This is a very small neighborhood place specializing in fried chicken and a handful of other Creole dishes. After the hurricane, it became the darling of the national media, whose image of New Orleans eating it fit perfectly. (The fact that few people in New Orleans had so much as heard of the place didn't deter them.) Suddenly everybody who came to town felt it essential to eat there. The little place became overwhelmed and not very good. In the past couple of years, however, Willie Mae's grandchildren have grabbed the reins and pulled the place together. Other than the service--which is and always has been minimal--things are great again.
Willie Mae Seaton opened her restaurant in the 1960s, and was still cooking into her nineties. She kept a low profile. A critic who asked her for an interview was told that it ewas all right, except that the story should include neither the restaurant's name nor location. Willie Mae wanted to cook for her loyal regulars, not hordes of tourists. Katrina flooding shut her down, but John Currence--the celebrity chef in Oxford, Mississippi--gave a lot of time, money and personal sweat to rebuild both Willie Mae's restaurant and her house. That alerted the reporters to the story. And the next thing we knew Willie Mae had $200,000 raised in her behalf and a James Beard Award. It's nice that she got the attention, but it has done less than nothing for the food here.
It's a one-room corner cafe, comfortable and sharp with its post-storm renovation. Walls are covered with locally produced art. It's everything you'd want in the way of a little neighborhood Creole cafe. The service staff is usually nice but when overwhelmed can be indifferent. Everything is cooked to order, and you may have to wait for a table, so don't come in a hurry.
Get there early, especially if there's a big visitor event going on in town, and especially if it's a music event. (Those are not the best times to go.)