Another year of dining in one of the world’s best food cities has come and gone, with New Orleans restaurants continuing to navigate a pandemic, worker shortages, rising food costs, and perhaps most reliable of all, weather events. 2022 kicked off with another indoor mask mandate, but the return of the first official Carnival parades since 2020 gave New Orleans bars and restaurants a much-needed boost. Customer support for local restaurant workers was at an all-time high, and when a destructive hurricane tore through neighboring Arabi, the area’s restaurants banded together to help their neighbors and each other, as they do year after year after every devastating weather event in the region.
Eater New Orleans’s most-read stories of 2022 reflect a year of change, and the feeling that some things will never be as they were before the pandemic, for better or worse. They also reflect a pure enjoyment of simple, good food, and an appreciation of the people and efforts that make New Orleans a special city in which to eat. Here are the 10 most-read Eater New Orleans stories of 2022 — and five more that you might have missed.
Have a story idea you think Eater New Orleans should cover in 2023? Let us know.
New Orleans native Jazlin Armstrong stands at the helm of one of the city’s most iconic dining rooms at Commander’s Palace, bringing new life to the role of fine-dining maitre d’ in a city that’s seen the once-crucial role wane in influence in recent years.
Serigne Mbaye’s Senegalese tasting menu dinners, which popped up throughout the city for two years to great acclaim, landed at their forever home this fall with the opening of Dakar NOLA at 3814 Magazine Street.
8. Questions (Still) Linger Over Starbucks’s Claim It’s Closing Canal Street Shop Because of Worker Safety
The news that coffee conglomerate Starbucks was closing a downtown New Orleans store quickly became a media litmus test, with global fearmonger the Daily Mail chiming in and local media focusing on the company’s crime narrative. Turns out the reasons aren’t so straightforward (and mostly come down to the company’s bottom line).
Readers began the year eagerly anticipating Mardi Gras 2022, so it was big news when New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration confirmed that the city’s policy requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for indoor entry at bars and restaurants would remain in place at least through Mardi Gras 2022.
The semifinalists for the 2022 James Beard Awards dropped in June, and New Orleans had a strong initial showing: Seven New Orleans chefs were on the longlist, and Fritai, Lengua Madre, Brennan’s, and Avenue Pub were all semifinalists. When the finalists were announced a month later, the short list of New Orleans nominees included Serigne Mbaye, Isaac Toups, and Melissa Martin, and Brennan’s also advanced. In the end, however, no New Orleans chefs or restaurants won at the 2022 James Beard Awards.
5. ‘Come on ‘Round, Honey Dumpling’: Joyful Exchange at New Orleans-Area Popeyes Drive-Thru Goes Viral
A delightful exchange between a customer and an employee at a Popeyes drive-thru in Kenner, Louisiana went viral in March, and it was easy to see why: it felt like one of those “only in New Orleans” moments, courtesy of Popeyes cashier Cynthia Carter, who it turns out has been singing with customers and brightening their days for three decades.
When a 60-year-old Mid City dive bar hired new management in August one of their first orders of business was firing the entire staff. They forgot to change the bar’s social media passwords first, however, and online chaos (as well as vocal support for the workers) ensued.
Taylor Swift celebrated another big year (marking nearly two decades of big years) by visiting New Orleans for her birthday, catching a show at a famous jazz hall and hitting up a much-loved Upper Ninth Ward bakery for a NOLA-made cake on her special day.
New Orleanians (and beyond) simply love Big Freedia. The hometown hero and internationally-known Queen of Bounce plans to open a boutique hotel, nightclub, music venue, and restaurant on the edge French Quarter near Frenchmen Street, and it got readers pumped.
Decades after the name Emeril Lagasse became synonymous with New Orleans dining it still commands the attention of New Orleans eaters. Late this year came the news that one of Lagasse’s longest-running restaurants, NOLA in the French Quarter, would not reopen after remaining closed throughout the pandemic. It was the second longtime New Orleans spot the celebrity chef’s restaurant group closed for good in 2022, following Emeril’s Delmonico in February.