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” (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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Mid-City Cluster of Awesomeness!

Hello again. As promised in my last blog, this entry will mainly focus on the interviews that were conducted by Stephanie and myself. We went into each interview hoping to gain some insight on why this cluster of restaurants is here and how the Greenway Project and the new plaza development will affect them. The following is a map that shows the changes that these new developments plan on bringing to the area.

Stephanie and I started off our interviews at Juicy Lucy’s. As we entered the restaurant we were greeted by Denise Thomas, the manager of Juicy Lucy’s. We asked her if Mr. Mike Juan was available for a quick interview. Denise informed us that Mr. Mike has been spending a lot of time at their soon-to-be new location in Metairie on Houma Blvd. She agreed to sit with us and answer any questions that we had, despite the fact that she was waiting on tables as well. Denise has been working at Juicy Lucy’s for 9 months, but has been in the restaurant business for the majority of her life. She’s managed Mr. B’s Bistro in the French Quarter and Houston’s on St. Charles. She has also written employee manuals for Neows.

We asked Denise about the history of the building. She says that she has lived in the neighborhood for 16 years and she’s seen at least 13 other businesses housed in this particular building. Some of these businesses consisted of other restaurants, coffee shops, and even a small grocery store, Denise tells us.

“If there is one thing that you can tell someone about the history of this place, what would it be?” I ask her. Her eyes lit up and she says, “Ooh, I can give it to you”, as she walks away. A few moments later, she returns with this:

We asked her if she was worried about the competition that the Greenway Project and the plaza development may bring and she responded with, “Pfft! NO! We make over 900 burgers a week and are opening a new location so we must be doing something right.” She tells us that mid-city people don’t want chain food so she isn’t too concerned with Five Guys.

After the interview with Denise, Stephanie and I decided to walk over to Redemption. The hostess informed us that Mr. & Mrs. Delaune were out for the evening. When we explained to her what we were doing, she was quick to introduce us to Joey Lacaze. Joey has been a waiter at Redemption for 3 months, but has been living in Mid-City all of his life.

When we asked Joey how he felt about the Greenway Project and the plaza development, he looked confused. He had no idea what we were talking about. After explaining to him what the plans for the area were, he seemed excited. “Yes! A Pinkberry will be in town”, he says.

On a separate day, an interview was conducted with Chef Greg Picolo. When he was asked about his feelings on the Greenway Project and the plaza development, he shows little concern about competition. He says that the Mid-City restaurants are like one big community and he isn’t worried about competing with someone else. He says that if another restaurant is making something similar to what Redemption sells, he will just have to improve the way he makes the product to keep the customers coming back. He describes the food at Redemption as “upscale, ya’ mom ‘n dems”.

Piecing Together the Canal/Carrollton Community

Contributed by: Deyna Cimino

It’s been about a month since my first blog entry. Jenny and I are still working on Lemonade Parade and Venezia’s. We’ve since achieved an interview with the owner of Venezia’s, Mr. Anthony ‘Tony’ Bologna. Mr. Bologna described Venezia’s as a family-owned-and-operated establishment. He was full of pride while explaining that his son and daughter helped re-decorate the restaurant after Katrina destroyed the Canal/Carrollton area. The restaurant has white linen and pictures of Venice on the walls but doesn’t forget its loyalty to New Orleans. Pictures of Saints, LSU, and Katrina memorabilia make the dining and bar area seem like you’re eating at a friend’s parent’s house. The restaurant is busy and the close seating helps spark up conversations between patrons. Jenny and I remarked on our fellow diner’s caper pizza but weren’t disappointed when our veal entrees came out. The food is way more than you can finish and during the interview, Mr. Bologna explained that he kept his prices down for the people and its working because the people definitely come. We watched as the early birds enjoyed their dinner and then were amazed with the swarm of people who came around 7pm for dinner. The building filled with laughter and clinking plates. Mr. Bologna explained that they were originally among the few pizza places in the area, but he didn’t see Dominos or the pending MidCity Market as a threat because it wasn’t the same type of food nor was it the same type of atmosphere or service. He explained that all the restaurants in the area actually helped each other. “The more people the better” he said and continued that even if someone ate next door, they’d say “we have to try that Italian place next time, so they still come.” Jenny and I sat at the bar and enjoyed drinks, more food than we could eat, and then coffee so we didn’t slip into an Italian food coma on the way home. Our bartender/waiter, Chris, was more than accommodating. He’s worked at Venezia’s going on five years and also attends UNO. This showed aspects of the UNO and Canal/Carrollton community merging. Metairie is also a factor in Venezia’s, where their other location is found. Mr. Bologna explained that the street cars increased business because tourists were able to venture to different parts of the city, including MidCity, and he appreciated this. But, he still made sure to treat his loyal local customers with reverence. After Katrina, this reverence became even stronger. He explained that he was touched to find out that people who were displaced, temporarily and, or permanently, still kept Venezia’s on their list of New Orleans must haves upon returning or visiting home. Mr. Bologna explained that his contribution to Venezia’s was built on the idea of family and that his mission was to perpetuate that feeling through his service and food. Compared to the bustling inside of Venezia’s the outside is relatively unassuming. The sign is neon lighting—part of its method of marketing may be, as an authentic Italian restaurant located in New Orleans, the very lack of seemingly deliberate marketing. It’s plain, rustic, white-walled exterior lets the food speak for itself.

https://i2.wp.com/menuorleans.com/files/menu_images/Venezia1.jpg

Photo borrowed from menuorleans.com

photo borrowed from virtualtourist.com

Lemonade Parade’s logo is reminiscent of the 1950s era dancing fruit commercials and reminds me of the Prytania Theater’s “Let’s all go to the movies” clip. Mike and Lori Bennencourtt also own The Peanut Gallery which hosts exhibitions and other community events. Some of the same people involved with the gallery seem to be involved with Lemonade Parade—extending the Canal/Carrollton community reach. The exterior brick is light blue and their sign is canary yellow with dancing fruit. They’ve compensated for their visibility problem by placing huge yellow banners in front that does attract attention. They have tables outside for seating and this seems to be the way to enjoy Lemonade Parade. This atmosphere works nicely as the community is the backdrop of the restaurant and patrons are literally surrounded by the area as they enjoy their food or beverages. This also yields more community involvement as those passing can engage with patrons, see the items they have to offer, and momentarily become a part of the restaurant’s atmosphere. It seems like Lemonade Parade’s patrons are mostly from the MidCity area.

Photos borrowed from: http://www.yelp.com

Getting Lost in History Can Be Fascinating

Submitted by: Haley Ashe

Hello all! Hope you all have enjoyed reading these adventures in field work as much as I have. Each research opportunity, restaurant visit, casual conversation, new blog post, etc allows all of us to learn something more about this unique city some of us are fortunate enough to call home. New Orleans is a jewel and myself and my fellow bloggers have been investigating this particular facet located at Canal Street and Carrollton Ave.

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Many of us have provided links and helpful photos pertaining to the development of the Lafitte Corridor. Not at an attempt of being redundant but more so out of importance, here are some more links and photos.

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http://www.bestofneworleans.com/blogofneworleans/archives/2011/12/14/sec-of-interior-gives-greenlight-to-lafitte-corridor-greenway

http://www.bestofneworleans.com/gambit/plans-for-the-lafitte-corridor-greenway-are-still-on-the-rocky-road-to-recovery/Content?oid=1620787

http://www.bestofneworleans.com/blogofneworleans/archives/2012/03/20/winn-dixie-breaks-ground-in-mid-city

http://www.urbanconservancy.org/projects/carondelet-basin-greenway

This development is very important to the area and has the potential to drastically change this historical neighborhood.  Interested in becoming a friend of the corridor? You can do it here: http://folc-nola.org/

This particular neighborhood has always been a microscopic example of the racial diversity of The Big Easy. Post Katrina census figures have changed slightly as far as residential make-up, but over all the figures are within similar ranges when you consider the fact that not all citizens have returned nor have all of the homes been rebuilt. Here is a comparison of the 2000 and 2010 census data. http://www.gnocdc.org/NeighborhoodData/4/MidCity/index.html

Mid-City gained its moniker from when it was literally the middle of the city in the late 19th century. Pre-contact natives had long settled the area along the natural levees of the river, avoiding the routine flooding of the lower lying areas we now inhabit today. Mid-City was fully developed by 1920 and had multiple public amenities such as public transportation (http://www.gonola.com/2011/03/16/nola-history-streetcars-the-early-years.html) , pools, parks, theaters, churches, schools, restaurants and more. In September 1926 what had begun to be known as Jesuit high school opened its doors on Banks St. and South Carrollton. (http://www.jesuitnola.org/about/about–6406.htm) Around this time as well across from what is now The Shamrock on N. Carrollton and Tulane was a stadium for our minor –> major league baseball team The Pelicans. http://nolalocal.com/new-orleans-pelicans/

Our old, beautifully decaying city has had many transformations and Mid-City has transformed right along with it. The area of Mid-City has seen many historical structures lost due to neglect and nature. Multiple city blocks along Canal Street have been leveled in the name of progression and corporate interests. Even when citizens have attempted to get involved (http://www.preservationdirectory.com/preservationblogs/ArticleDetail.aspx?id=806&catid=1) it is sometimes not enough. There are grants available through the government for citizens to preserve our city though. (http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2011/08/historic_mid-city_properties_e.html) There are also ways for concerned citizens to get involved in what is happening to their area. (http://www.npnnola.com/issues/view/8/master-planning-for-neighborhoods-in-new-orleans) What often happens is that “we” see what is going on in our city but feel we don’t have the time to devote to city meetings, or that a local government agent would not reply to a strongly worded correspondence. Because of this lack of incentive, many wonderful aspects of our city will be forever lost. I am actually alarmed at how few people are aware of the Greenway project. Claire and I have not spoken with the owners of Juan’s or Wit’s Inn yet, but I have spoken with some other Mid-City business owners, employees, residents and area visitors. Most of the individuals I have spoken with have perhaps noticed there are buildings being torn down. Aside from seeing construction, most are not aware of the future intentions of the area, which in turn has not made them aware of the future impact this project may have. While we all hope it will be positive, the past has shown that large-scale development such as this causes rent to rise and an influx of more affluent residents to move in. This is good for the businesses in the area, this is NOT good for the predominantly working-class, low-income and student aged residents calling this area home. (http://www.prcno.org/neighborhoods/brochures/MidCity.pdf) My hopes for the future is that businesses and residents alike will work together to preserve what makes  this area of the city special in it’s own right.

Our research of Juan’s Flying Burrito http://www.juansflyingburrito.com/

   1908 4724 S. Carrollton Ave Juans bldg

Has turned up some interesting information. Sanborn maps printed in 1898 did not contain any data for the area. I then realized that was because at that time it was only “Carrollton Ave.” and had not extended to Canal Street from Claiborne Ave. yet. However, in only 10 short years Carrollton had then developed into South and North Carrollton and was connecting to City Park. On the 1908 map what is now Juan’s was in existance. It wasn’t until the 1937 maps were we able to discern that Jaun’s had been for many years a Steam Cleaners. On the south side of the building was a movie and performance theater and on the north side of the building was a service station. An anticipated meeting with the owner and more Sanborn maps may shed light on the 60 years after it was a Cleaners.

Our research on Wit’s Inn (http://witsinn.com/) has also unearthed some interesting information as well.

   New+Orleans+1937 141 N Carrollton Wit’s Inn

Wit’s Inn is home to a former pool hall in the 1970s. According to Sanborn maps printed in 1908, the location already existed, although it wasn’t until 1937 that were we able to find a map actually labeling the location as a restaurant. Claire hopes to get to speak with the owner so we can see what his sentiments are on the Greenway project and perhaps give us some insight on the neighborhood and how the businesses and residents interact.

I hope you all have enjoyed reading this as much as I have had writing it! Until we meet again.

“Restaurant Row”-Redemption & Juicy Lucy’s

When I think of New Orleans, one of the first things I think of is the amazing food we have here. There are, without a doubt, hundreds of restaurants to choose from when visiting New Orleans. Dr. Beriss, my classmates, and myself are particularly interested in a cluster of restaurants in mid-city that is referred to as “restaurant row”. Dr. Beriss has paired off the class in the hopes of gaining some insight as to why this cluster of restaurants is here and what the future holds for them. Stephanie (my partner) and I are responsible for Juicy Lucy’s and Redemption.

For this blog entry, I would like to give an overview of each restaurant so that my next blog entry can focus on my interviews with the owners, managers, and staff of each.

Located at 133 North Carrolton Ave, you will find a 120 year old building with a lot of history. This former home of Fiesta Latina and Lil’ Ray’s Diner, is now the home of Juicy Lucy’s. This very casual, but comfortable, atmosphere become immediately noticeable as you enter the building. There is no hostess and the uniform of the waitstaff seems to be jeans paired with a shirt displaying the Juicy Lucy’s logo.

At the bar, one will find several slot machines, which is why you must be 18+ to enter the restaurant. Most items on the menu arrive in a black basket topped with a blue and white  checkered paper. I couldn’t help but to notice the sounds of a local radio station playing throughout the restaurant, only because one of my favorite songs were on.

Just a few minutes away at 3835 Iberville St., you will find a building that was built in 1914. If you look closely, you will notice that the building very much resembles that of a church. This is because it was, in fact, the former home of Grace Lutheran Church. Later, the church was transformed into a fine dining restaurant called Christians.

(www.restaurant.com)

Then, in February 2011, Christian’s was purchased by Tommy and Maria Delaune and renamed Redemption. 

(Picture from Redemption’s Facebook Page)

One would immediately notice how formal the restaurant is, from the waitstaff to the table setup. The beautiful, and original, stained glass windows allow the perfect amount of sunlight to enter as you enjoy your meal. The sound of light jazz fills the air, much like a Sunday brunch. I think it is very important to note that the mission statement for this restaurant does an excellent job at explaining the unique history of its’ existence.

Until next time, Laissez les Bon Temps Roulez!

-Sam

Continuing The Restaurant Row Recovery Project

Contributed by: Deyna Cimino

In 2010 David Beriss began the Restaurant Row Recovery Project with a small group of grad students in the Department of Anthropology at the University of New Orleans. Two years later Beriss is continuing the research on just what the cluster of restaurants means to Mid City, New Orleans. Our Applied Anthropology class, consisting of mostly undergraduates and a few zealous grads, are once again tackling the question: “What makes it work?”  Our class has been paired into groups of two. Each team responsible for two-three restaurants from Little Tokyo to Juan’s Flying Burrito and from Mandina‘s to Café Minh successfully covering the Canal/Carrollton dining possibilities (in case you’re like me and need a visual here’s a map-courtesy The Times-Picayune and Erin Kinchen).

It is our aim to use whatever weapons necessary, whether they are guidebooks, written archives, or our fellow 2010 researchers to do our best in finding out why the restaurant row exists and what keeps it ticking. I, Deyna Cimino, have been paired with Jenny Frerirchs. Our assignment is to research Venezia’s (located at 134 N. Carrollton Avenue) and Lemonade Parade (4709 S.Carrollton Avenue).

Photo borrowed from InthekNOwla.com

Lemonade Parade is a brightly colored shack-styled one-stop-shop for drinks and desserts. Their menu has a bunch of refreshing items to offer so check them out. Venezia’s is an authentic red gravy savory Italian adventure. Looking forward our fieldwork so that I can try their Eggplant Vatican.

Photo borrowed from: hickswrites.blogspot.com

While researching the area for our initial post, I’ve enjoyed the pictures and history that we’re unearthing. My parents have deep connections with the area—as children, young adults, and also during their professional careers. Talking with them about their take on the block, what it used to be and what it is now, has definitely reinforced that New Orleans’ food culture is ever-changing yet manages to take its own comforting shape in past, present, and hopefully future generations. Lemonade Parade used to be Manuel’s Hot Tamales (est. 1933). It was a small roll-down stand where both my parents remember anticipating a hot batch of Manuel’s finest.

So far in our research, we’ve looked at reviews from the Virtual Tourist where user Virtous_Tourist describes Venezia’s as “softly lit and not terribly fancy […]white table cloths share space with plain vinyl chairs, [where] decades old wall hangings set the stage.” Looking at articles about Manuel’s, the restaurant is almost always described as nostalgic, a legend, or as definitively New Orleans. Lemonade Parade feels like their famous “Rising Sun” (a tangerine, orange, banana smoothie) tastes. Their building is bright and screams summertime and sprinkler fun—even in the winter. So far, it looks like they’re living up Manuel’s reputation. GoNola describes them as “nostalgia for all ages.”  In a Restaurant Spotlight by InthekNOla.com, Mike and Lori Bettencourtt, owners, explain that they originally intended to make the shop a po-boy shack called The Porch. With smoothies this good, I feel like they made the right choice going with Lemonade Parade.

Jenny and I will work with the rest of our classmates to see how this Restaurant Row fits with the current plans with the Laffite Greenway Project and the Mid-City Market scheduled to break ground as soon as this month and reach completion in 2014. We plan to ask the following questions:

1.    What neighborhoods contribute/are affected by the Restaurant Row?

2.    How does the Laffite Greenway Project and Mid-City Market compete/assist the established area?

3.    Why is this a Restaurant Row?

4.    How did it get to be a Restaurant Row?

5.   What is the future for the area?

6.   How are the restaurants related with the community/ with activists inside the community?

Jenny and I are working up interview questions and are planning to visit both places this week. Hopefully we’ll have interview results for the next blog post (depending on owners schedules). That’s all for now. Handing the torch to Troung. Good luck you guys.

Testing the Waters on the RestRow Blog

This seriously makes me feel as though I have been thrust upon a stage and told to sing a song I have never learned. This is my first blog for anything, ever, so please do not judge too harshly ladies and gentlemen of the classroom.

Hello all, I am Haley and I have teamed up with Claire to focus our part of the Restaurant Row project on Juan’s Flying Burrito, http://www.juansflyingburrito.com/ and Wit’s Inn, http://witsinn.com/. Juan’s is located @ 4724 S. Carrollton Ave. and Wit’s can be found @ 141 N. Carrollton Ave. on each side of Canal St.

In doing research for this first post, I have found lots of interesting information on the immediate Canal and Carrollton area. However, specific information on my buildings has been proving to be more difficult and time consuming. I had hoped to have all kinds of neat and interesting facts to share with you all. Claire and I have already gotten to do our first visit to Juan’s. It was quite fun and we got to speak with some of the staff, take photos, enjoy some of their wonderful quesadillas (I had the Luau, sub chicken for shrimp – to.die.for.!), and enjoy some of their in house margaritas. Juan’s has placed in the top 3 for multiple categories in Gambit Weekly’s Best of Lists for multiple years, Wit’s has even found its way into the press as well.

Pre-Katrina I was a resident of the area. I lived in a duplex at the corner of S. Bernadotte and Cleveland streets. Thinking back on it now, I wish I had been aware of what was to come. Although I did patron several of our assigned locales, I wish I had spent more time at the locations that did not return once the city began to revive its self.  I did find a good pre-Katrina website,  http://www.gnocdc.org/orleans/4/45/snapshot.html. Perhaps some of you have already seen it. I also found a city tour guide from around 1935! http://www.archive.org/stream/neworleanscity00writmiss/neworleanscity00writmiss_djvu.txt Some of the descriptions of city night life may be giggle inducing. I included it because it does mention a few Mid-City establishments plus it is an interesting read. Good luck to all and I look forward to seeing what all of our research produces! Till next time guys.

The Restaurant Row Blog Returns!

Post by David Beriss

The blog is back! In case any of our loyal readers were wondering, work on the Restaurant Row Project was put on hold at the beginning of the 2010-11 academic year, as the valiant team of researchers was swept back into the challenges of daily life in the university. Of the team’s student members, two have subsequently gone on to graduate and pursue other careers, while the other two are nearing graduation and promising futures at this time.

Which leaves me, the professor and organizer. I remain bothered and frustrated by the unfinished nature of our work. What do we really know about this restaurant row? Why is it here? Are there patterns that we can see in the way it has evolved over time? What challenges do restaurateurs face in this neighborhood? I had always hoped to bring the project to some conclusion. I want to be able to show some insights into how our restaurant row is connected to the city itself. I think the way it has evolved can tell us something about where New Orleans has been and where it is headed.

It turns out, even without my initial crack team of eager researchers, I have some very useful resources. I frequently teach classes in applied urban anthropology, full of more sharp-eyed students, ready to ask good questions, observe the details of life, spend hours in musty archives and sift through data. I am teaching one of those classes right now, in fact, and have engaged my students as a new research team. They will build on the excellent work of the original crew over the course of this semester. Divided into pairs, they have already begun to collect data and make observations. They will begin blogging in this space regularly over the next week. Over the course of the semester, they will be delivering their fieldnotes to me regularly. At the end of the term, each team will make a presentation of their findings and deliver a report on their work. Perhaps most significantly, they will each produce a poster, combining texts and images that can be used to frame exhibits about the restaurant row.

When we last checked, the restaurants in our neighborhood had largely recovered from the 2005 floods and were beginning to deal with the BP oil spills’ impact on their menus, customers, and future. We will explore the consequences of that ongoing disaster on the restaurants.

Other changes have occurred as well. There are new restaurants in the area—Redemption, the Canal St. Bistro, Katie’s, Blue Dot Donuts, Italian Pie, Rue 127, Juicy Lucy’s—that make the area even more of an eating destination. As alert readers may note, these are not all exactly new. A few are rebirths of pre-2005 restaurants that had not happened yet when we were last in the field. Others are new locations for New Orleans local chains. Each has a story that we hope we will be able to tell.

The neighborhood is also facing a significant new challenge. One of the last parts of the restaurant row that remained undeveloped following the 2005 floods—the area of Carrollton avenue between Bienville and St. Louis—is now slated for redevelopment. A supermarket, a variety of local retail and a few national chain restaurants are expected to move into the space. Work, it seems, will begin shortly. This coincides with the impending development of a greenway that will link the neighborhood with the French Quarter. All of this will make for an interesting future for our restaurant row.

The applied anthropology research team will complete our initial project, helping us understand the social and cultural processes that frame this particular restaurant row. In addition, their work will help us establish a cultural baseline for understanding subsequent changes in the area. There is no doubt that the neighborhood will continue to reflect processes at work in the broader city. I hope that my students are able to shed light on where those processes are taking us.

Blogosphere Realizations of a Noobie Blogger

As some of you already know, an on-site (and online) exhibit at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum is going to accompany our Restaurant Row Recovery Project. We are working on the possibility of publications in scholarly journals as well. All of this seemed relatively standard for this type of project, but as to how blogging fit into this, I was clueless.

Rising Tide NOLA 5 New Media Conference Poster. Graphic Art by Greg Peters of Suspect Device (click the photo for a link to more of Greg's work)

On August 28th I discovered that we had at our disposal an entirely new media format for our project to tap into: blogging. I know this sounds odd since we have been blogging about our project for weeks now, but I never really understood the potential of such an avenue until I attended the 5th annual Rising Tide NOLA New Media Conference. Until that rainy Saturday I thought of our blog as simply a method of providing some chronological feedback on our progress, and as a possible source of topics for further exploration.

Prior to this project I was not a blogger. Until this conference I never truly understood the power, and access, blogging could provide. The new media conference (subtitled A Conference on the Future of New Orleans) changed that.

What I am somewhat familiar with is the jambalaya of emotions that go along with doing field work in New Orleans. Self doubt gets sautéed with shyness and preemptive humiliation to create the perfect discomfort food, and I had a feast before me. What did come as a surprise were the jitters I had about making our project public. The bloggers I met at the conference seemed immune to such thing. In fact, they actively strive to be public.

At this point in my life all of the conclusions and analysis of my previous work remained in a closed academic system, thus lessening potential shortfall fears. The final outcome resulted in grades in a grade book, some brief experiences and encounters with the public, and a new semester of classes. In other words, no harm, no foul. But this project is different; this project is not just for a grade. This project is for adding to the knowledge base of Anthropology, for shedding more light on the role restaurants play in New Orleans culture, and for contributing to the understanding of a New Orleans post Katrina neighborhood recovery. All of this sounds fantastic on paper (and in theory), but how can it become practical? How do we add our findings to the elusive knowledge base? How does our research, and academic fantasizing, make the way from bits of collected data to printed literature and disciplinary journals to public knowledge and discourse?

The bloggers and conference attendees– active and aware citizens – are providing us an alternative answer: new media. Part of the same media some the restaurants on our Row use to tell their own stories (a topic covered on this blog by David Beriss). Key note speaker Mac McClelland of MotherJones.com and author of For Us, Surrender Is Out Of The Question: A Story From Burma’s Never-Ending War, went so far as to say that the rise of “citizen journalist” was evidence that new media was a forerunner to pushing for cultural change and cultural awareness. I came away from this event in agreement.

Keynote spearker Mac McClelland. Photo by Bart "Editor B" Everson of b. rox (click the photo for a link to more of Editor B's work)

McClelland also spoke against the recent government, and BP, reports on the amount of oil still present in the Gulf. She argued the oil is not gone and that the seafood and restaurant industry are going to be reeling from this for a long time, a sentiment echoed by two of the restaurant owners I have interviewed. McClelland praised the blogging community of New Orleans for its dedication and passion for the city. The New Orleans blogosphere (and now us, the RRR team, to a lesser extent) are creating transparency and focus to a city in recovery.

Taking this one step further it is now apparent to me that new media can be tremendously useful for future academic recovery projects like this one. Gone are the days of the lonely anthropologist heading off to some far away exotic locale with a notebook and pencil. Technological advances like new media allow us to not only document our ongoing work, but also to achieve a level of transparency previously unattainable. Analysis and conclusions can be viewed as a process instead of an event. Consultation can come from a variety of far away sources, and perhaps most importantly, our study subjects can be involved like never before.

New media is a powerful tool. I am honored to have been invited to the conference, and am inspired to further utilize this avenue for my future anthropological and social justice work. I would like to say thank you to all those who continue to provide the community with an alternative voice.