Where Y'Eat

New Orleans writer Ian McNulty hosts Where Y'Eat, a weekly exploration and celebration of food culture in the Crescent City and south Louisiana.

Ian gives listeners the low-down on the hottest new restaurants, old local favorites, and hidden hole-in-the-wall joints alike, and he profiles the new trends, the cherished traditions, and the people and personalities keeping America's most distinctive food scene cooking.

 

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Ian McNulty

The banh mi has come a long way in New Orleans from the days when we had to call them “Vietnamese po-boys.”  Always a traditional favorite in Vietnamese communities, for food lovers elsewhere these delicious, multi-textured sandwiches have grown from something exotic, to a comfort food craving, to the launch pad for new ideas. 

Traditional German food at the Deutsches Haus Oktoberfest in New Orleans.
Ian McNulty

There’s nothing strictly seasonal about weinerschnitzel or bratwurst. But dine around New Orleans during October and you might think we were witnessing just a brief window of availability to enjoy these traditional German dishes.

The reason isn’t the season, of course, but the theme, and that’s Oktoberfest, which is not any one event anymore but an entire month of eager encouragement to guzzle beer by the stein and tamp it all down under a mat of sauerkraut and sausage.

Boudin from the New Orleans butcher shop Bourree at Boucherie.
Ian McNulty

Travel around Cajun country and it seems that no town is too small to have its own a car wash, its own dance studio and its own butcher shop — one with tasso and andouille and a universe of smoked, trussed, seasoned, stuffed and double-stuffed meats, and hot links of boudin and paper sacks of cracklin’ to eat on the spot. 

Only recently have more of those Cajun meat markets been turning up in New Orleans, but now more New Orleans neighborhoods can claim their own.

Off bottom cultivation is bringing a different flavor to Gulf oysters.
Ian McNulty

If we're at the oyster bar, and we're in Louisiana, when we talk about trying something new, we're usually not talking about the oyster.

New might mean sampling a cocktail sauce with a little extra mojo in it, or maybe even field testing some new jokes the shucker picked up. But for the oyster itself, we know exactly what to expect.

Ian McNulty

All around New Orleans, the sounds of the season signal cooler weather ahead. Some of these speak directly to our appetites too.

If you heard a sharp snap one recent morning, it might've been the sound of New Orleanians collectively switching off their air-conditioners at the start of a dramatically cooler day.

Soft shell crab tacos at Sun Ray Grill, a neighborhood eatery in Gretna.
Ian McNulty

Jerk chicken from Coco Hut, a Caribbean restaurant in New Orleans with a bold way with spice.
Ian McNulty

Keeping some semblance of cool as our summer heat rages on can take some strategy. We park the car under oak limbs and walk on the shady side of the street. We keep ice water handy and, when it's time to eat, something cool and light sounds like just the thing.

But across the spectrum, there is another way, and it’s to embrace the heat, to own it. Revel in fiery foods and you may just beat the heat at its own game.

Food memories resonate from the post-Katrina experience in New Orleans. This offer of red beans and hospitality was displayed on a Mid-City home for months after the floods.
Ian McNulty

Sometimes a sound will bring it back, as random as loose siding beating against a wall, recalling a shredded city, or as overt as the diesel rumble of an army Humvee on city streets.

Even if you’re ready to close the door on Katrina and the levee failures, and plenty of us have, the persistence of sense memories may have other plans. It’s that vivid, involuntary recall of what we took in, and no matter where we managed to store it this stuff can come creeping back, even a decade later.

Ian McNulty

As the Hurricane Katrina anniversary draws closer, you’ll hear a lot about New Orleans restaurants and what their comeback did for the city’s recovery. You’ll hear some of this for me too. It’s an important story, and a powerful one.

But first, I need to acknowledge the role played by a different sort of establishment that came back fast on the heels of Katrina, a type that may not have necessarily served food but did provide social nourishment — served up by the glass, the cup, the bottle or whichever way they could manage it.

Ian McNulty

Of all the facets of local life that have been up for re-evaluation lately, the New Orleans neighborhood restaurant might seem an unlikely candidate for change.

You know the places I’m talking about. They’re long on tradition, beloved and generally successful, sharing a common approach that New Orleans knows by heart. Why would anyone mess with that?

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