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Where Y’Eat: For a Summer of Unknowns New Orleans Restaurants Bet on One Sure Thing

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Ian McNulty
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In the realm of restaurants, the New Orleans summer is always a slog, but at least it’s predictable – normally.

This year, you can throw all those seasonal expectations out the window, only please don’t open the window because you’ll let the A/C out. Right now, the only certainty ahead are more questions.

Customers started flocking back to dining rooms this spring, often faster than restaurants still trying to restaff could keep up. Will that level off as summer deepens? Hotel bookings are up, especially for the weekends; but will that last through summer? What does the fall look like with such a reshuffled calendar, and how hard will the Delta variant hit our community if more people don’t do their bit and get vaccinated?

Amid all that, some familiar facets of the New Orleans summer are playing out in the dining scene. This is normally a time when restaurants get creative, roll out special menus, special deals and even collaborations to help lure people to the table.

The most far reaching of these is called Coolinary, a coordinated campaign that brings set-price, multicourse menus to restaurants across town. These run the gamut from old line stalwarts to hot modern bistros to casual, anytime spots changing up their game for a little summer variation. Coolinary’s back now, running though early September. You can find details on more than 80 restaurants taking part at Coolinarynewroleans.com.

Others are doing their own deals and special events. They’ve been trying to reconnect with their best customers, the locals, trying to find ways to welcome them back. For some this is a time to try to recoup and to recharge for the fall to come, whatever that turns out to be.

One reason restaurants are embracing these well-established pieces of the normal summer playbook is because so much else in unknown. They are clinging to that one sure thing – the New Orleans appetite.

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