a work in progress,  [still]moving favorites

food allergies x new orleans

Usually, I can see the question coming. “Wait, you live in New Orleans and don’t eat gluten, dairy, or refined-sugar? How do you find anything to eat in this city?”

The answer, honestly, is pretty boring. But this is the topic of my post, and a question that comes up a lot, so I’m going to spice it up the best I can. (Y’all, was the pun in that last sentence the best-worst or WHAT? The icing on the cake. I can’t be stopped. The world of food puns is irresistible!)

First, locals don’t eat like tourists. At least not always. I don’t want to imagine how terribly I’d feel if I had a fried oyster Po-Boy for lunch every day or beignets and café au lait for breakfast. Even in the days when I could eat gluten, I enjoyed those dishes maybe once every six months. Honestly, it’s been years, though, so I have no idea. Either way, it’s not like those were commonly-served dishes in my house growing up, although we did eat most of our sandwiches on freshly baked French bread and it was amazing.

I also eat in a lot. I work very hard to eat organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised, line-caught ingredients. When I go out to eat, even though I’m adhering to my food restrictions, the quality of the food is rarely up to par with what I can purchase and prepare for myself. Usually, I cook my dinner in a bit of a rush after work, and it’s unimaginative but good enough. When I have a bit more time, I like to adapt old family recipes to fit my needs. I swear that my jambalaya and crawfish étoufée are just as good as they would be if I used traditional flour in my roux or butter to sauté the vegetables.

Still, I do eat out (probably more than I should), and while traditional New Orleans fare doesn’t typically align with my eating habits, the city does offer some wonderful options. My favorites are below:

[Fine dining: Saffron NOLA] This place features elevated and imaginative Indian cuisine. I’m not going to sit here and gush about the dishes because I simply don’t have the food blogger lingo down, but just trust me when I say that everyone should go. A major added bonus is that a lot of their menu happens to be gluten-free. They also take food allergies very seriously, and any member of the waitstaff is happy to spend time to go over the menu and make sure everything you order is safe. Top contenders: SHAYA, Meauxbar, and Herbsaint.

[Brunch: Bearcat Cafe] I believe that this is the only restaurant in New Orleans where I can eat pancakes. Yes, that’s a low bar, but that doesn’t make me any less grateful, especially since my pancakes are far from impressive. Another thing I love about this place is that I can go with people who don’t have food restrictions and I know they’re going to find something they enjoy, too. Top contenders: Satsuma, Josephine Estelle, and Seed.

[Fast casual: POKE Loa] I honestly think I could eat this every day. I’d be poor, but damn it’s good. Luckily, there are six locations now, and one of them is dangerously close to my home. When I do give in to my craving for a tuna poke bowl I try to eat it there rather than take it to go. That way the dish is served in a reusable glass bowl rather than in a bulky single-use plastic container. Top contenders: Raw Republic, The Company Burger, and Green Fork.

Fortunately, restauranteurs in the city are making moves to accommodate people with food allergies, use quality ingredients, and keep up with the times. The evolution is slow and sometimes painful, but at least it’s happening.* I know that there are people in smaller cities and towns with barely any options available, so I’m going to be thankful for what’s here!

*There are some places that I simply cannot go because they consistently serve dishes that they insist meet my dietary requirements, but I realize later did not. Whether this is because they don’t care or actually don’t understand I’m not sure, but it doesn’t work either way.