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Food

Raise A Glass And A Chicken Thigh To The New Orleans Bars And Restaurants We Lost In 2020

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Ashley Dean
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WWNO
Pour one out for the original Saturn Bar.

There’s no overselling the value of a good local bar, restaurant or cafe — and that’s doubly true in New Orleans. Eating, drinking and being together are at the heart of our culture perhaps more than any other American city.

So when we lose our favorite place to eat, we lose much more than a place to eat, and the pandemic has brought on that loss again and again.

Some spots, like Saturn Bar, sold to a new owner. It’s an uncertain fate that raises the question of whether a place can keep its same spirit when new people call the shots. So we mourn accordingly.

Others, like Mimi’s in the Marigny, have left their longtime homes with assurances that they’ll open up somewhere else, and we hold out hope they’re right and that they’ll stay in the neighborhood.

More are gone for good.

With every closing, it wasn’t just a place we lost, it was a feeling. It’s the specific satisfaction of being a regular at the local dive, the camaraderie of game days, the comfort of a home-cooked meal away from home, and the delight of a $1 cupcake. We lost pieces of neighborhood character — and the familiar presence of the characters who made them.

We asked for your stories of the spots you’ll miss most, and we’ve collected them all here.

So raise a glass, a mug, a chicken thigh or a cupcake to the places we lost in 2020. May they live forever in our stories.

Li'l Dizzy's Cafe

UPDATE: Former Li'l Dizzy's owners Wayne Baquet Sr. and Janet Baquet have sold the restaurant to this son, Wayne Baquet Jr., and their daughter-in-law, Arkesha Baquet, Ian McNulty reports for The Times Picayune | New Orleans Advocate. The new generation plans to reopen for takeout and catering later this month. 

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Credit Ashley Dean / WWNO
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WWNO
Li'l Dizzy's Cafe sits quiet at the corner of Esplanade Avenue and N. Robertson Street. Dec. 31, 2020.

Treme 

1. Lil’ Dizzy’s was for EVERYONE. You could see the whole city there.

2. Mr. Baquet ran that place like a drill sergeant and it was a beautiful thing to witness.

3. Two words: fried chicken.

The first time I ate there, a few years ago when I first moved to New Orleans, I was wondering who the guys were at the next table, whom everyone else in the restaurant was surreptitiously taking pictures of. Turned out to be Michael Thomas and Justin Hardee. That was Lil’ Dizzy’s.

— Julie P.

Saturn Bar

9th Ward

The perfect dive, history visible on the walls and old decorations, the feeling that the place was unchanged and you're just another part of its history by being there. Also, bar cats!

Singing sea shanties on Lundi Gras from the packed balcony, everyone swaying together, felt like being on a ship full of people in costume. Perfect!

— Leah F.

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Credit Ashley Dean / WWNO
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WWNO
Saturn Bar sits closed at the corner of St. Claude Avenue and Clouet Street. Dec. 31, 2020.

The funky atmosphere and the beloved owner, O'Neal.

The night before Thanksgiving, O'Neal would be cooking up a storm with the already finished dishes lined up on the pool table. Another time when I was there with a friend, O'Neal needed to take a female patron home. He asked me to bartend until he came back. Well, three hours later he came back in through the door. I only had a few customers but being behind that legendary bar was a dream come true.

— Laura A.

Pirogues
Mid City

This no-frills, vaguely swamp-themed bar really hadn't been open for so many years, but it was *the* neighborhood watering hole, and it brought a lot of us together. On most evenings you could find a sweet mix of old-timers and newcomers hanging out watching football, eating tater tots, or having secret conversations in the only booth, tucked in a dark corner. Loved this place.

The bar was packed in January of 2018 for the infamous Saints-Rams game and what may be the worst blown call in NFL history. We all cried out in collective horror and then drowned our sorrows together.

— Tegan W.

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Credit Patrick Madden / WWNO
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WWNO
Pirogues is closed on Bayou Road in Mid City.

K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen
French Quarter

Delicious food, incredible staff, excellent cocktails.

We had dinner here with our families to celebrate our wedding and it endures as one of my favorite meals and memories. Management reserved the chef’s table for us and treated us like absolute royalty. When my brother wasn’t eating his twice baked potato correctly, the waitstaff stepped up to assist. When my father-in-law made off-menu requests and off-color jokes, our excellent waitress handled him with legendary aplomb, wit and charm. And the food was decadent and unforgettable.

— Juliann W.

Cafe Gentilly

Gentilly

Neighborhood gathering, affordable, great staff.

— Arthur N.

New Orleans Cake Cafe and Bakery

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Credit Ashley Dean / WWNO
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WWNO
Since New Orleans Cake Cafe and Bakery closed in June, the once-yellow building has had a paint job and now houses Louise. Dec. 31, 2020.

Marigny

Cake Cafe always had delicious food at a fair price with amazing service and hospitality. No matter how busy they got, I always felt welcome and taken care of, and the food was always excellent. Adding a $1 cupcake was always a joy, they had the best cupcakes in the city, and you would get your cupcake first and devour it before beginning your meal. A true New Orleans gem.

When I first met my fiance, we bonded over our common love for Cake Cafe and wondered how we had never run into each other there before. He shared that he had made a habit of feeding the pigeons in the area and as a result, there was a very polite cartoon posted around the building asking patrons not to feed the birds, and CDs attached to the bottom of the outdoor tables to repel them.

— Jessica F.

Arrow Cafe
French Quarter

It’s the most excited I have ever been to get all the punches on a loyalty card! I didn’t just earn a free coffee, but I remember getting to reach into the shoebox of mystery trinkets and pull out a prize. I got one of those plastic green soldiers and a few moments of child-like joy.

— Lucy R.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Arrow Cafe (@arrowcafe)

Mimi's in the Marigny

Marigny

What's not to love about a bar that feels like a dive but feeds you like nice tapas place?

As my neighborhood hang, Mimi's was where my then-fiance and I went to toast finding our first New Orleans apartment, raising glasses of prosecco with a congratulatory bartender at 1 p.m. on a weekday. It was at the center of my favorite flavor of Mardi Gras — Marigny Mardi Gras — and our go-to spot for drinks anytime and goat cheese croquettes at 2 a.m. Mimi's was all things for all occassions. 

— Ashley D.

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Credit Ashley Dean / WWNO
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WWNO
Revelers party on the balcony at Mimi's in the Marigny during Mardi Gras. February 2020.

For a full accounting of the restaurants we lost in 2020, here’s Ian McNulty for The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate.

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