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Where Y’Eat: Why Meatless Meals Are Everywhere Now, Even in New Orleans

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Ian McNulty
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Buffalo tofu wraps at Bar Brine in New Orleans.

One night at the new downtown New Orleans restaurant Le Chat Noir, we had a dinner that included both steak and lobster. But the first dish I was talking about when the meal was done was a plate of seemingly humble turnips. They were transformed with a tasty bath of miso with spicy, fermented flavors to swirl around the tangled turnip greens, like noodles.

Later, one of the first really hot days of the season sent me in search of a light lunch at Carmo, the tropical restaurant in the Warehouse District. I love the way they do ceviche at Carmo, and this time I tried something different, a vegan ceviche with grains and avocado and sweet potato in an electrifying marinade that brought fireworks to the palate and kept the meal light on the belly.

These are just two examples of what is growing increasingly common around New Orleans On more menus now, vegetables and meatless dishes are taking the spotlight.

While the city has more purely vegan restaurants than ever, a parallel trend is playing out at restaurants serving a broad array of food.

Long gone are the days when asking for a meatless meal in New Orleans would yield a hastily prepared pasta primavera or a list of seafood dishes (yes, this really did happen).

Whether people choose meatless dishes as a dietary lifestyle or just a change of pace, whether for reasons of their own health, animal welfare or the environmental impact of our food decisions, the result is a great deal more variety on local menus, and chefs bringing fresh new flavors to bear.

One of the leading examples is the lunch spot Sneaky Pickle and its dinnertime sibling Bar Brine, both under the same roof in the Bywater. A menu with a righteous burger and seafood that comes with the story of the specific fishermen who caught it also runs long on vegan dishes —Buffalo tofu, smoked tempeh Reubens, mac and (cashew) cheese.

These days, simply ordering the most interesting dishes on some menus can bring you a completely meatless meal, yes, even in New Orleans.

Ian covers food culture and dining in New Orleans through his weekly commentary series Where Y’Eat.