Long Beach Is Slowly Regaining Its Restaurants

A month before the hurricane, Darwell Yeager opened a Long Beach restaurant he called Darwell's.

"The way I looked at it was the people in this area needed a really good place to eat," the head chef said.

Somehow, Darwell's Cafe survived a hurricane that ravaged about everything else in downtown Long Beach. So as soon as the family could get back in the kitchen, the First Street cafe reopened.

"It was very important for me and my family to establish a place for people to come and enjoy themselves and let go of the Katrina disaster that had happened around in this area," he said.

On Thursday, Darwell's finally got some south of the tracks competition. Lil' Rays Long Beach reopened on Jeff Davis Avenue. And plenty of hungry customers stopped by for a poboy.

Ray Kidd has owned the Lil' Rays franchise for 35 years.

"For my sake, it's been a great mental lift," he said.

And according to Long Beach Mayor Billy Skellie, a great lift for a city that lost so many restaurants during the storm.

"I'm really quite pleased that people have shown the ability to get it together and work with the city and try to get back on line, get back in business," the mayor said.

Most of the buildings around Lil' Rays either sustained significant damage, or they were swallowed by the hurricane's storm surge. As for the restaurant, manager Amber Kidd said it simply needed a new roof to get back in business.

"We really believe it was a miracle, because you can look all around our building and we're just sitting here like nothing happened," she said.

That made it a lot easier for the Kidd family to slow cook roast beef in its secret gravy, and feed some hungry, hurricane weary neighbors.

"It makes you feel real good," Ray Kidd said. "I'm real, real pleased."

Because after a three month break caused by a hurricane that gobbled up huge chunks of Long Beach, Ray Kidd's staff was serving poboys again.