Spent the week in New Orleans on business. Stayed right downtown, but I prefer to get off the beaten path to eat. 1) it’s quieter; 2) it’s generally less expensive than eating at the hotel. The only real work to be done was finding places that would offer some good food for a vegetarian. Here’s what I found and enjoyed while I was there:

Mona Lisa Restaurant, 1212 Royal St. Just far enough away from the crowds to give some serenity while enjoying a nice meal. The decor is, as you might imagine, all sorts of renditions of the painting of the Mona Lisa all over the walls. I had caprese as an appetizer, the mozzarella was fresh with equally fresh tomato and basil that looked like it had been pulled right from the garden. For an entrée, I had Pasta Alla Nonna. It’s a penne pasta with a wonderful tomato sauce (with chunks of tomato, just the way I like it), and the standard comes with Italian sausage, but they left that out for me. The pasta was cooked perfectly, the sauce absolutely great. The only downside in my mind (and I find this in many places), I was charged the same price as if the meat was included. I would love it if restauranteurs would think a little more about this and offer a discount for those of us who don’t eat meat. It wouldn’t keep me from going back, but it would sure be a great gesture.

SukhoThai. This was the best meal I had while in town. About a half hour walk from my hotel (which I don’t mind), at 1913 Royal St (this is not the location pictured on their website). Far off the beaten path, surrounded by typical French Quarter architecture, quiet, a great place to have a relaxing meal. They prepared vegetable rolls for me that were not fried, and served with a peanut sauce (got my peanut butter fix for the day in that sauce). Great starter. I was going to get garlic tofu for my main course, until I asked my waiter if I’d like that or one of the specials, stir fried tofu and veggies in a ginger sauce. He recommended the special. I’m glad he did. Veggies were “al dente”, tofu was cooked so it wasn’t falling apart, but also not quick fried. Had a great texture to it, looked like it had been marinated beforehand. What a great meal. I checked in there with 4square, and one of the tips listed was to try the coconut tea. Coconut tea? Never had it before (never heard of it). It was just what it said, coconut tea, I got a porcelain pot filled with water with a basket inside for the blend to steep. It was great! I would definitely recommend adding that to your meal. If you look to relax while eating by sipping on hot tea, that’s the way to go.

My last night there, I stayed in Metairie, about a 20 minute drive from downtown. Had some difficulty finding veg friendly places that looked appealing, so took a chance on my fallback position for food – an Italian restaurant (you can usually get a decent eggplant parmesan). Well, I lucked out, and went to Vincent’s, 4411 Chastant St, Metairie. What a great find this place is. Small, very friendly staff, and excellent food. I had a small house salad with a Bleu Cheese vinaigrette dressing. What great flavors to add to an otherwise plain salad starter. The eggplant parm was one of the best I’ve had. I had been in Vegas the week before for a trade show, and ate in 2 fairly high-end Italian restaurants with limited veggie choices. Had eggplant parm both places. This stood head and shoulders, far and above what I had in Vegas. What was disappointing in Vegas is that in one particular restaurant, I’m certain my hosts paid top dollar for anything eaten, including the eggplant. I suspect they don’t get much calling for it, as it was one thick slice of eggplant, and it looked as if it were an afterthought, something handed out in a school lunch room (keep that in mind if you eat at a restaurant in the Mirage). I really went into Vincent’s with low expectations, but walked away pleasantly surprised. Seeing what others were eating and hearing their reaction to it, my guess is that all their meals are prepared with equal attention. definitely put this place on your list.

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