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Where Y’Eat: What 2020 Says About the Future of New Orleans Restaurants

Ian McNulty
K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen, founded by chef Paul Prudhomme in New Orleans.

Where would you have your last restaurant meal in New Orleans? That’s supposed to be a rhetorical question, but we’ve faced a very real version of it.

On one day last March all New Orleans restaurants said goodbye at once. The closing order was sweeping, the future prospects were agonizingly unclear.

Me? I couldn’t pick one restaurant. Swept by the significance and uncertainty of what was happening around us, I could not say I needed to see off this one particular place before the unknown of the next day.

As I thought about it, I realized we need them all.

We need the places that make us feel at home and that make us feel special just walking through the doors.

We need innovative places that unveil new ideas and forge new relationships, and we need places that seem unchanging but feel recharged and refreshed every time we visit.  
We need restaurants that together comprise not just a business sector, but a culture that connects us to this place, its stories, our roles in them and what comes next.

In normal times we proudly proclaim how this passion is one of things that makes New Orleans what it is.   

The last year has put that all to the test, and we’ve seen both restaurants and the people of New Orleans answer it. It’s proven that a lot of what we believe about ourselves in easy times remains true when the chips are down.

We’ve seen restaurant people step up and climb over previously unimaginable obstacles. We’ve seen the difference even our own small efforts can make for them.

Our restaurant people need us more than ever. I think we need them more now too. We need to be smart and flexible and creative and compassionate as we try to navigate whatever this undulating course brings us next. In our restaurants We’ve already seen that it’s worth the fight.

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

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