New Orleans has a lot of great nicknames. The Big Easy. Crescent City. The Sliver by the River. My favorite, which I came across when looking these up: The City that Care Forgot. No matter what you call it, it doesn't have a reputation for being vegetarian-friendly. Almost all of the city's iconic dishes feature meat and/or seafood. Gumbo and jambalaya are made with sausage and shellfish. Muffulettas are piled high with deli meats. Po'boy sandwiches are stuffed with fried oysters or shrimp. Except when they're not. According to my friend Chris, who lives in New Orleans, almost every po'boy shop has a vegetarian option which is stuffed with french fries. As appealing as a french fry sandwich is, I was in search of something better. I found two vegetarian po'boys worth seeking out, and neither one has french fries on it.
When researching vegetarian po'boys one name popped up almost immediately: Killer Po'boys, which serves sandwiches out of the back of a bar called Erin Rose. And when I asked my friend Chris for a recommendation for vegetarian po'boys, he recommended Killer as well. We met up at Erin Rose, which is just off of Bourbon Street but feels a million miles away. After downing a few beers, we made our way to the back where Killer Po'boys has their kitchen. They were a little overwhelmed with orders, so it took about 15 minutes for our food to come out. The vegetarian sandwich features roasted sweet potatoes, topped with a black-eyed pea spread and sauteed greens. The filling was rich, well-seasoned and slightly spicy, but the bread was way too dry. I don't know if this is always the case, or it was because of the backup in the kitchen, but it detracted from my enjoyment of the sandwich. Still, the filling was good enough to make it seeking out if you're nearby.
Not so well known (outside of New Orleans, anyway) is Frenchmen Street. It's not the zoo of humanity's rejects that is Bourbon Street, and it's lined with bars featuring live music every night, many of them with no cover charge. During the day it's a quiet little street, and it would be easy to overlook 12 Bar & Restaurant. Step inside and you'll find a great bar with a huge beer list, plus a menu that appeals to omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans. I got the BBQ Tofu po'boy (which you can get with vegan mayo, though I did not). This was a truly great sandwich, and one I'd gladly eat again. Sometimes I don't like BBQ sauce because it's too sweet and can overwhelm everything else that it's served with. In this case, though, the mayo combined with the sauce tamed it, making for a perfect fit. Oh, there's seasoned tofu as well, and lettuce-tomato-pickles, and I'm getting hungry just thinking about it. My sister (who ordered the tofu banh mi, which was also great) described the BBQ sandwich as tasting like "summer." I can't think of a better way to put it.
Killer Po'Boys/Erin Rose Bar -- 811 Conti Street
13 Bar & Restaurant -- 517 Frenchmen Street