War—It’s Good for Pizza

War.  What is it good for?

A question posed by one of the most popular protest songs of all time. “War” by Edwin Starr does indeed have an answer to the worth of war—it’s good for absolutely nothing.  C’mon, sing along with me.

War…Huh…Yeah!  Whaaaat is it good for? Absolutely Nothing.  Good God, y’all!
Say it again y’all!

The value of war has a vastly different definition here in restaurant row.  War is actually good for the pizza business.

Pizza Wars has concluded its final week highlighting the various pizza establishments in New Orleans.  Pizza Wars is a competition between participating restaurants promoting “A NOLA Pizza Experience.”  You receive a pizza passport that can be stamped at each restaurant and upon completion you fill out a survey and vote for all your favorites—including: Best Thin Crust; Best Specialty Pizza; Best Beer Selection; Best Deep Dish; Best Atmosphere; and (click here for) your OVERALL favorite pizza joint.

The contest winner receives a grand prize of a pair of Jazz Fest Brass Passes while 20 others can win gift certificates and pizza parties.  The odds of winning appear pretty good.  The lack of publicity and advertising for this promotion seems to favor either pizza connoisseurs or industry insiders that can compare talents or vie for bragging rights.  Obtaining 10 stamps can be adventurous and fun yet time consuming and expensive—hey it’s war anything goes…

Yikes–OK, almost anything.

What I find fascinating about Pizza Wars is that this is both friendly and competitive.  It’s about discovering a different experience, taste, and style of pizza.  It showcases diversity and various strengths.  It shines a spotlight on a particular cuisine in a city known for culinary creativity.

There are 10 participating restaurants, a couple of which are local chains with multiple locations.  However, there are 14 categories to vote for your favorites.

Photo Credit Ian McNulty

Basically, there’s plenty of space for everyone to be a winner.  It suggests that there’s confidence in the industry and that there are options for any desired style of local pizza.  This is a similar phenomenon here in our restaurant row where clustering is a means to success.

I’m curious to see the same war in an economic downturn.  Would we see this same competitive camaraderie?  I suppose you could argue that we are in such a recession—yet are we experiencing the same economic climate as the rest of the nation?  Are we still rebuilding from Katrina or still utilizing federal funds insulating our economy?  Certainly this area is still extremely attractive for continued investments as can be seen by the continued growth of the Lafitte Greenway.  In a down economic environment, I could envision the industry galvanized to such an extent that there would be an increase of “warring” cooperation.

Photo credit Ian McNulty

If you didn’t get an opportunity to tour your local warring pizza establishments don’t worry.   Once a war stops another one is about to begin.  In fact, check out this month’s Pizza Magazine where one of Theo’s owners, James “Jammer” Orintas discusses the benefits of cross promotion and the prospects of future Pizza warfare.  A second Pizza War is in the works for this summer (or 2013 according to The facebook) and will benefit a local children’s band.  Now, that’s something to we can come together and fight over.  So get your passports ready because war is around the corner.  Now that’s a great answer.

Photo Credit Eileen K. at Yelp.com

War.  What is it good for?  THAT is absolutely something.

Although, I like mine without mushrooms.


By M. Hendrickson

First Impressions at Rue 127

You know when you first meet someone you try to leave a good first impression?  You hope to make them laugh or impress them in some way.  You certainly don’t want your fly to be unzipped, say something offensive, or have spinach stuck in your teeth while saying it.  Well, when I first walked into Rue 127 I thought an XYZ was in order.

I had taken a couple of photos out front before heading inside.  I think the bartender spotted me taking pics and shot me a quizzical, if not displeased, look before I entered the restaurant.  My appearance was not that of your typical Rue 127 customer, as I was wearing a hoodie and jeans with my flat brimmed ball cap in my hands.  Welcomed by the same bartender with a cool, “Can I help you with something?”  I couldn’t help but laugh to myself.  It seemed a drink was in order as I began my field work.


As an anthropologist, building relationships, establishing trust, and developing rapport is vital to the job description.  Needless to say there was some skepticism to overcome as I began to describe the nature of our project.  I explained the context of the research: first, as part of post-Katrina recovery and resiliency efforts; and second, in regards to the new business developments and expansions of the Lafitte Greenway.  I also assured them we were not reviewers and that our intentions were to benefit the community.  That helped.

I think it also helped that I ordered something other than my usual PBR.  I ordered a specialty cocktail and we began talking his specialty, specialty drinks.  That seemed to lighten the mood.  Cisco (the bartender, not the drink!) obviously took a lot of pride in his craft and of the place.  He also had just developed a completely new cocktail menu of his own design, including a new batch of lavender infused bourbon (he also does a bacon infused bourbon!).  I respected his craftsmanship and began to share a bit about myself and my personal history.

I am a new resident of the Crescent City, having moved here from Seattle some 7 months ago to begin grad school.  My previous occupation was as a high-end residential house painter.  Yes–interior and exterior; when it’s raining (which is often) we would work inside.  It was evident that there was great care and attention to detail in creation of every aspect of this restaurant.

My first impression of Rue 127 was related to my construction background.  I commented on the level of craftsmanship unique to the front door.  It was the first thing I noticed when I entered; a detailed pane of glass decorating the beautifully stained front door.  Somehow these two things, sharing a bit of myself and complimenting the craftsmanship of the door, resonated with the employees and the skepticism vanished.  I was then whisked away from the bar by the hostess Ashley and given a tour of the restaurant.

With my background as a painter, she was eager to show off the painstakingly stenciled bathrooms.  The owner’s mother hand painted both rooms, including a Fleur de Lis homage to the Saints, the walls of which contained pictures of the Super Bowl championship run and signatures of the players.

I wondered if, because I was an outsider, they wanted to impress upon me their southern hospitality and an authentic New Orleans experience, or if it was a simple connection of recognition and appreciation?  Regardless, I was glad to have this new rapport.

I thought of all the tiny things that go on behind the scenes in making a successful restaurant.  The personal relationships and community connections that have made up this restaurant row; the history of place and people, and the hard work and love that has translated into every morsel.  And I wondered what the future holds for this community and the future of the city’s cultural cuisine.  I may not be a native New Orleanian but my first impression is that this is a special place.  Rue 127, nice to meet you.

By M. Hendrickson