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.

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.

Red snapper sushi from the specials board at Shogun in Metairie gets a precise garnish.
Ian McNulty

What’s your go-to sushi bar in New Orleans? It might be that first place where you tried a California roll way back when, or it could be the spot that always has something different on the specials board to try. Maybe it’s the sushi bar that just happens to be closest to your house, or it’s one across town where you’ve built a rapport with a particular chef.                        

Whatever seals the deal for you, though, sushi lovers in New Orleans tend to be highly loyal to their favorite Japanese restaurant.

A flood line crosses a po-boy at a New Orleans sandwich shop in 2006.
Ian McNulty

When I first moved to New Orleans, back in 1999, I was amazed by how often people talked about restaurants that no longer existed. But I had it all wrong, of course. In New Orleans, just because a restaurant is no longer open for business does not necessarily mean it no longer exists.

Buffalo oysters are topped with blue cheese at Felix's in the French Quarter.
Ian McNulty

The longer this summer stretches on, the more I find I have oysters on my mind. Someday fall will arrive, peak oyster season will be close behind and this hot, rainy summer will be in the history books.

But I can't wait that long. This summer has been a rough one already, and I'm ready for a taste of one of the real blessings of living in Louisiana: the prodigious oyster harvest.

The NOPSI Hotel opened in downtown New Orleans in the long-dormant former home of New Orleans Public Service Inc.
Ian McNulty

All through the spring, as the renovations of the new NOPSI Hotel neared completion, I saw how New Orleans people were watching.

They stopped to cast long looks from across Baronne Street and, once the construction barricades were gone, they stepped right up, cupping hands to the glass to peer inside. They were getting a glimpse of what was to come, and also sizing up something historic but long hidden in the middle of downtown New Orleans.

More people are dining at the bar, even at high-end restaurants, and that's changing the bartender's job.
Ian McNulty

It sounds simple enough. “Let’s just eat at the bar.” But when someone walks into a restaurant and utters those words they have summed up a dining trend that is changing the way restaurants operate, influencing how they’re designed and transforming the role of the person on the other side of that bar, the restaurant bartender.

A shawarma wrap from the Uptown eatery Shawarma on the Go.
Ian McNulty

Let's say you’re from New Orleans but living somewhere else. You are presented with a po-boy. Naturally, you are skeptical. You know that a po-boy is not merely a sandwich. It's a taste of home, and that taste comes through in the particulars. 

The type of bread, the way it's dressed, the way the roast beef is cooked, the seafood is fried and the hot sausage is spiced. These are the things that add up to make regional specialties distinctive.

I recently learned how the same idea applies to shawarma, particularly the chicken shawarma wrap, that staple of Arabic restaurants around New Orleans and everywhere else for that matter.

Antoine's Restaurant in the French Quarter threw a party for its longest-serving waiter, marking his 50th anniversary.
Ian McNulty

We live in an era full of celebrity chefs that you probably have never heard of. Just think about that for second - people can be celebrities now and you’ve never even heard their names. 

The title is the usually bestowed because a TV producer somewhere said so, and thus is born the next celebrity chef. New Orleans has produced its share. It's nice to see local talent in the national spotlight, but there’s a different category of acclaim in the New Orleans dining world that runs a little deeper in our own particular culture, and it’s one filled by the career waiter. 

A variety of ceviche from the Pupusa Lady, a stand at the New Orleans food court Roux Carre.
Ian McNulty

If you look down at that go cup in your hand and you see lunch, that’s usually a sign of trouble ahead. But that’s not the case with a certain go cup that’s captured my attention lately, because instead of booze the heady concoction in this one brings seafood, citrus and the promise of an enlivening lunch on a hot summer day.

An assortment of boudin from Bourree at Bourcherie, a New Orleans butcher shop for the Cajun classic.
Ian McNulty

It’s summertime, which means it’s time for road trips and that means, of course, it’s time for boudin. It’s simple math, right? Well, if you’re in my head it is, and I think that makes sense to lots of other people in Louisiana. When we hit the road, a lot of the spots along the way turn out to be prime territory for these links of pork and rice sausage that seem so humble on the surface but inspire such desire.

Well, these days, if you’re in and around New Orleans in particular, good sources of this ultimate Louisiana road trip road food are a lot closer to home. That’s new, and for boudin fans that’s very good news.

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