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As New Orleans Restaurants Keep Reopening Question Marks Remain

A small store's open-for-business sign

The New Orleans restaurant community is very far from back to normal, but most local restaurants are at least back open for business. That leaves some question marks: restaurants that remain shuttered but haven’t announced that they’re permanently closed.

I’ve been trying to answer some those questions, and the effort has added a new appreciation for the crisis that they continues to face. In other words, it ain’t over, and the different paths back for restaurants help tell the tale.

First some updates: Emeril’s Restaurant the original, the flagship for the celebrity chef, will reopen at the end of August. When it does, expect to see Emeril himself directing the kitchen as it gets rolling again.

Across the spectrum, the small Creole restaurant Café Dauphine has been an anchor for its Holy Cross neighborhood and this family-run spot plans to reopen in the fall.

More are coming along faster, look for the Uptown burger spot G.B.’s Patio Grill and the Mid-City cocktail den Revel to both reopen in a matter of weeks, or maybe days.

For others though the crisis has created a crossroads. Consider the case of Upperline - an important part of the New Orleans restaurant world for close to 40 years. As things stand right now though, proprietor JoAnn Clevenger just can’t say if it’s time to reopen or call it the end of the line for Upperline.

These different trajectories have help crystallize something important about the times we’re living in. Everything came to a lurching halt at once last year with the shutdowns. Starting up again is a much different story, one directed by factors as various as leases and debt loads, government relief, staff, family and individual chapters of life.

Bringing restaurants back from the brink is bound to be uneven journey, because the best are complex and defined by all these personal characteristics. That’s also why we value them, and it’s why we should still be rooting for them.

Ian covers food culture and dining in New Orleans through his weekly commentary series Where Y’Eat.