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Where Y’Eat: The Ode of the Expat New Orleans Eater

Ian McNulty
Red beans, chicken and gumbo at Li'l Dizzy's Cafe in New Orleans.

This one goes out to all the hungry New Orleans expats out there, and especially the ones back in town for the holidays. You know who you are.

Yes, they have left home to chase their dreams or build their careers or, maybe, just to explore. But their past is the key to certain New Orleans food cravings, and when they are home they chase that past with a purpose.

Just look around the city during the holidays. You’ll spot them. They don’t have guidebooks, they might have cameras, and they definitely have a zeal about them as they reconvene over their tables and plates. You see them at the oyster bar, at the burger joint, at the po-boy shop, at the neighborhood restaurant.

They’re after the foods they were weaned on, and the spots that got them through high school, college and assorted other greatest years of their lives. Maybe it’s tempting to tease them a bit. Life marches on, after all — even New Orleans life. That seafood platter you had back in 1993 is no longer the pinnacle of local cuisine.

There are hot new restaurants getting out of town press, pop-ups around every corner, places where the food is sourced so responsibly the animals actually thank you for eating them. But all that exists in many other places too these days.

When New Orleans calls them home, these prodigal daughters and sons want what they can only get here. They have a list and only a certain number of meals they can manage before they leave town again. They want a shrimp po-boy overflowing, a Bud’s Broiler No. 3, that Li’l Dizzy’s gumbo, Mandina’s trout amandine, Dunbar’s red beans and Angelo Brocato’s cannoli, and they are on a mission to get it. This is their time.

It’s also the time when all of us count our blessings. If you ever think you might take New Orleans food for granted, just get lunch with a visiting expat. Just beware, with eating agendas in hand you don't want to get in their way.


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

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