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Where Y’Eat: With Coolinary Restaurants Reset the Flow of Time in Summer

Ian McNulty
Arnaud's Restaurant, one of more than 100 serving Coolinary menus

The pace of New Orleans seasons proves that time is a relative concept. Mardi Gras was just yesterday, wasn’t it? And now another Saints season is just ahead. But now, in deepest summer, is when time slows to a crawl, and that’s especially true for restaurants.

This season is a slog, and apart from the recent burst of business from Tales of the Cocktail, that has been evident in dining rooms all across town.

That’s why so many restaurants take part in Coolinary (and yes, it’s spelled like cool). This is a citywide dining program brings special menus to restaurants for the whole month of August. It’s organized and marketed by New Orleans & Co., the city’s convention and visitors bureau.

More than 100 restaurants are serving Coolinary menus this season. These run the gamut from old line French Creole restaurants to hot modern bistros to casual, anytime spots changing up their game for a little summer variation. You can find details and menus from those taking part at

The idea is to use the lure of a dining deal to get locals and regional travelers to the table when tourism and conventions dip low. Certainly, there’s little trouble getting a table during this spell, even on short notice, even at restaurants that are usually a tough booking.

I find it an ideal time to make good on those plans you promised to make with friends who haven’t seen in a while. It’s also a suitable excuse to take yourself out for something special, maybe just you, yourself and a three-course dinner without interruption, stealing a little time for yourself with a solo meal that feels a little more special. It can be a chance to try that new place on your list or return to an old favorite.

However you cut into it, dining out with intent is a way to savor the slowness of time we find ourselves in right now. So yes, it’s still deep summer in New Orleans and we know the drill. Go easy, be good to each other, watch the weather, and hang loose until fall finally gets here already. And yet even in the thick of it here, when we go to New Orleans restaurants we can still look at the menus and find silver linings to the season.

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