When Frady's One Stop opened in 1972, New Orleans’ Bywater neighborhood was real working-class. Even though the area has seen a surge in gentrification post-Katrina, Frady’s customer base has been loyal for almost five decades, stopping by for debris-style roast-beef po’boys, deviled eggs and the catfish special on Fridays. “We still greet everyone by name,” says owner Kirk Frady. “People like the old-time feel. There’s a nostalgia in the place and the food.”
New Orleans corner stores are like Manhattan bodegas, but instead of bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwiches, you’ll find crawdads and Crystal Hot Sauce. Part dry goods purveyor—light bulbs, cat food, lotto tickets—they also serve sandwiches, fried chicken, alcohol and fresh gossip. Immigrants began the trend in the antebellum period, German-owned corner stores sprang up in the 1850s; Sicilian-owned stores in the 1880s. Common vices like gambling and imbibing were tolerated here, and certainly contributed to their popularity. In recent years, hundreds have shuttered, but the ones still open meet the same community needs, albeit with more emphasis on quality food than debauchery.
“Corner stores have always contributed to our city,” says Dr. Justin Nystrom, director of Loyola University’s Center for the Study of New Orleans. One of his favorite corner stores is Terranova’s Supermarket in Bayou St. John, which celebrates its 95th anniversary this year and is known for its towering, olive-littered muffuletta, only sold on Saturdays. “Terranova’s gotten a little fancier these days,” Nystrom admits, “but it’s still a classic cross-section of all types of people coming in for stuffed pork chops, Diet Coke and steaks.”
For more than 100 years, crowds have sought the corner of Annunciation and Bellecastle streets for Domilise’s Po-Boy & Bar. It opened in 1918, and over the years attracted a cult following for its fried shrimp, oyster and sausage po’boys piled on crispy New Orleans French bread. But one of the most memorable moments in Domilise’s long history was the day it reopened after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when a line of faithful, resilient regulars stretched several Uptown blocks.
The 24-hour Verti Marte opened inside a cramped, 250-year-old French Quarter building in 1968. Shelba Hatfield still owns it and her recipes have earned Verti an honorary mention on most of the city’s must-eat lists. “Anthony Bourdain loved our All That Jazz,” says Shelba’s son and store manager, Sam Hatfield. That behemoth po’boy is made with grilled turkey, ham, American and Swiss cheese, fried shrimp, sautéed mushrooms and “wow” sauce (a Cajun-style tartar). But according to Sam Hatfield, the real secret ingredient is “keeping a friendly staff, serving great food at affordable prices and being willing to stay open.”