Franky & Johnny’s has been a quintessential neighborhood seafood restaurant in New Orleans since 1942. It is the sort of place that has seen good times and rough periods, like Hurricane Katrina, when the Cajun restaurant became a local gathering place for people to check in on each other’s safety.
Today, the challenge continues to be economic fallout from last year’s massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Tony Cortello’s family has owned Franky & Johnny’s for the last 24 years, serving only seafood caught in the Gulf. Located in the Uptown district of New Orleans, the menu is known as “Uptown Cajun,” and it’s got a reputation for always serving the best.
“[Our serving Gulf seafood] is something our customers appreciate because it helps the local economy,” says Cortello.
Most of his customers grew up eating Louisiana shrimp, crawfish, fish and crabs. “They will tell you it’s the best product,” he says. In a city where fresh-caught seafood is a food staple, people know about high quality.
Yet Cortello is facing tough economic challenges going forward in 2011. Seafood prices are still high as supplies rebuild and as the fishing industry along coastal Louisiana recovers. Gasoline prices are predicted to continue to increase, he points out, further nudging up supplier costs for restaurant owners like himself.
What bothers him most today are the unclear methods used by BP oil-fund czar Kenneth Feinberg to distribute recovery funds. Rumors circulate, he says, about the fortune Feinberg’s firm is being paid for their services and their lack of incentive to make things right for people along the Gulf. Feinberg frustration is growing in this region.
In the meantime, locals and visitors to the Crescent City know where to go to find traditional “Uptown Cajun” boiled and fried Gulf seafood — Franky & Johnny’s at 321 Arabella Street, at the corner of Tchoupitoulas Street in New Orleans.