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The Birthplace of Equality

Heading west from Florida, we just had to stop at Dooky Chase’s restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana. Why did we stop then?

We were on a mission to enjoy the Cajun specialties at Dooky’s buffet because the restaurant has an unique attraction.

Dooky Chase’s is the landmark restaurant of the civil rights movement in the United States. In the apartheid 1950s, it was also the only place in town that had a black dining room, a white dining room, and an upstairs where blacks and whites could sit in the same room and not be harassed by the local police. In that upstairs meeting room, community leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Thurgood Marshall, and many others, discussed civil rights issues, plans, and strategy over meals provided by Leah Chase, the Queen of Cajun Cooking.

It was Leah’s vision that drove Dooky’s from a 1941 sandwich shop to the first African-American fine dining restaurant in the United States (and also the first African-American artists’ gallery!). Yet it wasn’t just the restaurant we visited. After a delicious Cajun lunch of fried chicken, pickled okra, red beans and rice, collard greens, and andouille sausage, we went backstage to visit the amazing Leah Chase herself.

At age 95, the very woman who cooked for nearly every civil rights leader that ever marched, a Supreme Court Justice, two US Presidents, famous jazz musicians, and the entire Who’s Who of African-American celebrities, still arrives at the restaurant early every morning to prepare the dishes.

We talked to her when she just sat down after peeling the sweet potatoes for tomorrow’s lunch. Did we mention that she’s 95 years old? She has all her wits about her and then some. All we can say is that she’s not only the Queen of Cajun cooking, she’s also the queen of positive attitude and behavior. Even Hurricane Katrina, which closed Dooky’s for two years, couldn’t stop Leah Chase. It was an honor to converse with this giant of a woman.

If you go, make sure you arrive before it’s open, or be prepared for an hour wait. The buffet is quick, easy and delicious, and Ms Chase loves visitors after lunch, so don’t be shy.

9 thoughts on “The Birthplace of Equality

  1. Hi Ivan & Deena,
    Thank You. That is one pretty cool and positive posting. To still be able to have a living connection to all those events that occurred as I was just a young teenager in the early 60s is mind blowing. We did not have a television then but we were aware of what was happening in America through the radio and newspapers. Martin Luther King and his famous speech was amazing to us in Australia, it was played on our am radio broadcast stations. It makes me sad, if I think about it too much, that we have not learnt from history, how to solve conflicts (are our governments and people listening?) using the non violent practices that were encouraged and learnt from Gandhi taking on the British empire. Buying bigger guns is not the answer! That is one eating house that I would be proud to have a meal in.
    Any chance you guys are likely to spend time in Australia again? I may have a 6 to 12 month house sit in Bundaberg available next year. London UK and Europe are calling me, so many people I would love to catch up with again living there. You are always welcome anytime.
    Thinking and Remembering,
    Bob (behing the Green Door)

    1. Thanks Deena and Ivan for this nice posting. I would be a great honor to join myself this historical and beautiful place.

    2. Hi Bob! Always glad to hear from you. You must realize that a 6-month housesit is just too long for us wanderlustors, LOL. Oddly, we are contemplating a cruise in January that sails from Sydney to Auckland.

  2. NO is one of my favorite places any where. I always feel so at home there. Perhaps another life? Hope so.
    Certainly enjoy your travels.

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