Another year of the New Orleans restaurant world navigating the pandemic has come and gone: Restaurants and bars dealt with indoor service shutdowns and limited capacity dining rooms, the loss of a key revenue stream from to-go drinks, and were tasked with enforcement of the city’s vaccination mandate. But the industry also made the best out of Yardi Gras, New Orleans’s answer to a pandemic-era Mardi Gras, comforted us with transportive food, and stepped up for their communities in impactful ways when Hurricane Ida left the city dark and the surrounding areas devastated.
Eater New Orleans’s most-read stories of 2021 reflect the highs and lows of the past year: moments of promise for the restaurant world’s future and the return of beloved icons, as well as the havoc of hurricanes and a depleted, demoralized service industry seeking meaningful change. Here are the 10 most-read Eater New Orleans stories of 2021 — and six more that you might have missed.
In a city built on connection, Mardi Gras at the height of a pandemic challenged residents to find different ways to celebrate — food and restaurant-themed house floats, creative king cakes, and community — and the rest of the country wanted to know about it.
9. NOLA Nite Market, a Different Kind of Food Festival, Returns to New Orleans’s Westbank This Weekend
New Orleanians were keen on the return of the NOLA Nite Market, the third year running for a unique event celebrating the area’s “multicultural theme cuisine” and fusion foods. Modeled after the bustling nighttime outdoor markets common in some Asian countries, it’s a different kind of food festival for New Orleans, and residents are fans.
New Orleans was just the third U.S. city to mandate proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within 72 hours for indoor dining and drinking, a policy that went into effect in New Orleans on Monday, August 16. Officials have since said it will remain in place at least through Mardi Gras.
Hurricane Ida battered the Southeastern coast of Louisiana on Sunday, August 29, as a Category 4 hurricane. In New Orleans, local mutual aid organizations like Imagine Water Works, Culture Aid NOLA, and El Pueblo NOLA went into action, and readers were eager to learn about, and hopefully help, the people doing the on-the-ground recovery work.
6. Richard Branson’s Virgin Hotel Ribbon-Cutting Appearance Made New Orleanians Deeply Uncomfortable
The arrival of two major global hotel brands — the Four Seasons and Virgin Hotels — in New Orleans was big news this summer. Some residents were less than impressed, however, by Richard Branson’s ribbon-cutting appearance for Virgin Hotels New Orleans.
5. New Orleans Closes Bars, Bans To-Go Drinks, and Restricts French Quarter Access for Final Days of Mardi Gras
New Orleans announced the closure of bars citywide, a ban on to-go alcohol sales, the halt of package liquor sales in the French Quarter, and limited access to Bourbon Street beginning February 12 and ending February 17 — the day after Mardi Gras 2021.
For the third time in under a year, New Orleans restaurateur Robért LeBlanc closed one of his group’s popular restaurants, citing a calamitous combination of Hurricane Ida damage, a slower-than-ever slow season, and 18 months of an ongoing pandemic that’s left an entire industry “demoralized.”
As the city’s vaccine mandate went into effect, a number of top restaurants temporarily shut down to take a break and establish processes for meeting the city’s requirements. “Our staff is just exhausted,” Blue Oak BBQ owner Ronnie Evans said of pausing indoor dining after the mandate was announced.
After a trio of forthcoming Chick-fil-A’s received approval for plans in April 2021, New Orleanians, ever-loyal to Popeyes, reacted with a collective side-eye.
Two years after Morning Call closed its last location in City Park’s Casino Building, the iconic beignet brand returned to Mid City on Saturday, March 27 to the delight of the entire city and beyond.
6 Stories You Might Have Missed Worth a Read
December 8, 2021
September 15, 2021
June 9, 2021
June 1, 2021
April 23, 2021
January 13, 2021
Have a story idea you think Eater New Orleans should cover in 2022? Let us know.