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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Chicken wings with Korean-style sauce and mango at Bourree at Boucherie in New Orleans.
Ian McNulty

The chicken wing rules the roost when it comes to football food, and this year I’m on the chicken wing bandwagon too. I mean, could there be any food more appropriate for a Falcons Super Bowl appearance than wings?

When you hear me talking about restaurants, it’s usually good news, like new picks from the latest additions to the New Orleans dining scene, or sizing up a delicious new trend or revisiting the classics that are so beloved in our restaurant community.

After all, this is the way New Orleans talks about its restaurants -- incessantly and with anticipation. In this town, we really do talk about dinner while we’re having lunch.

But, I’ve also been listening, and what many people in the restaurant business are talking about these days has been less appetizing.

King cakes have become a popular cultural icon in New Orleans, though some still look for the satisfaction of an old classic style.
Ian McNulty

King cakes have been popular in New Orleans for a long time. But not this popular. Something has changed.

King cake has become a cultural statement, one of those emblems of pride that New Orleans uses to celebrate itself. King cake is the Saints fleur-de-lis of food. You live it, you wear it, you rally around it.

Middendorf's Restaurant has had a roost along the waterfront in Manchac since 1934.
Ian McNulty

Fried catfish cut as thin as a dime, a view of the water that ends with the sky and a regular crowd coming from the north shore and the south shore to meet in the middle - these are hallmarks of a trip to Middendorf's, the vintage Louisiana seafood house just off the highway on the marshy edge of Manchac.

No one wants it to change, least not the people who now run Middendorf’s.

The food culture of New Orleans includes famous dishes like gumbo, but it relies on something more personal than recipes.
Ian McNulty

My name is Ian McNulty and I write about restaurants for a living. It probably comes as no big surprise that a job description like this brings with it a great deal of pleasure.

It's true, of course. But the longer I pursue this line of work, especially here in New Orleans, the more clear it becomes that the real pleasure of the job extends beyond all the delicious food at the table.

Ian McNulty

There's an old adage that New Orleans food doesn't travel well. But it will take a lot more than an adage to keep people from trying, especially during the holidays.

A smoky oyster po-boy with smoked cheese and pastrami bacon from Bevi Seafood Co. in New Orleans and Metairie.
Ian McNulty

The stirrings of home and feelings of homecoming are strong this time of year. Anything can trigger it – that song playing in the background as you shop, those photos from the 80s that your clever aunt rebooted on Facebook, even what’s on your plate or the food cravings on your mind. Around here, no type of restaurant dials into that quite like the New Orleans neighborhood joint.

Deyan Georgiev / Shutterstock.com

True oyster lust does not stop -- not when you're full but there are still a few oysters on the tray and not in summer, despite that old adage you may have heard concerning months spelled without the “R.” The romance of the oyster cannot be so primly constrained.            

Still, though, as winter arrives  and as our Gulf oysters inch closer to their seasonal prime, the anticipation gets keener and the pleasure of oysters grows sharper. If you’re the sort of oyster eater whose interest perks up as the weather cools down, it's time to catch up on some changes around New Orleans since last season.

A sign points the way to Second Line Brewery in New Orleans.
Ian McNulty

It's not hard to find a drink in New Orleans. But getting a beer direct from the source at one of the local breweries now proliferating around our city often means venturing to back streets, dead ends and once-forgotten corners of town.

Beer making is essentially light industrial work. It calls for an industrial setting. Beer drinking is often a social pursuit. And so, the taprooms where these new small brewers now sell pints of their product direct have created a different sort of social space -- luring beer lovers to niches of New Orleans neighborhoods that had not seen much life until lately.

Louisiana wild boar, served as a barbecue platter at the New Orleans restaurant Carmo.
Ian McNulty

Look around and you may see more wild boar on restaurant menus and even now in grocery stores. It’s no coincidence. In fact, it’s all part of a new response to the old problem of a rampant boar population in Louisiana.

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