I am Kathleen, and I have teamed up with Austen to research Theo’s Neighborhood Pizza and Canal St Bistro as part of the Restaurant Row Project.
From this research we hope to create a better understanding of the qualities and elements that make Mid-City unique, and relate them to the restaurants that thrive there.
As we know, there are dozens of delicious locally owned restaurants in the Canal Carrolton area. I find that breaking the restaurants up as pre and post Katrina is most helpful, because often historical places i.e. Mandina’s and Brocato’s, are used as reference points when giving driving directions to near-by restaurants. This adds an element of authenticity and draws people to the neighborhood. At the same time, we mustn’t over look the importance of the newbie’s to the block. In this complex ecosystem each successful restaurant brings something to the table that the restaurants around it may not.
Since both of our restaurants can be considered new kids on the block; we decided to focus on what makes them successful in a neighborhood filled with tradition. From our interviews with representatives from both restaurants, we found that the most important thing in this area is to be seen as a staple in the community. For example, Theo’s Neighborhood Pizza, prides itself on being, well… neighborhood oriented. Theo’s has created a strong repeat customer clientele. There are many regulars who spend hours there every Tuesday for 1$ draft day. As Austen and I watched dozens of people come, order, eat, and leave, we noticed that a particular group of Tuesday regulars are as much of a part of Tuesdays at Theo’s as 1$ draft beer is. Regulars like this make New Orleans special because they create the authentic and personal element that is often missing in restaurants of all kinds. When you go to Theo’s, it is a social event. You expect to see familiar people there, and you aren’t surprised when a random person strikes up a conversation with you.
Canal St Bistro is similar in that they have many regulars and work to create a strong presence in the neighborhood. They offer the restaurant for community events like The Mid-City Neighborhood Organization meetings, advertise only through local media outlets, and buy as much of their ingredients from local growers as possible. They also buy earth friendly materials such as napkins and sauce cups made out of corn and cane sugar. General Manager Seth Gray explained to us that when the owner began to conceptualize the restaurant, she was not trying to recreate the Mid-City that was, pre-Katrina, but instead a Mid-City of the future. She believes that this area now has the opportunity to live up to its potential and create something that people can relate to as they can to Oak St., but larger and more diverse.
Well, that’s all for today! Next, I will focus on the most important part, THE FOOD!