Ian McNulty

Producer

Ian covers food culture and dining in New Orleans through his weekly commentary series Where Y’Eat. 

Ian is also a staff writer for the daily newspaper the New Orleans Advocate, covering the culture, personality and trends behind the city’s famous dining scene.

He is the author of two books - “Louisiana Rambles: Exploring America’s Cajun and Creole Heartland,” a travel narrative about south Louisiana culture, and “A Season of Night: New Orleans Life After Katrina,” an account of the first months in the city after Hurricane Katrina.

He has been a contributor to WWNO since 2009.

Parleaux Beer Lab is a new addition to the New Orleans craft brewing scene.
Ian McNulty

You can call this one where’ya drink. And if you're a beer lover in New Orleans, these days the answer is a lot more likely to be this: local.

The names of Louisiana beers now line restaurant menus. Their tap handles sprout from the draft clusters at dives and fancy lounges alike. And these local beers flow from the breweries’ own tap rooms, where they’re available to sip on site, right there at the brewery.     

A sampling from Allie's Donuts, a renowned Rhode Island donut shop with a special connection for food writer Ian McNulty.
Ian McNulty

Father’s Day is this weekend, so of course, I have doughnuts on my mind, and not just any doughnuts. The doughnuts of my youth. The doughnuts with dad. 

Creole tomatoes arrive in New Orleans as symbol of the season, and a source of local pride.
Ian McNulty

This one is the tale of the man with the Creole tomato tattoo. It’s a story for the season and, really, a reason to take heart as another New Orleans summer descends.

The French 75 Bar recently brought new attention to the old line French Creole restaurant Arnaud's.
Ian McNulty

The pace of change for New Orleans restaurants feels rapid and constant. But we still look to one corner of the dining scene as a rock of stability. It's the old-line French Creole restaurant, steeped in history, bound by tradition and never changing. Right? 

Well, actually no. Change and even trends visit these restaurants too, though sometimes in ways that are subtle and gradual, but still fundamental. To see what I mean, let's go to the French Quarter.

Cheese oozes from a grilled sandwich at Melt, part of a cluster of new eateries to open near New Orleans' new hospital complexes.
Ian McNulty

If a restaurant can feel like it’s on the fringe and right in the thick of things at the same time, it's Fharmacy.

This is a bar and grill on Banks Street in Mid-City. It’s in a narrow shotgun house that looks like you could load the whole thing onto a flatbed and deliver it somewhere. It feels a bit like a clubhouse with a diner counter and it serves some international ideas for comfort food.

The name Creole tomato can turn heads in the market place this time of year.
Ian McNulty

When does summer start? Consult the calendar and you’ll see it’s still a month away. But in New Orleans the seasons aren’t necessarily tied to the conventions of solstice and equinox.

For me, the New Orleans summer always begins immediately after Jazz Fest, and it’s not the changing weather alone that marks the shift.

It’s the feeling that the long New Orleans train of one big celebration after the next has reached the station, and it’s time to hop off for a bit.

If you’re a vegetarian in New Orleans you’ve probably learned to ask questions before digging in and you know to never take the name of a dish at face value. 

This is a town, after all, where the key ingredient in traditional vegetable soup is beef. And it’s widely accepted here that when the cook tells you your beans were made with love, she means made with pork. 

Boiled seafood is a tradition in Louisiana with many of its own rituals.
Ian McNulty / WWNO

Making a good run at a crawfish boil is a two-fisted effort that might even require some juggling. There's the twisting, pinching and peeling, the sorting and rummaging for sides and the concurrent demands of beverage management. 

That also makes the crawfish boil one of the increasingly rare aspects of modern life that remains cell phone free.

Photo by Ian McNulty - The gumbo at Dunbar's Creole Cuisine is loaded with meat and seafood.
Ian McNulty

No two bowls of gumbo should be exactly the same. Heck, even when they’re served from the same pot the precise mixture of seafood and meat and seasoning may differ from bowl to bowl, based on the luck of the ladle.  This is certainly the case with Creole gumbo, a down-home style sometimes described as kitchen sink.

And yet, even for the endless gumbo variations out there, sometimes an overarching house style for a particular gumbo can speak to you in a voice you may recognize even years after your last taste. 

That’s just how food memories are wired, and that was my experience recently over a bowl of gumbo at Dunbar's Creole Cuisine. 

A fried shrimp po-boy from Avery's on Tulane.
Ian McNulty

We talk about it with our best friends and with perfect strangers. We rant about it online and we dream about it at night. It's a natural fixation when we’re hungry, yet we still talk about it when our mouths are full.

    It's the food of New Orleans, compelling, often uniting, frequently divisive and never boring, at least not if you’re doing it right. May it always be at the ends of our forks and on the tips of our tongues.

Pages