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Where Y'Eat: The dilemma of dining out on Mondays in New Orleans

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Ian McNulty
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Red beans and rice is a Monday staple in New Orleans.

All my friend wanted a seafood dinner by the water. Easy enough request these days with a cluster of such restaurants by the New Orleans lakefront – or so I thought.

Felix’s was in the weeds and not seating new tables when we showed up. The Blue Crab down the dock was closed and so was Two Tony’s nearby. We even tried Landry’s the massive chain restaurant, but they were turning people away too, already at capacity for the night.

So over to Bucktown we went, passing Station 6 (closed), R&O’s (closed), New Orleans Food & Spirits (packed) and Deanie’s Seafood (also packed) before finding just a short wait at Mr. Ed’s. Finally, success, and a progression of trout with mushroom butter sauce and crabmeat au gratin.

This simple dinner outing turned into a miniature odyssey for one reason: It was Monday.

Monday is customarily when many restaurants close. But through the tumult of pandemic times, there’s been a sharp rise in the number of restaurants going dark on Mondays.

The upshot leaves customers searching for options and settling in for a wait.

The closing decision nearly always comes down to staffing levels, an industry-wide issue that’s playing out in myriad ways. Few restaurants are operating with optimal staff levels, and that means a greater workload for those who are back at it.

Simply put, restaurants need a day closed so staff can have time off. Restaurant pros say that’s especially vital now so that the whole staff can get to the finish line of their work week together.

But then, restaurants that do stay open often find Monday is a banner day for business, even if that means they have to pick other days to close. Some have even cultivated special niches on Monday, and one is among fellow hospitality industry workers.

Restaurants, and especially bars, often they these peers in the business are their best customers anyway. And on Monday, it just so happens, a lot of them are off and ready to go out too.

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