Over by the Claiborne bridge, where the clanking and crackling of the highway meets the gentle flow of Esplanade, lies a crisp smell. On that crossing, like a loud battle between two of New Orleans’ major arteries, one will feel the city’s pulse. It is like a heart, pumping traffic, carrying life in and out the concrete veins of the old town. Always in rhythm.
If you’re lucky on a Sunday, you’ll catch a second line, celebrating down this history-filled strip bordering the Treme, brass feeding sound to the looming bridge that amplifies it. On any given night, you might see a party on wheels roll by, bounce music blaring, resonating down the avenue. And everytime, you’ll always find Manchu Food Store open. With its iconic purple front, green sign painted on it displaying a vague idea of what you’ll find there. A sight so often chosen as backdrop to your local music videos. You just found where that smell comes from.
“My mom`s dad. He was an absolute hardass,” John Nguyen says as he recalls his grandfather Kevin, a Vietnamese immigrant who bought the original ManChu on Saint Bernard in the 1980s and later opened the Claiborne location . “His pass for validating the stamp for marrying his daughters was, you had to come to his store and work there, and that’s how he would be able to tell and check all the boxes. He did this to every single one of my uncles who married into the family. My dad was no exception to the rule.”
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