It's not true that the only vegetable in New Orleans is fried okra. While Creole cuisine is known for its rich, buttery sauces and fried food is ubiquitous in these parts, there are plenty of chefs that recognize that visitors and locals can't consume that kind of food every day. Eat Fit NOLA is a relatively new program overseen by Molly Kimball, a registered dietitian with Ochsner’s Elmwood Fitness Center. Kimball has collaborated with local restaurants to create better-for-you items right on the menu, making it effortless for anyone to eat nutritiously, anywhere in the city. With starters and desserts weighing it at 300 calories or less, and main dishes at 600, the emphasis is on amping up the flavor without adding a lot of unwanted fat.
The line up of restaurants featuring Eat Fit NOLA is impressive, from Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse and Tableau in the Quarter to Cafe Degas and Ye Olde College Inn in Mid-City and Commander's Palace and Apolline uptown.
There has also been a surge in cafes catering to vegetarians and vegans, spots where fresh juices flow, gluten free options abound and asking for tofu instead of eggs won't raise an eyebrow. These 10 places all deliver the goods, and there are more opening and adapting to greener pastures every day.
Slim Goodies Diner
Slim Goodies Diner is a dive-y diner located in the Garden District/Irish Channel portion of Magazine Street in New Orleans. The venue has a retro feel with the old Coke signs, red leather booths and counter stools. Breakfast and brunch is the big draw here, and waits can be long if you come at peak times (after 9 am). A clipboard out front serves as the wait list, where you write your own name and wait to be called. Prepare to indulge in "slammers", breakfast combos that overflow the plate, with plenty of veggie and even vegan options. There's a well spiced veggie burger and the salads are fresh and ample. Slim Goodies is cash-only, but does have an on-site ATM. They don't have a liquor license, but you can BYO. ((504) 891-3447)
Located in a green, historical renovation of an 1891 Greek Revival home on Oretha Castle Haley, the quickly changing arts corridor in Central City, Casa Borrega is a fantastic little taco bar. Besides a great selection of margaritas, the menu dishes authentic street food, the kind you'd find in Mexico City. The ceviche is delish, same for trios of tacos stuffed with te likes of tequila marinated lamb and chorizo.
The special appetizer the night of our visit was a relleno from heaven. Portions are large, so start by sharing an entree unless you're famished. More vegetarian than vegan, you'll find fresh, healthful takes on Mexican dishes and plenty of veg to keep you smiling. Snag a seat in the outdoor courtyard if the weather permits. Live music is featured most weekends, from Cuban and salsa to flamenco. (504-427-0654)
Sometimes a body can't eat one more fried pickle or butter sauced piece of fish. This no frills Mediterranean eatery on Frenchmen Street is an oasis of fresh Greek salad, grilled kebabs and creamy hummus. Vegetarians can find plenty to munch on, the Lebanese tea is bracing and prices won't break the budget. Although the place could use a good scrubbing, the food is consistent and a welcome respite from fried everything offered by most other Frenchmen Street spots. Mona's has other locations uptown, the Irish Channel and in mid-city. There's a little market with some Middle Eastern ingredients attached to the restaurant. (504-949-4115)
The food is so pretty at this at this airy restaurant dedicated to vegan, vegetarian, raw and gluten free dishes you may be tempted to eat your plate. Local, sustainable ingredients power a menu with a surprising number of New Orleans specialties, tweaked but not torked. You can still enjoy comfort foods like nachos and chili cheese fries - made with cashew quesa, to New Orleans favorites like "inspired by "gumbo, a tasty simmer made with traditional roux , okra, green and red peppers, collard greens, mushrooms and spicy seitan if you're feeling frisky. Food so good you won't miss the meat. (504.302.2599)
Arana Taqueria Y Cantina
Arana Taqueria y Cantina, home to local chef Richard Papier, is a popular Magazine Street specializing in flavorfuil Mexican cuisine. The name, which means spider in Spanish, is a nod to the chef's longtime nickname. Look for slow braised pork, beef, chicken and duck cooked in banana leaves and dishes seasoned with achiote.
Papier, who has worked alongside chefs Emeril Lagasse, Donald link and Susan Spicer, gets creative with smoky chicken mole, a send up on chicken fried steak called torta Milanese and a variety of 12 different tacos including killer fish tacos with jalapeno sauce and a tasty carne asada.
The chef recently launched a new menu featuring crowd pleasing Mexican dishes like fajitas, burritos and enchiladas - including the New Orleans-flavored fried oyster tostadas. ((504) 894-1233)
The Mexican love child of local uber chef John Besh and Food Network wunderkind Aarón Sánchez, Johnny Sánchez is the best thing to happen to Poydras Street since Sculpture for New Orleans. A place that gives the option of roasted grasshoppers on the freshly made guac gets a body's attention. The menu is locally charged and full of authentic Mexican flavors. A seasonal specialty, the fried Brussels sprouts "salad" is really a revelatory warm veg dish tossed with bits of roasted squash, pomegranate and queso. The pork belly tacos are sweet with pineapple glaze and savory with swiney goodness. Lamb enchiladas, yellowtail tostados, grilled sweetbread tacos with chorizo - what's not to like? There are some interesting (and pricey) wines by the glass along with a very good house margarita and a full list of sipping tequilas.
By the way, the place also happens to be gorgeous, bright with a colorful Day of the Dead wall mural and Chihuly-style overhead chandeliers. Service is informed and attentive. (504.304.6615)
There are plenty of tasty vegan and vegetarian options at this funky little spot powered by creative chef Paul Artigues. Expect a wait, as reservations aren't an option for one of the coveted 14 seats that literally spill out onto the alley in nice weather. In addition to his take on Creole flavors, chef Artigues features global-inspired dishes with special emphasis on Indian cuisine. Try the pork sugarcane lollipops with coconut slaw or the South Indian uttapam (a pancake with onions, peas, peppers, tomatoes and panchpuran rolled and filled with vegan curry). Open Wednesday to Sunday for lunch and dinner. (504-301-3347)
Green is beautiful at Satsuma, a fetching dining spot with locations on Maple Street Uptown and on Dauphine Street in the Bywater. Yard eggs scrambled with basil pesto and shaved
Nueske's ham, free trade coffee and freshly made juices concocted in their industrial juicer behind the bar are just a few of the daily specials. Vegans are in heaven here, thanks to dishes like the tofu scramble and black bean burger with avocado mash. Eat indoors or out, and definitely plan on trying some of the green juice blends. Satsuma uptown is in walking distance to the universities and Audubon Park. ((504) 309-5557)
Carmo is a breath of fresh air in a city full of rich and decadent food. From its tropical vibe and art gallery setting to its menu of fresh, raw, light and tasty dishes, Carmo delivers on all counts. The only restaurant in Louisiana certified by the Green Restaurant Association, Carmo is an oasis of fresh, local ingredients, with an emphasis on vegetarian and vegan fare, along with sustainable seafood and other options for omnivores. Simply put, Carmo makes healthy delicious. Just ask Woody Harrelson. The notoriously health-conscious actor won't eat anything but raw food from Carmo when he's in town on a shoot. ((504) 875-4132)
About Beth D'Addono
Beth D'Addono is a food and travel writer obsessed with flavor, exploring cultures, street music and the city of New Orleans.
After spending years flying in regularly to research stories, attend festivals and eat the city's amazing cuisine, this New Orleanian at heart moved to the Crescent City full time in 2012.
Beth writes about New Orleans and other destinations for outlets including USAToday, AAA Traveler, Wells Fargo Conversations, Philadelphia Daily News, Taste, Fodor's and others.
Her new book The Hunt New Orleans is a carefully curated insider's guide to indie shops and restaurants around town.
Read more about Beth D'Addono here.
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