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.

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.

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.

Scenes from New Orleans nonprofit cafes including the gumbo at Cafe Reconcile (top), boudin balls at Cafe Hope (right) and the new Liberty's Kitchen cafeteria in the CBD.
Ian McNulty

You know you’re living right if you polish off a restaurant meal and feel like you’ve accomplished something. I don’t just mean you crushed some burger or you won the battle of temptation by skipping dessert. I mean you actually feel like you took part in something bigger then yourself.

That’s part of the deal at a circuit of nonprofit restaurants around New Orleans, where just by having lunch you’re supporting programs that help local youth get a new start. They even set the table with inspirational names: Café Reconcile, Liberty's Kitchen, and Café Hope.

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.     

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