There is a certain kind of light that shines in New Orleans, a pomegranate hue of loveliness that emanates from her heart chakra, Anahata. It causes proponents of a conscious evolution to have hope, and inspires even in staunch atheists the subtle awe known to mystics. It causes the strangest seemingly unlikely things to happen regularly, so that the likely becomes unlikely. And so it is that culinary compassion is slowly catching in a Crescent City famous for its carnist cuisine.
O! Vegasm! is a vegan pop-up restaurant partnership between head chef John Morales and sous chef / manager O’Shea Cleveland. They began serving vegan Sunday brunch in an Uptown bar this April for a few months until it was no longer tenable. By then they had gained a passionate following who were tweeting and twitching with rumors that John was going to leave the city. Being New Orleans, however, it isn’t so easy to leave when you have something the city wants. In this case that something is vegan Sunday brunch.
O! Vegasm! was reborn yesterday inside of the St. Roch Tavern (1200 St. Roch Avenue near the Bywater). In this incarnation they are serving daily dinners Tuesday through Saturday as well as the indispensible vegan Sunday Brunch.
The New Orleans Vegan Examiner was on the scene to check out the goods. Sunday brunches regularly feature an a la carte menu along with specials, but for the grand opening they only had one delicious choice in two parts, savory and sweet.
The savory was a Vegan “Save-the-Crab” Cake Benedict (made by O’Shea, and recently featured at the Po Boy Fest!) with grilled marinated tofu, seasoned potato hash, and a fried green tomato on top of a rosemary biscuit with O! Vegasm! Hollandaise. It was served with cole slaw. The sweet was Gingerbread Pancakes topped with spiced apples and toasted pecans.
The food was amazing. The blending of spices and flavors in the Benedict was spot-on. The Gingerbread Pancakes were sweet and comforting, like a good pancake should be. Chef Morales is quite talented at creating deliciousness, showing that vegan food can be just as tasty as carnist fare and has added health benefits and karmic reward.
The atmosphere in St Roch Tavern is reminiscent of being in a pub, possibly because it is one. The main room is a long bar with stool seating and a few small tables lining the windows. Smoking is allowed, comingling with the aroma of booze to create an olfactory reminder that Louisiana needs to get with the times and ban smoking in public places (and perhaps the spilling of spirits). There is a doorless entrance to a dining room that is smoke-free, which is less visually interesting to sit in but perhaps has better air quality.
The gourmet quality of the food lends credibility to the $15 price of the meal, but it was served in disposable paper containers one would expect to get french fries in, along with plastic tableware. Hopefully this is due to the logistics of moving in to this new location rather than a long-term serving strategy. A switch to compostable plates and silverware would help if re-usable ones aren’t possible. In the mean time guests can bring their own silverware, and happily lick it clean before leaving.
The dinner menu will include such yumminess as BBQ Tamarind Sausage Paella and a Black Bean Burger with vegan bacon, macadamia nut cheese, fried onion rings, and avocado. Your mouth may just fool you into thinking you are in some idyllic vegan paradise rather than a pub near the Bywater. At any rate, O! Vegasm! is great re-addition to the vegan scene in New Orleans.
Sun 11am-3pm (for brunch)
Address: 1200 St. Roch Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana · 70117
St Roch Phone: (504) 945-0194