Dooky Chase Restaurant, in the Treme
Yesterday, Paul and I found ourselves at Dooky Chase for lunch, after considering a few of our favorite lunch spots. Something about yesterday just felt like we needed to try something new. We've actually eaten some of Leah Chases's food before, her famous green gumbo and fried chicken on Holy Thursday, but we got takeout that day because there wasn't a seat to be had. Dining in at Dooky Chase is an experience not to be missed. The building itself is unassuming, but once inside you find yourself in a well appointed dining room, white tablecloths and all, with an amazing, colorful art collection (and several of Leah Chase's awards). The art will keep your eyes satiated and your conversation sparked throughout your meal.
the buffet, backed by a wall of floating stained glass
Dooky Chase serves lunch Tuesday through Friday and dinner only on Fridays. While you can order off the lunch menu, the main attraction at lunchtime is the buffet, which offers two of Leah Chase's specialties: red beans and rice with hot sausage, and fried chicken. Let's just say now that the fried chicken has healing powers. More on that in a minute.
With the buffet, you're served a first course soup and dessert. The soup of the day was crab and corn bisque, which was well seasoned and contained a nice amount of crab. But of course, we also had to order a cup of gumbo. You can tell so much about the character of a chef by her gumbo. It's kind of like getting a personal interview in a bowl. Leah Chase's gumbo is full of sausage, chicken, and shrimp, and has a red tinge, but no tomato pieces swimming anywhere. It also has a spicy edge to it, so the redness may be from a dose of hot sauce (probably Crystal, maybe Tabasco). It's definitely worth checking out.
chicken, sausage, and shrimp gumbo
crab and corn bisque
On to the buffet itself: our waiter explained that red beans and rice and fried chicken are fixtures on the buffet, and that the other dishes change daily. We were treated to spaghetti and meatballs, which is such a comforting, perfect New Orleans lunch dish. I never really understood this about New Orleans food until I'd lived here for a couple of years, but spaghetti and meatballs makes an appearance on lunch special boards all over the city, any old day of the week. In fact, if sandwiches are out of the picture, I can't think of a more complete lunch buffet than one offering red beans, fried chicken, and spaghetti and meatballs.
As you can see, there's no fried chicken on my plate, because it had run out and the entire dining room was waiting to descend upon the next round of fried chicken like a bunch of starved puppies. But while we waited on the chicken, we tasted the red beans with hot (!) sausage, a yummy succotash with okra, perfectly cooked green beans (so simple, so green), and spaghetti with a down-home, spicy meatball. There was another vegetable dish--squash, onions, sweet potatoes--that Paul tried and liked, as well. I loved it all.
And then, there was chicken. I don't know...if you're into soggy, or dry, or bland fried chicken, then you probably should just stay away from Dooky Chase. Cause this chicken is just crispy, juicy, hot deliciousness.
Paul took photos of me and my chicken, much to my dismay.
CHOMP! Is it good?
Hmmmm....probably should take another bite to make sure.
All right chicken, let's see whatcha got.
OH YES. It's good. How could I have doubted it?
And finally, a dessert of the day, which for us was peach cobbler. I was so excited about trying this. You know, there are lots of ways to make a peach cobbler, but this version was very close to what my grandmother used to make, with a sort of cake mixture baked into the peaches. Pure, down-home goodness.
Considering the buffet was $17.95 and the menu items ranged from $15.95 (for red beans and rice) to $24.95 (ribeye), I'm going to say the buffet is probably the best value at Dooky Chase. It's a little pricy compared to other lunch spots, for sure, but the restaurant--and its chef--are treasures that you should enjoy at least once in your life. So stop in for some food and art whenever you can.