Ian McNulty

Ian is the host of Where Y’Eat and the Community Impact series at WWNO.

Each week, Ian shares his commentary on the intriguing food culture of New Orleans and south Louisiana with WWNO’s Where Y’Eat. He also shines light on the difference that innovative nonprofits are making across the New Orleans region through WWNO’s Community Impact series, interviewing nonprofit leaders and the people they serve.  Ian first became a WWNO contributor in 2009. He is a freelance journalist and a published author. A native of Rhode Island, Ian is a graduate of Rutgers University. He has lived in New Orleans since 1999.

We don’t hear much about German heritage in New Orleans, until October that is, when it comes at us with all the oomph of an oompah band. Suddenly you’re showing your nephew how to do the chicken dance, you’re dissecting the differences between bratwurst and weisswurst on your sausage platter and you’re proclaiming “prost!” as the foam drops another inch down your stein.  

All through the spring, as the renovations of the new NOPSI Hotel neared completion, I saw how New Orleans people were watching.

They stopped to cast long looks from across Baronne Street and, once the construction barricades were gone, they stepped right up, cupping hands to the glass to peer inside. They were getting a glimpse of what was to come, and also sizing up something historic but long hidden in the middle of downtown New Orleans.

It sounds simple enough. “Let’s just eat at the bar.” But when someone walks into a restaurant and utters those words they have summed up a dining trend that is changing the way restaurants operate, influencing how they’re designed and transforming the role of the person on the other side of that bar, the restaurant bartender.

Let's say you’re from New Orleans but living somewhere else. You are presented with a po-boy. Naturally, you are skeptical. You know that a po-boy is not merely a sandwich. It's a taste of home, and that taste comes through in the particulars. 

The type of bread, the way it's dressed, the way the roast beef is cooked, the seafood is fried and the hot sausage is spiced. These are the things that add up to make regional specialties distinctive.

I recently learned how the same idea applies to shawarma, particularly the chicken shawarma wrap, that staple of Arabic restaurants around New Orleans and everywhere else for that matter.

We live in an era full of celebrity chefs that you probably have never heard of. Just think about that for second - people can be celebrities now and you’ve never even heard their names. 

The title is the usually bestowed because a TV producer somewhere said so, and thus is born the next celebrity chef. New Orleans has produced its share. It's nice to see local talent in the national spotlight, but there’s a different category of acclaim in the New Orleans dining world that runs a little deeper in our own particular culture, and it’s one filled by the career waiter. 

If you look down at that go cup in your hand and you see lunch, that’s usually a sign of trouble ahead. But that’s not the case with a certain go cup that’s captured my attention lately, because instead of booze the heady concoction in this one brings seafood, citrus and the promise of an enlivening lunch on a hot summer day.

It’s summertime, which means it’s time for road trips and that means, of course, it’s time for boudin. It’s simple math, right? Well, if you’re in my head it is, and I think that makes sense to lots of other people in Louisiana. When we hit the road, a lot of the spots along the way turn out to be prime territory for these links of pork and rice sausage that seem so humble on the surface but inspire such desire.

Well, these days, if you’re in and around New Orleans in particular, good sources of this ultimate Louisiana road trip road food are a lot closer to home. That’s new, and for boudin fans that’s very good news.

You know you’re living right if you polish off a restaurant meal and feel like you’ve accomplished something. I don’t just mean you crushed some burger or you won the battle of temptation by skipping dessert. I mean you actually feel like you took part in something bigger then yourself.

That’s part of the deal at a circuit of nonprofit restaurants around New Orleans, where just by having lunch you’re supporting programs that help local youth get a new start. They even set the table with inspirational names: Café Reconcile, Liberty's Kitchen, and Café Hope.

You can call this one where’ya drink. And if you're a beer lover in New Orleans, these days the answer is a lot more likely to be this: local.

The names of Louisiana beers now line restaurant menus. Their tap handles sprout from the draft clusters at dives and fancy lounges alike. And these local beers flow from the breweries’ own tap rooms, where they’re available to sip on site, right there at the brewery.     

Father’s Day is this weekend, so of course, I have doughnuts on my mind, and not just any doughnuts. The doughnuts of my youth. The doughnuts with dad. 

Pages