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Restaurants Sign of New Orleans Recovery

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Restaurants Sign of New Orleans Recovery

Economy

Restaurants Sign of New Orleans Recovery

Restaurants Sign of New Orleans Recovery

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Many New Orleans neighborhoods are slowly coming back to life, nearly three months after Hurricane Katrina flooded the city and forced residents to evacuate. Molly Peterson reports on the re-opening of a Spanish restaurant in the mid-city area of New Orleans.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin says residents of the Lower Ninth Ward, badly damaged by the hurricane, will be able to return to inspect their properties in a couple of weeks. Further west, in midcity, signs of life are more plentiful. Last night, residents in Faubourg St. John celebrated the opening of one of their small neighborhood restaurants, Lola's. It serves Spanish food. Reporter Molly Peterson was there.

MOLLY PETERSON reporting:

Recovery in this midcity neighborhood, not too far from the fairgrounds, has been slow. Electricity's only just coming back on. National Guardsmen patrolling nearby still casually refer to this area as a sector, not a neighborhood. But in the last few days, there've been signs of progress.

(Soundbite of crowd noise)

PETERSON: Until this summer, Lola's didn't have a liquor license. Patrons still bring their own wine, so waiting for a table is not just bearable, it's actually kind of like a street party.

Mr. IAN McNAULTY(ph) (New Orleans Resident): My name's Ian McNaulty. I live about a mile away, where it's utter darkness. I rode my bike over here a mile away, and when I hit the area where the lights begin again, it's heartbreaking in a way but so encouraging.

PETERSON: Owner Angel Miranda lives right next door to Lola's. On busy nights, people are waiting actually on his porch. He says after Katrina hit, residents took care of each other here.

Mr. ANGEL MIRANDA (Owner, Lola's): It was beautiful around here, because a bunch of guys and ladies, they was cooking every day and they was getting food all the way around. And everybody ...(unintelligible) whatever--what you need, so everybody was helping each other. So it was nice.

PETERSON: Neighbors say Lola's is the kind of place that they cross their fingers and pray that food writer's don't find. For one thing, it's tiny; there's just about 10 or 12 tables. And they're protective of the community vibe.

(Soundbite of crowd noise)

Mr. MALCOLM BURNS (New Orleans Resident): You know, it's just--to be able to walk to a place where you can eat in your neighborhood, where you can get a nice meal and pleasant atmosphere, to me is worth a million dollars.

PETERSON: Malcolm Burns is a retired computer network specialist and a historian. His wife, Linda, is a fifth-generation resident of this neighborhood, the Faubourg St. John.

Mrs. LINDA BURNS (New Orleans Resident): You recognize people that you know from the neighborhood, and it's just great. And everybody is kind of welcoming Angel back tonight, because this is the first restaurant back in our neighborhood.

PETERSON: What kind of a job do you think the city's done in bringing the city back so far?

Mr. BURNS: Mixed, I think. I'm right now positive on Nagin. This is a situation where it'd almost be a miracle if someone handled it extremely well. There's so many things changing, such a large area was affected, so many things are broken. I'm not unhappy with the city, let's put it that way. I think that the city can't handle it by itself.

PETERSON: Owner Angel Miranda says the city, like the levees that are supposed to protect it, is unprepared for natural disasters.

Mr. MIRANDA: We need a better, stronger, honest people handling this city. Where are they? Well, we are here, so we have to--next time that we vote, we have to choose the right one, if there are one or two.

PETERSON: Miranda says he didn't have much damage.

Mr. MIRANDA: Healthy people, healthy business, they don't get upset for a situation like that, because we are strong enough and we have enough energy to come back the same way or stronger. I'm lucky this hurricane cleaned the city and most of those people will not come back. The stronger will.

PETERSON: For NPR News, I'm Molly Peterson in New Orleans.

(Soundbite of crowd noise)

CHADWICK: I'm Alex Chadwick. Stay with us on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.

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