9.26.2016

Eat the Guide: Theo's Neighborhood Pizza on Canal Street

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 Jonathan and I visited Theo's Neighborhood Pizza on Canal Street in the heart of Mid-City, just below Carrollton.  Theo's has three other locations, including two in Metairie and one on Magazine Street near Napoleon.

Appearance and Atmosphere:  Theo's is casual but nice enough to bring a date to - particularly since you'll be waiting a while for your fresh-oven-baked pizza and will want someone to chat with until it comes.  The music on this visit was a fun mix of seventies and nineties dance songs...  we may have sung along to more than one.  Quietly.

Hours of Operation: Monday to Saturday 11am to 10pm, Sunday Noon to 9pm.

Service Style:  You'll order food and drinks at the register in the back, and then choose a table and your food will be brought out.  One of my favorite details of Theo's has always been its table markers: instead of giving you a plain number or somesuch, Theo's uses pop culture icons to match tables to orders.  You never know who you're going to get.

Available Vegan Options: Pizza is the name of the game here - both the crust and the red sauce are vegan and they offer a plethora of vegetable toppings, so build to your heart's content.  (The pesto sauce does contain cheese.)  If you don't want to make the tough decisions, get the Vegan-ator.  Theo's also offers salads, most of which become vegan by leaving out cheese.  There are no vegan cheese or meat analogues here.

Alcohol or Espresso:  Theo's offers half a dozen beers on tap, half a dozen more in a bottle or can, and a number of wines as well.

Price Range:  Salads range from $6 to $10; pizzas from $10 to $20 depending on size and toppings.

My Experience: Theo's isn't my very most favorite, but I do enjoy it from time to time.  It has become my Mardi Gras Day go-to, since they are open when few others seem to be.  I tend to get the Vegan-ator, but when I noticed they now have a dedicated vegetarian section I decided to de-cheese the Arti-garlic instead.  Theo's isn't kidding about thin crust - without red sauce, this pizza's crust was almost cracker like.  Still though, it was an enjoyable pie.

Of note: Theo's Mid-City seems to be the go-to spot for gaggles of giggling middle school kids early on Saturday evenings.  Also, you may find it quite difficult to park in the area.  There are maybe three spots (in addition to accessible parking) in the lot in front of Juan's, which is behind Theo's and accessed on Carrollton so you can try your luck there; otherwise it's street parking and you may have to walk a couple of blocks.

Final Thoughts:  Go to Theo's when you're near one, don't mind skipping the cheese, and hope to have a nice long talk with your dining partners (or want to spend some quality time with yourself).



9.19.2016

Eat the Guide: Juan's Flying Burrito on Carrollton

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

This weekend I visited the Mid-City location of Juan's Flying Burrito, located on Carrollton very near the corner of Canal Street.  Every city of even moderate size seems to need its hip burrito joint, and this is ours.  They have three locations total; others are located in the Lower Garden District and in the CBD.

Juan's Mid-City.  Note the four outdoor tables.
Appearance and Atmosphere:  Juan's is somewhere between funky and raucous with a distinct punk rock vibe.  Indeed, you will almost definitely be greeted by loud punk or metal music upon entering.  This visit went a little more mainstream than usual as we were serenaded by Rage Against the Machine for the entirety of our stay.  Your server is almost guaranteed to have tattoos and/or piercings - they'll also be pleasingly knowledgeable about what on the menu is or can be made vegan.

Neon from the LGD location
The walls are painted in Day of the Dead motifs and adorned with intriguing lit sconces made of clear Mardi Gras beads that, if I'm not mistaken, come from UP / Unique Products.  If you're from out of town go ahead and get one of the cool Juan's t-shirts.  City love is cool in Nola so you could get one if you live here too, but people might think you work there.

Hours of Operation:  All locations are open 11am to 10pm Sunday through Thursday, and 11am t 11pm Friday and Saturday.

Service Style:  Full table service.  A sign in front will let you know whether you should seat yourself or wait to be seated, depending on how busy it is.  During peak dining times expect that you might wait a little while.  Tables are a mix of freestanding and booths; you can also sit at the bar.

Burritos: boring to photograph, delicious to eat.
Available Vegan Options:  Due to the nature of American Mexican food, there aren't many vegan items to be ordered directly off the menu but there's a ton that can be vegan.  Straightforward vegan options to be ordered by name include the chips and salsa, chips and guacamole, the Supergreen burrito (which comes without dairy by default, and is delicious but quite drippy), and the Wicked Garden Fajitas.

The whole world opens up, though, when you realize that you can build your own burritos and tacos.  Vegan fillings include the black and pinto (but not the refried) beans, the white (but not the yellow) rice, TOFU (oh how long we waited for Juan's to have tofu), and all manner of vegetables (including potatoes!).  There are also numerous menu items that are vegan once the dairy is removed.  My favorite burrito is the veggie punk, minus cheese, plus tofu and avocado.  Of note, Juan's now uses locally made Hola Nola tortillas.  They also fry their own tortilla chips.

Alcohol or Espresso:  Juan's has a full bar, including frozen margaritas.

Price Range:  It's a pretty cheap night out unless you start drinking; burritos and tacos range from $6 to $10.

My Experience:  I've been going to this local chain since it opened in 1997 and it hasn't changed much over the decades.  It's comforting really.  My burrito was enormous and I shouldn't have finished it but did anyway.  The unsweet tea was just the right strength.  The service was fast and pleasant.  The music was loud and angry.  In other words, we had a typical Juan's experience and it was great.

Final Thoughts: Go to Juan's if you want a good burrito, don't mind skipping dairy analogues, and enjoy some kinda loud music.  Add tofu and avocado to whatever you get.  If you go to the LGD location and it's nice outside, sit on the back patio - it's a completely different world than inside.  Go at an off time to avoid waiting for seating.

9.17.2016

Get ready: VeganMoFo 2016 is coming!

Are you as excited for VeganMoFo as I am?  We only have to wait till November!  This year I will be talking about "A Few of my Favorite (Vegan New Orleans) Things."  What are a few of your favorite vegan treats around New Orleans?  Do tell!


9.12.2016

Eat the Guide: Mid City Pizza 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 Vegan-Friendly Restaurant Guide.  You can follow along in the guide or right here on the blog, or both of course.  See previous posts here, and enjoy!

On Saturday, September 10th, I took a visit to Mid City Pizza on Banks Street.  Having begun in a rather more humble space across the street, the pizza parlor now inhabits a spacious and attractive corner storefront and boasts some of the best vegan pizza in town.

Appearance and Atmosphere:  This is a very casual restaurant with decor inspired by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Simpsons.  Look for fun details all over the space.

Hours of Operation: 11am to 12 midnight, seven days a week, with happy hour every day from 11am to 6pm.

Service Style:  Pizza and anything else is ordered at the main counter and paid for up front; pizza is brought out to your table when ready.  This seems to be a common model for pizza restaurants around Nola.  Delivery is available in the Mid-City area.

Available Vegan Options:  Vegan options include vegan cheese (Daiya) and a plethora of veggies for pizza.  Make sure to request vegan sauce - it is always on hand but not the default.  They will probably also make you a vegan calzone, though I haven't asked yet.  On Mondays you can get a vegan red beans and rice pizza which is interesting and fun; it only comes in a small size because otherwise it would collapse under its own weight.  Check the counter for Girls Gone Vegan goodies, which are usually available and are both vegan and gluten-free.

Alcohol or Espresso:  No espresso here, but there's beer on tap and by the bottle including Abita.  There is also wine and cocktails.

Price Range:  Pizza starts at $7.99 for a small plus $1 per topping, and $15 for a large plus $1.25 per topping.  Vegan cheese adds $3 for a small and $5 for a large.  Meaning that a large vegan cheese pizza is, yes, $20.  But a large is LARGE - like, there's no way you're finishing that thing if less than three very hungry people are involved.

My Experience:  Mid City Pizza always feels relaxed and easy, and this visit was no different.  After making friends with the vegan behind the counter (there seems to be always at least one vegan working there) we settled in to chat while our pizza was being made, which takes a little while.

The pizza came out steaming hot and delicious, and paired perfectly with my Abita Amber pint.  These folks understand Daiya, and add more of a sprinkling than a thick layer of the cheese.  We also had mushrooms, red onion, roasted red pepper, and (fresh!) pineapple.  Having ordered a Large, we could of course only finish half and had the rest to snack on over the weekend.

Final Thoughts:  Mid City Pizza offers the best thin crust game around.  They also go out of their way to make sure that vegans are well-accommodated, which makes them well worth a visit in my book.

9.05.2016

Eat the Guide: Lola's on Esplanade

Hello!  Welcome to the new NOiG series Eat the Guide!  Are y'all excited?  In this series, I will 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 each Monday morning, or both of course.  Enjoy!

On Saturday evening, my husband Jonathan and I kicked off the Eat the Guide project by dining at Lola's in the Esplanade Ridge neighborhood of Mid-City.  This adorable Spanish restaurant is known for its paella and its wall full of Simon paintings, and offers far more vegan options than one might suspect at first glance.

Lola's Facade
Appearance and Atmosphere:  Lola's is cozy without being cramped, and has a couple tables out front on Esplanade Avenue.  Even when full to capacity, the smallish space does not become overwhelmed by noise and is still enjoyable.  A favorite decorating detail beside the wall of Simon is the cast iron skillets hung above the open-air kitchen showing paella / fideua sizes, so that you know exactly what you're getting in to. 

Hours of Operation: Lola's is open for dinner only, from 5:30 to 9:30 Sunday to Thursday and from 5:30 to 10 on Friday and Saturday.

Service Style: Full table service.  No separate checks are offered, and parties larger than 8 cannot be accommodated.  Due to popularity, expect that you may have to wait for a table.

Garlic Brussels Sprouts
On-Menu Vegan Options: Options are astoundingly wide, and  include the vegetarian paella and fideua, the garlic mushroom appetizer, three soups (lentil, gazpacho, and ajoblanco), and the pisto and linguini entrees.  Salads can also easily be ordered without cheese.  Of note: the house pesto does not contain cheese and is vegan, as is the garlicky spread served with the bread that comes before your meal.

Alcohol or Espresso:  Lola's offers wine, beer, and house-made red and white sangria.  I was not able to investigate whether the wines on offer or those used to make the house sangria are vegan; curious parties should make good use of Barnivore upon consulting the wine list when visiting.  There are definitely vegan beers on hand including Abita.  Espresso is available as a classic meal finisher; cappuccino is also available but alas, no soy milk.  None of the restaurant's three desserts are vegan, but they are all gluten-free.

Price Range:  Starters run from $6 to $8 each; entrees start at $18 and are very generously portioned.  Two hungry adults could happily dine on two appetizers and one shared entree.

Pisto Plate
My Experience:  We had a lovely evening.  Our server was completely accommodating, indulging every one of my questions with a smile.  Despite the oncoming Saturday evening rush, service was prompt and our table so well attended that our water glasses were never more than half empty.

The food was divine and there was far too much of it: we ordered the garlic Brussels sprouts (the tapas of the day, totally vegan without modification, prepared as the on-menu garlic mushrooms are), the vegetarian fideua (like paella but made with angel hair pasta), and the pisto (two portobello mushroom caps stuffed with vegetables and served with black beans and rice on the side).  We went home with two full to-go boxes that made lovely lunches through the weekend.

Vegetable Fideua
Final Thoughts: Lola's is splendid, and is welcoming for vegans who want a nice night out.  Consider it for any date night or small special celebration such as a birthday with your closest friends.  And think bigger than paella: while it's the signature dish and is delicious, options for vegans go far beyond at this delightful restaurant.