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Nov 13, 2006 07:19 PM

You guys aren't going to like this...

I moved from Los Angeles to New Orleans a few years ago, and I have to say - I miss the food.

While there are some restaurants that serve very good regional cuisine, there's not much in the way of ethnic food available at all.

No good Chinese, no Persian, mediocre Indian (very limited selection), no great Mexican, no Russian that I know of, etc.... There are thousands of Middle Eastern places, and a helluva lot of sushi spots, but I want more choice. I know Los Angeles is a much larger city than NOLA, and I know its more of a melting pot, so I guess a wider variety of restaurants is expected.

Whenever I tell someone from LA I'm in New Orleans, they always respond with "you must LOVE the food", and I do - but I have to say, there's much more really good food in Los Angeles.

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  1. I think that New Orleans is attractive to visitors(added emphasis)because restaurants there have mastered Cajun, Creole and seafood preparation and presentation. People travel to NO to eat richly, not typically diversly. Much like gamblers of all type, flock to Las Vegas because there's no better place in North America to gamble. Odd comparison, I know. You being a transplant, FishFood, may be victimized by the economic realities of the NO food scene.

    28 Replies
    1. re: Griller

      I think the "richly not diversely" hit the nail on the head. I was spoiled by all the options in the bigger city, and have had a rough time adjusting my expectations.

      Anyway... it'll be tough, but I think I can make it through.

      1. re: FishFood

        Moved here from Houston and I couldn't agree with you more, Fish. I've been here two years and am thrilled when we travel --- We have gone to Houston, Scottsdale, LA, Orlando and NYC this year and they have helped me feel less deprived.

        1. re: txgirl

          houston & scottsdale food is more nourishing than new orleans food? wow. ok, if you feel deprived food-wise in nola (one of the top culinary capitals in the country...where else can you get high brow, low brow, veitnamese, boiled seafood, fresh seafood, creole, etc etc), then i humbly suggest you may be missing the boat (so to speak!) on whats good in these parts... ive been here fulltime for 5 years and i still have so many interesting places to hit on my list..not even closing to checking them all off.

          1. re: kibbles

            no one said the food wasn't nourishing, they said there was less variety than they liked

            1. re: thew

              ah..i just saw "deprived", "new orleans" and "cuisine" and perhaps leapt to conclusions -- i simply cannot imagine being deprived of good places to eat in new orleans.

              even on the question of variety. while i may not have, uh, authentic Israeli w/i walking distance of my flat, i find plenty of variety to keep me much more sated than anyplace else ive lived in the US (which does exclude major multi-million metropolis such as NYC or Chicago, this is true). fresh seafood, fried seafood, boiled seafood, creole italian, french, french creole, spanish, argentinean, cajun, southern, hill country, hoighty toighty, fusion, vietnamese, japanese, sushi, chinese, thai, middle eastern and even african. while my experience w/ mexican mostly isnt great there are even a couple spots to go that arent bad.

              sorry but i just cant imagine not being able to find more than enough good -- and diverse -- food in the new orleans area. if one isnt, i honestly suggest one isnt doing it right.

            2. re: kibbles

              I think they are harping on the lack of diversity, not quality. I go to Houston quite often and while I prefer the dining scene and food overall in NOLA, Houston does feature more diversity than we do.

              1. re: gastrotect

                Diversity is good, but when a city does some things better than almost any spot on Earth, I might be tempted to overlook the slightly limited palette. OTOH, I travel so much, that maybe I get my diversity fix elsewhere.


                1. re: gastrotect

                  Got to thinking about the diversity. I spend a good deal of time in London, a city not always known for the cuisine. However, I have Indian (at least four regions), classical French, country French, Isreali, Vietnamese, Chinese (several regions), Japanese, Lebonese, Afgahni, Pakistani, Italian (several regions), Iranian, Kenyan, Etheopian, Turkish, Iraqi, classical British, Spanish and Portugese, and these are all within a short walk of my flat in Mayfair, and many hold at least one Michelin star.

                  Yet, when we return to New Orleans, I am drawn to the cuisine there. Diversity is great, but then great cuisine should not be shrugged off.


                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    SO well put, Hunt! I definitely agree that there is more diversity in other places, but that the food that's available in New Orleans is still excellent in its own right, just in a different way.

                    1. re: Adrienne

                      Thank you, and so glad that the point resonated. Since it was a bit of an "after thought," I worried a bit.

                      Cannot recall if it was brought up in this thread, but in many others, the term "authentic" gets bantered about, and too much - too often IMHO.

                      At the end of the meal, it is all about my enjoyment of that meal. I do not track the origin that closely, and only care on the "wow," and "delicious" factors. My life is not an episode of ____ from the Food Channel, and is about my enjoyment.

                      If I want diversity, I walk about 5 blocks from my flat in Mayfair, and can cover much of the globe. If I want delicious cuisine, I head to New Orleans.


                    2. re: Bill Hunt

                      Agreed, Bill, my wife Lynn and I *love* the food in New Orleans and are drawn to it like moths to the proverbial flame . . . .

                      OTOH, there is more diverse cuisine available to us in the SF Bay Area.

                      To paraphrase Rudyard Kipling (and pray Lynn doesn't read this), a woman is only a woman, but a good dinner is a meal . . . . Great cuisine is one of the great joys in life -- and Lynn? You are, too!

                      1. re: zin1953

                        LOL! Lynn may not have read it, but I did, Jason!

                        1. re: zin1953

                          Well spoken Jason, well spoken.

                          While there is more diversity of cuisine, than might be readily apparent on the surface, behind cities like SF, NYC, Chicago, etc., NOLA does not offer as much

                          OTOH, those cities, mentioned above, while having great food, and some dishes and treatments that they can claim, do not have an "identity cuisine." It's the same in Phoenix - great food, but not THAT much, that can be really claimed. Is that a bad thing? I do not think so, but then I love to dine on those Kiplingesque "meals."

                          I have thought long, and hard, on why NOLA has developed an identity cuisine. Some must hinge on history, but it seems that diverse cuisines were more quickly assimilated into the cuisine of the city, than in many others.

                          It's possibly fodder for a separate thread, but I wonder what others would add, as to what makes NOLA's cuisine unique?

                          Thanks for your always respected and appreciated perspective.

                          We're through SF a half dozen times, before the end of 2010, but it'll be just for a night here, and a night there, plus several stints at the SFO RCC, waiting for our plane to be made ready. We have to meet up in SF and have one great meal together. I'll pick up the wines and we can split the food, or similar. You get to pick the venue. [Grin]


                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                            bill - really? speaking only for NYC i'd have to say it has a strong culinary identity and history.

                            1. re: thew

                              Of course it does, starting with Jewish appetizing and delicatessen.

                              I could go for a pastrami on rye, heavy on the mustard with a Dr Browns Cel-Ray to wash it all down!

                              1. re: NYNO


                                I do love the delis, but do not see them as the culinary identity of NYC. If so, how would you place restaurants like Per Se, Le Bernadin, etc.?

                                I've had great Jewish deli food in LA, Dallas, Miami and even Jackson, MS. I seldom have great NOLA cuisine, beyond New Orleans, though I've probably missed some excellent examples.


                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                  The largest immigration of Eastern European Jews ended up in NYC, many in the Lower East Side. Most of the delis in the rest of the country were started by transplants from NYC. Katz's has been around since the late 1800's.

                                  The two four star restaurants you mention are both lavish and serve haute cuisine in high end atmospheres. They're each wonderful, but lets face it, they're in NYC in part for the same reason many fashion houses have flagship stores on 5th avenue. Eric Ripert doesnt have quite the same roots in that NYC concrete as does Yonah Schimmel's!

                                  On the one hand you can argue that NYC is a major epicenter of creative, high end cuisine in the US. But to me, NYC is defined by its neighborhoods and each neighborhood is further defined by its cultural composition. So while the LES isnt representative of every borough, the deli, much like the pizzeria, very much typifies NYC cuisine.

                                  Now if you want to argue that you cannot get great NOLA cuisine outside of NOLA but can get great NYC cuisine outside of NY, I would have to agree with you.

                                  I also have not had a good example of NOLA cuisine anywhere else outside of this region. And that, IMO, is one of the things that makes living here so special. However, the reason I posted in this thread is because I said that since moving here I felt deprived of the diverisity NYC cuisine offers. Those two things aren't mutually exclusive.

                                  1. re: NYNO

                                    Thank you for the input.

                                    Now, with that said, would you then say that Jewish food (delis, or otherwise) would typify NYC cuisine? [Note: NOLA was lacking really good, to great Jewish deli food, when we lived there.]

                                    Just curious, as unlike NOLA cuisine, I have had great Jewish cuisine outside of NYC, though probably not at the same level.

                                    Again, thank you for the input, as I value it.


                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                      i take back what i said. i didn;t mean (and did NOT say) a cuisine as much as a style.I said culinary identity, not a defining cuisine. But it's kind of nebulous what i was thinking, and as i can't quite pin it down, so i back off

                                      1. re: thew

                                        Never back off. Your insights are always greatly appreciated. [That is one reason that I extended that invitation to please join in the NOLA Cuisine thread, that got moved to the nether regions of the forum. I want to hear your thoughts.]


                              2. re: thew

                                He didn't say those cities didn't have history, just an "identity cuisine". For the most part I'd agree too. If I were to say New York food, how would that be understood? Pizza perhaps? Jewish deli food? Is there a cuisine that is identifiable as being "of New York" (as opposed to one kind of dish)? I've never lived there, but from my many visits, I'm not sure I can think of anything. Maybe you could say better?

                                I really think of NYC's culinary identity as diversity. That is of course not to say that New York has no culinary history though.

                                1. re: gastrotect

                                  Ah, I think that you have earned the secret "password." Please comment here:



                                2. re: thew

                                  Please enlighten me. What would you consider the "culinary identity" of NYC?

                                  I know that you know your NOLA culinary history, and will certainly assume the same for NYC (have to admit that I am somewhat limited there). I want to learn.

                                  I have just never found it, though I have enjoyed some great food. Rather the same for San Francisco. I have had few poor meals in that city, and have dined at hundreds of restaurants, and at many levels, but cannot put a finger (or fork) on any sort of "San Francisco cuisine."

                                  I would also greatly appreciate hearing your thoughts on this thread:
                                  It was moved to a backwater, from the NOLA board, so will see little traffic, and you are one person, from whom I would love to hear. I also plead for any CH's, especially ones, who frequent the NOLA board, to comment. Though Hazelhurst thinks that I have some ulterior motive, or hidden agenda, it is an open question, and is offered up in total sincerity. I DO want to hear from CH's on that question.

                                  Thanks for the comments, and also for the response, that I hope will be forthcoming.


                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                    I know I am late to the party, but Bill is absolutely right on this. There is no NYC cuisine. I LOVE NYC, I love Jewish delis, Italian pizzerias, I love the high and the low end of new york, but there is not a NYC cuisine. Nor is there a Boston, LA, or San Fran cuisine, all place that have fantastic food. There is a NOLA cuisine and it is generally not done well outside of New Orleans. Just like Tex-Mex is not generally done as well as in Texas.

                                    However, back on the original post, I lived in Boston for six years in the 90s and the ethinc food was FAR superior. Now back home, I miss it. Funny thing is, when I was in Boston I would have killed somebody for a roast beef po-boy.

                  2. re: Griller

                    I relate to some of your frustration -- the food here is really great, but some specific requests are just hard to come by....would I be hijacking your topic if I suggested that we try to compile some good ethnic options here?

                    I love the Thai food at Siamese -- 6601 Veterans Memorial Blvd (which I think I originally learned about form this board)

                    We also really enjoyed 9 Roses for Vietnamese - less hard to come by here, but we thought it was espeically good -- Hoa Hong 9 Roses. 1100 Stephens. 366-7665.

                    If anyone does know where to get really good Indian, Russian, Persian or Mexican I'd love to hear it...

                    1. re: Adrienne

                      I am not an expert on Indian food, but one good thing about my evacuation to Baton Rouge was the discovery of India's Restaurant, 5230 Essen Rd. Everything tasted extremely fresh, and it didn't seem like they took one sauce and made a chicken dish, a lamb dish, a pea dish, a cauliflower dish, etc.

                      I would almost make the drive just to go there. Almost.

                      1. re: JGrey

                        There is (or was?) a Russian/Ukrainian place out off Williams out in Kenner... Maximilian or Maxim. I don't know if it still exists; I only went once before It, and the food was okay but not remarkable.

                        Our Persian places did not return, for sure, but after Tehrangeles, they would have been a disappointment anyway. If you find yourself in Houston, Garson in the SW is pretty decent.

                        Indian is limited, too. I still have no word on India Palace, the only place in town that had any South Indian food. There are a couple of places in Baton Rouge that might be worth the drive, if you're not into cooking your own cravings away. Locally, Nirvana's best dishes are the few Goan selections. That tiny North Indian place on Metairie road used to be good, but my last meal there was so laughably awful that I haven't had the heart to go back. There’s a Pakistani place in the FQ across from Canal Place, with the unlikely name of Salt & Pepper. Zero atmosphere but pretty good Northern sub-continental fare.

                        Our Ethiopian place is gone, but I think Benechin (West African/Camaroon-ish) is still running in the FQ...I know they reopened, but I haven't been since the spring. The spinach dish with coconut rice is very good.

                        We remain in a culinary desert as far as (tex-) Mexican goes. There are several Central American (Honduran? Guatemalan?) places on the WB that are worth checking out.

                        Pete Vasquez, of the late, lamented Marisol, does a weekly informal dining al fresco deal Sunday evenings at Bacchanal over in the Bywater where he cooks an eclectic menu that varies weekly. I don't know what the onset of winter means for that undertaking, but in the past few months, he's done Persian, Cambodian, Russian, Ethiopian, etc. It's not the perfect solution, since he might not be cooking exactly what you want, when you want it, but the offerings are tasty. The menu gets emailed out on a weekly basis; I’ll post the subscription info once this week’s menu posts. Plates generally run about $8-10 each, and I invariably want 5 or 6; go with a group so you can share in the bounty.

                        Here’s last week’s menu as a sample:
                        Spicy Korean Pork Rib and Kimchee Soup
                        Pumpkin, Coconut and Spinach Soup
                        Longbeans in Sesame Sauce
                        Spinach with Pineapple and Tomatoes
                        Jamaican Meat Pies
                        Crab Okonomiyaki
                        Conch Fritters with Mango- Pepper Sauce
                        Avocado Stuffed with Esalata de Bacalao
                        Coconut Rice with Pigeon Peas
                        Curried Oxtails
                        Braised Lambshank in Black Bean Garlic Sauce
                        Jerked Pork Shoulder
                        Duck with Broccoli and Honeyed Walnuts
                        Pineapple Upside Down Cake
                        Son of Chocolate Homicide
                        Tahitian Vanilla Flan with Key Lime Curd

                    2. Hey, you're not saying anything that's not true. But let's be fair: NOLA, even pre-K, had a teeny tiny fraction of the population of LA. So it's sort of like comparing the pitcher of the Carrolton Playground's 12-and-under team with the Big Unit...sure, one pitches more strikes, but they're not in the same league.

                      Focusing on the positive, we do have extremely inexpensive & fresh & plentiful seafood, some very interesting local produce, and a real, living, breathing food culture that is intertwined with most people's identities. So the glass is half-full, no?

                      1. I completely understand what you're saying! I like in Los Angeles and the food is really diverse. BUT, we travel to New Orleans at least once a year, and I plan our trips around the food and restaurants.
                        I love the seafood, The rich creole and spicy cajun dishes, which I can't find in LA, for the most part. BUT, a few days before we come home, I really start craving Mexican food!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: CEfromLA

                          I agree somewhat...I lived in DC for a year and really miss the great ethnic options, but we can focus on what we have...

                          Vietnamese- Nine Roses (above) is terrific, so is Pho Tau Bay on the waetbank...there is a larger asian grocery on the westbank too that is bigger and cleaner than in Chinatown in NYC.

                          African- Bennachin is great and cheap with BYO policy in the Quarter.

                          Chinese- Try the dim sum any time of day at Royal China at the eginning of Veterans in Metairie.

                          Cuban- Garces on Williams blvd in kenner (worth the drive).

                          Mexican- Casa Tequila on williams as well is a mexican restaurant filled with mexican (i thought it was good, but not as good as san antonio restaurants, etc.). Taquiera Corone on magazine is a good taco place.

                          Italian- Mosca's on the westbank, little far out, but worth the trip, and Sandro's on veterans in metairie kenner.

                          Thai- I agree with Siamese's on vets.

                          Tunisian: Jamelia's on maple in riverbend (on the right night you can get belly dancers for entertainment).

                          Indian- I admit we are low on good Indian... taj mahal on metairie rd. or nirvana on magazine st.

                          Argentine- La Boca steakhouse in the warehouse district.

                          I hope some of these help...I would say La Boca, Nine Roses, and Jameila's would be the must go-to places of all of those.

                        2. I don't have a problem with the premise. Celeste is spot on in terms of size contributing greatly to variety.

                          But I think there is more to this thread that needs explanation. Namely, what have you tried?

                          For example, most people could complain that NO is sorely lacking in south Asian fare, which is ubiquitous in, say, London. But those NO folks have likely not been to Salt & Pepper on Iberville. Its as good, if not better, than most of the curry joints I would frequent near Russell Sq.

                          Likewise, I have had some of the best Cuban food of my life at Cristy's po-boys on the westbank. Whenever I hear people complain of the lack of good Cuban food in the city, invariably they have not been there.

                          Ditto for Mexican food. Most have not been to the variety of places on the westbank. Sadly, Taq. La Mexicana is under new ownership, so the chilaquilles are no longer offered. But Jalisco is attracting a mob, there is a place on Airline that I hear is very good, Jazz tacos on Exchange Alley has excellent and interesting offerings, the Kenner grocery store on Williams packs central americans in on weekends (I haven't been lately though), and there are new places popping up every day (even excluding taco trucks).

                          Have you tried any of theses places? Admittedly, it takes a little leap of faith to seek these out and walk through the door. Most don't have menus in the windows and they don't look like much. But Mexican and other central american offerings in NO don't begin and end with Taq. Corona.

                          We are also blessed with excellent Vietnamese and Thai. I like Ding How for Chinese. Benachin is great for West African, which I prefer to any Ethiopian place in D.C. (I know the food is very different).

                          In the end, as I sampled plenty of ethnic places on Ninth Avenue in New York recently, I was commenting how lucky we are in terms of ethnic food diversity given, both pre and post K, the relatively small size of New Orleans.

                          1. The original comment has been removed