Eat the Guide: Mona's on Banks

Hello and welcome to the NOiG series Eat the Guide!  In this series, I explore the scores of restaurants included in the NOIG Guide to Vegan-Friendly Restaurants.  You can follow along in the guide or right here on the blog, or both of course.  See previous posts here, and enjoy!

This week we take a look at a New Orleans staple: Mona's on Banks.  Mona's now has four locations (others are on Magazine Street, Carrollton, and Frenchmen), but Banks Street is the original.  The Banks location has a small and exciting grocery store attached.  Those of us who've been around town a while remember when it still looked like a service station.  I've loved Mona's for many years and missed it a good bit during my sabbatical in NYC.

Appearance and Atmosphere: Mona's on Banks is nice enough while remaining casual and easy to relax in.  The interior seems divided in two, with tented booths that feel particularly cozy and intimate lining the back wall of the restaurant.  There are also intriguing murals scattered across the walls.

Hours of Operation: Sunday12pm - 9pm, Monday through Thursday10am - 9pm, and Friday and Saturday 10am - 10pm.

Service Style: Full table service; you can usually seat yourself where you like.

Clockwise from top left:
lentil soup, spinach pie, falafel appetizer
Available Vegan Options: Like most Middle Eastern restaurants, Mona's offers a plethora of already vegan or easily veganized options.  Vegan-as-ordered plates include hummus, musabaha, foul, qudisa, zater bread, and falafel appetizers; red lentil soup; Arabic, green, fatouche, and tabouli salads; the falafel sandwich; and the falafel plate.  Veganizable options include the vegetarian grape leaves appetizer or plate and the spinach pie appetizer  - for these items request tahini instead of yogurt sauce.  You can also get the Greek salad or the sauteed vegetables plate by leaving off feta cheese.

Alcohol or Espresso: Turkish coffee can be served black.  Note that the Lebanese tea contains honey.

Price Range: Appetizers, soups, and salads run from $3 to $6; plates $10 to $11.

My Experience: Going to Mona's always feels a bit like coming home.  When I've been away from New Orleans I actually miss it.  It's the first place I ever ate Middle Eastern food and the only place I ate it for many years, so it just tastes "right" to me.  I am saddened that they started to put yogurt into their baba ganuj, as it used to be my very favorite menu item.  This trip was just as satisfying as my many previous visits: I ate my new favorite item, the vegetarian grape leaves plate with side salad.  (I mix the side of hummus with the salad and it is delightful.)  Service was friendly, prompt, and accommodating as always.  I left full and with leftovers.

Final Thoughts: Head to Mona's with a friend or several whenever you want a filling, delicious meal that won't break the bank.  Get the mint tea if you can have the caffeine.  TRY THE SPINACH PIE.  Then pop next door to the store and buy some to take home - they're made on premises and keep well in the freezer.  When you need a quick economical meal, try the falafel sandwich (which is really a wrap) - you really can't beat it.

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