Touchstones and Keepsakes: Chinatown’s New Orleans in L.A.

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A FEW months back, I’d heard word about a spot opening up in Chinatown that was going to bring a little bit of New Orleans to L.A. It got my hopes up, but I also knew to be sure to be a bit measured with my expectations. We’ve been disappointed before. Frankly New Orleans is difficult to get right — the accent as well as the food.

Slipping into Little Jewel back in August, I saw from the start that this was going to be different. Strikingly so. Since then,
I’ve been following the evolution of this market/deli and rendezvous for the last six months.

For many transplanted New Orleanians it’s already become a freeway-close home away from home.

You can click here to find my piece about Chinatown’s Little Jewel of New Orleans.

Executive Chef Marcus Christiana-Beniger greets customers at The Little Jewel of New Orleans -- photo by Lynell George

Executive Chef Marcus Christiana-Beniger greets customers at The Little Jewel of New Orleans — photo by Lynell George

Mother Tongue

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ANYONE WHO has known me since childhood remembers summers when my family would slip away, back to New Orleans — my mother’s birthplace and essentially my “other home.” It was family ritual.

This week, as part of a partnership between Zócalo Public Square and The Smithsonian, my essay “New Orleans Is My Second Language,” is part of the “What It Means to Be American“-series exploring identity, journeys and sense of place. I chose language and ritual which were both in many ways the bridge “back home,” not just for my mother, but now I’m realizing for me as well.

My grandfather, Frank Dixon Bowers, III in Jackson Square, New Orleans. Circa 1970s.

My grandfather, Frank Dixon Bowers, III in Jackson Square, New Orleans, Louisiana. Circa 1970s.

top image via Plurale Tantum

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SERIOUSLY though … I think I may have found a close-by place to get my proper beans, hot sauce and smoked meats. Also, the promise is that they will be carrying Leidenheimer bread for the po’boys … praise be.

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The Little Jewel of New Orleans — a New Orleans market and deli situated at the edge of L.A.’s Chinatown — had its soft opening last weekend. I picked up quite few staples I’d been running low on — mustard, peppers, seasoning, hot sauce.

The deli portion won’t be open for another couple of weeks but I had a great talk with folks who are heading this project — a chat that was  paired with Community Coffee and some time paging through all manner of cookbooks. All of a sudden my quick “pit stop” had turned into a “pull a chair up” sit-down.

It was so well worth it.

Stay tuned here and I’ll be posting more as they get everything up and running.
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