Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, located in New Orleans, is a historic Black-owned restaurant which opened in 1941. The restaurant is known for its delicious creole cuisine and a long history of being a hot spot for Civil Rights leaders to convene and strategize over a meal. Leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Thurgood Marshall, and Reverend A.L. Davis were some to dine and strategize under the roof of world famous Dooky Chase’s Restaurant.
In 1946, Edgar Dooky Chase, Jr. married the late Leah Chase. Through the vision of Leah, the barroom and sandwich shop grew into a sit-down restaurant wrapped within a cultural environment of Black art and Creole cooking. Later known as the Queen of Creole Cuisine, Leah would introduce one of the first Black fine dining restaurants to the country. Over the years, Leah showcased Black art throughout the walls of the restaurant, often in trade for gumbo. It is no mistake that Leah Chase served as the inspiration for Princess Tiana in Disney’s Princess and the Frog.
Sankofa Impact prioritizes sharing a meal at Dooky Chase’s while on the bus in the South. It is often the first stop for our participants on our Pilgrimage trips after arriving in New Orleans. To sit in the same room and eat a meal similar to what Dr. King might have had while planning strategy for the movement is a powerful beginning to our journey through the South.
On our Pilgrimage to the South, Sankofa Impact prioritizes supporting Black-owned, led, and run businesses by being intentional with where our groups gather to take part in sharing a meal together. Breaking bread brings the opportunity to connect and create community with one another. With thoughtful planning, we also visit restaurants like Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale, The Four Way in Memphis, The Slutty Vegan in Birmingham, The Coffee Shoppe in Selma, and Paschal’s in Atlanta, to name a few. While not all of these restaurants may have ties to historical events, they all are Black-owned and continue the legacy of Black cultural cuisine.
“Food builds big bridges. If you can eat with someone, you can learn from them, and when you learn from someone, you can make big changes. We changed the course of America in this restaurant over bowls of gumbo. We can talk to each other and relate to each other when we eat together.”Leah Chase