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Where Y’Eat: How Black New Orleans Restaurants Comprise a Community

Ian McNulty
Creole gumbo at Smiley's Grill in New Orleans East

A good restaurant tip is gold in this town. New Orleans people covet them, cultivate them, exchange them. But when it comes to one particularly rich vein of restaurant intel, the response by some tells me they aren’t thinking with their bellies, or that maybe the trouble is in their hearts. These are lists of black-owned restaurants that regularly circulate on social media.

Different people make them and post them. They’re popular and useful (here's one that's also a map). And the response they invoke from some online commenters is depressingly predictable.

There are people who don’t like seeing black-owned restaurants singled out for recognition or support, and they share that view in tones of scorn, disdain and racism.

Black-owned restaurant lists are circulating anew, part of marshalling community support amid the calls for change.  

What’s been impressive is the response from people eager to bring that support.

The best restaurant experiences go beyond the menu and connect you to a sense of community. It’s in the history that flows into the food traditions, the ingenuity the next generation brings, the fellowship of people who convene in these social places.

Black-owned restaurants deserve recognition not just as great restaurants but specifically as restaurants informed by the African-American experience. It is not degrading to anybody’s equality to acknowledge that and to celebrate it.

My own efforts to celebrate them has been vastly rewarding as a food lover, never mind a food writer.

I’m thinking about the crawfish stuffed beignets at Stuph’D in Gentilly, that jerk fish sandwich at Beaucoup Eats; the eye-popping seafood platters from PeeWee Crabcakes to Go; the tasso cream over rotisserie chicken at Southern Charm; the gravy-smothered pork steak at Smiley's Grill; and a lot more.

It doesn't matter what type of food they make. Black-owned restaurants comprise a community and that deserves more recognition.

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

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