In New Orleans, the great meals of the past aren’t always confined to the past. Sometimes they’re the next thing you eat.
This city does have a keener sense than most for its own history, and that extends to the dining room.
Lately, though, we’ve seen the return of restaurants and even particular dishes once thought to be lost to oblivion.
By oblivion, of course, I mean Hurricane Katrina and the cruelly flawed response to it. New Orleans lost more in a stroke than some cities will ever have.
But these days there’s gathering evidence that you can never fully count a restaurant out.
This year’s Katrina anniversary marked No. 13, an unlucky number but not a particularly big milestone. We should probably just ignore it. But I can’t. Because this time of year, when I think about what we lost, I also think with gratitude about how much more came back, how much the people of this city willed back into being.
That goes for restaurants too, and sometimes it’s a long play.
Last year, we saw the return of Dunbar’s Creole Cuisine, one of the classics of black Creole cooking before Katrina. The gumbo, the red beans, the chicken, the people -- it’s all back in a new location on Earhart Boulevard. Gabrielle also returned that year, restoring one of the acclaimed fine dining spots of its day with a vivid reminder of how enduring Louisiana flavor can be.
And this summer Barrow’s Catfish brought back the famous dish of Barrow’s Shady Inn. Different location, same family, same catfish, fantastic reception from a city that had not forgotten.
These are also are reminders of how lucky we are that so many New Orleans restaurants came back at any point. For some it took weeks or many months. For others cases, like Charlie’s Steak House, it took years and new owners to restore a beloved restaurant in the same spirit. In every single case it took a decision to do it again, to rebuild, to recommit to this city.
Food memories stay with us in New Orleans. We’re lucky our restaurants have stuck with us too.
Dunbar’s Creole Cuisine
7834 Earhart Blvd., 504-509-6287
2441 Orleans Ave., 504-603-2344
8300 Earhart Blvd., 504-265-8995
Charlie’s Steak House
4510 Dryades St., 504-895-9323