New Orleans cuisine is beloved. Consistently named as a top food and wine destination on travel lists, iconic foods such as po-boys with fried shrimp, gumbo, muffulettas, and beignets are local classics that drive foodie tourism. But for a healthy eater, the heavy Southern style can be a challenge – and for a gluten-free diet, the flour-based roux, white breads and fried coatings in these classics pose a digestive dilemma. But with a little research and maybe a little wait staff chat, it is possible for all diets to not only be accommodated but for a sensitive belly to leave the city very satisfied and happy.
The most common reason for avoiding gluten is celiac disease. I do not have an official diagnosis but I do try to avoid gluten now. After a suggestion from a health professional, I began limiting my gluten, dairy and sugar intake. At first, it was a short-term decision to help with some health issues, but it shifted to a lifestyle change once I realized how much better that I felt. I not only lost weight, I could also breathe better (less inflammation), my digestion was much smoother, my migraines decreased, and I just felt better overall.
That said, I am not strict. For me, it is a choice and not a necessity. I have pizza sometimes, and in moderation a little cheat is all good. But sometimes my body punishes me with grouchy digestion post-bread temptation, so I choose my deviations carefully. So, I am definitely not perfect with my habits, and I am certainly not a nutrition or gluten-free expert. I do not think that this choice is for everyone — all I know is that it works for me.
So if you are gluten-free yourself, then I did some research on restaurants that are known for their gluten-free dining. A few of these I already covered in a previous article about being healthy in New Orleans (click to read it here), and for this trip I was able to add to the list of places with offerings.
Here are my top choices:
Carmo is a tropical café built upon the rich, multi-cultural culinary influences found throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America, Gulf South, and beyond. West Africa meets Europe meets Latin America meets Southeast Asia in dishes that feature top-quality, local ingredients, as well as exotic products from around the globe. Juice of cacau (the chocolate plant), red palm oil, dried pounded manioc root, specialty peppers and unique meats and cheeses are just a few items which help define this comfortably traditional-yet-innovative cuisine.
Surrey’s Juice Bar and Cafe
Nestled in the Lower Garden District on historic Magazine Street, Surrey’s Juice Bar and Café offers some of New Orleans’ freshest and finest breakfast and lunch. This small neighborhood café serves up fresh-squeezed, organic juices, Central American inspired dishes such as Huevos Rancheros and Migas, and with traditional breakfast fare. The café offers local seafood fresh from Lafitte, Louisiana, fresh boudin, sausage and chorizo from Creole Country Sausage and locally grown organic produce.
Serving Contemporary Creole Cuisine, each bite will capture your palette with the chef’s heavenly creations from the heart of the kitchen. On our second floor, just outside the doors, you’ll discover some of the most coveted dining tables in New Orleans. The distinctive black cast-iron rails on our second-floor balcony overlooking Jackson Square, at the corner of Chartres and Saint Ann, is one of the most photographed balconies in the city highlighting our gorgeous French Quarter architecture.
Meals from the Heart
If you’re shopping, sightseeing or just passing through the French Quarter and want to refuel with a healthy nosh, Meals From The Heart is your Café. Located at the Historic French Market, Meals From The Heart Café offers full flavored cuisine. Serving organic and freshly-prepared foods, their meals are made daily using less sodium, no trans fats, low sugars, low to no cholesterol and no pork or pork by-products to provide a healthier take-out food option for all consumers including those who suffer from heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity and celiac.
El Gato Negro
El Gato Negro specializes in truly authentic Mexican cuisine , fresh hand-squeezed margaritas, and excellent service. Our menu is inspired by old family recipes, and just like at home, all dishes are made to order with only the finest and freshest ingredients. Our vast tequila collection is nonpareil and boasts some of Mexico’s finest, rarest, and most premium selections.
These are my suggestions based on the restaurants that I have been able to make it to, but there are many other options in town as well. To help other gluten-free seekers, I have created a Pinterest map board HERE. Images are also below.
Of course, you can always go with raw oysters or jambalaya in most places as well. Blackened fish dishes are traditionally gluten-free too, but I always think it is good to ask because sauces can be roux-based. Either way, don’t be afraid that you will not have anything to eat when you visit. I promise that you will never have a hard time finding something delicious to eat, even with dietary restrictions. This is a welcoming and accommodating city for all bellies.