention that we should have (mainly because this blog would be a mile long). So if ever in doubt on where to go, you will never run out of things to do in New Orleans.