Dooky Chase’s Restaurant
2301 Orleans Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70119
Leah Chase and her 69 year old restaurant, Dooky Chase’s, was the inspiration for Disney’s The Princess and the Frog. Here you’ll find some of the best Soul Food and Creole Cuisine in the entire city.
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While many out-of-town foodies have heard of Willie Mae’s Scotch House restaurant and the story of the restaurant’s destruction during the flooding of the city in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina, and how it was rebuilt by volunteers from the Southern Foodways Alliance, others may have not heard about Dooky Chase’s, the nearly 70 year old Soul Food and Creole restaurant owned by Willie Mae Seaton’s close friend, Leah Chase.
Dooky Chase’s, a restaurant of equal historical importance to New Orleans and the cultural heritage of African Americans was also severely damaged by the city’s flooding in 2005. Because the restaurant was significantly larger it also took longer for the restaurant to be repaired and re-opened, in May of 2007.
In April of 2006 I had the rare opportunity to interview Leah Chase, six months after Katrina at Casamento’s restaurant.
Leah Chase, with family, at Casamento’s Restaurant in April 2006.
Upon meeting her I knew that I wanted to eat at her restaurant. But it wasn’t until two successive trips back to New Orleans that I finally was able to get to Dooky Chase’s. On my previous August 2007 trip and when I ran into her at her restaurant, her place had only just been fixed up enough to feed President Bush,who flew in for lunch the next day.
Upon entering the restaurant you encounter the old wooden bar, which has been restored to its former polished sheen, and appears just as it did when the restaurant opened in 1941.
The foyer of the restaurant prominently displays a photo of Mrs. Chase with President Obama.
The main central dining room hosts a large collection of local New Orleans-themed and African American art. During lunchtime the restaurant has a buffet in addition to its a la carte menu.
Main Dining Room
Main Dining Room
The 87-year old Leah Chase still patrols her restaurant to ensure that her customers are happy and to give out all sorts of well-needed advice. Leah was the inspiration behind three of the key characters in Disney’s The Princess and the Frog. Disney interviewed Leah for about six hours during their initial research on the film and the characters of “Tiana” and “Mama Odie” took shape, both of which are loosely based on her real her life experiences and philosophy. The character of “Ray”, the Cajun firefly, is based on Leah Chase’s longtime friend Chef John Folse. The photo above is definitely what I would describe as a Mama Odie moment.
This is the smaller private dining room adjoining the central dining room.
The rear dining room is primarily used for private functions.
This is the lunch menu for the day, which changes periodically. Click on the photo to enlarge.
Rachel and I had forgone breakfast that morning so we were super hungry and opted for the buffet. Here’s the salad area.
Red Beans and Rice with Andouille Sausage.
Cup of Sausage Gumbo.
Beef and Vegetable Soup.
Heaping plate ‘O Soul Food, which includes Red Beans and Rice, Yellow Squash with Shrimp, Fried Veal Cutlets, Stuffed Chicken Breast, Greens, Mashed Potatoes, Beet Salad, Green Beans.
Here’s another view.
Cutlet and salad close-up.
And of course you can go back for seconds.
Although we didn’t have any during this visit, Dooky Chase’s is also known for their fried chicken. I was able to get a peek of it in the kitchen but I was too full by this point to actually think of eating any. Next time. :)