During the 1950s and 60s, Dooky Chase’s Restaurant provided a safe space for national and local civil rights activist to meet and strategize over a bowl of Leah Chase’s famous Creole Gumbo. Beginning in 1939, as a sandwich shop and lottery outlet on Claiborne Avenue, Emile and Dooky Chase moved their business to their home on Orleans Avenue in 1941. In 1946, newlyweds Edgar “Dooky” Chase Jr. and Leah Chase took over the restaurant and turned the sandwich shop into one of the few upscale establishments available for the city’s African American community to dine and socialize.
Despite state and city ordinances prohibiting most interracial assembly, Edgar and Leah Chase embraced the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement and invited labor and social activists of all races to use their dining room for meetings. Dooky Chase’s Restaurant served as a meeting place for labor leaders during the Godchaux Sugar Refinary strike in 1955, planning sessions for local lunch counter protesters Jerome Smith, Rudy Lombard and Oretha Castle Haley, and as a secret meeting location for Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Freedom Bus Riders.
On May 1965, a homemade bomb was thrown out of a moving car towards Dooky Chase’s Restaurant sending metal fragments into the bar and entrance way of the restaurant. Remembering the incident, Leah Chase explains the bomb did not injure anyone and the restaurant only suffered minor damage.
Surviving Hurricanes Betsy and Katrina, Dooky Chase's remains open for business. Visitors to the restaurant can view Leah Chase’s vibrant art collection featuring African American artists.