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”.