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A former fast food drive-thru becomes a homegrown hub of Ida relief in New Orleans East | Where NOLA Eats

The people pulled up in work trucks and family cars with four kids sharing the backseat. They followed the yellow arrows still painted on the pavement, directing them around the slab that was once a McDonald’s to where the long-gone restaurant’s drive-thru window had stood. They collected free cartons of butter beans and boiled turkey necks and drove off through another hot day in New Orleans East after Hurricane Ida.

Soon after the storm, this lot at the corner of Downman and Morrison roads became a homegrown hub of help and fellowship.






Buck Horton, right, waves to passing cars on Wednesday, September 8, 2021 as he and his friends stand at the site of a former McDonalds where they have been cooking and serving hot food in New Orleans East ever since Hurricane Ida. (Photo by Chris Granger | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)




It started after the bounce rapper 10th Ward Buck (a.k.a Buck Horton) and local actor Lucky Johnson got together to do something for their neighbors. Normally, this site is a parking lot for party buses. The McDonald’s was cleared away years ago. Johnson has plans to develop a food truck lot here to boost the local food options.

But in the emergency after Ida, the two friends turned it into something for the moment.

“Help from the top is great, but sometimes it comes down to the common man serving each other,” said Johnson. “It’s using what you have and where it can help.”






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Demon Vernon pulls up a pot of boiling seafood on Wednesday, September 8, 2021 as he and others cook and serve food at the site of a former McDonalds at the corner of Morrison and Downman roads in New Orleans East. Food has been given away and supplies such as tarps, gas, diapers, and toothpaste have been given away as well ever since Hurricane Ida. (Photo by Chris Granger | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)




They’ve been at it for a week now, setting up with fresh supplies each day. At first, it was the essentials – water, ice, even gas, dispensed for free from large tanks into the small cans that were keeping generators going during the blackout.

Soon they added food. With seafood boiling pots, trailer-mounted smokers and prep tables under pop-up tents, they assembled what looked like a giant tailgate party there on the corner. People soon brought batches of their own food from restaurants or home kitchens to contribute.






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Lucky Johnson, right, helps carry the food that Miss Boudreaux cooked and dropped off to the volunteers serving hot food at the corner of Downman and Morrison roads in New Orleans East on Wednesday, September 8, 2021. Food, gas, and toiletries have been given out at the location ever since Hurricane Ida. (Photo by Chris Granger | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)




Some people who showed up for meals later came back to volunteer, helping cook, clean up and drive loads of food and supplies to people who can’t get to the Downman Road site.

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Countless grassroots efforts for mutual aid and community support have materialized after Ida, running alongside the mainline relief programs from government agencies, church groups and nonprofits. This one was propelled simply by the desire to help, and the memories of what happened after a very different disaster.






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A thankful thumbs up from a driver picking up two plates of hot food on Wednesday, September 8, 2021 at the corner of Downman and Morrison roads in New Orleans East. Friends Buck Horton and Lucky Johnson teamed up to help their community affected by Hurricane Ida. (Photo by Chris Granger | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)




“After Katrina, we were on the rooftops, and people had nothing, we weren’t going to let that happen again,” Horton said. “Because we survived Katrina we knew what people would need. We needed to help.”

They’ve been feeding up to 500 people a day, and they keep taking it one day at a time.






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A plate of hot food donated and cooked by friends on Wednesday, September 8, 2021 at the corner of Downman and Morrison roads in New Orleans East. Friends Buck Horton and Lucky Johnson teamed up to help their community affected by Hurricane Ida. (Photo by Chris Granger | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)




Neighbors, recovery workers, even cops and firefighters have been coming through, following the old painted drive-thru arrows. Others walk up, taking a break in the blistering heat at one of the camp chairs under the tents set up around the outdoor kitchen.

“Sometimes it’s just talking to somebody and remembering that other people are here for you,” said Horton. “We want to give people a little sense of ease and give them a meal so they can make it through the day and get back on the grind.”

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