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Monday, November 30, 2020

Dooky Chase Restaurant: Your Second Home

Not Sponsored: I was on the phone with my boyfriend and he said, "You know where I want to eat?" I said, "Where?" He said, "Dooky's!" I paused and SMILED, because it was my dad's favorite restaurant while going to college in New Orleans. My dad often told me that he would go to Dooky's in the evenings for dinner. He said the Chase Family always made him feel at home, the food was absolutely delicious and it was like a home-cooked meal. He loved it. I hadn't been to Dooky's in a very long time. I must've been a child the last time I visited. My dad passed in 2007. I knew it was his favorite place. Maybe indirectly I didn't go because it would bring back memories of him. Sometimes when dealing with grief, you shut out and shut down. Well, it was time to return. I'm glad I did. I would like to share it with you. Let me tell you the story about Dooky Chase Restaurant and Leah Chase (She passed June 1, 2019 at the age of 96).


Dooky Chase is a family owned and operated restaurant, located in Treme (New Orleans). It started off as a sandwich/po-boy and lottery ticket shop (1939), owned by Edgar "Dooky" Chase's parents, Emily and Dooky Chase Sr. So how did Leah Chase become connected to the Chase Family? Leah Chase (born Leyah Lange) grew up in Madisonville, Louisiana. Madisonville didn't have a Catholic high school for black children, so her parents sent her to New Orleans to stay with relatives and attend St. Marys Academy. After high school, she worked as a waitress and marking race horse boards (often only making $1 a day). Leah fell in love with and married Edgar Dooky Chase (jazz trumpeter and band leader) in 1946 and together they took over the operations of the shop (turning it into a sit down restaurant/establishment). Leah incorporated her own family's creole recipes into the menu. Dooky Chase became a staple in the black community where African-American's could meet. Despite segregation during that time, Dooky's had both black and white patrons.

 

Dooky Chase Restaurant has hosted many organizations and important people. In the 1960's, Dooky's was the place to meet during the Civil Rights Movement. Leah Chase and her husband would host black voter registration campaign organizers and the NAACP. Civil Rights leaders such as A.P. Tureaud, Ernest "Dutch" Morial (first black mayor of New Orleans), Martin Luther King Jr. and The Freedom Riders held meetings at Dooky's. While they had their meetings, Leah would feed them her famous gumbo and fried chicken. The restaurant has been patronized by U.S. Presidents such as George W. Bush and Barack Obama (see pictures below). She's fed celebrities such as Hank Aaron (baseball), Lena Horne (actress & singer) and James Baldwin (novelist, playwright, essayist, poet and activist).

The layout of the restaurant is very warm and hospitable. As you enter, there's a hallway (with yellow walls) filled with pictures of presidents that have visited (ex. Bush and Obama), Pope Benedict XVI, accolades and news articles of Leah's accomplishments and achievements. There are also beautiful pictures of her lovely family. I snapped a peek (picture above) of a dark green room. It houses a bar and some tables where you can sit and drink (its currently closed due to the covid pandemic). I found it to be so warm, inviting and cozy.

 
 
Above (pictured) are connected dining rooms (the walls are light green in color) used for lunch/dinner overflow or private parties. You can't help but admire the beautiful antique furniture (sofa and chairs) and lamps positioned in these rooms. I loved looking at the family portraits displayed on the wall. I love chandeliers. I find them fascinating and pretty to look at. They're detailed and intricate. You don't see many chandeliers anymore.
 

The dining room where we ate had beautiful red walls, striped chairs and gorgeous artwork. Leah Chase loved art. She studied art in high school. She was the first African-American to sit on the Board of the New Orleans Museum of Art. She was a collector of African-American art. The pieces that were displayed were very beautiful.

The food was ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS!!! We started with a bowl of her Creole Gumbo. I was gluttonous (I couldn't resist) and had the Seafood Platter (shrimp, oysters, catfish, stuffed crab and macaroni & cheese) and my boyfriend had Shrimp Linguine (shrimp, mushrooms, peas, lemon and shaved parmesan cheese). We both enjoyed our food. I had to take over half of mine home :).

Here I am :) and my boyfriend's arm (I prefer for him to stay anonymous). The chef and a member of the family visited each table. They were so nice and you can tell they truly care that you're enjoying yourself and having a great time. You don't get those kind of personal touches at a lot of restaurants anymore. It was nice to experience. They are doing a great job fulfilling Leah Chase's Legacy.

You guys, even the bathrooms had artwork! Look how beautiful!

I took home some chicken and gumbo to my mom. Below is their to-go box (how classy!). I was so glad we went to Dooky Chase's. It evoked memories of the past that I will always cherish, but also created new and heartfelt memories. It's important that we patronize local restaurants. Support them as they have supported the community through the years. My boyfriend is not African American, but he believes in supporting all cultures. As you can tell through all of our dining experiences this year. It was a real treat to eat at Dooky Chase. Patronize them and if you're not from New Orleans be sure to stop by.

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