Thursday, September 06, 2007

Have you ever been choked up over a restaurant? Not choking but choked up, full of emotion. The T-P has been running a series of articles about Mandina’s Restaurant. It’s one of the classic New Orleans neighborhood restaurants, whose cuisine is referred to as “Italian Creole.” It’s one of the places I always take out-of-town visitors. It’s been in the family for 4 generations, opened for 75 years and flooded after the levee broke post-Katrina with up to 6 feet of water.

It’s a typical Post-K story. The owners went back and forth about whether to rebuild or throw in the towel, tear down or renovate, how to finance since the insurance company wasn’t coughing up. They got some insurance money, but have filed a lawsuit against Lloyd's of London in an attempt to receive the full amount of their wind and business interruption policies. Luckily some local banks have faith in the business and has loaned Mandina’s money, even after the renovation costs more than doubled what was originally estimated. They reopened in February to a full house, a line around the block.

So why get choked up? It’s just a restaurant, right? It’s more than that; it’s symbolic of all the people and places that make New Orleans, New Orleans. A hope that if they can do it, so can someone else. It’s kind of like a loved one walking after being told they’d never walk again. If Mandina’s decided to call it quits, of course life would have gone on. It’s the same if the Superdome was never reopened, the Saints moved to another city. However, it’s these seemingly trivial things that make life here worth living. They are unique gems that are special to the people of New Orleans. They are part of the city’s long history.

I bet no one had ever said that about a StarbucksTM®.

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