Changing something about your lifestyle is always difficult at first, especially when you find yourself away from home. Only two weeks before returning to Tulane, I decided to remove all animal-based products from my diet– meat, fish, dairy, and eggs among others.
Never a fan of diets or dietary fads, I had long snubbed efforts at vegetarianism and veganism by my friends, not seeing the reason or true value behind their personal and ecological commitment. After becoming aware of the devastating effects of animal agriculture on the environment and the wellbeing of all species and communities, I had to make the choice to stop supporting that industry. Since committing to a lifestyle of healthier choices for my body and the environment I’ve come to appreciate all of the true benefits of transitioning to a vegan or “plant-based” diet.
I thought moving back south to New Orleans for the school year would present significant challenges in my quest for cruelty-free, environmentally-sustainable, and nutritious food. I was nervous that eating on a meal plan would restrict my options and leave me with repetitive and bland meal options. Luckily, Tulane’s dining services have an all vegan station and offer a few additional on-campus dining options that tend to have healthier options.
There are abundant vegan restaurants in New Orleans and the options Uptown alone, that cater to vegan diets has continued to amaze me. There are many restaurants that specifically target vegan and vegetarian populations such as Seed or Bearcat Cafe. Some of my favorite spots to sneak away to off-campus to indulge in a flavorful and filling vegan meal are:
Seed is an entirely vegan restaurant with the mission of creating food sourced from local, organic, and natural ingredients that still have the classic New Orlean’s taste. They have a diverse menu of staple vegan choices like avocado toast and an extensive build-your-own salad section, but they also offer traditional New Orleans dishes made vegan including an eggplant or fried tofu po’boy, and gumbo. My personal favorite dish is the southern-fried Tofu nuggets – a much-needed comfort food in the wake of chicken nuggets. The vegan buffalo sauce is just the cherry on top of the cake! Don’t sleep on the brunch menu – only available on the weekends – it might be your only chance to score some vegan chicken and waffles.
Surrey’s is a classic uptown brunch eatery, notable for its funky atmosphere and art-lined walls. The menu features Latin-inspired breakfasts along with other popular specials. While the menu doesn’t feature exclusively vegan options, they have a great asterisk system working for them; one for vegetarians, two for vegans. What puts surreys on the map in the name of vegan-friendly restaurants is the option to substitute eggs for tofu in any of the original breakfast options at no extra charge. Going vegan, for me at least, has meant substituting a lot of the protein you used to eat for tofu, and you start to become wary quickly at restaurants who unnecessarily charge at your dietary requests (don’t even get me started on almond milk). My classic order is the tofu breakfast plate with a side of avocado mash… 10/10.
If you’ve ever asked a Tulane student what their favorite brunch spot close to campus is, odds are you’ve heard more than one person respond with “Satsuma”. On the corner of Maple and Fern street rests a popular cafe that serves breakfast and lunch, with a paid attention to locally sourced ingredients. Their menu is loaded with healthy options, and vegetarian and vegan choices as well. Once going vegan I had to do away with my classic order, a lunch plate with scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and avocado mash. I try and switch up the vegan options I get, but my favorite and new classic order, is the quinoa market salad (with no cheese), a side of toast with avocado mash because I’m never honestly filled up with just a salad. With all the incredible vegan options available, possibly the best part of going to Satsuma is indulging in their delicious double chocolate chip cookie, which you would never know was vegan if not for the little “V” in the top-left corner of the pastry label. Since I spent the first few weeks of school just trying every vegan option or combination on the menu, here’s a few more photos than just my usual order.
Dat Dog is a popular franchise in New Orleans that expands upon the classic hot dog, by offering nine different types of sausages to choose from, plus three vegan ones, and over 30 toppings to mix and match. Popular locations on Freret Street and Frenchman Street draw crowds to the brightly colored oasis with a quick meal that will satisfy your taste buds, and not break the bank. The first time I returned to Dat Dog as a vegan I tried the Spicy Chipotle Dog, but the second time around, I got the Field Roast Italian Dog, and liked that one much better! Perfect for parties with mixed dietary needs, Dat Dog has options for everyone – even if you don’t like hot dogs, they have fish and chicken “dogs” as well. Be sure to stop by the Magazine Street location on the weekends to eat your hot dog amidst an Art Market that pops up in the courtyard of the restaurant each weekend.
There are dozens of other vegan and vegetarian-friendly restaurants in the area to choose from like Hivolt, Slim Goodies Diner, and Poke Loa, which are perfect for dining with your friends, so you don’t have to nervously scan the menu, hoping to find a dish you can eat. I’d love to know; what’s the best restaurant for a vegan meal in your area?