Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Phoenixes of New Orleans

Wednesday we visited some New Orleans institutions that were practically destroyed by Katrina and have risen from the ashes. When the hurricane hit, Willie Mae Seaton left town with only the clothes on her back and her James Beard award in her purse. After Katrina nearly destroyed the place, volunteers organized by the Beard Foundation and the Southern Foodways Alliance helped to rebuild. There is even a documentary.

The restaurant is now being run by Willie Mae's great-granddaughter, Kerry Seaton. Willie Mae's Scothch House on St. Ann is famous for their fried chicken and is a destination spot for lovers of local cuisine like Ed Levine and the Roadfooders.

One of my favorite restaurants, Dooky Chases, is just around the corner from Willie Mae's. When I realized there was a 45 minute wait, I thought I'd check out Dooky Chase during the interim. There have been various rumors about Dooky Chase since Katrina, that it's only open on certain days or only for takeout.

Then I did something only a crazy foodie with limited time would do - I walked around the corner and ate lunch while I waited for my lunch.

Dooky Chase is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 11 to 3 for a buffet lunch. The day I arrived, they didn't have the delicious fried chicken. On the Wednesday I was there we had baked chicken and a number of side dishes.

Andouille sausages

Let's see, ummm, baked chicken, succotash, dirty rice, white rice, red beans, white beans, creole shrimp, greens...

I have always loved Leah Chase, ever since I saw her on TV making an entire meal casually using a fork as her only cooking utensil. And who was still in the kitchen, whipping up the lunch? The lady herself.

For "second lunch", I made my way back to the Scotch House. Their fried chicken IS the best fried chicken in the world. The skin was as rich a pork cracklins. Just look at that crispy skin!

You can get the usual red beans and rice

but the side dish not to miss are the butter beans, which are seriously creamy - and hammy.

The small dining room encourages comraderie (if you didn't already share life stories while waiting in line). These friendly people let me photograph their food.

There were homey tchotchkes on narrow shelves

Because these aren't just restaurants. These places are home.

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