“I wish they’d kill them all”
Marie Parque makes a dramatic gesture slashing her thumb across her throat.
I’m at The Pearl, the ancient restaurant on St. Charles Avenue; it’s the final day of service for the old concern that Parque has run since 1982.
We’re talking about the brigands who recently conducted a stick-up at Atchafalaya, home of the best cornbread in New Orleans.
Up until now, Parque has been amiable, chatting about the nature of the restaurant business and discussing her future plans (hanging out at her newly purchased home in Lakeview).
Her demeanor changes, a storm crosses her face and she is instantly livid. A classic restaurateur.
I’ve walked past The Pearl hundreds of times but have never ventured inside til I read a Todd Price article about the closure of the business.
The Pearl is rightly famous for its giant, antique neon sign that has hung on the building for decades.
Marie Parque has lived in the apartment upstairs since the 80s but is excited to be moving to the inner-burbs. I ask her to recommend a po boy and she says “shrimp” in a millisecond.
Two elderly attorneys walk in and Parque’s attention is diverted just as my po boy arrives.
It’s a good-looking sandwich, small by New Orleans standards but packed with 50 count shrimps. I take a big bite. “How is it?” Parque, ever the professional, makes a quick appearance to check on quality. I nod my assent, “I’ll tell the kitchen” she smiles.
At meal’s end Parque reengages as though she’d never left. “I never wanted to retire but time is not on my side”
She brings up her husband’s old restaurant on Royal Street: Jimmy’s Coney Island and mentions that she had already worked a lifetime for Bell South when she bought The Pearl.
I inquire as to the status of the building and she mentions that it’s already been sold and has no idea what the new owners plan on doing with it.
A group of well-dressed elderly gentleman approach and it’s clear they’re old friends with Parque. I meander outside just as a pair of tourist begin reading the sandwich board outside. “Last day of business, get on in there and get to eating”
They dutifully walk inside.
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The Pearl was located at 119 St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans, Louisiana