I’m not a huge fan of the capitalization where “COOLinary New Orleans” is concerned, but I’m a fan of the endeavor. It’s a chance for people, mostly locals, to check out some restaurants that maybe they’d been meaning to try, but for a little less than they’d ordinarily pay.
This year’s COOLinary setup includes 68 or so restaurants doing two or three-course menus for lunch (for no more than $25) and dinner/brunch (for no more than $45) from July 14 to Sept. 5. This is a good deal and I suspect some of the restaurants participating are going to wish they’d been able to charge more.
Because I think we’re going to see a lot of people dining out in the next several months and I am very concerned that the folks who are cooking and serving our food are already stretched to their limits. I’ve heard a lot from local restaurateurs who can’t find people to work in their kitchens or front of house. I’ve heard from cooks and servers who are short-staffed and yet almost as busy as they were before the pandemic.
The restaurant industry is a pretty tight-margin operation, so it’s understandable that restaurateurs can’t always pay top dollar for workers. But it’s also understandable that the people who do that hard, stressful work don’t want to do it if they can’t afford to live on the money they bring home. I hope we’ll figure out how to compensate people fairly for the work they do, taking into account the effort and skill involved as well as the benefit to society generally.
That is not to say that I discourage you from dining out. On the contrary, I encourage you to check out a restaurant or perhaps multiple restaurants that you haven’t tried before.
I am happy to say that I am still something of a restaurant insider, as I have already dined at all but six of the restaurants participating (not counting the multiple locations of Dat Dog and Poke Loa) and kids I liked all of them I’ve tried to one degree or another.
Hell, I even enjoyed Fogo de Chao, which is a chain restaurant that I am simply not constitutionally set up to enjoy, yet I did.
Look at the list for yourselves and ask whether you wouldn’t enjoy eating a $25 lunch or $45 dinner at one of those places?
I had planned to write a few sentences about some of the restaurants that I’ve enjoyed over the years but I am old and tired and have a full-time job in addition to writing about food as well as a 9 year-old daughter who is full of energy. She’s a delight but if you have a question about a specific restaurant on that list, please leave a comment or send me an email. I will do my best to get back to you.