Gluten Free Eating in the Big Easy, New Orleans

When you think of New Orleans, Louisiana a few things come to mind – Mardi Gras, jazz music, the Saints, Katrina (unfortunately), and of course, the world-class cuisine.  From gumbo to jambalaya to crawfish and everything in between, the Big Easy truly is a mecca of the culinary arts.  I first visited New Orleans back in 2003, before I was gluten-free, and I remember the amazing food being one of the highlights of the trip.  It was so different than the food we eat in the Midwest.

Unfortunately, many of the popular foods in the city are not naturally gluten-free.  New Orleans is also not as far along on the g-free awareness trail as a city like Chicago.  With a little asking around and research online, I was able to find a number of highly-rated restaurants that did in fact have their own gluten-free menu.  I will go through some of the most memorable restaurants in the city with gluten-free menus.

Pizza

If you are sick of feeling bloated and unhealthy after consuming pizza, you NEED to try Naked Pizza, located on S Miro St. near Tulane.  They have amazing gluten-free crust topped with the right amount of toppings and cheese.  It is a very rare occurrence to actually feel healthier after eating a whole pizza, yet somehow that is exactly how I felt after eating one of their gluten-free pizzas.  The toppings are always so fresh, and their pizzas aren’t dripping in grease like other places.  I got a gf pizza with pineapple, spinach, and mozzarella cheese, and it was delicious.  After eating at Naked Pizza, the other pizzas I try just seem to leave me feeling unsatisfied and sluggish. (Update Jan 2013: We just got a Naked Pizza in Chicago last year and I am loving having one close by! Just thought I’d let you know!)

Seafood

Drago’s Seafood Restaurant, located in the Hilton Riverside on Poydras St., is another place that was highly recommended with their own gluten-free menu.  We had the charbroiled oysters for an appetizer, based on the recommendation of many reviewers, and they did not disappoint!  The oysters were the highlight of my meal, and I am regretting not ordering more.  I ordered the seared tuna with vegetables and baked potato for my main course, and it was just pretty good.  I honestly think the oysters ruined the rest of the food for me with how good they were.  Here is a link to Drago’s gluten-free menu.

For a quick lunch of some fried gluten-free seafood, Casamento’s on Magazine Street right by Lawrence Square is a nice little restaurant.  I ordered a large portion of the fried calimari, and thought it was extremely good.  It isn’t very often that you find fried food in restaurants that is GF, so this was a pleasant surprise.  I forgot to ask what ingredients they use so that their fried seafood doesn’t contain gluten.  They also have catfish, crab claws, oysters, and shrimp on their menu.  If you are craving a nice, quick, slightly unhealthy fried seafood meal, Casamento’s will definitely hit the spot.

Cajun/Creole

Perhaps my favorite restaurant on our recent trip to New Orleans was Muriel’s Jackson Square right in the French Quarter.  My girlfriend and I had a table out on the second floor balcony, overlooking the French Quarter, and it was truly magical.  The view was incredible;  perfect for picture-taking and people watching below.  We both split the spinach salad and wood grilled tournedos of beef with asparagus and yukon potatoes from their gluten-free menu, and everything was well-done and fantastic.  My girlfriend isn’t a big seafood fan, so we stayed away from the “fish of the day”.  If you are sick of the over-hyped, over-priced restaurants around the French Quarter, Muriel’s is a refreshing change of pace that actually lives up to, and exceeds, the expectations.

There were some other restaurants that either have gluten-free menus/are gluten-free friendly that we were not able to make it to.  We heard that The Wandering Buddha, Bistreaux, GW Fins, Bootleggers, Surrey’s La Playa Juiceteria, Rita’s Tequila House, and Felipe’s Taqueria were all good restaurants for people avoiding gluten.  I can’t wait to try some of them the next time I make my way down to Louisiana.

All in all, I was very satisfied with all the food we ate in New Orleans.  I just wish there were more restaurants around with GF menus.  However, even if a restaurant doesn’t have a gluten-free menu, as long as you talk to the chef beforehand, they will almost always be able to make something that you can eat.  New Orleans is such a historic and exciting city, I can’t wait to go back!

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