For our first trip of the year 2020 Matt and I decided to go to New Orleans! It’s a trip I’ve wanted to do for awhile now and it sort of all fell into place for us. If you’ve never been to New Orleans it’s a beautiful city with colorful houses, live jazz music and a history of hauntings and ghosts. All around we were looking for a relaxing vacation with just enough activity and movement to justify not just staying home. Also we couldn’t afford some lavish beach getaway so it was nice to switch it up. It ended up being a lot of fun and we had a great time. Soooo let’s talk about it, yeah?
Where Did We Stay?
January in New Orleans is the start of Mardi Gras season so hotels book up quickly. In anticipation for this we researched both hotels and Airbnb’s to see what was available and to be honest for the price of a hotel room you can rent an entire house on Airbnb. Our challenge was we didn’t want an entire house because it was just us and we wanted something close to the main streets. Mainly either Frenchman St or Bourbon St. Although we did hear from a couple of different people that you don’t actually want to stay near Bourbon street because at night people go a bit haywire. We settled on an Airbnb a couple of blocks from Frenchman St.
Our Airbnb was a two family house that was previously destroyed in Hurricane Katrina and participated in the “Before I Die” series before being restored and turned into a rental. Most homes in New Orleans are shotgun style, meaning each room goes into the next and you walk straight through the house. This place wasn’t necessarily the traditional shotgun style in the sense that each room flows into the next but it definitely flowed through in one long straight line. Our apartment was on the right and there was another group staying on the left hand of the apartment. There was a keypad to get into the apartment and the owners were super easy to communicate with and made us feel at ease the whole time.
What was great about having an Airbnb instead of a hotel room is that we had so much more space. We had two bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen, living room and even laundry units. This worked great for us because there was a grocery store a couple of blocks away so we were able to buy food (mainly for breakfast) and drinks to keep in the house. Breakfast is always the hardest meal when we’re on vacation because I wake up early no matter what (I literally haven’t set an alarm in over 6 months I just automatically wake up at 6am …send help!) and I’m vegan and Matt is not so unless we go to an all vegan restaurant, brunch is very limited for me. This way, I was able to get up, do a quick workout, read a bit and have a cup of tea before eating breakfast. Usually by the time I was getting ready to eat breakfast Matt was slowly crawling out of bed. This Airbnb gave us that relaxation we really crave on vacation in that way. We spent our mornings slowly waking up, eating breakfast and binge watching Netflix until it was time to go out or we were ready to start our day. Also, Matt is a napper and I am not so when we stay at hotels, if he wants to nap I really have no place to go but sit there on the bed with him while he sleeps and listen to him snore. With the Airbnb he could nap and I could read peacefully.
When we flew in, a huge thunderstorm had just hit the city which led to a slightly bumpy landing and hot water issues at the apartment. As in there was none. Thankfully we had a great Airbnb host who had someone over in 5 minutes to fix the issue. After that we didn’t have any issues other than our very drunk neighbors who kept locking themselves out but that didn’t bother us much.
What Did We Eat?
In reviewing our trip I realized we didn’t really eat out as much as we would normally. We had breakfast at the Airbnb – I cooked a big batch of tofu scramble and vegan chorizo and ate that the whole trip, Matt had eggs one day and bagels and cream cheese the rest of the time. We had also picked up some coconut yogurts, a bag of cherries, chips and salsa, beer, ice tea, seltzer, coconut creamer for my tea, and Matt bought himself a whole pack of sugar cookies (treat yo self!). Eating out as a Vegan in New Orleans was definitely difficult but not impossible. Matt and I are creatures of habit though and once we find a place we like we tend to stick with it. Vacations are no different.
When we arrived in New Orleans I was soo hungry but Matt wasn’t at all. He had a huge sandwich from the airport but I had a pretty sad stale salad (slim pickings early morning at the airport but also always trust your gut and get an uncrustables). So once we got settled our plan was pretty simple (we got there pretty early and we gained an hour coming in from NY) we were going to relax a bit and watch some Netflix, Matt would take a nap and then we would shower and explore. But first! Food! We were very close to the French Market a beautiful marketplace that sells all the souvenirs you could image, tons of yummy food and drinks (more on this later). So a quick look on UberEats and I found Meals From the Heart Cafe, a whole foods cafe located in the French Market with plenty of vegan options. First thing I ordered was their vegan crab cakes with avocado, and their pancakes that came with fresh fruit, butter, and syrup. It was exactly what I needed after being up at 4 am and being on a plane for 3 hours. This place is such a gem and the food is so incredible! I ended up going back to them, in person this time, and ordering their vegan crab cakes again and their beyond tacos (which were huge!). Matt and I ended up splitting the tacos even though he “wasn’t hungry” (not a crumb was left uneaten). 10/10 would recommend this place. Friendly service, and delicious, affordable food, what more could you ask for?
Ok I’m not going to lie to you but this was the only place I was excited to go to in New Orleans! Dat Dog is a hot dog bar with a set menu and a build your own dog option both have plenty of vegan options. Located on Frenchman street this restaurant was less than a ten minute walk from our Airbnb and it was the first place we went out to eat. What’s great about this place, apart from the amazing food, drinks and quick service; there are bars all up and down the street so right after you finish eating you can pop on in to a bar and listen to some live Jazz. Also they serve tater tots and that’s all you really need to know. I got the vegan banger (every time) and it was delicious (every time) and also they have a blackberry mule drink that is amazing and I highly recommend it. We ended up eating here three times in total while we were in New Orleans. I told you… creatures of habit. 12/10 I wish we had one of these back home.
I mean, obviously we had to stop at Cafe Du Monde. There are no vegan options at all here and other than beignets and coffee they serve juice and soda. They have no plant based milk for the coffee. I don’t even drink coffee but being that I didn’t want to sit and watch Matt eat fluffy doughnuts without me, I ordered a black coffee. Matt said the beignets were amazing! (surprise!) and (actual surprise) the coffee was delicious. I didn’t get sick or get a headache or anything from it either which happens sometimes when i accidently drink coffee at home. There was a long line when we got here but the wait was maybe 5 minutes so tip your servers because they are for real hustling. 10/10 classic experience and worth the trip. Also, bonus, they had one in the airport if you need a treat to go.
Ok this may not count as a proper meal but on our way down Bourbon street we made a pit stop at a bar that had two for one beers and got an order of fried pickles and waffle fries. I don’t remember the name of the bar (or much of the rest of that day ) but it was a solid snack and they had a nice back patio we got to sit and watch the madness from. They had an upstair balcony as well, for throwing beads but we didn’t go up there. 8/10 great vibes and cool space but no actual vegan options on the menu.
Full disclosure I did not enjoy this meal at all. Matt will always suggest sushi for dinner. It doesn’t matter where we are, he will always suggest it. So it was no surprise when he suggested going to a sushi restaurant called Wasabi. The draw was that the restaurant was super close to where we were staying and not crazy expensive. I forgot to take a picture of the rolls we got but they had all the basics and some speciality rolls. I got an avocado roll and a fried tofu dish but I wasn’t a fan. Also the place was dead empty which should’ve been our first sign but we made the best of it and then went out for drinks. It wasn’t the worst ever but I wish the ingredients were a bit fresher. 6/10 I would probably not go back here.
Honorable mention to Willies, a take out chicken spot that Matt ate from one night. He said it was really good, the food looked fresh and they were quick and inexpensive. This was on a night where we just brought food back to the Airbnb so it hit all the right spots for Matt. 9/10 would definitely suggests if you’re a meat eater. It was fresh, quick and pretty inexpensive so worth the try but not the best of the best that NOLA has to offer.
What Did We Do?
I mean… other than drink? Not much. We had two main excursions planned before we stepped on the plane. Apart from that we just wanted to walk around and see the sights and play the trip by ear. Which, surprisingly worked very well for us.
One of my favorite stops was definitely the French Market. This place is half souvenir stand, half food plaza. You can walk around here for hours and find something new each time. The best part is that its in between Frenchman street and Jackson Square so you can walk around in the French Market and head to any of the hot spots in the city from there.
Another thing we committed to was an evening boat tour with dinner. I forgot to take a picture of the food but it was pretty much buffet style with pasta, some potato side dish, a couple of meat options, a salad and some desserts. The tour takes you up and down the river but because it was January it was really too cold to stay out on the deck and watch the sights. There was a live jazz band on the boat and plenty of drinks and they let you walk around and take a look inside the engine room which was pretty cool. It was definitely a relaxing experience. If it were warm out I’m pretty sure it would’ve been even better because we could have sat out on the deck with our drinks, listening to the jazz band, and watching the sights. I would definitely do this again but probably without dinner. You don’t need to buy dinner to go on the cruise you can just buy drinks at the bar which is a pretty solid option.
One of our favorite experiences while in New Orleans was the swap tour. Its about two hours long and our tour guide was really funny and informative the entire time. Again being that it was January it was pretty cold on the water and it was off season so none of the alligators actually show up and they apparently don’t even eat during this time of year. However we did see baby alligators sunbathing, birds, turtles, hogs, raccoons and even dogs on the porch of the house boats. It ended up being the best the weather had been the entire trip so we really got lucky. I would do this again but honestly I was pretty relieved that we didn’t get a front row seat to an alligator brunch.
And when all else failed? We walked. Everywhere! From Frenchman to Bourbon and back. There is so much to see and a ton of local Jazz bars and dives that it’s hard to be bored or not find anything to do. It helped that is was the same weekend that LSU won the championship so there was a lot of team pride around. The energy of the city is infectious and it’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement.
Overall, we loved New Orleans and we can’t wait to go back again.
Until next time…