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Where Y’Eat: Dew Drop Inn Rises Again in New Orleans

The revived Dew Drop Inn in New Orleans
Ian McNulty
The revived Dew Drop Inn in New Orleans

If the walls at the Dew Drop Inn could talk, they would probably sing. Maybe they’d also laugh along to memories of comedy acts and marvel at the panoply of other performers who came through, and perhaps talk of the momentous nights when superstars of American music visited its small stage.

Today, the walls around this nearly-lost, now-resurgent landmark of New Orleans history and Black culture are filling again with stories of the past, and also with excitement for the future here. And yes, that includes lunch and drinks.

In its first heyday, from the 1940s through the 1960s, the Dew Drop Inn was a hotel, restaurant, music club and barber shop. During Jim Crow-era segregation it was a magnet for Black talent, a hub of Black New Orleans social life and an oasis for Black travelers in the region.

In the decades since, the Dew Drop Inn has lived in lore, while its property on Lasalle Street in Central City deteriorated and tilted further toward what looked like the end. But it has a new beginning now that proprietor Curtis Doucette Jr. has brought it back.

The new Dew Drop Inn is now open after a sweeping renovation. At one grand opening concert, the soul queen Irma Thomas sang the same set she performed at the Dew Drop 63 years ago.

Day to day though, the Dew Drop is poised to be a special hospitality space for New Orleans. It is again a hotel and a music venue, one suffused with history. It’s also a bar for an anytime drink and a restaurant, serving breakfast and lunch through the week and weekend brunch. Marilyn Doucette, the owner’s aunt, is well known for her healthier spin on Creole flavor at her French Market stand. Now she runs the kitchen at the Dew Drop Inn too.

The Dew Drop Inn was many things in the past. That’s true again as it begins a new chapter. The biggest thing the Dew Drop Inn is now, though, is back.

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