Life’s Too Short to Eat Bad Food
COOLinary brings meals at a price point that’s easier to swallow
I grew up in a generation and social class who only ate meals in restaurants for special occasions, like birthdays. My favorite restaurant was a little Italian place called Michael’s that had those skinny, crunchy breadsticks sticking out of Depression-era glasses on red and white checkered tablecloths. Their baked mostaccioli was my annual birthday entrée, only replaced by eggplant parmesan during my vegetarian phase. Dessert was always spumoni ice cream with a candle in it. Thankfully, I was never vegan.
Those meals were truly special and I remember them clearly. “Fast casual” as a dining concept hadn’t yet been realized and marketed to the masses, so anyone besides my mother placing food in front of me was a big deal. Something New Orleans has always done, and continues to do, is honor that sense of occasion in its restaurants. Even though our culture now encourages us to eat at restaurants much more often, in New Orleans, those restaurants are rarely national chains, often have incredible service, and might even have a James Beard Award hanging on their walls.
It should come as no surprise that one of my favorite months of the year is August, all due to the fact that COOLinary makes every day of the month a delicious possibility. From Aug. 1 to Aug. 31, more than 100 area restaurants will offer prix-fixe lunches, dinners and brunch menus at prices that make the best culinary talents in our town affordable for more people. Discounted two- and three-course lunches can be had for $20 or less, three-course dinners are priced at $39 or less and three-course brunch menus are available for $39 or less. These prices do not include alcohol, tax or the gratuity for your hard-working wait staff (20 percent is the current minimum standard for tips).
The timing of COOLinary is intentional and helps to draw locals and tourists alike to restaurants during a typically slow time of year for the hospitality industry in New Orleans. The annual dining campaign is spearheaded by New Orleans & Company in conjunction with its “Be a Tourist in Your Own Hometown” campaign.
“Our annual COOLinary New Orleans Restaurant Month offers the perfect opportunity for a dining experience at one of our many participating restaurants,” said Kim Priez, senior vice president of tourism at New Orleans & Company, in a press release. “We encourage everyone, visitors, locals, foodies, newcomers and cocktail aficionados, to take advantage of the discounted pre-fixe menus available throughout August, whether it’s time to revisit an old favorite or experience the newer dining offerings.”
The variety of restaurants that participate is impressive. Historic icons like Antoine’s, Arnaud’s and Galatoire’s will offer menus befitting their 100+ years of cuisine, and “new kids” by comparison like Cavan, DTB and Jayne, will draw crowds looking for new traditions. There are 30 cuisine types represented so nearly every craving can be satisfied, be it andouille or enchiladas (someone please create “andouille enchiladas” and call me).
The website is easy to navigate on both computers and mobile devices. You can search for restaurants by cuisine, neighborhood and the three meal types. There is also a map view option to see locations nearby no matter where you are in New Orleans. In the restaurant descriptions, you can click a link that directs to Open Table to make reservations, or you can call the restaurant directly with the provided phone number.
I recommend you make your reservations now and enjoy planning your meals throughout the month. Making restaurant reservations is my favorite way to #MealPrep.