My maternal grandmother, Cecilia Fletchinger, born in 1908, hailed from a large German-Irish Catholic family that lived in the building that now houses Camellia Grill on Carrollton Avenue in the Riverbend area. She attended Matter Dolorosa School and she met my grandfather, Henry Steinlage, in front of Sweikert’s Drug Store (now Canseco’s Market, 1133 S. Carrollton Ave., 766.0972, cansecos.com) at the corner of Oak Street and Carrollton Avenue while awaiting the streetcar under the canopy of oak trees that defines the area. They married at Matter Dolorosa Church and she shopped for her three daughters at Haase’s Shoes & Young Folks Shop (opened 1921, 8119 Oak St., 866-9944, haases.com) on Oak Street. As a child I wore clothes and shoes from Haase’s, as did my daughter.
Allow me to encourage you to eschew making your purchases at big box stores, shopping malls, and the internet if you can possibly avoid it and to spread some love around the eight-block shopping and dining venue that is Oak Street instead. The two-lane street still bears the hallmarks of the old-fashioned Main Street it once was with glass-fronted storefronts and restaurants opening directly onto the sidewalk. Definitely a plus at this time, it is an easily walk-able, open-air venue. Parking via meter (the meter maids are back out in force) is available on the street or for free in the surrounding neighborhoods. You can also ditch your wheels altogether and take the streetcar, the large windows of which are kept open for ventilation.
The section of Oak Street that runs from Carrollton to the river levee was thoroughly renovated as part of a government-funded revitalization project in 2009. Stroll around to find a quirky array of independent retail, dining, and neighborhood-friendly services with a decidedly local vibe. A surprising number of businesses are either fully open, such as the charming, old-fashioned Castellon Pharmacy (8232 Oak St., 866.3784, facebook.com/castellonpharmacy) and the Ra Shop (8128 Oak St, 864-8288, rashop.us); open by appointment, such as Blue Cypress Books (8126 Oak St., 352-0096, bluecypressbooks.com) and New Orleans Bike Shop (8136 Oak St, 866-4439, neworleansbikeshop.net) or open for curbside pickup, making Oak Street feel refreshingly kind of “normal.” Some restaurants may begin to offer very limited indoor and/or outdoor seating but, really, why bother? The Mississippi River levee is easily accessible at the end of the street so just go park yourself there and enjoy the view.
Oak Street Restaurants Open for Take Out and/or Delivery
Ajun Cajun (8433 Oak St., ajuncajun.com) Japanese food with a Cajun influence and delicious results. The Yakiniku poor boy is not to be missed.
Breads On Oak (8640 Oak St., Suite a, 324-9271, breadsonoak.com) This delightful 100 precent plant-based breakfast and lunch cafe and bakery is adding days and hours back every day. Their pure sourdough was started after Katrina and their baking methods are decidedly rustic. Coffee, wine and beer are served. Open for curbside takeout. Very limited seating will soon be offered in the courtyard.
Cowbell (8801 Oak St., 866-4222, cowbell-nola.com) A friendly, artsy joint in a former gas station with gourmet burgers & upscale diner fare. Open for take-out and delivery.
DTB-Down the Bayou (8201 Oak St. #1, 518-6889, dtbnola.com) Exceptional, inventive takes on locally sourced modern Cajun fare.
Jacques Imo’s (8324 Oak St., 861-0886, jacques-imos.com) A hot spot for exceptional Creole-soul food.
La Casita, 8400 Oak St., 826.9913, eatlacasita.com. Rustic-chic Mexican joint serving creative dishes and an array of tacos.
Live Oak Cafe, 8140 Oak St., 265-0050, liveoakcafenola. Low-key cafe with a neighborhood vibe serving breakfast all day, sandwiches, salads, and hot plates.
PHOBISTREAUX (1200 S Carrollton Ave., 304-8334, no website) Relaxed minimalist Vietnamese noodle house with traditional options & Indochine-inspired poor boys.
truburger (8115 Oak St., 218-5416, no website) Inventive build-your-own burgers plus hot dogs, fries, and shakes.
Have a great week, everyone. Use it to celebrate the people and the community you love, even if you are doing it from afar, digitally, or over the telephone. We need each other more than ever so take the time and make the effort to reach out. While you are at it make an effort to forgive past misdeeds and share some love. Please reach out to me if you have something to share or I can help in some way because You’ve Got A Friend in Me.