New Orleans Part 2: A Pescatarian Culinary Journey with Some Dancing

See below for Part 2 of my pescatarian journey in New Orleans!  More restaurants, cafes, and bars in this strange and beautiful city!

Cake Café: Vegetarian-Friendly Versions of NOLA Classics

Neighborhood: Bywater

Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★★★

Pescatarian Options Rating: ★★★★★

Affordability: ★★★★

Ambience: ★★★★

Service: ★★★★

 Food Quality: ★★★1/2

Overall Rating: ★★★1/2

Cake Cafe is cozy restaurant tucked away in the Marigny neighborhood.  They are definitely a vegetarian-friendly brunch spot and bakery.  It’s a casual, order at the counter type of restaurant.  The individual who we ordered through was friendly and knowledgeable about the food.  But one of the other individuals seemed to have been a bit snappy since they forgot to bring out one of the dishes we ordered at first.  Everyone else who worked there was friendly. 

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Cupcakes

We started our brunch off with a refreshing iced coffee, which was the perfect antidote to our late night of dancing.  While we were waiting for the brunch to come out, we ordered a vanilla and chocolate cupcake to snack on since Cake Cafe is known for their luscious baked goods.  The cupcakes tasted fresh and homemade.  They weren’t overly sugary or sweet, which made them more palatable.  For our brunch entrées we ordered the Shrimp and Grits (when in NOLA) and the Mushroom Gravy and Biscuits.  The shrimp and grits were decent but they could have been more flavorful.  The shrimp was sautéed over a bed of grits with tomato and onion.  It also came with a large, homemade biscuit the size of your head to soak up the grits. 

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Shrimp and Grits

I preferred the Mushroom Gravy and Biscuits – basically vegetarian biscuits and gravy.  It was the epitome of cozy, heavy comfort food.  The biscuits were fluffy and absorbed the mushroom gravy really nicely.  There were plenty of fresh mushrooms in the gravy adding a great texture to the softness of it.  The gravy was pretty thick and creamy so if you don’t want something heavy, I would go with something else, but if you’re okay with the thickness, then revel in it.  They serve brunch till 3pm, which was very much appreciated since we came in at the end.  Cake Cafe is a cozy eatery that I would definitely check out again in NOLA. 

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Mushroom Gravy and Biscuits

The Country Club:  Where you can find the 7 Deadly Sins 

Neighborhood: Bywater

Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★1/2

Pescatarian Options Rating: ★★★1/2

Affordability: ★★★

Ambience: ★★★★

Service: ★★★★

 Food Quality: ★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★

Rosé in a can, a pool party, Rihanna blaring off the speakers, and Curry Crab Bisque – where can you find all of these things in NOLA?  Well, at the Country Club of course. Yeah, I feel weird going to a place called The Country Club, but it’s not what you think it is.  The Country Club is an amusement park for adults.  Get some drinks at the bar, bring them into the pool, do some swimming to pop and R&B hits that were popular five years ago and when you’re tired, hop on over to the indoor part of Country Club and eat a delicious dinner. 

Located in the Bywater neighborhood, Country Club looks like an old Southern home from the outside, but step inside and you will see how eclectic this space is.  The restaurant is inside and feels like a quite contrast from the loud debauchery of the pool and cabana area. As you continue throughout the building, you see the larger bar area, walk outside and this is where the magical pool area can be found.  For only $15, you have access to the entire the pool area, which includes the lounge chairs, but towels are $1 to rent (bring some from your hotel or airbnb because who wants to pay for towels).  There is also a hot tub if you need some peace and quiet.  If you want to rinse off the chlorine, there is an outdoor, gender segregated shower area so you can change fast into your dinner attire.  After a hedonistic day of swimming and drinking rosé out of a can, we decided that we needed to indulge ourselves even more by eating at the Country Club Restaurant. 

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A glass of Cabernet

I worked up quite the appetite after swimming and drinking for a few hours.  I started my meal with a nice glass of Cabernet to accompany an extremely flavorful meal.  Country Club has quite a few vegetarian and pescatarian-friendly small plates, but they do have a lot of meat entrées.  It is also a bit pricier of a restaurant, so if you’re on a budget, I’d stick to two small plates and stuff yourself somewhere else.

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Mac n Cheese

We started off with the Mac n Cheese and the Sweet Corn and Blue Crab Bisque.  New Orleans has the best Mac n Cheese!  I was not disappointed with this bowl of truffle oil soaked cheesy noodle ooziness.  In addition to having the typical ingredients of a Mac n Cheese, they had Mascarpone and Gruyere.  I haven’t really seen Mascarpone in a Mac n cheese before and it made it super creamy.  There were bread crumbs sprinkled on top adding a crunchiness and the truffle melted in my mouth. 

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Sweet Corn and Blue Crab Bisque

But the star of the night was the Sweet Corn and Blue Crab Bisque.  It was delicate, balanced, and extremely flavorful.  It had a delicate curry flavor, which paired really well with the sweet corn.  The blue crab was subtle and not fishy at all. The saffron crema wasn’t overpowering and added to the smoothness of the bisque.  I loved how this bisque had the appropriate amount of creaminess and spiciness making it an extremely complex-tasting dish.  There was some olive oil drizzled on top and I was in heaven with every bite.  It was a symphony of flavors. 

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Oysters with Breadcrumbs

When in NOLA, you have to order oysters, so we ordered the Roasted Oysters without the bacon bread crumbs.  The oysters were good, but they had a dominant fishy flavor.  I did like the capers but they weren’t the best oysters I had in NOLA and compared to the perfection of the bisque, it was a bit disappointing. 

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Crabmeat Beignet

To add more decadence to the meal, we got the Crab Meat Beignet – basically a savory fried dough stuffed with crabmeat and mascarpone on top of a saffron aioli.  The Beignet was another highlight of the meal – every bite was mouthwatering and who doesn’t love a saffron aioli?!  There weren’t too many entrees we could order, but concluded our meal with the Saffron Mussels.  These had so much potential between the fact that it was a mussel dish with saffron and white wine, but it was not very flavorful or tasty.  The flavors did not come through at all. It was kind of a boring dish compared to the excellence of the Beignet and the Bisque. 

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Saffron Mussels

Regardless of the few disappointments, I cannot wait to come here again to swim in the pool, drink rosé out of a can and eat a curried crab bisque again while listening to Rihanna.  Life just can’t get any better than this (minus the flooded toilet area). 

Horns: Vegetarian Friendly NOLA Classics in a Relaxed Space

Neighborhood: Marigny

Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★★★

Pescatarian Options Rating: ★★★★1/2

Affordability: ★★★★

Ambience: ★★★★

Service: ★★★★

 Food Quality: ★★★★1/2

Overall Rating: ★★★★1/2

Horns was recommended to me as being another safe restaurant for vegetarians and fortunately they have brunch till 3pm so it was perfect spot after yet another late night exploring NOLA nightlife.  It is a smaller restaurant, but they also have outdoor seating.  It has an eclectic and cozy decor.  Our server was very nice and not resentful that we were there closer to closing.  Their coffee tasted dark and complex and they had almond milk on the side!  They also serve it in these really cute pottery mugs, which are sold at a separate shop.  We started with the Bloody Mary and it had that satisfying spicy kick to it and was served with pickled green beans.  Many places in NOLA that had bloodies served them with pickled green beans.  I really enjoyed this unique spin on Bloodies. 

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Coffee
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Bloody Mary

I appreciated how vegetarian and pescatarian-friendly this restaurant was so you could try New Orleans classics without breaking your ethics.  I had the Jewish Coonass (weird name, right?), which came with potato latkes, over-easy eggs, sautéed spinach, and an extremely flavorful crawfish étouffée.  I thought the étouffée was incredibly balanced and delicious with the latke soaking up the flavors extremely well. 

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Jewish Coonass

The other brunch dish we had was two over-easy eggs served on a mushroom bread pudding with hash browns.  It was an incredibly unique concept that I’ve never had before.  The mushroom bread pudding was a savory delight and not super heavy like you might expect it to be.  The mushroom bread pudding soaked up the gorgeous egg yolk and the hash browns served as a lovely crispy texture. 

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Mushroom Bread Pudding

Brunch at Horns is incredibly affordable with entrées being between $10-15 with larger portions.  This was by far my favorite brunch experience and I will definitely come back here when I return to NOLA.  It has a relaxing, chill atmosphere with hearty, mouthwatering flavors. 

Compere Lapin: Elegant, Delectable Food in a Chic Warehouse Space

Neighborhood: Warehouse District

Vegetarian Options Rating: ★★1/2

Pescatarian Options Rating: ★★★1/2

Affordability: ★★★

Ambience: ★★★★★

Service: ★★★★★

 Food Quality: ★★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★★

Oh Compère Lapin, where do I even start, everything about this experience was extremely satiating ranging from the service to the ambience to the flavors.  While I am spoiled by Chicago’s vast assortment of culinary dreams, Compère Lapin is one of the best restaurants I have ever been to – it is definitely a treat yourself kind of place. 

Located in the Warehouse District, Compère Lapin feels modern, edgy, and sleek without the pretension.  It felt woodsy with cute mirrors adorning the interior.  It is pricier, but the flavors are worth the price.  Compère Lapin is a melting pot of Caribbean, French, and Italian flavors.  It is a small-plates concept so bringing a dining companion is quite helpful so you can try as much as possible!  Our server was incredibly accommodating and helpful to us as pescatarians unfamiliar with Caribbean cuisine.  They were also on top of the water refills. 

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Andromeda Cocktail

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Compère Lapin has an impressive selection of cocktails and wine at the bar.  While I do like to have wine with my meals, I couldn’t turn down the Andromeda cocktail.  The Andromeda cocktail was not only a gorgeous cocktail with a rabbit decorated on top of the egg white foam, it also was an incredibly refreshing and innovative drink with Pisco, Green Chili Vodka, Lime, Grapefruit, and my favorite part, egg white.  I love it when cocktails add savory elements like green chili into cocktails since many cocktail ingredients are traditionally sweet.  This cocktail was so amazing that I had two of them with my indulgently long meal. 

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Chive Bread with Sea Salt Butter

While Compère Lapin offers a decent amount of pescatarian selections, I would not call it vegetarian-friendly since most of their meals have meat or seafood/fish in them.  It was nice though to have a lot of options as pescatarians.  Being a fan of carbs, I was excited when they brought out a complementary chive bread that was simultaneously dense and flaky.  It originally came with a bacon butter but they were nice enough to just give us the sea salt butter, which was a perfect complement to the semi-sweet bread. 

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Conch Croquettes

We ordered mainly small plates, an entrée, and a dessert.  Our server was nice enough to not push too many plates on us, which was refreshing because I feel like when I go to small plates restaurants, the servers recommend way more food than what is really needed.  For our first plate, we ordered the Conch Croquettes.  What is conch?  It is a marine mollusk (part of the seafood family), which reminded me of crab.  The croquettes were fried and stuffed with flaky conch, which had a nice saltiness to it.  It came with a pickled, pineapple tartar sauce, which was a combination of sweet and savory.  I have never been a big pineapple fan, but it blended really well with the savory roe sprinkled on top of the aioli-esque sauce.  The sauce really brought out the conch flavor more. 

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Whipped Ricotta

Our next plate was a heavenly Whipped Ricotta, which came with toasted ciabatta, heirloom tomatoes, and basil.  The consistency and texture of the ricotta was so soft and spread perfectly on the Ciabatta.  The heirloom cherry tomatoes and basil really added to the complexity of this dish given how fresh they were.  And to top off an already fresh and flavorful dish, they drizzled some olive oil, which complemented the tomatoes seamlessly.  This was one of my favorite dishes of the night as it was incredibly delicious and comforting. 

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Raw Oysters

It was our last night in town so we needed to get some oysters before we left.  Their raw oysters were absolutely glorious.  They tasted extremely fresh, they weren’t fishy, and they came with a delightful mignonette and homemade hot sauce.  I’ve never drizzled hot sauce over my oysters before, but I loved how the hot sauce added a robust flavor to the delicate oysters.  The hot sauce was also presented in a super cute way since it was in the bottle on top of the oysters.  If you’ve never had oysters before, have them here because they were incredibly smooth and fresh. 

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Cold Smoked Tuna Tartare

Another highlight of the meal was the Cold Smoked Tuna Tartare.  What’s the big deal, tuna tartare is everywhere, right?  This tuna tartare had a gorgeous smoky flavor, which was really brought out by the crispy banana chips it was served with.  There was a generous amount of avocado and radish served on top of the delicious tartare.  The banana chips were crispy and added a balanced texture and flavor to the tartare. 

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Caribbean Seafood Pepper Pot

For our entrée, we got one of their “small plates”, but it was an entrée-sized portion.  Our server had recommended the Caribbean Seafood Pepper Pot.  It was unlike anything I have had before given the fusion of Caribbean and French flavors.  It came with freshwater drum (a fish found in both North and Central America), shrimp, leeks, and cilantro drizzled on top.  The broth was creamy and savory, it had the perfect consistency as it wasn’t overly thick and heavy.  It was light enough to not swallow up the fish and seafood, but it brought out the delicate flavors. The vegetables were perfectly sautéed and while I usually like dishes that have more spice, it was still incredibly satisfying.

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Banana Zeppole

By the end of our meal, we were both stuffed, but couldn’t turn down the the gorgeous beignet I saw other people ordering.  We ordered the Banana Zeppole – basically little fried donuts made out of banana, filled with Nutella and drizzled with candied hazelnuts with a rich caramel dipping sauce.  While Cafe du Monde is known for their beignet, go to Compère Lapin for an extremely glorious beignet.  The dough was crispy and it was incredibly satisfying with the delicious warm Nutella inside.  The candied walnuts also added a fun, crunchy texture to the crispy beignet with powdered sugar sprinkled on top.  The rum caramel dipping sauce gave the dish a nice kick while still allowing you to enjoy the integrity of the banana zeppole. 

If you are looking for a unique, upscale New Orleans restaurant experience, go to Compère Lapin, you will be incredibly satisfied in every way.  The flavors are remarkable with a unique fusion of Caribbean, French, and Italian cuisine.  I left this meal extremely happy and full, but not disgustingly full since we had a combination of small plates.

One Eyed Jacks: A Hideaway from The French Quarter Madness

Neighborhood: French Quarter

Affordability: ★★★★

Ambience: ★★★★★

Service: ★★★★★

 Beverage Quality: ★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★★

Located in the French Quarter, One Eyed Jacks is a reprieve from the tourist insanity of Bourbon Street.  It’s small, intimate, and gives off a super chic bordello vibe.  One Eyed Jacks serves as a performance venue and bar.  When we arrived, there was a small folk trio playing but if you weren’t into the music (which I’m not super into folk), there’s an elevated area with a booth where you can get some privacy and have the best view of the bar.  The interior of One Eyed Jacks is sultry and casual at the same time.  It has a dark red color with dim lighting, but the bartender was super casual and nice.  I really enjoyed the aesthetic of this bar and wanted to go into the mysterious room that was locked for the night. 

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They have decently priced drinks and a good selection of wine.  I was feeling wine that night so I had a refreshing Pinot Grigio.  For a place that has such a chic ambience, it was far from pretentious. While it’s in the middle of the French Quarter, it’s a nice break from the tourist hell. 

Bar Tonique: Last Stop

Neighborhood: French Quarter

Affordability: ★★★1/2

Ambience: ★★★★★

Service: ★★★★★

 Beverage Quality: ★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★1/2

Bar Tonique was recommended to me by numerous individuals so I had to try it!  It’s kind of on the fringes of the French Quarter right across from Louis Armstrong Park.  Bar Tonique is exactly what its name sounds like, cocktail chic with locals that you wouldn’t find roaming Bourbon Street.  If you like cocktails, Bar Tonique is an excellent place to get your cocktail cravings satiated as they have cocktails for any type of palate.  If you’re into strong cocktails, then get a Sazerac, if you’re into sweeter cocktails, then get a Mai Tai.  My palate is in between super strong and sweet but it was a Sunday night and they had a $5 Mai Tai deal that I couldn’t pass up.  I can’t remember the last time I had a Mai Tai but I had to try it here.  For $5, it wasn’t bad, it was a bit sugary so my teeth felt gross after, but I just had to try it.

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Facheux Cocktail

For my second cocktail, I decided to go with something slightly less sweet, so I had the Facheux, which had Tequila, Elderflower, Lemon, and Basil.  I loved the touch of refreshing basil and it was more complex but still a bit sweet for my tastes.  My friends who ordered the stronger cocktails were quite satisfied so I wished I ordered what they had. 

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Bar Tonique takes cocktails seriously and the bartender was very meticulous about his craft.  He was very friendly and was happy to provide suggestions.  The ambience is hip and casual with a bunch of cute nooks and crannies to hide in for a more private conversation.  If you’re hungry, New Orleans has their own version of Chicago’s Tamale Guy, The Empanada Guy, who actually has vegetarian options!  I was quite full from my dinner earlier in the night but I hope to try it next time I’m in NOLA.  If you’re looking for a break from the dive bars, check out Bar Tonique and get lost in their vast cocktail menu. 

Closing Thoughts:

So what can I say, New Orleans is a weird city.  I couldn’t live here, but I could live with the weather and all of its delectable food and cocktails.  I appreciated the more relaxed vibe and how walkable of a city it is.  It is easy to find what you’re looking for in NOLA, whether it’s a higher-end small plates restaurant or a binge when you’re hungover brunch spot.  There are so many bars to choose from and with a selection of bars open till 5am or even 24 hours!  If you’re looking for opulence or a chill night away from the tourists, you will be able to find your spot.  Gritty and decadent, New Orleans is a melting pot of diverse cultures, traditions, and flavors that will keep you coming for more.

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