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Jan 23, 2009 05:39 PM

Is New Orleans Cuisine All That Is Allowed? (Rant)[Moved from N.O. board]

[Rant Mode On]

I am puzzled by what appears to be a recent trend - bashing, or recommending that diners do not go to any restaurants that do not serve “authentic” New Orleans cuisine.

It seems that many are only interested in seeing restaurants that do a variation of one type of fare be patronized. All other restaurants are to be shunned, if you read a lot of these recent posts here.

I don’t get it. Yes, the cuisine of New Orleans, as broad as that term is, certainly is great. It is part of the charm of the City. However, it is not all that is there. How many posters decry the lack of “ethnic” restaurants in New Orleans? That has been a continued topic for some time. Could it be that each folded, because they did not serve New Orleans cuisine? Many writers moan about world-class chefs not moving to New Orleans. Could it be that they wish to do something besides New Orleans cuisine?

When one thinks about the cuisine of New Orleans, they will soon find that it is an amalgam of the cuisine of many lands and cultures. There are elements of French, Spanish, African, Cajun, Italian, Caribbean and a few others thrown in for good measure. It is wonderful food – no doubt. I love it. I grew up on it. I order it on every trip back – just not exclusively. Few of the excellent dishes that my wife prepares are without some sort of New Orleans influence. It is great, but it is not the only thing on the culinary landscape.

Maybe I am just missing something here. When I travel to San Francisco, I want to dine in great restaurants. When I travel to Honolulu, I want to dine in great restaurants. When I dine in London, I want to dine in great restaurants. When I dine in Paris, I want to dine in great restaurants. Same for any of hundreds of cities around the globe. I do not demand specific cuisine, though some cities might lean more toward one type, like Honolulu and Paris. In Honolulu, I do end up with more Hawaiian/Asian, than most cuisines, but have greatly enjoyed classic French and Italian. In Paris, most of the restaurants do variations of French, whether classic, provençal or even colonial, but I have had great Indian there, as well. These have all been great restaurants. Some just happen to be geographically located in one spot in the world, regardless of the theme of their cuisine. What is wrong with seeking out great restaurants in cities that are blessed to have them?

New Orleans is a world-class city. Yes, it’s still getting back on its feet, but it has a history, that does not exist is such abundance anywhere else. It has great restaurants, and many do offer up New Orleans cuisine. However, some others offer up great food, that is not directly influenced by the culinary history of the City. What is wrong with these? What about chefs with classic French training, who would no more use some of the New Orleans takes, than they would embrace the food of Ukraine. Are they all bad? Are they all to be shunned, reviled and patrons steered from their doors?

I understand wishing to nurture, perpetuate, support and enjoy the cuisine that is local, especially in poor times, from many sides. Still, there are some great chefs, who have chosen to not do pure New Orleans food. Should they be run out of town on a rail? Is Baton Rouge a better place for them to open up their restaurants?

I have made enough recommendations on this board for restaurants that offer pure New Orleans cuisine, but also many that do not. Each has been based on the great food, and excellent service offered. As I stated, I love New Orleans cuisine. I appreciate it. Still, I cannot understand the aversion to have a visitor to New Orleans dine at any establishment, that does not meet someone’s idea of “authentic” New Orleans cuisine. I find this view to be myopic and counterproductive to a healthy restaurant industry in the City. Were I a chef, who did not specialize in New Orleans cuisine, I’d only think about relocating there if I could count on the tourist trade, as it seems too many locals are so highly protective of one type of food, that they would never be patrons. It would also disturb me that respected members of the New Orleans food community tried to turn visitors away from all restaurants, that did not specialize in the dishes of New Orleans. Would this be a climate that a good business person would rush to? I highly doubt it. After all, operating a restaurant is a business venture. Few can continue for very long, on their legacy and their love of cooking. The patrons need to enter the door. What I see is many folk closing that door, before the patron ever gets to the sidewalk.

New Orleans is a great dining city. It is a city known worldwide for its restaurants representing various cuisines. It should not be relegated to being a “one trick pony.”

Sorry for the rant. I want to see the dining scene in New Orleans exceed everyone’s expectations. I want to see “old friends” prosper, but want to see new chefs add to the total dining scene. New Orleans needs to spring back, and go beyond its previous glory.

I just do not understand the ultra-jingoistic bent. I feel that it is counter-productive to the overall dining scene in a city that I love.

[Rant Mode Off]


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  1. appreciate your thoughts. I find most people come to the NOLA board looking for recommendations for NOLA cuisine for their visit; something they may not find at home. I would gladly suggest something else if someone asked, but instead just try to answer the question at hand.

    for me, I tend to gravitate toward more ethnic cuisine/restaurants and even started a thread here about them. but I do like a po boy now and then and appreciate local ingredients/dishes because they're just so damn good. I know a lot of visitors and ex-NOLA folks who can't find our cuisine done well anywhere else, so they come here to eat it.

    when traveling, I personally don't stick to just the local flavor. I've had the best Chinese in Paris, Indian in London, Greek in Egypt, Indonesian in Costa well as whatever is considered to be their best local or regional fare. but when in Rome, I eat Italian morning, noon and night. just like when driving thru SW La, I can eat boudin round the clock; greatest car food ever.

    don't know that I have answered your rant, but know where you're headed with it.
    next time you pass this way, check out Sara's in the Riverbend for some great lamb oxford and vindaloo, Jamila's for some great Tunisian, Laurentino's for authentic Spanish, Chateau du Lac for true French, Kim Anh's for Vietnamese, China Rose for their authentic Chinese menu (ask for it at the door)...just for starters. but I'm sure, you'll enjoy something NOLA too that you miss and maybe can't find elsewhere.

    maybe we should resurrect the Ethnic Cuisine thread again on the NOLA board and see where it leads and if there are any takers.

    1. don't know why this thread got moved, when you were addressing your rant to those that ask and those that answer requests for recommendations on the NOLA board.
      hope you get some other replies/thoughts.

      11 Replies
      1. re: edible complex

        Oh well, that is life. As it was totally specific to the NOLA board, I though tthat it was best posted there. Others have a different opinion.

        Now, to your first reply. I do agree 100%. If someone asks for NOLA cuisine, that is what I would also offer, without equivocation.

        Where I am coming from on this is when someone requests restaurants in NOLA. Lately, there has been a spate of people telling the OP's that almost all non-NOLA cuisine restaurants are less than what they can get at home and to only dine at restaurants that feature nothing but NOLA cuisine.

        I feel that this is a disservice to many great restaurants in NOLA.

        If I post to the UK/Ireland board, and ask for "traditional UK fare," I would not expect to see La Gavrosh mentioned, as it is classic French. OTOH, if I ask for high-end restaurants with great food, I would. If everyone chimed in that only British food is suited for one dining in London, I would be put out and not trust them. Now, between you and me, much of the "traditional" British fare is a bit lacking (to a Yank, at least). However, there are restaurants, which feature it, and are great too. Still, I would not wish to be limited in such a wonderful, international dining city, as is London.

        As to why "Site Talk," I haven't a clue. I thought that that board was for problems with the Web site. Little did I know.

        Thanks for your responses. I always respect your comments, whether we agree on a specific location, or not.

        As for the reference to "ethnic" cuisine, I have only read these. They were never anything that was of great interest to me. Other than the old Castillo's (FQ, when the Mayan was the chef), and Chapinlandia (Magazine St), I have never really looked for "ethnic" cuisine in NOLA. There were just too many other great restaurants, and too little time.

        Maybe I should not have used the notation "[Rant]," as that probably got my post relegated to the nether regions. Well, such is life.


        PS thanks for the update on some places, that do sound interestin. Still, my "to-dine" list is awfully long, and we usually only have one week per trip. Each trip usually gets two new restaurants, whether NOLA-influenced or not. They ARE in NOLA, all the same. Keep up YOUR good work. You always tell it like it is, in my book.

        1. re: Bill Hunt

          yep, I've seen the replies about "don't go there as it won't be as good as where you're coming from"...but not sure if that is a New Orleanian suggesting that or someone who just visited and is sharing comparisons.
          I don't always expect something to be as good as where I originally had it, but am willing to see for myself as taste can be very subjective and sometimes it may be better. I know a food writer that does not like ethnic cuisine, so they do not like the restaurants, never mind that the restaurants and their food are both good to other people's tastes..
          am I looking for the perfect fish taco that takes me back to someplace in San Diego or Mexico and writes about how all fish tacos in NOLA are no good (as read on another board)...NO, I wouldn't expect the same but would appreciate the different takes on what is being offered wherever I am. it may not be an exact replica, but it just may be good in its own right.

          PS...I'm native NOLA and my "to-dine" list is long here as well. cheers!

          1. re: edible complex

            Ah, the "fish taco" epics. These keep coming up on the Elsewhere in America board, regarding fish tacos in Hawai`i. About the same sort of repies there.

            Or, the Philly Cheesesteak sandwich in Boise discussions...

            You may be correct on the number of "nothing but NOLA cuisine" posts. It does seem that they come from a small handful of posters, and I do not know their locations, or even their likes/dislikes.

            It just seems that this sort of response is getting more pervasive and casts a bad light on some great restaurants that ARE located in NOLA.

            While I am a fan of Stell!, based on my personal experiences, I would either refrain, or heavily qualify it recommendation, for the poster, who requests a "taste of New Orleans." Same for other restaurant recs., especially in cities known for a certain type/style of cuisine. Heck, we had one great, and two very good meals in San Antonio recently. None was typical of San Antonio fare - nothing related to the wonderful culinary heritage of that city. Still, a "New American" restaurant was excellent and two French restaurants were at least very good. A few commented that none was a "taste of San Antonio," and they were correct. I've been there many times and sampled some great "tastes of San Antonio." This did not change my appraisal of any of these restaurants. Each stood on its own merits. Same for NOLA.

            Thanks for sharing your thoughts,


        2. re: edible complex

          edible and bill, i wondered why this thread was moved, too. seems like you'd get a lot less traffic here on bloody "site talk" for goodness sake!

          the nola people should be the ones responding, and visitors to nola should read what bill (and other posters) have to say about the variety of food in nola.

          it is all about the nola, moderators!

          1. re: alkapal

            Agree that Hunt's comments are valuable to the discussion of the NOLA scene.

            Stella! is not NOLA cuisine, but I would recommend it highly.

            Perhaps, Hunt, you can copy/paste into a new, NOLA board string and omit all "rant" references. The NOLA board lurkers (I count myself one) surely won't be looking for your well-formed opinions here.

            1. re: Monch

              I will abide by the CH mods' wishes and let the thread die here. I, too, thought that the NOLA board was the perfect venue for my comments, but obviously am incorrect. However, I might post some snippets of my observations, as questions to those who issue these sorts of replies, when the OP's request is NOT about just NOLA cuisine.

              It just pains me to see some of the negative replies. Food is GREAT in NOLA, and I think getting better as each month, post-K passes. I want NOLA to come back, as much as any ex-pat can. I also want to see folk visiting the City for all of its charms, but especially the food - all of it.

              I wish to personally thank the three of you, who have responded. I value your comments on all boards, where I have been fortunate enough to encounter you. Each has added some perspective to my "complaint," [Rant is probably too harsh a term and was a big mistake on my part], just as each has added perspective to so many topics elsewhere.

              And to Monch, I too am but a NOLA board lurker, not having lived there is so very long. Still, I had 20+ years of dining there, on a regular basis, and now another 30 years of dining there as a visitor. Still, I too, am but a lurker, a tourist.

              Glad that I was not the only person, who questioned the move - correct, or not. At least the CH Team responded with their reasoning, and I can only honor it as sound. Hey, they do this on a semi-professional basis and know what is best for the function of the site. Now, had I been charged with the task, I think I would have perhaps gone with "General CH Topics," or someplace other than "Site Talk," but their choice must be respected, and I thank them for the response.


              1. re: Bill Hunt

                bill, i think sections could be slightly re-cast and posted as threads with your viewpoint, and seeking others' input. one thread could be, "great 'non-traditional' cuisine in NOLA"....or "here's to african cuisine in NOLA!" or...."there's more than etoufee for visitors to NOLA"

                good luck. always enjoy your posts.... ;-).

          2. re: edible complex

            Meta-discussion about how and what people post is always off topic for a regional board. We try to keep those boards focused on actually discussing chow, and move discussion that's about the discussion, and not about the chow, here, to Site Talk.

            1. re: The Chowhound Team

              it is about the NOLA to what people consider typical NOLA fare and what restaurants fall into that category and why some are not considered or recommended as NOLA. this is a warranted discussion on the NOLA board, especially when so many tourists visit the NOLA board trying to sort out their NOLA dining decisions.

              1. re: edible complex

                These are fair points all -- as an out-of-towner who weighs in periodically, I'll jump in briefly. I live in New York and believe, rightly or wrongly, that we have some pretty good restaurants here. So for someone such as myself -- as you surmise -- one of the attractions of New Orleans is the opportunity to get food that we don't really have here. So it is helpful for someone like me to make a distinction -- that's a great restaurant in the creole tradition, versus that's a great restaurant. But I would never suggest that non-creole or non-N.O. (or however you want to characterize it) should not be discussed. Rather, it's a question for the poster -- are you looking for the local specialties, or just good chow regardless of the cuisine.

                1. re: Mark Alberts


                  Thanks for weighing in. As Edible Complex mentioned, many visitors to the New Orleans board request just that - restaurants that are both great AND unique to New Orleans. As a person, who attempts to help anyone posting to a board with a request for info that I feel qualified to share, I wish to always do my best to offer recommendations that will fit their budget, their preferences and also will be geographically accessible to them, whether its via personal auto, rental car, taxis/limos, or public transportation - or, my favorite, walking. For those posters, if I am making a recommendation that differs from their criteria, I’d better have a good reason for doing so, and make that reason perfectly clear in my reply. “For just a few dollars more in your budget, you can include Restaurant X... “ Or maybe more germane to this thread, “while not traditional New Orleans fare, Restaurant Y does an interesting take on the foods of the Deep South. There is some cross-over between these, though they are quite different generally... “ That sort of thing.

                  I probably did not articulate my feelings on this properly. It’s not about adding other restaurants, that I think are good, to a specific request, but the attempted elimination of all but New Orleans cuisine establishments, when the OP has asked for “great dining experiences.” Often, they will even have offered up their possible itineraries for review. Then, many replies will be along the lines of “you only want to experience New Orleans cuisine. Everything else can be had better elsewhere... “ That is what I have the problem with.

                  In reflection, I also might not have chosen the best cities to use as an example, as only Paris really has a cuisine (sort of), like New Orleans does. This does not mean that they don’t have great restaurants, just not a genre of food, that is unique, as is New Orleans’. Charleston, NC might have been a better, albeit lesser know example. There, one can certainly spend some time sampling “Low Country” fare, or can dine on broader Southern fare, or classic FR, whatever. They also have something to pretty much call their own.

                  Using the previous example, what I have observed would be tantamount to subscribers to the South board telling a visitor to Charleston, “you don’t want to eat anything but ‘Low Country’ food while you’re here. Everything else is better where you’re from.” While Low Country food is very good, it is not all that Charleston has to offer.

                  Also, just because another city, or cities, might have better New American restaurants, than say Charleston, does not diminish the fact that some of the New American restaurants in Charleston are great and well worth the visit. Just because Phoenix, where I now live, has better examples of a certain genre of restaurant than, say Toledo, I will be in Toledo and not Phoenix. It is not a competition of city vs city. It’s about having great food and a very good dining experience where I will be.

                  When I post to a board, reflecting an area to which I will be traveling, I often preface my request, with some other restaurants that I love, if I have usable examples, that will be understood by the board subscribers. I do not care if Le Gavroche (London, Mayfair) has better classic French, than Toledo. That is not the point. If I want classic French, or include it as a possibility, I want recommendations. I just want great dining, while in Toledo. Now, if everyone chimes in and say that I should only eat pure Toledo cuisine, I am less inclined to follow their recommendations.

                  It’s not that I am less than adventurous in my dining. It is not that I shun “local favorites.” It is that I want the best dining that I can find. I do appreciate getting some local color, so long as it’s good. Maybe this is a unique perspective, and I have not been respectful of others’ motivations.

                  I would anticipate that you offer recommendations for the best dining experiences in NYC, that fit the stated criteria, rather than saying, “everyone else is wrong. The only food worth eating is NY-style pizza. Ignore all other recs., as there are better examples of _____, somewhere else on Earth.” While I dine at the French Laundry, were I in NYC, I’d definitely do Per Se, regardless of whether Chef Keller’s CA restaurant is better. So long as Per Se is good, I’m in NYC and not Yountville, that’s where I’ll dine.

                  Sorry that I did not state my point more clearly, and I do appreciate both you and EC bringing this to my attention.


                  PS though it has been too many years ago to be relevant, NYC DOES have some great restaurants. When a poster indicates where they are traveling from, whether to NOLA, or PHX, I try to take their dining experiences into consideration. Still, I have no hesitation to recommend a great restaurant in NOLA, even if I have personal knowledge that the OP might have a better example, just down the road. If it’s great, it will be different than what they have. That’s what’s great about a chef-driven restaurant. It WILL be different - maybe not “better,” but different.

          3. Generally, I just recommend stuff I consider delicious, within the questioner's parameters, and let them do their homework and decide for themselves what they want, regardless of whether it's the native cuisine or not. Different people want different things, and it's not always possible to tell from a brief query. Moreover, lots of people beyond the questioner lurk and these posts, the goal is benefit as many critical independent eaters as possible.

            1 Reply
            1. re: limster

              You "took the words right out of my mouth." (™ Meatloaf). To accommodate the posters, I'll often do "20 Questions."

              The point of others reading the threads is a good one. I use CH to do research on places where we will be and will be dining. I often use threads that started on one topic, to find what I am looking for on a tangent. Search this board, is good (could be better) for that.

              Thank you for your response. Well said, and also the addition of a perspecitve, that I had not originally considered.


            2. Good Indian in Paris? Seriously? You should definitely post about it on the France board! :-)

              Seriously, I agree with you and hear you (and by the way, the best, and I do mean the BEST, steamed pork buns I ever ate were in Paris!), even though I am not a big follower of the NOLA board. I am hoping that now that it looks like my new-favorite-nephew ( :-)) will be going to Tulane, that I will be able to rectify that...(edited to add: going to Med School at Tulane: JoR is probably dieing to brag about that, so I will do it for her :-)

              I am wondering if perhaps part of the issue is that there is a lopsided balance in the ratio of visitor posters to home posters on the NOLA board, at least when compared to your home board and my home board. If the goal is to make recommendations for visitors, I can well understand the desire to steer folks to what they can't get at home, even though I don't necessarily always agree with or follow that approach on my board. After all, if something is the BEST, it is worth telling someone about, even if they can get second best at home. That said, however, for residents like my nephew, who is bound to check out CH once he gets to town, well, he isn't going to want to eat just NOLA cuisine all the time, and will definitely want those other recs.

              IMO, the boards are what you make them. Go ahead and post about a variety of cuisines, and make a variety of recommendations, and if anyone is out of line in their replies to you, report them to the moderators. If they aren't out of line in their tone, but still challenge why you are recommending Mexican (or whatever) to someone from out of town, go ahead and stand by your recommendation if it is a good one! It will be appreciated by someone, even if that someone is just a lurker.

              And btw, I used Mexican as an example advisedly. I hear New Orleans has a growing Hispanic population. Would be interesting to hear if that is reflected in the local restaurant scene.....

              5 Replies
              1. re: susancinsf

                Several posters, more often seen elsewhere, have made their way to the NOLA board. Jfood is one such poster, about the time that one of the little Jfoods started school, at either Tulane, or Loyola (I forget in my old age). Along the way, he has almost gained "native status," because of his dining, while enrolling little Jfood into school, and then visiting.

                Your nephew will enjoy dining in NOLA. While the New Orleans cuisine is great (do not let my post fool you on that point), there is an awful lot to be offered at all price ranges. Now, student diets might have changed, since I was in college (two semesters of nothing but Ritz crackers and "chunky" peanutbutter, washed down with 7 oz Cokes), but NOLA does have it all, and most of it is great.

                Interesting that you mention Mexican cuisine in NOLA. Going back several decades, I only found three restaurants serving really good Mexican fare: Castillio's (FQ), El Chico (mini-chain out of Dallas [?] in Metairie) and Chapinlandia on Magazine St (actually a Caribbean restaurant, that covered nearly all bases and did so beautifully - imagine 12 different tamales from 12 different cultures, where the only link was the name of the dish). Now, as you state, things will be changing. Taco trucks. Maybe new Mexican-influenced restaurants? Different Mexican, than just Tex-Mex (which I love and miss) represented. I can recall New Orleans before the first Vietnamese restaurant. Now, there are some great ones, and it is a staple. Once, it was totally unheard of. Likely, the same will happen with Mexican fare, or at least I hope so. It's actually this culinary diversity, that I am attempting to champion, as it IS worthy. [Hey, I'm not on the NOLA board anymore - click your heels twice and repeat, "there's no place like home... "] Sorry to digress so much. Maybe we need to take the restaurant recs. for you "soon-to-be-favorite nephew, to that board. I'll be looking out. Unfortunately, I no longer have a "local's" perspective, so most of my reviews have been fine-dining oriented, but there are some exceptions.

                Actually, I thought that I had posted my Indian restaurant review to the Paris board. Will look back in my restaurant reviews, and either rectify that, or will offer a link.


                1. re: susancinsf


                  The restaurant was Ratn, 9 rue de la Tremoille. The reviews were from '04. I cannot find my musings, but likened it to Tamrind, London, Mayfair. I'll go look for links, or the reviews, which are possibly on a backup tape now.

                  Have you dined there? If so, what did you think? How would you compare it, to other great Indian restaurants? Since I do not own stock in it, and am also from Mississippi, my feelings will not be hurt. After all, what does someone from Mississippi know about Indian cuisine? Still, we have loved Tamrind (our flat is just around the corner) and it did manage a Michelin star, for whatever that is worth.

                  Hope you've been there and can either substantiate my comments, or shoot them down in flames in some field in Normandy...

                  More to follow,


                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    thanks for that! I haven't tried it no....but will remember to put it on the list when next I am in Paris! (the euro is going in the right direction, maybe I won't have to wait that long...)

                    1. re: susancinsf

                      Hey, DH just suggested Paris for our 25th wedding anniversary in a year...and I'm sure we could try the Indian place......(btw, our own attempts to find decent Indian food in Paris have led to nothing but disappointment...).

                      But even Paris may have to wait....after all, Tulane Medical School may be worthy of a brag about my son, but it is rather I will be going on the NOLA board helping him find ideas for cheap places to eat...and of course for my own dinners when I take the inevitable trips there to visit...

                      1. re: janetofreno


                        There are some fairly recent threads on the NOLA board, offering suggestions on just what you are looking for. If you have not done a search on that board, please do. Heck, you might get most of them with the word "Tulane."

                        Good luck, and have a great trip and dining experience,


                2. Fellow hounders, a little perspective on this one. Hunt ties his silk bow ties, (no clip-ons), and when I was a visitor in his current domicile of Phoenix two weeks ago and we had lunch, I never had a chance at the check. His concept of a "rant" is limited to restrained frustration, and with his good breeding he lacks the capacity to wander from the boundaries of gentlemanly conduct. I wished I could have met his wife of 38 years.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Veggo


                    If you ever retire from you job as golf-hustler, I'll hire you to do my PR.

                    Had you met my wonderful and intelligent wife then, she would have chosen you, over me. Then, you could be president of the Phoenix Chapter of the Trophy Husband's Club.

                    I think that I shared some of my "vinegar," regarding this subject at lunch. It reminds me of the folk on the Wine board, who will interject that no one can possibly drink Chardonnay, in a discussion on great white Burgs. I feel that they are trying to help, but just do not get it. Either that, or it is me, who just doesn't get it.

                    BTW you still have some great dining ahead of you, on your next trip to Phoenix. I may even take you to a favorite (in Phoenix) New Orleans/Louisiana place!

                    Keep those grooves clean and bring the sticks next trip - good grub and some golf on a few fine tracks. I promise. I will also refrain from venting, or ranting, on this subject.


                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                      I don't doubt that we will re-connect; maybe we can promulgate a Phoenix Chowhound chowdown.
                      I have the Cuban cigars, ( Robustos, not Siglo IV's )...and the Havana Club anejo rum!
                      P.S. Golf hustling is getting tough. I was in Rancho Mirage last week and won 60 bucks on a Nassau, but my F & B was about 700 for 3 days.