My first visit to New Orleans was in 2009. I’d chosen to spend my first college spring break volunteering with St. Jude Community Center and other students help with the post-Hurricane Katrina rebuild. Despite the devastating collapse of infrastructure, the deeply uplifting spirit of the people is what I remembered most. From the soulful & celebratory horns of a funeral processing walking by to the cabbages & potatoes being tossed off bright green floats decorated for the Irish-Italian Parade, NOLA residents showed me what optimism and gratitude really looked like. It instantly became my favorite city in the world.
There weren’t very many road games that I planned to tag along on this basketball season, but as soon as I saw that Knicks vs Pelicans on Ross’s schedule, I knew I needed to book a flight! Not only was the appeal of re-visiting my favorite city sky high, but also this trip would also provide the perfect opportunity to finally meet his Baton Rouge family for the first time!
I scheduled my flight to arrive in NOLA early in the afternoon and had a few hours to explore before the team arrived. And as is typical in my travels, I quickly dropped my bag off and set out to find some great food. I’d done some research before-hand and came up with a long list of vegan friendly eats in NOLA. I could only make it to so many during my 48 hr trip, but visiting Midnight Noodle was a must. This pop up at the Catahoula Boutique Hotel featured a small, plant based, asian street food style menu. I was totally surprised that the kitchen was run completely solo by a young, BLACK, chef named Melvin Stovall. Judging from the website, looks like this pop up may have ended in 2018 so I consider myself so fortunate to have been able to make this apart of my NOLA foodie experience.
The rest of the day was spent wandering the famous Bourbon Street and linking up with some other ladies for a drink at Red Fish Grill. I didn’t have any of the food there, but the bbq oysters were apparently a hit and come highly recommended! By the time the team arrived at the hotel around midnight, I was spent and ready for some heavy sleep, but of course Ross had other plans. Somehow ALWAYS full of energy, he convinced my to get up and take a midnight stroll along the quiet NOLA streets for our first of many visits to Cafe Du Monde…because no trip to New Orleans is complete without getting your face, hands, and clothes covered in powdered sugar. If you trust me, order the hot chocolate and a single order of beignets. (And if you don’t trust your partner to split the 3rd beignet evenly, get two orders.)
Despite having a late night fueled by sugar, I managed to wake up early to get in a workout in the hotel gym. The temptation to sleep in is always present, but sticking to a workout schedule really helps me stay in sync with my healthy body while traveling. In addition to working out, I’ll also have a ton of water and find a green juice or herbal tea before starting the day’s foodie adventure.
Since we were planning to visit Ross’s family in Baton Rouge later that day, we rented an awesome Mustang which also meant we could venture out of the French Quarter for some good NOLA eats. He is not a big fan of sports cars while Mustangs are my favorite car so I happily volunteered to do the driving. We drove about 15 minutes outside of the French Quarter to a restaurant called Bearcat Cafe that I read amazing reviews about. The biggest appeal to this restaurant: half of the menu is “Good Cat” and offers healthy, vegan friendly breakfast faves, while the other half is “Bad Cat” and has all the cajun flavors one seeks in New Orleans. Not only is the menu and food simply incredible, but the vibe is amazing! We highly recommend this place.