The story of Dooky Chase's and the larger tale of African Americans in New Orleans is not mine to tell. It is not my history. But it is part of New Orleans' history, a key part in fact. I wont suggest, as others have, that eating at Dooky Chase's is some sort of African American history survey class. That one can understand the struggles and triumphs of a group of people in between the gumbo and the fried chicken. Let others do that; I am here to talk about the food. And the food is damn good.
Since that fateful August day, Dooky Chase's has only been open for lunch. Recently, they opened for Friday night dinner, but still your best bet to dine at Dooky Chase's is at lunch. Now, the crowning day at Dooky Chase's is Holy Thursday when Leah Chase crafts a peppery, green hued gumbo that brings in movers and shakers. Much like Communion and Thanksgiving, it is a day where the food you eat pales in comparison to the communal dining which takes place.
Lunch centers around a buffet stocked with a salad (skippable, save for the olive salad), starches, vegetables, beans, and if you are lucky fried chicken. But lets start with the greatest dish in the Creole battery: red beans and rice. Now, you may think shrimp po boys or chargrilled oysters are the standout dish round these parts. But you are wrong. Red beans and rice is the dish of New Orleans, and while no one makes them better than you, the version on offer at Dooky Chase's is pretty fantastic. The beans themselves are more herbacious than you may be used to bursting forth with thyme, perhaps rosemary, and maybe some oregano. The beans at first seem tame, but when you begin to cut into the fat rounds of chaurice, all is well and right.
Macaroni and cheese was the only disappointment, clunky and bland. Green beans, soft and tender, ride shotgun with discs of red potatoes. But forget all of that. If the fried chicken is out, focus your energy and effort there. The crust cracks under the slightest pressure releasing a torrent of chicken steam, known worldwide for its ant-wrinkle properties. The meat is moist and delivering a salty spice punch with each bite. I've been known to devour eight pieces at a time or for you ornithologists out there, a whole bird.
Following your repast and just when you may desire a nap, out comes a buttery bowl of peach cobbler. Just the thing you need before getting back to the office.
Dooky Chase's: Is It Worth It? Absolutely.
2301 Orleans Ave.
Lunch Tue. - Fri.; Dinner Friday.