Ray Charles' Favorite Creole Restaurant Was Dooky Chase's In New Orleans

ray charles smiling
ray charles smiling - Static Media/Getty

Legendary singer-songwriter and pianist Ray Charles may have been born in Georgia and raised in Florida, but his favorite Creole dining establishment was located in New Orleans. Dubbed Dooky Chase's, the authentic Creole restaurant still exists today on Orleans Ave, although it was founded back in 1941. Charles frequented the place in the 1950s in particular and was such a fan that he even included a line in his song "Early in the Morning" referencing it. If you've ever crooned the lyrics, "I went to Dooky Chase's to get something to eat / The waitress looked at me and said, 'Ray, you sure look beat,'" you've referenced it too.

What was his order of choice? Red beans and rice with fried chicken. While the dish on the menu today may not be the exact same one that Charles enjoyed (although it's possible that the recipe hasn't changed over the years), you can still find red beans and rice there today for $14.95. It comes with two pieces of fried chicken and a choice of a side, which can include stewed okra, mustard greens, and jambalaya. If you're pairing your meal with a glass of vino, Dooky Chase's recommends La Crema Pinot Noir in this case.

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Dooky Chase's Is A Hub For The New Orleans African American Community

red beans and rice
red beans and rice - Dooky Chase/Facebook

While Charles loved the red beans and rice at Dooky Chase's, he wasn't the only famous person to frequent the establishment. President Barack Obama, Thurgood Marshall, James Baldwin, and Beyoncé are among the prominent figures that have visited the restaurant, which has become a significant meeting place for political dialogue over the years. Martin Luther King Jr. used the meeting room there to talk strategy in the 1960s, and it was a hub for African Americans discussing civil rights before Plessy v. Ferguson was overturned. While it originally started as a sandwich shop, it became a sit-down restaurant in 1946 when Edgar Dooky Chase Jr. wed Leah Lange Chase, who eventually became known as the Queen of Creole Cuisine.

While Dooky Chase's remains a family-owned African American fine dining restaurant serving up dishes like Oysters Norman, Crawfish Etouffee, and Louisiana Redfish, it's also a beacon of New Orleans culture and activism. And Charles didn't just enjoy the food there -- he also contributed to African American cuisine in New Orleans by donating $1 million to Dillard University after receiving an honorary degree in 2003, which helped fund a chair in Black culinary history. He recognized the importance of continuing Black food traditions, including his family's, and wanted to ensure they were passed on to new generations.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.