August brings back-to-school preparation and the end of summer vacations, but in New Orleans, it also brings the opportunity to be a tourist in your own city with COOLinary.
The New Orleans Conventions and Visitors Bureau will organize the 11th annual COOLinary month this year, with value lunches, dinners and now brunches at about 70 local restaurants. The promotion runs Saturday, Aug. 1, through Aug. 30.
“The CVB was noticing that a lot of locals either never visited these great restaurants, or have not been to them for years,” CVB senior vice president of tourism Kim Priez said. “COOLinary New Orleans, and its sister campaign “Be a Tourist in Your Own Hometown,” is an invitation for locals to come experience all the wonderful things to see, do and eat in this city.
“9.52 million people chose this city last year for vacation. New Orleanians have so many great things in their own backyard.”
The bureau picked August as it is traditionally a slower month in the service industry, with fewer out-of-town tourists stopping in. Participating restaurants will offer a combination of a three-course brunch for $39 or less, a two-to-three-course lunch for $20 or less, and a three-course dinner for $39 or less.
“There’s a lot of grandeur restaurants that participate,” said Trent Verges, director of marketing for Broussard’s Restaurant. “Usually, you’re looking at cost of an entrée anywhere from the $20 to $40 range.
“I can say for us: (Broussard’s is) offering $19.20 (for) three courses. We came up with that price because this is our 95th anniversary this year. So we were founded in 1920, so it was a little bit of a tie-in for us. You can’t usually go to one of the grandeur restaurants for $19.20 for a three-course meal.”
This year’s lineup will include brunch for the first time at a selection of the participating restaurants.
Brunch is a growing segment in New Orleans, Verges said. “We’ve expanded brunch within a very big crowd and we’ve continued to expand brunch every year. I think it was a good fit for COOLinary to offer a value-oriented brunch.”
More restaurants will also join the event this year, including St. Roch Market. The vendor-based market will offer the selection of three “courses” from different vendors and a drink. All will offer a special COOLinary item. Many returning restaurants will introduce wine pairings or add cocktails to their specials this year. The CVB is also working on deals for transportation.
When creating the menus for COOLinary, Brigtsen’s Chef Frank Brigtsen said he wanted to offer options, but he doesn’t just pick the most inexpensive items.
“We want to give them some good choices,” Brigtsen said. “That’s why we do three selections in the first two courses and we’re offering four desserts. It’s a combination of things that we’ve done in the past that people love, like the filé gumbo. … The shrimp salad option is something we do just for COOLinary because it’s late summer and the white shrimp season opens. The other factor is we want to offer people what they want.”
The restaurants also profit, not just only in the cash register, but also in the kitchen.
“Aside from the obvious of increasing business, it also makes it more fun for us,” Brigtsen said. “In the kitchen, we like to be busy. Being slow is boring. So this gives us a little bit of a step up. … It’s a challenge.”
Brigtsen’s has been a part of COOLinary since the beginning. Brigtsen said he has seen August become one of the restaurant’s busiest months, which he credits to COOLinary. This success is part of the reason that the restaurant, and a handful of others, will offer their COOLinary menu in September, too.
“We know from experience that September is traditionally a really slow month,” Brigtsen said. “And this year COOLinary is partnering with the (Louisiana Restaurant Association) restaurant week contest, which is a week in September, and so we agreed to do it for that, too. So we thought, what the heck, we’ll just do it for the whole month.”