To Eat Bacon, or Not To Eat Bacon?

A guide to vegetarian fare at Jazz Fest


Once, not so long ago, I turned up my nose at all things meat. I experimented with soy crumbles, “chick’n” and a variety of meat substitutes. I ate a lot of French fries as meals. Basically, I had no idea how to eat healthy as a vegetarian, but I stuck to it for years. Through doctor’s orders, I slowly reincorporated fish and then poultry into my diet and, after a few years of that, the carnivorous umami lure of bacon could be denied no longer. 

The memories are still fresh, though, of being the only vegetarian in a sea of uncivilized meat eaters. It can be especially hard to satiate yourself at festivals, and even more so at festivals where kombucha is not the beverage of choice for the masses. At the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, there are a multitude of options.

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The following is my guide for the strict vegetarians (y’all fish eaters are good to go) to find tasty food, with nary a French fry needed. I’ve left out desserts because you should probably just try them all, except for the ones that have bacon. Vegans…I’m sorry.


  • Food Area I (located between the Jazz & Heritage Stage and Economy Hall Tent):

Sides & Snacks

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Fried Green Tomatoes: Look for the “Alligator Pie” sign and you’ll be able to order a delicious southern tradition faster than Evelyn Couch can say, “Face it, girls. I’m older and I have more insurance.”

Spinach Artichoke Casserole; Sweet Potato Pone: There’s something satisfying about eating things that you know have at least two sticks of butter in them. Both of these veggie sides deliver.

Frijoles Negros: The black beans and rice from the Cuban stand are a solid nod to our tropical neighbor to the south. You could also get a double portion for a main dish.

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Stuffed Artichoke: They aren’t for everybody, but if you like them, the stuffed artichokes at Jazz Fest are a treat.



Vegetarian Muffuletta: The muffuletta is one of New Orleans’ signature sandwiches, and DiMartino’s is a respectable choice. For their veggie version, they leave off the typical Italian meats and give nice portions of Swiss cheese, Provolone and their olive salad between their sesame muffuletta bread.

Veggie Red Beans and Rice: Smoked paprika is a miracle worker when it comes to pretending there’s some sausage in something. I imagine that’s how they do it here, and I must say they create a close facsimile to the meaty version.

Veggie Ya Ka Mein: This is one of those foods where I still prefer the veggie version over the meat version. Ms. Linda is the best at what she does, and her ya ka mein is a salty, spicy jolt of family recipe love.


  • Food Area II (near the small pond and Cultural Exchange Pavilion):

Sides & Snacks

Broccoli & Cheese Pie: Handpies are especially great food to eat at a festival. You can easily manage to eat one while dancing, keeping your other hand free for that Rosemint Herbal Iced Tea.

Hummus or Tabouli with Pita; Greek Garden Salad: Mediterranean food has a strong presence in New Orleans, just take a ride along Magazine Street where it seems as if four new restaurants have opened in the last year, and Alon Shaya’s new joint is being closely watched for an opening date. These would serve as a light, tasty snack.

Seaweed & Cucumber Salad: This refreshing dish has been a lifesaver on many a hot day at the Fairgrounds. The portion is just the right size.

Tunisian Salad: I can’t vouch for this one personally, but I plan to try it this year. Minced apple, bell pepper, onion, cucumber, tomato and olives seem to make up the bulk of it. Just be sure that it doesn’t have tuna, as it usually does in the restaurant version.

Collard Greens; Crowder Peas & Okra; Fried Okra: Believe me when I say that The Praline Connection manages to make some spectacular vegetarian soul food.



Falafel Sandwich: Cosmopolitan comfort food.


  • Congo Square:

Sides & Snacks

Couscous with Yogurt Sauce: The yogurt sauce has a nice tang and gives some body to another light dish.

Jama-Jama; Fried Plantains: Sautéed spinach and sweet fried plantains are friends on this plate from Bennachin.



Spicy Grilled Tofu and Veggies with Peanut Sauce: Gambia’s influence can be felt throughout New Orleans’ foodways. I’m grateful to have a bit of it at Jazz Fest.


  • Kids Food (by the Kids Tent – look for the weary parents):


Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich; Grilled Cheese Sandwich; Baked Macaroni & Cheese: Don’t sleep on the Kids Tent! The food over there is a hidden gem for picky eaters and vegetarians alike.



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