Li’l Dizzy’s Cafe, a New Orleans lunch institution for fried chicken, po’boys, and gumbo feared closed permanently amid the pandemic, has returned under the next generation of owners. Arkesha and Wayne Baquet Jr. recently reopened the Treme corner restaurant with a fresh setup and the same great food for takeout, dine-in, or outdoor dining.
Baquet’s father, Wayne Baquet Sr., confirmed Li’l Dizzy’s likely end last fall, nearly eight months after the COVID-19 pandemic caused the closure of his buffet-style restaurant. The building and business, founded in 2005, had been up for sale since the summer, with no takers by fall. When Baquet, 73, confirmed the closure in November, the local reaction was swift and loud, and Baquet’s son Wayne Jr. and his wife Arkesha decided to buy Li’l Dizzy’s and continue his father’s legacy, despite their differing career paths.
Li’l Dizzy’s was bustling on a recent weekday during lunch, with most of the spaced-out indoor tables occupied by diners and a steady stream of customers coming in for takeout. The buffet’s been repurposed for counter service, with a plexiglass barrier separating customers from the trays of fried chicken, catfish, Southern greens, macaroni and cheese, candied yams, and potato salad that make up the platters. The line moves fast, with several masked and gloved staff helping expedite food orders to tables, all wrapped for takeout whether for to-go or dine-in. There are fewer tables, but the walls of family memorabilia and vintage Saints decor remain. As pandemic safety protocols evolve, the Baquets plan to eventually resume full service, but the buffet won’t be returning anytime soon.
The family also plans to revive Li’l Dizzy’s place as a vendor at Jazz Fest when it returns, currently scheduled for fall. Li’l Dizzy’s is open at 1500 Esplanade Avenue from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
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