On a recent day at the intersection of South Lafayette and St. Martins streets, the breeze is blowing, the sun is peeking through the clouds and Stanley Collins’ grill is smoking.
The owner of Captain Black’s Eatery is cooking Buffalo Claws (a merger of shrimp injected below the skin of a chicken wing) in the southeast-side restaurant parking lot at 2115 Lafayette St. It is a labor of love.
Despite the recession, competition from chain restaurants and being located in a high-crime neighborhood, the restaurant in April celebrated its fifth anniversary and recently increased its weekend hours. Profits are down and Collins had to cut the hours of his five employees, but he perseveres.
“I guess it’s in my blood,” said Collins, 46, noting that his mother and father were cooks in New Orleans and his grandmother and grandfather ran a restaurant in Mississippi.
It’s soul food, not health food, at Captain Black’s: ribs with hickory-smoked or spicy sauce, corn bread, collard greens, fried okra and yams. The menu also includes Polish sausage, seafood and spaghetti.
Customers like John Edmond leave satisfied. “They have a variety of food and it’s all good,” said Edmond, who stops by when he’s in the neighborhood for a haircut.
Some of the menu items can be found at nearby chain restaurants, but Collins doesn’t really consider them competition.
“Other restaurants are just like clothes in your closet. People have different tastes for different things,” he said. “Some days they might feel like Arby’s or McDonald’s or Famous Recipe; another day they may feel like Captain Black’s. I look at myself as being another option.”
While the recession has hurt, Collins said the food keeps customers returning.
“I still continue to have enough support from the community,” Collins said. “I’m very proud of that.”