Monday, June 17

In Memoriam: Dot Domilise of Domilise's Po-Boys in New Orleans, 1922-2013

 
Dot Domilise behind the counter at Domilise's Po-Boys in New Orleans
Photo by Sara Roahen, 2006
Beloved po-boy queen Dorothy "Dot" Domilise passed away last Friday, June 14, in New Orleans. She was 90 years old. 

Miss Dot was a fixture behind the counter at her family's business, Domilise's Restaurant, where she served po-boys for more than 70 years. We honored Miss Dot in 2006 with one of our Tabasco Guardians of the Tradition awards. And, of course, we collected her story. 

Below is an excerpt from her 2006 interview. Visit our NOLA Eats oral history project online for more.

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My name is Dorothy Domilise. I make sandwiches.

I was born on Aragon Plantation in Thibodaux, Louisiana. And later in life moved to Franklin, Louisiana, where I lived a greater part of my life until I got married in 1943, and my husband Sam came back from New Guinea after World War II. That’s when I lived here totally.

Well, my in-laws had the restaurant. They sold sandwiches but not—you know, for people hanging around and things like that. It was not too many people buying sandwiches in those days. Po-boys weren't a big deal until the Riverfront really opened up, and people were employed along the Riverfront and more wharfs were being built.

My mother-in-law had diabetes very, very bad. And that’s how I got involved because they were both not well people, you know, and, well, I didn’t come out here until after I had my first child. That’s when I came. Before then I was working you know—away. Not in here. My mother-in-law and father-in-law did all that, and there was a lady that was a real good friend of theirs that did most of everything for them. That’s how close—they weren't relatives but real good friends. They just really took care of the place. My husband was not interested in this at all. To me, it was just, you know, another day and something you had to do—you did it. I got used to it.

Oh, the menu's been more or less the same except at one time we didn’t sell meatballs. And one time we didn’t sell turkey. And more or less the same except—and barbecue. At one time we didn’t sell barbecue. So it was just a little ordinary menu.

Our most popular po-boy? I have to say it’s between the shrimp, the oyster, and the roast beef. You’d have to pull a straw.