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Exploring the New New Orleans

Ben Jaffe (left) and Charlie Gabriel of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, outside the French Quarter club.

Photo: Cedric Angeles

“Boom”

“It’s sort of a pattern,” says Bayona chef and co-owner Susan Spicer. “Just before 9/11 things were going great, but after that the tourist industry got smacked down. It took us four years to build back up. We were going great guns, and then Katrina. And we come clawing and scratching our way back. And then, again, boom.”

Boom was one of the many new words that everyone in New Orleans, and America, learned last summer, along with the comically morbid topkill. Grasping what the oil spill means for the Gulf, for the seafood industry, and for New Orleans, was unclear as the oil flowed, and remains so. I visit Spicer in her new restaurant in Lakeview, Mondo, which, true to its name, features an eclectic, globalized menu: a ceviche with fresh tortilla chips and guacamole; Thai shrimp and pork meatballs; pizza from a wood-burning oven; deviled eggs. She has a warm, sardonic presence beneath which, you can tell, lurks a fierce perfectionist. Already well-known, Spicer has seen her notoriety rise because of a class action lawsuit against BP that seeks damages resulting from the oil spill’s impact on the Gulf Coast seafood industry. “The next step is what they call ‘discovery,’ ” she says. “We’ll see what gets discovered. There’s already a huge whitewash campaign, but people need to be informed. I don’t think something of this magnitude can help but have long-term effects.” Meanwhile, the dishes at Mondo and Bayona keep coming.

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