New Orleans can get a bad rap sometimes, which frustrates me because it is such an amazing travel destination. Just recently, I was talking with my hair stylist who took his wife for the first time and she did not like it. I asked him what they did, and he said, “Oh, you know, Bourbon Street and the French Quarter.” And I understood.
Some of the best parts of New Orleans are often overlooked because everyone heads to the notorious debauchery of Bourbon Street. Don’t get me wrong, we take a stroll down the same road when we visit but we do not center our trip around that area. Or at least I have not made that the central focus since college…
To me, the best parts of the city are further off that well-trodden path. Amongst the shops on Magazine Street, the lovely homes of the Garden District, the bars near the universities and Freret, the live music of Frenchmen Street, and the emerging Bywater destination is where I find the New Orleans that I love.
My hairstylist is also a vegetarian and talked about how difficult it was for him to eat healthy there, and again I had to bite my tongue. Near Bourbon Street, there is definitely not an emphasis on THAT. The whole point is to be bad. And I love it — for a short visit. But the truth is that New Orleans has a vibrant food scene that not only includes delicious, though heavy, Creole, Comfort and Cajun cuisine- but also has healthy options for the conscious eater as well.
This May, my husband and I had a weekend trip to New Orleans and I decided that I really wanted to strive for balance in our diet. Oh, I wanted to stroll Bourbon and partake in the divine cocktail concoctions, but I also wanted to try to stick to my diet and our workout regime. And, yes, this did require a little bit more effort to not only find information on these places but to get to them too. These establishments are likely more of a locals destination than a tourist one, but I believe that the visitors to the city that leave the city refreshed and invigorated may have included some of these stops (or similar ones) into their visits. A little yoga and a good meal just makes you feel good, and can help heal the sins from the night before too.
REYN YOGA STUDIO
So this got rave reviews on Yelp and it happened to be walking distance from our hotel. Win-win! I have to tell you that I have never seen such a pretty yoga space. It is on the second floor of a warehouse-style building with huge glass windows, exposed brick walls, wood floors and ceilings. On top of that, a lot of care was placed in the aesthetics with details such as yoga mat lockers for regulars, pegs for purses to hang, drying racks for rentable yoga mats (important for out-of-towners) and an adorable wood bench with a “Namaste Ya’ll” pillow. And the classes were great too! They were Power Yoga, which showed in the movements as they were definitely challenging. New Orleans is not the only one that gets a bad rap, yoga can be considered a “girly” easy workout by the uninformed. I would love to invite those people to this class! We did Power Yoga for Beginners and the next day did Yogalates, a combination of Yoga and Pilates. If we lived in New Orleans, I would hit this place several times a week and be one fit lady. Church bells chime in the distance during class. Rain hit the tin roof as we lay in shivasana. But the best surprise was the placement of a chilled, eucalyptus infused towel on your forehead at the end of class. The room is warm for optimal stretching so this cool surprise feels amazing. No wonder no one leaves class early! Cannot recommend it enough and on my next visit, you might catch Dave and I there every day of our trip.
Again, this restaurant is well-received on review sites, which I think that I first saw it on Tripadvisor. It has healthy eating options for vegans and vegetarians, as well as just healthy fresh options for the average eater. Dave and I split a tuna sandwich and some fresh juice. It was delicious. The little surprise was the homemade hot sauce which I might have been able to drink, it was just that good. It is also right around the corner from Reyn Yoga Studio so it is a perfect combination. Everything that others were being served looked fresh and light. I look forward to visiting again to try more!
MEALS FROM THE HEART
What stood out to me in my research is that this little joint, a counter in the French Market, got the best reviews despite being a small counter service spot in an open air market. People raved about the food here. I love places like this where the food is the focus and not the tablecloths or the pomp. And when you go there, you also realize that part of the charm is the customer service. They are just so very nice! When we went the counter was packed and we could not get a seat at the bar, but there are tables available throughout the farmers market, which is a different environment but adds a certain charm. Dave and I decided to split the Crab Cake Passion which is what they are famous for- and they were very good. But there was a couple who had chosen the black bean burger and it looked so tempting that I can not wait to go back and try it too. You can tell that they make an effort to be aware in the crafting of their menu and it comes through with love into the food.
SURREY’S CAFE AND JUICE BAR
This ended up being a little hike for us, but partly because we got off a little early on the Saint Charles Street Car. Even so, it was totally and completely worth it. It was a top meal from the trip, for sure. I don’t know if it was all the bad liquids I put in my body the night before, but their carrot juice was heavenly and invigorating. I got a veggie omelette and my husband got the corn beef hash. I have never tasted corn beef like that before- it makes my mouth water even now when I think about it. For vegans and vegetarians, there were many other options as well. I overheard the waitress saying that their shrimp and grits was the must-have menu item, but that was not on our light meal plan. Next time… It is cash only but they have an ATM on site. Afterwards, it is a lovely stroll to Magazine Street as well.
CRESCENT CITY FARMERS MARKET
After living in California for years, it is always tough for places to compare to the farmers markets that I have been to, but I love to visit local markets to see the produce and plants. I always hope that food vendors might be selling fresh, delicious prepared food too. We went to the Saturday market and I understand that the Wednesday ones might be a little bigger. I was glad that we stopped by, but this would have been more appropriate if we had a kitchen and planned to do some cooking for ourselves. There was a fresh fruit popsicle vendor that looked like his pops were yummy but we already had eaten and were not hungry. I think I will try to hit the Wednesday version in the future.
Other finds for the future: