August in New Orleans can test your strength. But it’s September that can break your heart, especially if you’re in the restaurant business.
After Labor Day, as so much of the country shifts into fall, New Orleans is mired in the ugly tail end of summer. The humidity is high, the tourist and convention numbers are low and the locals are more likely to feel broke after hitting the holiday road and paying tuition bills. The prospects of a full dining room are never lower.
That’s why September brings the annual restaurant week promotion dubbed “We Live To Eat.” The campaign is meant to be a rallying cry for New Orleanians to make a special restaurant visit, with participants serving prix fixe menus. A two-course lunch is $20 or less and three-course dinner is $39 or less.
“Cities all over schedule restaurant weeks when they need the boost, and right now is when we need our boost,” said Wendy Waren, vice president of the Louisiana Restaurant Association, which coordinates the local effort in partnership with the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau.
It’s no surprise then that the number of restaurants taking part keeps rising. Last year, you had about 50 to choose from. This year it’s closer to 100. Some new additions for 2015 include Balise, Shaya and Johnny Sánchez, Saveur and Trenasse. See the full list at coolinaryneworleans.com/we-live-to-eat.
Brunch is also new (three courses for $39 or less), and the 16 “We Live to Eat” restaurants on board for brunch include some heavies, like Commander’s Palace and La Provence. Brunch seems like a good addition, since it’s easier for some people to get out on a Sunday afternoon than for dinner.
Of course, not all restaurant week menus are created equally, but many of those listed this year look enticing, as if chefs grasp the recruiting potential of putting their popular and representative dishes out there.
If the restaurants need a boost this time of year, so do we. The glory of autumn in New Orleans is tantalizingly close. Marking the days until it actually arrives is bound to be a little easier when those days come with a fine meal at a good price.
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.