Hello all, I’m Austen Dooley and this is my first ever blog post so please bear with me. During this semester we have been assigned a research project for Applied Anthropology with Dr. Beriss that deals with the cluster of restaurant in the Canal and Carrollton area of New Orleans. This project is titled the Restaurant Row Recovery Project and our main objective is to discover why this cluster of restaurants exists in this particular neighborhood and why it is so successful. In addition to answering those questions we will also look at the Restaurants progression since Katrina and their feelings towards the Laffite green way project and the new big box retail that is set to break ground as well as the new Mid City Market. The last question which is more holistically is what the individual restaurants believe the future of this restaurant row will be. To answer these we have split the class into groups of two and each group was assigned at least two restaurants to research. We will conduct interviews with managers and owner as well as the wait staff, and possibly some regulars if we’re lucky. We will also do some research on the history of the buildings that the present restaurants occupy and in addition do some observations in the restaurants and what I’m most excited about…eating food!
My research partner, Kathleen DeMajo and I were assigned Theo’s Neighborhood Pizza and Canal St. Bistro. I have been a resident of the New Orleans most of my life and to be honest I haven’t been to any of the restaurants in the Canal and Carrollton area with the exception of Juan’s Flying Burrito. Needless to say I was a little nervous and intimidated by the project. However once I started to visit the neighborhood and get acquainted with my assigned restaurants, I began to understand why this particular area is so special, and my fears began to dissipate as we jumped in to our research. First Kathleen and I visited Theo’s Neighborhood Pizza. We unintentionally went on a Tuesday afternoon which as it turns out is one of their busiest night due to their 1$ draft beer special. This turned out to be blessing and a curse for us because we able to see a lot of regulars as they came in for their weekly Tuesday visit but the staff in turn were busy and did not have much time to chat with us. We did get to have a quick interview with a server Candice who had been with the restaurant for three years. She explained to us the sincere relationship between the restaurant and the customers which is the foundation of Theo’s Neighborhood Pizza. While we were doing our initial observation I decided to try Theo’s new Bacon and Blue Cheese Pizza (check out their menu), if you’re a fan of bacon, blue cheese, spinach, tomatoes, and garlic (which are some of my favorites) this pizza is the right one for you, however you might need a breath mint after. I was amazed by how friendly everyone was both the costumers and the staff. Numerous people smiled and nodded as they passed by sometimes an awkward wave or a slight nod. When we first arrived we observed a group of older men setting at the table eating. At first we thought nothing about it just men getting a late lunch or early dinner, however after an hour they were done with their meal and still drinking 1$ draft beer. As the dinner rush came in they greet numerous people coming in and had extended conversations about families and politics. Like I said they did this on numerous occasion, and when we asked Candice about them she told us that they frequented the restaurant many times a week and over the years had established many relationships with Theo’s other customers as well as the staff. This was the first indication to me that this restaurant cluster in the Canal and Carrollton area were more important to the community than just a typical restaurant, this cluster brings people together and that’s something special.
We are still awaiting a response from the owners of Theo’s (which at the moment is not looking promising) to ask them some of the broader questions of our research. But if they do not reply the manager said he would be happy to assist any way he can. That all for now on the next blog I will comment on my amazing interview with Seth Gray the general manager of Canal St. Bistro and a former researcher of the Restaurant Row Recovery Project.