Archives Month 2022-Iconic New Orleans Restaurants

When people think of New Orleans, its unique food culture is something that always comes to mind. The food in New Orleans is as diverse as its population and the dishes that the city is most famous for are deeply rooted in Creole, Cajun, Soul, and Italian food traditions. Dishes such as jambalaya, po-boys, muffulettas, and gumbo have woven themselves into the fabric of the city and Louisiana as a whole.

New Orleans has a number of restaurants that have made New Orleans food traditions the focal point of their menus and have made the city a food tourist’s dream. In our final blog celebrating National Archives Month, the Office of the Clerk of Civil District Court explores five iconic New Orleans restaurants. We will detail the history of these locations as well as several notarial acts that highlight their presence in our historical records.

Commander’s Palace
Commander’s Palace at 1403 Washington Ave. Photo Credit: https://www.neworleans.com/listing/commanders-palace-restaurant/94/

Nestled in the Garden District at the corner of Washington Avenue and Coliseum Street sits the eye catching teal building that houses Commander’s Palace Restaurant. Now famous for its upscale Creole cuisine and jazz brunches, Commander’s Palace’s history dates back to the 1890’s when Emile Commander first opened a saloon at the corner of Washington Avenue and Coliseum Street.1

In 1891, Emile Commander came before the notary George Préot to purchase a lot of ground with buildings and improvements at the corner of Washington Avenue and Coliseum Streets from the Equitable Guarantee Homestead Association for $2,750.00.

Act of Sale from the Equitable Guarantee Homestead Association to Emile Commander. Preot, George 1891 April 25, Vol 7, Act 76

By 1893, a saloon under the management of Emile Commander was operating at the location. Commander soon transformed the saloon into a restaurant for the Garden District neighborhood. In the 1920’s, Commander’s Palace was a popular haunt for riverboat captains and other prominent gentlemen.2 On June 15, 1926, before the notary William W. Young, the heirs of Emile Commander, who died in 1906, sold Commander’s Palace to Frank G. Giarratano for $15,000.00. Images of the sale can be seen below.

Act of Sale from Peter Commander, et als. to Jackson Homestead Association. Young, William W. 1926 June 15, Vol 39A, Act 374
Act of Sale from Jackson Homestead Association to Frank G. Giarratano. Young, William W., 1926 June 15, Vol 39A, Act 375

Frank G. Giarratano owned and operated the restaurant until he sold it to Joseph Baricev in 1943.4 Baricev then sold it to Frank Moran in 1945. In 1969, Commander’s Palace was purchased by the Brennan Family who were well established restaurateurs in the city. In 1974, under the supervision of Ella, Dottie, Dick, and John Brennan, Commander’s Palace transformed into the bright “Commander’s blue” building known today. The Brennan’s renovated the building inside and out. Ella Brennan famously said, “I don’t want a restaurant where a jazz band can’t come marching through.”5 This was the sentiment that the Brennans aimed to encompass with Commander’s Palace.

Under the Brennans’ leadership, Commander’s Palace has become a center for budding culinary talent. Celebrity chefs such as Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse served as the executive chef of the restaurant and their contributions helped lead to Commander’s seven James Beard Foundation Awards. 6

In 2020, Commander’s Palace named Meg Bickford, a native of Larose, LA, as their executive chef, making her the restaurant’s first woman to take on the role.7 Commander’s Palace continues to be a popular and iconic location for both locals and tourists. Their menu continues to include Creole and Cajun classic dishes, but with an elevated, fine dining twist.

Dooky Chase’s Restaurant and Bar

Dooky Chase’s Restaurant and Bar is best known for its proprietor Leah Chase. However, the history of the restaurant began before Leah became a Chase. In 1939, Edgar “Dooky” Chase, Sr. and his wife Emily opened a sandwich shop where the couple sold lottery tickets, po-boys, and other dishes. In 1941, the couple moved their restaurant and opened Dooky Chase’s Restaurant at its current location 2301 Orleans Avenue in Tremé,. On May 18, 1942, Dooky Chase, Sr. came before the notary Leslie Beard to purchase the property that housed his sandwich shop. He purchased the property for $2,700.00 from the Investors Homestead Association. This sale can be seen below.

Act of Sale from Investors Homestead Association to Edgar Chase. Beard, Leslie, 1942 May 18, Act 61

Edgar “Dooky” Chase, Jr. was the second child of Edgar Chase, Sr. and Emily Chase. By the 1940s, Dooky, Jr. was a well-known local musician and the leader of the Dooky Chase Orchestra. In 1945, during one of his performances at a Mardi Gras ball, Dooky, Jr. met Leah Lange. The pair married the following year.12 In her early adulthood, Leah Lange waited tables at a restaurant in the French Quarter which is where she developed her passion for food, cooking, and feeding others.13 In 1957, Dooky, Jr. and Leah Chase took over running Dooky Chase’s Restaurant following the death of Dooky, Sr. Under the direction of Dooky, Jr. and Leah Chase, they transformed the po-boy shop into a fine dining establishment highlighting Creole and Soul food staples. 14

On June 25, 1963, Edgar and Leah Chase, came before the notary Sidney Braud to purchase the 2311-15 Orleans Avenue, the property neighboring the original property purchased in 1942. The Chases purchased the property from Hibernia Homestead and Savings Association for $7,700.00. This sale can be seen below.

Act of Sale from Hibernia Homestead and Savings Association to Leah and Edgar Chase, Jr. Braud, Sidney, 1963 June 25 Act 157.

On October 11, 1966, Edgar and Leah Chase purchased 2317-2319 Orleans Avenue in an act of sale before the notary L.K. Clement. They purchased the property next to 2311-15 Orleans Avenue from Hibernia Homestead and Savings Association for $8,400.00. This sale can be seen below.

Act of Sale from Hibernia Homestead and Savings Association to Edgar Chase, Jr. Clement, L.K. 1966 October 11, Act 10.

During the Civil Rights Movement, Dooky Chase’s became an important safe haven. The restaurant was one of the few public places in New Orleans where mixed race groups could meet and discuss strategy for local Civil Rights events and activities. These gathering were illegal during the period, but the restaurant was so popular that it would have caused public uproar if law enforcement had interrupted the meetings.15 Civil Rights leaders such as Oretha Castle Haley, A.P. Tureaud, Ernest Morial, Thurgood Marshall, and Martin Luther King, Jr. all visited Dooky Chase’s during the era and held pivotal discussions over Leah Chase’s food. 16

Leah Chase won multiple awards for her culinary prowess and her activism. She was inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America in 2010. Throughout her lengthy career, she served several notable figures including, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Jesse Jackson, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, President George W. Bush, and President Barack Obama. She also served as the inspiration for Princess Tiana in Disney’s Princess and the Frog.17

Edgar “Dooky” Chase, Jr. passed away in 2016 and Leah followed him in 2019. Today, Dooky Chase’s is still owned and operated by the Chase Family serving the Tremé neighborhood and the city from the same building since 1941.

Tujagues
Tujagues Restaurant at 823 Decatur Street. Photo Credit: Google Images

Tujagues Restaurant, located in the French Quarter is the city’s second oldest restaurant. Tujagues first opened in 1856, when French immigrants Guillaume and Marie Tujague opened the restaurant at 811 Decatur Street. Tujagues became famous in the 19th century for their “Butcher’s Breakfast,” which is now known as brunch, that they offered to workers of the riverfront.8 Two of their famous dishes, Shrimp Remoulade and Boiled Beef Brisket with Horseradish, were developed in this early period. 9

Guillaume Tujague passed away in 1912 and the ownership of the restaurant passed to his sister Alice Tujague Anouilh and her husband, Etienne. In 1915, the Anouilh’s decided to move the restaurant a few doors down to 823 Decatur Street at the corner of Madison Street. On February 12, 1915, before the notary Edgar Grima, Etienne Anouilh purchased 823 Decatur from Michel Dejan, Carmelite Dejan, and Josephine Dejan for $11,000.00. This sale can be seen below.

Act of Sale from Michel Dejan, et als. to Etienne Anouilh. Grima, Edgar 1915 February 12, Vol. 61, pg. 50r

Only five years after Tujagues moved to its new location at 823 Dectaur, the Anouilhs sold the restaurant business and the building to John Castet in two separate acts of sale. On February 18, 1920, in an act of sale of moveable property, Etienne Anouihl sold the Tujagues restaurant business to John Castet for $1,500.00 before the notary Emile Pomès. This sale can be seen below.

Act of Sale from Etienne Anouilh to John Castet. Pomès, Emile, 1920 February 18 Vol 19, Act 47

On April 30, 1920, Etienne Anouilh and John Castet returned to the notary office of Emile Pomès. This time Anouilh sold the property and building at 823 Decatur to Castet for $16,500.00. This sale can be seen below.

Act of Sale from Etienne Anouilh to John Castet. Pomès, Emile, 1920 April 30, Vol 19, Act 106

John Castet was joined in business by Philip Guichet, a native of Raceland, LA. The two men worked as bartenders during their ownership of Tujagues. In 1928, Philip Guichet created the now well known “Grasshopper” cocktail. He was also responsible for creating the “Whiskey Punch” cocktail. 10

Castet and Guichet owned Tujagues together until John Castet’s death in 1958. At this time, Castet’s wife Clemence transferred the ownership of the building and property of Philip Guichet. This was done in an act of sale before the notary Frank Moran, Jr. on December 19, 1958. Clemence Castet sold the building and its contents to Guichet for $55,000.00. This sale can be seen below.

Act of sale from Clemence Castet to Philip Guichet. Moran Jr., Frank, 1958 December 19, Act 26.
Act of sale from Clemence Castet to Philip Guichet. Moran Jr., Frank, 1958 December 19, Act 26.

Tujagues remained in the Guichet family until 1982 when the heirs of Philip Guichet sold the property to Stanford H. Latter. On November 23, 1982, an act of sale before the notary Russell J. Schonekas, Stanford Latter purchased the Tujagues property for $925,000.00. The first page of this act can be seen below.

Act of Sale from Philip Guichet, Jr., et als. to Stanford Latter. Schonekas, Russell, 1982 November 23, NA# 474716

Attached to this sale is a survey of the property, created by Coleman Kuhr, where Tujagues is prominently featured. This can be seen below.

Survey by Coleman Kuhr. Schonekas, Russell, 1982 November 23, NA# 474716

Today, the Tujagues business is owned by Mark Latter, a relative of Stanford Latter. In 2019, Mark Latter made the decision to move Tujagues from its historic location at 823 Decatur to 429 Decatur. Latter claimed the move was out of economic necessity and that the move was a way to keep the 166 year old restaurant open. Tujagues reopened in its new 429 Decatur location in late 2020. 11

Willie Mae’s Scotch House
Customers wait in line at Willie Mae’s Scotch House. Photo Credit: https://www.neworleans.com/listing/willie-maes-scotch-house/32166/

When you pass Willie Mae’s Scotch house at 2401 St. Ann Street in the 6th Ward, it is not uncommon to see customers, locals and visitors alike, waiting in line to get what the Food Network and the Travel Channel deemed “America’s Best Fried Chicken.” Willie Mae’s, named after chef and owner Willie Mae Seaton, first opened Willie Mae’s Scotch House in 1957 as a bar in Treme. Only a year later, Willie Mae’s moved to its current location at 2401 St. Ann Street in the 6th Ward.18 At the time the building was owned by Nicolo and Maria Pacaccio, as evidenced by an act of sale before the notary William Waller Young on March 15, 1940. In this act, seen below, the Pocaccio’s purchased the property and buildings at 2401 St. Ann Street from Jackson Homestead Association for $2,500.00.

Act of Sale from Jackson Homestead Association to Maria and Nicolo Pocaccio. Young, William W., 1940 March 15, Act 64

From 1958 until the early 1970s Willie Mae’s operated as a bar, a barbershop, and a beauty salon. On January 16, 1969, Willie Mae Seaton purchased the property that housed her bar from the succession of Nicolo and Maria Paccacio in an act of sale before the notary John Hammel III. She purchased the property for $9,600.00. An image from the sale can be seen below.

Act of Sale to Willie Mae Seaton. Hammel III, John, 1969 January 16, Act 12

In the early 1970s, the beauty shop closed, and Willie Mae’s bar customers began to ask for the bar to be transformed into a restaurant knowing how good Willie Mae Seaton’s cooking was. The customers soon got their wish and Willie Mae converted the bar and former beauty salon into a sit down restaurant specializing in Mississippi and Louisiana cuisine. Willie Mae’s became famous for its wet-battered fried chicken, which is a highlight of the menu to this day.

Like Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, Willie Mae’s became a popular meeting place for civic leaders as well as visitors to the city. Willie Mae never sought publicity though, content to remain in the background. In fact, when the Times-Picayune ran an article on the restaurant in 1999, Willie Mae insisted that the address not be printed and that the article would not include photos of her.19

In 2005, Willie Mae Seaton won a James Beard Foundation Award for “America’s Classic Restaurant for the Southern Region.” This award brought national recognition to the small neighborhood restaurant. Further recognition came to the restaurant in 2007 when the Food Network and the Travel Channel named Willie Mae’s as “America’s Best Fried Chicken.”

Willie Mae Seaton passed away in 2015 and her succession was filed with the Office of the Clerk of Civil District Court the following year. An image of this succession can be seen below.

Succession of Willie Mae Seaton. NA#2016-04943
Angelo Brocato
Angelo Brocato. Photo Credit: https://neworleanslocal.com/angelo-brocato-open-now/

As any good meal ends with dessert, the final location that we will discuss is Angelo Brocato, an Italian gelato and pastry shop with a 117 year history in the city of New Orleans.

Angelo Brocato, an Italian immigrant from Palermo, Sicily, began to learn the art of ice cream at 12 years old when he began his apprenticeship at one of Palermo’s ice cream parlors. He also began to master making various types of Italian pastries such as biscotti and cannoli. After immigrating to New Orleans, Angelo opened his first store front in the 500 block of Ursuline Street in 1905. In this shop, Angelo hand churned Italian style ice cream, or gelato, an created new flavors that had not been known to New Orleans such as torroncino, a vanilla-based gelato with cinnamon and ground almonds. 21

The business prospered in the first half of the 20th century and as business grew Angelo decided to move the business to a larger location at 615-617 Ursulines. On January 21, 1922, Salvatore Brocato, a relation of Angelo’s, came before the notary Theodore Cotonio to purchase 615-617 Ursulines from Jacob Weinstein. Salvatore purchased the property for $5,000.00. An image of the sale can be seen below.

Act of sale to Salvatore Brocato. Cotonio, Theodore, 1922 January 21, Vol 25, Act 2350

On March 3, 1926, Salvatore Brocato sold 615-617 Ursuline to Angelo Brocato in an act of sale before Theodore Cotonio. Angelo purchased the property for $7,000.00. An image of the sale can be seen below.

Act of Sale to Angelo Brocato. Cotonio, Theodore, 1926 March 3, Vol 33, Act 3436

In this new larger location, Angelo recreated the elegant Palermo ice cream parlors where he apprenticed. He remained dedicated to providing his customers with the highest quality ingredients for his products and it was his tireless efforts that kept the shop open during the Great Depression and World War II. When Angelo died in 1946, his sons, Angelo, Jr. and Joseph continued to operate the shop and uphold their father’s values.22

By the 1970s, the French Quarter, where the store was located, was becoming less residential and the decision was made to move the store to its current location in Mid-City. On March 21, 1978, Jolie Brocato, Arthur Brocato, and Joseph Brocato, children of Angelo Brocato, Jr., purchased 214 North Carrollton from Michel Bellango in an act of sale before the notary W. Paul Anderson. The Brocatos purchased the property for $60,000.00. An image of the sale can be seen below.

Act of Sale to the Brocatos. NA#280163

Today, Angelo Brocato’s still serves the New Orleans community from the North Carrollton location and is operated by a third generation of Brocatos. It maintains the “Old World” feel that Angelo, Sr. infused into the shop on Ursuline with rows of jars filled with colorful candies and cases filled with various pastries and gelato favors.23

These records are just a sampling of what the Clerk’s office has to offer when researching various restaurants in New Orleans. If there are any particular interests that you would like to learn more about, please contact the Clerk’s Office. We are happy to assist.

References:
  1. John Pope, “Commander’s Palace and the birth of a New Orleans culinary Landmark,”, Times-Picayune, last modified September 2, 2017, https://www.nola.com/300/article_e3a6403f-9ada-5c2f-ac47-2b3d67e27c49.html.
  2. “13. Commander’s Palace, New Orleans,” Nations Restaurant News, published January 25, 2010.
  3. Act of sale from Frank Giarrratano to Joseph Baricev. Waguespack, W. J. N.P. 1943 June 30.
  4. Act of sale from Joseph Baricev to Frank Moran. Sauders, Eugene N.P. 1945 January 29.
  5. Ella Brennan and Ti Adelaide Martin, Miss Ella of Commander’s Palace, (Gibbs Smith: Layton, 2016), 1.
  6. “Our Story,” About, Commander’s Palace, accessed September 15, 2022, https://www.commanderspalace.com/about/our-story.
  7. Will Coviello, “Meg Bickford takes over as Executive Chef at Commander’s Palace,” The Gambit, Nola.com, last modified October 19, 2020, https://www.nola.com/gambit/food_drink/article_8dd7bba4-0fd4-11eb-8dff-eb27fee840e7.html.
  8. “History,” History, Tujague’s Restaurant, accessed September 16, 2022, https://tujaguesrestaurant.com/history/.
  9. Ian McNulty, “Tujague’s, second-oldest restaurant in New Orleans, will relocate,” Times-Picayune, last modified October 11, 2019, https://www.nola.com/entertainment_life/eat-drink/article_398f739c-eb78-11e9-9c89-3f7664acb637.html.
  10. Michael Welch, “Tujague’s Restaurant,” Food and Drink, St. Charles Avenue, last modified January 5, 2015, https://www.myneworleans.com/tujagues-restaurant/.
  11. Ian McNulty, “Tujague’s, second-oldest restaurant in New Orleans, will relocate,” Times-Picayune, last modified October 11, 2019, https://www.nola.com/entertainment_life/eat-drink/article_398f739c-eb78-11e9-9c89-3f7664acb637.html.
  12. “About Dooky Jr.,” About the Owner, Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, accessed September 16, 2022, https://www.dookychaserestaurants.com/about-the-owner.
  13. “Executive Chef Emeritus Leah Chase,” About the Chef, Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, accessed September 16, 2022, https://www.dookychaserestaurants.com/about-the-chef.
  14. “Executive Chef Emeritus Leah Chase,” About the Chef, Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, accessed September 16, 2022, https://www.dookychaserestaurants.com/about-the-chef.
  15. “Executive Chef Emeritus Leah Chase,” About the Chef, Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, accessed September 16, 2022, https://www.dookychaserestaurants.com/about-the-chef.
  16. “About Dooky Jr.,” About the Owner, Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, accessed September 16, 2022, https://www.dookychaserestaurants.com/about-the-owner.
  17. “Executive Chef Emeritus Leah Chase,” About the Chef, Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, accessed September 16, 2022, https://www.dookychaserestaurants.com/about-the-chef.
  18. “About-Since 1957,” About, Willie Mae’s Scotch House, accessed September 19, 2022, https://williemaesscotchhouse.com/pages/about
  19. “Willie Mae Seaton, ” Food Tells a Story, accessed September 19, 2022, https://foodtellsastory.wordpress.com/2016/02/18/willie-mae-seaton/
  20. “About Us,” About Us, Angelo Brocato, accessed September 20, 2022, https://www.angelobrocatoicecream.com/about-us/
  21. “About Us,” About Us, Angelo Brocato, accessed September 20, 2022, https://www.angelobrocatoicecream.com/about-us/
  22. “About Us,” About Us, Angelo Brocato, accessed September 20, 2022, https://www.angelobrocatoicecream.com/about-us/

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