Nestled along the Gulf Coast, Louisiana is perfectly positioned as a destination for deliciously sustainable dining. It’s one of the best states in the U.S. to find fresh seafood so it’s never hard getting your hands on Gulf oysters, Louisiana crawfish, catfish, shrimp, or a local catch of the day. Not to mention the state’s also known for its seasonal produce like okra, strawberries, satsumas, and the ever-popular Creole Tomato.
With so many natural resources to offer, anyone can become a sustainable traveler in New Orleans. Produced locally, purchased intentionally, and made deliciously - it doesn’t get much better than that. Here are the best restaurants for sustainable dining in New Orleans.
Authentic Colombian cuisine made with fresh ingredients from the Crescent City - that’s the Mais Arepas way. If you follow the Central City-based eatery on Instagram, you’re likely to catch glimpses of their “huerta” (produce farm) dubbed the #MaisGarden. Everything from fresh cilantro for their housemade chimichurri sauce, homegrown beets used for specialty cocktails and appetizers, and corn for their signature Maíz de la Rueda, are planted and maintained by Chef David Mantilla and his team. Monitor their social feed to see what seasonal specials are available throughout the week.
Salad, but make it sustainable. This locally-based health food chain has four locations throughout the greater New Orleans area, including the Central Business District, Freret Street, and the Louis Armstrong International Airport. Its light and refreshing menu options include specialty salads, wraps, soups, and fresh-pressed juices with ingredients grown on their Florida-based farm. In addition to harvesting their own crops, City Greens works closely with a selection of regional, family-owned farms such as Two Brooks Rice Farm in Sumner, MS. Their menu changes seasonally based on crops so keep up with the changes @EatCityGreens on IG.
After opening in March of 2019, Barracuda quickly gained the adoration of taco fanatics throughout New Orleans with their house-made tortillas, rotating selection of tacos, agua frescas, and margaritas, and their group- and family-friendly atmosphere. Something also worth their well-deserved fandom is Barracuda’s commitment to responsibly- sourced and naturally raised ingredients. Poche Family Farm, Covey Rise Farm, and Mojo Coffee Roasters are just a few of their Louisiana-based partners that provide some of the freshest ingredients for the Barracuda menu. If you’re a returning guest and notice something you loved last time is no longer on the menu, fear not, it’ll be back in season some other time!
With high praises from the James Beard Foundation, Conde Nast Traveler, and the Huffington Post, everyone agrees GW Fins is the place for fresh and innovative seafood-based dishes. Over the years since their 2001 opening, owners Gary Wollerman and Chef Tenney Flynn have built up a reputation for their impeccable attention to detail and quality. Chef Tenney has become known as one of the country’s foremost seafood authorities. Tenney works closely with a select handful of trusted purveyors throughout the Gulf Coast and across the globe to ensure that any variety of seafood offered at Fins is served at its peak. Their catch of the day isn’t received until 4 p.m., so the menu changes daily. Give them a call to see what’s new that night.
Good Bird is more than just a name, it’s a business model at this Freret Street favorite. The rotisserie chicken joint serves salads, sandwiches, wraps, and bowls made with fresh and local ingredients. Good Bird’s chicken supplier, Springer Mountain Farms in Georgia, was specially selected by Chef Leo Sloan because of their free-range birds raised free of hormones and antibiotics, and their good bread comes from local bakeries like Breads on Oak.
From its food to its forks, this Arts District-based eatery sets the standard for sustainability in the Crescent City. All of Carmo’s seafood dishes, such as their house ceviche or yellowfin tuna salad, adhere to the strict standards of Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program. They’ve even gone above and beyond to ensure that all carry-out containers, bags, flatware, and cups are biodegradable or compostable. In addition to their commitment to sustainable dining, Carmo is also known for having a variety of vegetarian and vegan options on its menu.
This Irish Channel brunch hotspot is known for embracing New Orleans’ culinary traditions while pushing boundaries to create innovative menu items. Of course, locally sourced ingredients are at the forefront of all their creations. From their steak & eggs using Raines Farm Sirloin to their seasonal Salad Lyonnaise made with Covey Rise Farm’s Frisée and French breakfast radish and topped with Bellegarde Bakery’s French Bread croutons, Louisiana is in their cooking through and through. In the past, Atchafalaya has even teamed up with the local Grow Dat Youth Farm for specialty culinary events.
The Daily Beet is a refreshing restaurant that serves salads, juices, smoothies, and warm bowls at two New Orleans locations. They source their ingredients from local farms like SUA Farms, Cajun Growers, Inglewood Farms, Major Acre Farms, and Paradigm Gardens. Committed to providing sustainable nutrition to cultivate a vibrant community, The Daily Beet is a great option for not just healthy food but sustainable dining.
Originally developed to meet the needs of Esplanade Studios’ clients, Lamara Coffee & Kitchen is now a hidden gem to locals. Featuring a West Coast-inspired menu made up of healthy vegetarian small plates, the café is entirely plant-based and focused on sustainability. If you order a to-go drink, for example, there is an additional charge for not supplying your own cup. Reducing their carbon footprint by eliminating plastic is a step in the right direction.
This vibrant and eclectic restaurant is known for their late-night hours and delicious seasonal cuisine. But did you know they work with over a dozen local farmers from the South? You can expect the freshest cuisine made with ingredients from Covey Rise Farms, Cajun Growers Inc., Pistol P’s Shrimp, and others. Whether you go for menu items like curry crab beignets or chicken fried Texas quail, you’ll taste the difference and be back time and time again.
Basin is more than just your average seafood joint. They pride themselves on serving light, modernized versions of traditional Louisiana dishes. Ask about their homemade desserts and daily whole grilled fish specials.
Lagniappe - a little something extra
Because nothing done in New Orleans fits the norms, we have plenty of other fun and inviting ways to experience sustainable dining outside of a traditional restaurant setting.
Not only does this locally based urban garden provide fresh produce for some of the city’s best eateries, but it also hosts a number of intimate and unforgettable culinary events. The Paradigm Concert Series and plant sales are beloved by locals. They both feature participating restaurants from across the city serving responsibly sourced specialties.
This epic organization is combating food insecurity in New Orleans through communal gardening and education on food justice, sustainability, inclusion and multiculturalism, and more. Grow Dat invites the public to participate through a host of farm dinners partnered with local restaurants, workshops and training, and farm tours of the Grow Dat eco campus. In a single year, they grow 35,000 pounds of food, 10,500 pounds of which is donated to Shared Harvest partners.
Agriculture and sustainable dining are such integral parts of the Louisiana culture and economy that the Children’s Museum has an exhibit dedicated to it. Your little ones can take an immersive journey through the state’s agriculture and food system. Beginning with fields and coastal waters, passing through the international port, and stopping in markets, cafes, and restaurants, the journey finally ends at the family table.
Feed your soul at Café Reconcile, a paid workforce training program in the hospitality industry that prepares young adults aged 16-24 years old with the skills and support services any professional needs to be successful. Café Reconcile goes beyond the traditional definition of sustainability; instead, it invests back into the community by providing young people with an opportunity to succeed. Support the work of Café Reconcile by stopping in for lunch Tuesday-Friday.
See here for more information on New Orleans’ sustainability practices.