Ain’t That Phancy: Bringing a taste of NOLA to TikTok

Karen Phan is taking a bite out of New Orleans one restaurant at a time on TikTok. Her viral account shows off something every New Orleans loves; food.

by Sidney Holmes | March 31, 2021

Karen Phan is taking a bite out of New Orleans one restaurant at a time — in 30 seconds or less.

For the past few years, the self-described foodie has been trying out eateries all over the city and reviewing them on Yelp.

That’s until 2020 hit. Phan found herself at home like many others because of the coronavirus pandemic, so she hopped on one of the trendiest apps at the time: TikTok. 

At first, Phan was just a casual viewer, but she eventually decided to take her affinity for food to another level and started posting videos about all of the restaurants she had been to before stay-at-home orders slowed down business.

Phan took on the username @aintthatphancy as a play on words of her last name.

Each video highlights restaurants and bars across the Greater New Orleans area. From dumplings and doughnuts to pizza and pad thai, she covers it all. But you won’t find the usual suspects or tourist traps on her page. Phan makes it a point to feature little-known and emerging spots. She hopes her videos will help people branch out and try new things.

@aintthatphancyLong Chim – Thai street food, very authentic and yummy! Definitely diverting your taste palate 👅 #nola #foodie #louisianacheck #neworleans #thai♬ YRN (tik tok) – Tyler April

“We live down here where there are so many restaurants that need to be tried … I want people to know that it’s OK to come down here and not eat fried seafood or gumbo,” Phan said.

MORE: Long Chim brings a taste of the Thailand’s street Food to the Crescent City

Each video is less than 30 seconds. It’s a short amount of time, but it’s just enough to grab people’s attention.

“I want it to be easy and simple. It’s 15 seconds. It’s a video that needs to catch your eye. If the picture doesn’t catch your eye, you immediately lose that person’s interest,” Phan said.

It worked. Within about a month of posting, Phan had her first popular video. It was all about a Black-owned business in the 7th Ward called J’s Creole Wings.

@aintthatphancyIT’S NATIONAL CHICKEN WING DAY 🍗 J’s Creole Wings – Marigny, NOLA #nationalchickenwingday #foodie #nola #fyp #blackownedbusiness♬ TOES – DaBaby

In less than a year, Phan’s more than 100 videos have been watched nearly 2 million times. She’s a one-person production team — recording, editing and posting every video herself, and she does it all for free.

“I don’t like to beg. I don’t like to ask for things…. [Restaurants] give me something, and I give back,” Phan said.

Phan pays for every meal money and even buys gift cards to give away to her followers. At the end of the day, Phan says the motivation behind her TikTok account is about keeping New Orleans restaurants alive and paying it forward.

“Tourism is trying to survive, and I’m trying to do my part to help,” Phan said.

While it may seem like she’s eating all the time, Phan says she only goes out to eat about twice a week, and she doesn’t eat all of that food by herself. She usually has friends or family around to keep her company.

@aintthatphancyDisco ball cocktail @ Jack Rose – best cocktail there besides the endless summer. They only serve a limited number a night due to covid #nola♬ TICTAC x FOOT FUNGUS x DOUGIE x BATMAN – Varoon Ramesh

“I feel like [food] brings people together … we always eat, and we have to eat, so why not make it a good meal and a memorable meal?” Phan said.

Whether it’s dine-in, delivery or takeout, Phan said she hopes her content will influence other people to support local businesses and share those special moments with the ones who are closest to them. 



Sidney Holmes

Sidney Holmes

Sidney Holmes is a New Orleans native with a love for life. She writes about food, entertainment and everything that makes this city so unique. Her journalism career started at Loyola University New Orleans, where she served as editor-in-chief of The Maroon. She also worked a producer at WDSU-TV.

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