Counter Service: Why We Go Back

By  |  June 10, 2020


In 2019, Osayi Endolyn wrote “Counter Service,” a column examining how American dining culture is shaped by historic social practices that have often left out, or outright excluded, groups of people including women and African Americans. To conclude her series, she visits Willa Jean, Kelly Fields’s restaurant in New Orleans, to discuss the elements that make a dining experience successful. In the video, Endolyn asks, What is it about New Orleans restaurants like Dooky Chase's, Heard Dat Kitchen, and Coquette, that make us want to return? 

Filmmaker and photographer L. Kasimu Harris recorded this video before COVID-19 radically changed the American dining scene, shuttering dining rooms from coast to coast and forcing restaurateurs to reinvent their business models. We share it today to honor and celebrate dining spaces for what they were, and we invite you to consider: When beloved places are taken away, how do we feel?  

Willa Jean’s dining room re-opened in late May, and the restaurant announced a list of health protocols it plans to follow. What does it mean to return to places we love? In New Orleans, a city defined by its food culture, diners will soon find out.

For more “Counter Service,” click here

L. Kasimu Harris is a New Orleans-based artist whose practice deposits a number of different strategic and conceptual devices in order to push narratives. He strives to tell stories of underrepresented communities in New Orleans and beyond. In 2018, his War on the Benighted series was a part of Changing Course: Reflections on New Orleans Histories, a group exhibition at the New Orleans Museum of Art.

Osayi Endolyn is a writer and editor whose work often explores food, culture, and identity. Her work appears in the Washington Post, the Wall Street JournalEater, and she’s featured in Chef’s Table on Netflix, The Splendid Table, and Special Sauce with Ed LevineSouthern Living named her to their list of 30 Women Moving Southern Food Forward. She won the 2018 James Beard Award for columns.