Consumption of Experience

By Danielle Boudreau

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In “The Restaurants Book: Ethnographies of Where We Eat” (David Beriss and David Sutton, eds. www.bergpublishers.com) Derek Pardue talks of the “consumption of experience” whereby “exoticness and familiarity are purchased scenes in which food and eating experience play a significant role” (2007:67).  Design, decor, and music play into this experience almost as much as the patrons and food itself.  The Hispanic restaurants of our neighborhood each contribute in some manner to this consumption of experience.  Whether it is as a more “authentic” offering of Latin American food, such as at Taqueria Guerrero and El Rinconcito, a fusion of cultures, such as the New Orleans inspired version of Hispanic food at Juan’s Flying Burrito, or Mexican fusion cuisine offered at the upscale Canal Street Bistro, one can be sure these restaurants stay busy with locals for various reasons. They each offer a different “experience”, depending on one’s mood, so it seems as though they are not in competition.  While I might want a Mardi Gras Indian Taco at Juan’s one night, the next may find me hankering for some flautas at Felipe’s. Such is the key to the success of these restaurants in our study (not to mention, all offer unbelievable cuisine!!)

ImageImageFelipe’s Taqueria (http://www.felipestaqueria.com)

 

 

Local (Culture)

By Danielle Boudreau

 

The second of our three concepts of “local” refers to local culture.  The food served at the establishment does not necessarily have to be grown in the garden next door for it to still represent the local culture. For instance, the self-dubbed “Creole Taqueria,” Juan’s Flying Burrito (http://www.juansflyingburrito.com), integrates Latin American culture with New Orleans’ culture beautifully. Albeit “Americanized” cuisine, with plenty of cheese and variations of sour cream, it is still a sit down establishment where family and friends can congregate over burritos, tacos, quesadillas or enchiladas, much to the tradition of the Latin American way. Locals and visitors alike frequent this place- its hard to get a table around lunchtime any day of the week! As there are numerous people in business attire as well as scrubs, it seems that Juan’s is the hot spot for taking a break from the daily grind.The “Mardi Gras” tacos, coupled with a full Saints drink menu and décor made from Mardi Gras beads give one the impression that the New Orleans vibe is still seeping in at this establishment. Those wanting to fully integrate both worlds can purchase a T-shirt sporting the logo “Hecho in Nola”. Or, perhaps they can start a New Orleans traditional “second line” parade down  Carrollton Avenue headed by a Mariachi band? Anything is possible in New Orleans where all culture is welcome, but local culture is celebrated fiercely.ImageImageImage

“Local” (ethnicity)

By Danielle Boudreau

The last concept of local we should examine is a bit hard to articulate.  It involves representing the concept of “local” for those who may be far from home.  El Rinconcito, Taqueria Guererra, and even Canal Street Bistro, on some levels, all successfully accomplish this task for the immigrants and transplants who have been here since Hurricane Katrina.  In terms of decor, el Rinconcito and Taqueria Guererra both remind me of the many restaurants I visited in Central America.  Spacious, brightly colored, and with minimal decorations, the focus of the experience in these restaurants is on the authenticity of the food and the company one keeps while there.

Taqueria Guerrero is a restaurant that is “true” to the Mexican culture, offering up native dishes such as “Pollo Empanizado”, “Chiles Rellenos” and “Arroz con Frijoles” (a Mexican alternative to the New Orleanian Red Beans and Rice).It also serves as a place for local immigrants to maintain contact with their respective families back home- there is a separate counter where people can purchase prepaid calling cards and other items, a set-up similar to the Hispanic “pulpuria” (a convenience store sometimes located in restaurants or other popular gathering spots).

El Rinconcito translates literally to “the little corner”, and one can see that a more casual meaning of this restaurant’s name refers to the little corner of the world that it represents- that is, a loyal rendition of Central American cuisine. The name further translates to a place where the Central American immigrants find comfort in companionship after a hard day’s work. One does not find this place empty after 4pm- on the contrary- the bar has only room to stand, as does the room with the pool table, while the tables of the restaurant are full of those wishing to unwind and experience a little piece of “home” in their own little corner of the world, located in New Orleans, as well as local neighbors wishing to taste some “authentic” Central American cuisine.

As for Canal Street Bistro, Chef Peters attempts to use ingredients from the five native cultures of the Americas that may not be commonplace in our local New Orleanian culture.  Not only do American residents get to taste and experience these other cultures, but it provides some familiarity and comfort for those who are immigrants to get an authentic taste of “home”.

 

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Local (grown)

By Danielle Boudreau

The first concept of “local” that we will examine is that of origin.  I.e., food that is cultivated locally.  Two of our restaurants on the row that serve Hispanic food vehemently support this notion of “local”.  Chef Guillermo Peters and Owner Monica Ramsey, of Canal Street Bistro insist on using local products, particularly in their choices of seafood (http://www.canalstreetbistro.com). Co-owners of El Rinconcito (http://www.elrinconcitocaferestaurant.com), Mervin Duque and his mother Maria Louisa, insist that they only use “fresh” ingredients, which they believe is to be grown locally, in their Central American cuisine. Both restaurants take great pride in their culinary creations, and they believe this pride can only be cultivated by paying tribute to the local area of New Orleans.  How is this an important contribution to the Restaurant Row? Not only are they offering fresh, delectable dishes for those residents and visitors alike who crave either traditional or innovative Hispanic fare, but they are contributing to the local economy by attempting to secure their seafood, meats, and produce from the area in which they conduct business.

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La Cultura que Representa la Cultura (Culture Representing Culture)

By Danielle Boudreau

People would like for everything related to “culture” to specifically represent the city, but it is not that simple. Various ethnic backgrounds, some distinct and some blended, that inhabit a space, are what form the basis of our city culture that we try to “define”. Here in our Restaurant Row neighborhood, Hispanic culture is presented in myriad ways that all contribute to the collective society and success of the Mid City area. Since Hurricane Katrina, not only has the neighborhood of Mid City consistently thrived, but the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center shows that there has been an increase of residents in Orleans Parish who identify themselves as “Hispanic” of nearly 7%.  We will examine five restaurants, El Rinconcito, Taqueria Guerrero, Felipe’s, Juan’s Flying Burrito, and Canal Street Bistro. They are all attempts to integrate Central American culture and cuisine into Restaurant Row, but each represents a varying shade of the spectrum, under the definition of “Hispanic” culture. In the following essays, we will look at a concept called “consumption of experience”, and we will see how these restaurants contribute to three different ideas about “local”- whether they use locally grown food, represent the local culture, or represent a “local” culture for those looking for a familiarity from home- i.e. their concept of “local” via ethnicity.

 

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Blue Dot Donuts

As stated in a previous post, Blue Dot is a new addition to the restaurant row, having been opened only last year. The building it occupies, however, is one typical of the area, dating back to at least 1908, when it first shows up on the Sanborn maps as a storefront. The building has been converted at least twice since then: in 1940 it was divided into a store and two living apartments (a difficult arrangement to imagine if you have seen the size of the building). It now stands proudly radiating blue into the neighborhood, calling people to come and clog their arteries on delicious donuts which are made entirely on site, including any icings.

I have been inside twice: one weekend at dawn in March, and yesterday at around 10:30 in the morning, both times accompanied by my roommate, Katie. At dawn, we had the place to ourselves. There were only two teenagers behind the counter and everything was fresh and clean and quiet.

Not so at 10:30. When we arrived, there were people sitting at two outdoor tables and two indoor tables and the line went out the door. Two middle-aged men came around the counter to have a chat with a customer while the four teenage workers hustled to get everyone served in a timely fashion.

The table at which Katie and I sat was under a window which, in true New Orleans style, had wrought iron decorations doing double duty as a security devise. The shape of the building is long and narrow like a typical New Orleans shotgun house and the outdoor tables are the metal kind you see in front of any of the areas restauraunts, but the decorations are of a style all its own. All of the walls are painted blue, inside and out. A blue light glows in the window at night. There are pictures of donuts on the walls. The curtains are white with a blue spotted pattern. Even the indoor light fixtures are blue and round.

This cozy shop is a great addition for those in the neighborhood who need a quick, delicious breakfast on the go. If you’re really in a hurry, though, you may want to get there a bit early: the lines will be shorter and you’ll be more certain to get your hands on a bacon-covered long john!

Doson Noodle House

Doson is a small Vietnamese restaurant whose existance I had not noticed before this project. (Granted, even though I live in the area, I had not noticed most of the restaurants or shops here.) One evening in February, my older sister Natalie, her three-year-old daughter Rita, and I decide to try it out.

The exterior is fairly plain, but the interior is decorated in an Asian theme with accents such as a fat Buddha and Asian writing on the windows and menues.

When we enter, there is one group of 3 UNO students whom I recognize but do not know personally at a table near the door, one middle-aged couple against the right wall, and one young Asian girl doing homework at the table nearest the kitchen. She looks bored.

Our waiter is an Asian man in his late teens/early twenties. He is extremely friendly and attentive to everyone in the restaraunt and speaks English with no accent. The only other employee that we see is another waitress. We do not hear her speak much, but she does not appear to have an accent, either.

The waiter sees that I am carrying a child and starts to ask if we need a seat for her, then notices that she is sleeping. We tell him that she will not need a seat. He directs us to a four-person table against the left wall.

The waiter brings us water and takes our drink orders. (We try to wake Rita. She is shy of the waiter, who tried to talk to her, nods to indicate that she is, in fact, hungry, and immdiately falls back asleep.) Once we order, our rolls are brought out fairly quickly, but the noodles take more time. When the waiter brings us the rolls, he smiles, gives a friendly comment, and leaves. The waitress happens to pass just then and sees that we do not have chopsticks and offers us some.

The noodles are served in very generous proportions. As a broke college kid, I am excited that I will have leftovers, though I begin to regret eating almost an entire tray of brownies that afternoon. We try once more to wake Rita enough to eat something, but she remains slumped in my lap and mostly unresponsive.

The middle-aged couple left before we had even ordered. The college kids left in the time between recieving our rolls and our noodles. While we were eating our noodles, another group of two, who I did not get a good look at, was seated at their table. They were served water, but slipped out before ordering in a moment when the water and waitress were in the back. The waiter jokingly pouted at having been abandoned.

We eat as much of the noodles as we can, but there is still a bounteous amount on our plates. We ask for the check and go-boxes. The check comes with fortune cookies. My sister pays and we leave. The waiter bids us a friendly farewell. Rita doesn’t wake up until we put her in the car.

Overall, the restaurant had a quiet but friendly atmosphere. I can’t attest to its busier hours, but it was a very pleasant place to have a quiet meal with family.

Beauty and the Beast: Part II

Merchandise sold in Juicy, next to the bar. Photo By Stephanie Edwards

Just three blocks away from the hustle and bustle of the area busy thoroughfare and into the residential side lies a a quietness, a peacefulness that is otherworldly from what lies a stone’s throw away. Birds chirping, and casual footsteps along the sidewalks awaited me as I approached Grace Lutheran and Christian’s successor, Redemption. What I noticed immediately is how they repurposed the info booth outside the church to house the menus, and the restaurant’s mission statement. As I approached the glass enclosed marquee entrance I already felt out of place and under-dressed. I know they say you can come to church as you are, but this ain’t a church no more! As I was in nothing more than the equivalent of gym clothes I almost turned around and left. However when I went in hostess might as well been an usher because she was very welcoming. As I stepped in , it almost felt magical. It felt like somewhere I’ve been before even though I never stepped in here. Despite the high ceilings, the space felt warm and romantic with a rose on every table and a local painting on every wall. Servers, of course were a far cry from those at Juicy Lucy, with their all black ensemble, clean shaven faces and non-visible tattoos. Also to mention there were no cigarette butts lining the sidewalks. As for Juicy Lucy, staff smoke out in front while waiting for customers. I’m sure Redemption has a designated area in the back for that.

Photos like this are by local artists are hangin on the walls throughout Redemption depicting French Quarter architecture and jazz musicians.

After my first visit, I would then later on return ( in my sunday best, no pun intended)  to interview Greg Picola, the Executive chef and General Manager of Redemption. For a leading chef in New Orleans that works 85-90 hours a week, and to what many say is the main reason people have been attracted to Redemption, he came off as very modest, warm and familiar to talk to. I felt as though I was talking to longtime friend of my mom’s. He even offered me something to drink, at no charge. He has been working for Redemption for 6 months, before that he was renowned for his culinary expertise at The Bistro at Maison de Ville for over 20 years. Before I interviewed him, both Samantha and I talked to Denise, who is Mike Juan’s “Gateway,” as she puts it; She has been in the restaurant industry for over 20 years also, working at such venues in Fort Walton Beach in Florida, California, and 11 years at Houston’s on St. Charles as a manager. She wrote employee manuals and was lead manager during her career. The interviews had their similarities and stark differences.

Both felt that Mid City Market and Lafitte Greenway Project will attract more people to the area, that it can only get better for Mid-city/Carrollton altogether. However as far as the area itself, Denise feels that it is very competitive, she made that very apparent while trying to reassert the strength in that area: ” We sell over 900 hamburgers a week…. there are people that come over the Bonne Carrie Spillway just to come here.” She would also probably feels this way due to the oncoming of a Five Guys burger joint that will open in the market. On the other hand, Greg Picolo does not believe in external competition, but rather a community of restaurants that work to serve the neighborhood. He fells that “…Just as long as people are doing their own thing and not stealing from anyone, it’s alright” he has a concept of internal competition, by you doing your very best and working hard in whatever you’re doing. He did address a issue of the neighborhood that Beriss mentioned in class: the amount of fine dining establishments that have crept up in the area such as Redemption, Cafe Minh, Rue 127, Canal St. Bistro and the like, “It feels these place are more for people who are coming here from other places rather than those who have actually been living here…places like Palmer and there was this place you can get plate of red beans, sausage, and rice for under 10 dollars, all that gone.” As for the future of both places, Juicy Lucy has expanded to Metairie on Houma Blvd which long-housed the Texas Barbeque Company. As for Redemption, they are going to stay at their current location and really work on building up their name and distinguishability. In all I encourage everyone to go to both places and think of New Orleans in terms of both places. If you want to know more, checkout:

redemption-nola.com

Juicy Lucy currently does not have a website , but you can “fan” them on  Facebook, or stop in and tell’em Stephanie sent ya!

One Last Note: I hope this project continues and the the next class or group will keep up with this also, at least until the new area developments are up and running. Peace!

 

 

Beauty and The Beast, Both Juicy Lucy and Redemption Represent New Orleans Part I:

Streetview Or Juicy Lucy, Photo By Stephanie Edwards

Me and my partner, Samantha, have chosen quite a pair of restaurants which couldn’t be any more opposite from one another, yet I think both represent New Orleans in a fair light. Redemption and Juicy Lucy are two of the newer additions to the Restaurant Row in which there has been no previous research by the Restaurant Recovery Row Project (RRRP). So it is quite refreshing to take on two totally new places. Historically speaking, the current building of Juicy Lucy has switched hands multiple times going back to the mid 1930’s, while Redemptions has only had two main previous entities-Christian and Grace Lutheran Church. Also historically, in the context of the city’s restaurant and food culture, there has been a dichotomy in the popular imagination: one being that New Orleans has beautiful long standing classic family owned restaurants and on the other hand known for having a “funky” atmosphere where “true” locals go to get great food before heading out to bars (most cases they are the same place)—usually these notions lean toward the latter. Areas like Mid City disband both schools of thought by actually infusing them together.

The Original Juicy Lucy, Photo By Stephanie Edwards

Before I even stepped into Juicy Lucy, the first thing I noticed was the noise; traffic passing right behind me, people passing right by me going to various places and in front of me were two tables, one of them occupied by a groups of ladies who were being blatantly being “hollered at” by the cooks from the Italian Pie next door. It was a relatively slow time that Monday afternoon, so servers were chilling outside the store front smoking cigarettes until a customer came. Their uniforms were very laxed, going beyond just jeans and a t-shirt. One server had multiple face piercings and full neck tattoos. He was the one that actually approached me for service. Despite the uber informalities, he was very nice; “ Hi how ya doing? Need a table for two?” to an unsuspecting tourist, they might think he was going to assault them. I informed him that I was an anthropology student from UNO continuing a two year project and that there are other students involved reviewing restaurants in the area. He said the owner was not available that day, I hope to interview him soon.  In the meantime, it was lunchtime. When I was seated, I was facing a large wall sized mirror that gave the illusion of the space being bigger than what it was. Music from the local radio station was blaring and there were flat screen tvs by the bar. The wals are dawned in New Orleans/Mardi Gras décor and Juicy Lucy merchandise. When the food comes out, no plates;  it’s just a basket lined with blue and white checkered paper. If you’d like, you can have a glass of red wine with your meal, for the wine case is see through and visible from the dining area. Overall Juicy Lucy offers  a very no frills space to enjoy a bite to eat, hang out with friends, coworkers, etc and hang out at the bar, or catch a game on tv as with most places in this area. However, one would not know that what lies three blocks down Iberville is a whole other  deal.

TO BE CONTINUED: SEE PART II

 

 

 

Researching Building History!

One of our assignments for our Restaurant Row Recovery project was to find the history of the buildings that our current assigned restaurants now reside in.  At first, I was super excited to do this part of our research.  I knew it would be very interesting to seek out this kind of information.  The past has always sparked my interest.

As the semester progressed, finding the building histories turned out to be quite the adventure.  At first, I really did not know where to start because I had never done this kind of research before (researching the history of a building).  Mr. David Beriss (our professor) directed our class to a past blog post, written by a previous student, on how to find the history of a building, so that is where I began.  To find the blog that I am referring to, scroll down for a while.  The title of the blog is “Finding the Roots of Place,” written by Seth Gray on July 13th, 2010. Seth’s blog gives very good links and instructions on how and where to go to find the history of a building.

My first attempt to find the building histories was a visit to the New Orleans Notarial Archives (http://www.notarialarchives.org/) at 1340 Poydras Street, Suite 500 New Orleans, LA 70112.  After I arrived, I was directed to the conveyance office on the 4th floor by the nice lady who was working the front desk on the first floor.  As I walked into the office, I started to get really excited to find the information and was very sure that I was about to learn so much.  This feeling rapidly disappeared as soon as I opened the first book I was directed to.  I was rapidly bombarded with tons of confusing codes, numbers, and realty terms.  Let’s just say, information overload.  My trip to the conveyance office did not turn out as I had hoped.

Luckily though, after my experience at the conveyance office, I expressed my frustrations with one of my classmates, Erin Kinchen.  She was so helpful and directed me to the New Orleans Public Library (http://nutrias.org/).  She had informed me that the city directories were located here, which listed many addresses in New Orleans and what businesses they had previously been (Yes!! That was exactly what I was looking for!). Thank you again, Erin!

The next day I headed to the library and found everything Erin had told me about.  This was actually really fun for me, especially because this was the first time I had ever looked through micro-films (before the year 1960, all of the city directories were only available in micro-film).  After hours of going through micro-films and books, from 1940 to now, I now can present to you the building history of my partner and I’s restaurants: WOW Café & Wingery, El Rinconcito, and Kjean’s Seafood. Success!

218 North Carrollton Ave (El Rinconcito)

1940-1946: Vacant

1947-1955: Gould WM J Dentist

1956-1961: Dentist/ Mid City Hardware Store

1962-1970: Dentist/ TuFrens Beauty Salon

1972-1975: Dentist

1976-1979: Dentist/ Don’s Salon of Beauty

1980-1981: Dentist

1982-1998: no longer listed in directory

1999-2002: Vu Chong H. (possibly Pho Tau Bay?)

2003-2006: no longer listed in directory (but could possibly still be Pho Tau Bay)

2006-Present: El Rinconcito

231 North Carrollton Ave (WOW Café and Wingery)

1940-1944: Wagner Marine Sales & Services CO

1945-1946: Vacant

1947-1952: Haring OE Inc. (parts department)

1953-1955: Colonial Buick Co.

1956-1989: Regal Tire Service

1990-1996: Sound Warehouse Music & Movies

1997-2006: Blockbuster

(Though, the City Directory listed Wherehouse Entertainment Records from 2001-2006)

2007: Clear Channel Radio, Direct Access TV, Sprint, and WOW Café and Wingery

2008-2009: Direct Access TV, Papa Johns, Singer Kitchens, WOW Café and Wingery, and B Athletes Foot

2010: Subway was added

2011-Present: Papa Johns, Singer Kitchens, Neighborhood Pet Market, WOW, and Subway

236 North Carrollton Ave (Kjean’s Seafood)

1940-1988: address was not listed in City Directory

1989-1992: Caballero’s Quality Seafood

1992-Present: Kjean’s Seafood

Hope y’all enjoyed the history! Have a great day! –Rachael Horn