Vegetarian Adventures in the USA...
Back in February, I took three weeks away from my desk and went travelling around the US with my husband. We started in the Deep South - we got crazy for Mardi Gras in New Orleans, enjoyed tons of amazing live music in Memphis, and in Nashville, we realised that we’re 100% closet country music fans. After two weeks in the South, we caught the train up to New York (my first visit to the Big Apple!), spending one short day in Chicago on the way. It was an amazing trip, and one we’ll remember forever.
Usually, when I go on holiday, I’m as excited about experiencing the local food as I am about anything else. But I’ll admit, I was a little nervous about my trip to the States. The Deep South has a lot of amazing, traditional food - gumbo, jambalaya, étouffée - but it’s not exactly known for being vegetarian-friendly. Would I find enough vegetarian options to keep me happy, or would I end up having to resort to a veggie burger with fries every single day?
VEGGIE TAKES ON CLASSIC DISHES...
Well, I won’t lie - I was right to be a little bit nervous about the vegetarian options in the Deep South. I definitely ate a lot of veggie burgers! Luckily, I love a good burger and, to be honest, I often choose one; even if there are other options on the menu. But, it is a shame that there were so many restaurants that didn’t have a single vegetarian dish on the menu - and a lot more that had just one veggie option.
Luckily, with a bit of searching, I did manage to find some restaurants with great veggie options. Some of them offered vegetarian versions of traditional American dishes - this was my favourite thing to find on a menu, as it meant I didn’t have to miss out on trying some of these classic dishes. Other times, the vegetarian options were less traditional, but delicious and exciting nonetheless.
Lingering in Lousiana, hunting for vegetarian food in the Deep South
The Veggie muffaletta, on the menu at Cafe Maspero in New Orleans, may look suspiciously like a veggie burger, it’s actually a tasty olive salad and Swiss cheese on a bun. Okay, so it is kind of like a burger - but it’s nice to find a vegetarian version of this classic New Orleanian sandwich either way.
A po’ boy is another sandwich that you must try in New Orleans. They’re usually filled with meat or seafood, but Johnny’s Po’ Boys offers an enormous variety of fillings, including several tasty vegetarian options - omelette, cheese, veggies… Absolutely delicious, and well worth waiting in the long queue for! There’s a reason this place is so popular!
While the Ruby Slipper Cafe doesn’t necessarily specialise in traditional dishes, they’re definitely a business that means a lot to the people of New Orleans. They were one of the first new businesses to open in the city after Hurricane Katrina, and there are now several branches across New Orleans. The extensive brunch menu has several veggie options - I tried the Costa Rican, served with crispy plantain chips and avocado. Just what we needed the morning after Mardi Gras!
Tackling Tennessee, the home of ribs in America. What are the vegetarian options like?
Charlie Vergos Rendezvous in Memphis is famed for its BBQ ribs, but they cater for vegetarians too. Their meatless red beans and rice is served with all the usual BBQ sides - homemade coleslaw, pickles, and even cheese and crackers! It’s great to be able to enjoy a classic dish without feeling like you’re missing out on anything.
The Sky Blue Cafe in Nashville is well worth a visit if you’re staying that end of town. I tried their amazing (and enormous!) breakfast burrito, which is topped with a tasty vegan chilli. There are lots of other vegetarian options too, as well as vegetarian sausages to swap into some of the meaty dishes.
Keep an eye out for part 2 where Amuse Your Bouche is on the hunt for the best vegetarian pizzas in Chicago and New York...