End of the Year
That’s 2019, kids. If you’re looking for a “best of” or “top ten” list then you should probably go elsewhere because I have no interest in ranking my experiences over the last 12 months, and I doubt any of you are interested in my opinion on any other topic.
It’s been a hell of a year on many fronts, and I can only hit a few highlights before I am going to pass out from post-Christmas exhaustion. Towit:
A number of places have closed this year and while I’m sure there are people who mourn them all, I pretty much only cared about Mondo, Echo’s Pizza, Warbuck’s, Balise, and Treo. I liked all of those places a great deal because it seemed to me they had an actual reason to exist apart from “we can sell food to people in this location.” I had excellent meals at all of them and now I won’t and neither will you.
If I did not mention a place above that closed and which you loved I apologize. I did not mention that place for one of three reasons: a) I don’t care; b) I never went there, or c) I am suffering from post-Christmas exhaustion. Most likely it’s one of the first two, though, and the probability it’s “a” is really high.
I’d say I’m sorry, but we have too many restaurants in New Orleans and we’re long past the point where the success/failure rate is based primarily on the quality of the food. We’re gentrificating (it’s a word now) at such a rapid pace that in many neighborhoods restaurants that serve outstanding food can’t succeed financially.
And then there’s the lack of folks willing to work in restaurants for the money that restaurants can afford to pay them. It’s something I’ve heard from restaurateurs and chefs all over the city in the last several years: they can’t find people who are either good or reliable, let alone both. But then you look at what it costs to live here, and you look at the condition of our streets and the lack of decent public schools for the majority of our citizens and we have to boil our water two or three times a year and you wonder how anyone lives here at all.
But we do, because we love New Orleans and if someone from outside of New Orleans said what I just did I’d be pissed.
We still have the sort of food culture that exists nowhere else in the country. We still put on Carnival every year and while a lot of people come down here to experience it, it’s really for us. We’re still a city where a cashier at Rouse’s calls me “baby,” and it doesn’t occur to me until my wife tells me how adorable it is that my father calls me “baby,” too.
I know it is an odd thing for a man in my position to say that we have too many restaurants, because my other gig is writing about new restaurants and I love the fact that we have such a vibrant dining scene that new restaurants can open every month. I am also not among the crowd that believes our indigenous cuisine is really threatened by all of the newcomers. I don’t think that’s the case because I believe both our “native” population as well as – for lack of a better word – immigrants appreciate our food.
We are never going to be without Creole restaurants or joints that serve red beans and rice on Monday. We are never going to lack for poor boys or places to get boiled crawfish, raw oysters or gumbo.
That’s because we – people who grew up here – will patronize those places as long as the city exists, and despite the commodification of that “style” of food that is marketed to tourists. We are the backbone of the city’s restaurants and we’ll keep the cuisine alive.
I hope you’ve had a pleasant Christmas and that your New Year will be pleasant as well.