My husband and I just returned from a wonderful week in New Orleans. Visiting New Orleans means you’re going to eat well and have a great time.
We definitely ate well on this trip, though I suspect I consumed more butter in 5 days than I do in five months. New Orleans cuisine is far from dietetic or healthy, but just fine for vacation indulgence. Until recently, New Orleans was a difficult place to have any dietary restrictions. Vegetarians are relegated to ethnic restaurants and salads. There seemed to be little awareness of food allergies or restrictions in wait staff.
I’ve been puzzled by the ignorance about food sensitivities–New Orleans’ only real industry is tourism, and people with food sensitivities travel. When I was researching places to eat for this trip I was pleasantly surprised by a reasonably long list of gluten-free friendly restaurants. I think it’s safe to assume that any restaurant that is taking steps to protect it’s gluten-free customers will also do a good job with other sensitivities.
We enjoyed several meals at Drago’s, whose main claim to fame is charbroiled oysters.
Oysters are every day food in New Orleans, and they’re eaten raw or cooked. Drago’s invented charbroiled oysters, and now they’re available all over the city. I’ve eaten them in a variety of restaurants and I have to say that Drago’s might be the best. They are extremely rich, and though we don’t usually eat such rich food, I think we had charbroiled oysters almost every day of our trip.
Drago’s has a gluten-free menu, and the waitstaff at their riverside location was knowledgable and helpful. If you are gluten-free and want to try the charbroiled oysters, make sure to order them without the bread.
We also had a delightful and low-key meal at Carmo’s. Carmo’s calls itself a “tropical cafe,” and their menu includes things like plantains and quinoa. Their menu indicates which items are vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free. This is definitely not classic New Orleans cuisine, but a refreshing, light break from all the butter and cream sauces. I enjoyed their nourishing Esmeralda salad, made of black beans and quinoa.
No trip to New Orleans would be complete without fried seafood at Casamento’s and West African cuisine at Bennachin, which I’ve blogged about before. Bennachin doesn’t seem to have a web page, but they are on facebook. It’s a great restaurant for vegetarians and people with food sensitivities, and it’s a nice break from heavy New Orleans cuisine for everyone else.
Crawfish season is in full swing right now, so we did our part to eat as many as possible. One of our best meals on this trip was boiled crawfish and shrimp (along with some potatoes boiled in the spicy crawfish boil). We picked them up at Big Fisherman seafood on Magazine St., and took them to the riverside park that the locals call “the Fly.” for a wonderful and messy picnic.
We tried to do enough walking to balance out all the rich foods, but I also made sure to get a yoga class in at Reyn Studios in the CBD/Warehouse district. It’s reasonably close to many of the major hotels, so it’s easy to get your yoga fix if you’re vacationing there. The space is beautiful, and the owner, Reyn, taught a great class.
I found several other restaurants that either had gluten-free menus or knowledgeable staff, but didn’t make it on this trip. Here’s a list of them–perhaps you can check them out yourself and let me know what you think:
The Palace Cafe, a fine dining restaurant with a separate gluten-free menu.
The Wandering Buddha–has a vegan and gluten free menu
Satsuma Cafe–a small cafe with experience serving GF customers.
Truburgers, which offers a GF bun for it’s burgers.
La Petite Grocery, like many nice restaurants, is said to have a knowledgeable staff to assist diners with food sensitivities.
Crawfish photo CC licensed by adie reed.
Oysters photo CC licensed by K Tao.