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The gumbo at Brother's Seafood.
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The stuffed shrimp at Brother's Seafood.
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Family tradition is a big part of Brother's Seafood.
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Pete Harris, Van Freeman, and Arthur “Scrap” Chapman opened Freeman & Harris Café 93 years ago.
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Brother's Seafood is owned and operated by the fourth generation of the Chapman family.
These days, there’s nothing unusual about an African-American family-owned restaurant. That wasn’t the case when Pete Harris, Van Freeman, and Arthur “Scrap” Chapman opened Freeman & Harris Café – the restaurant that would eventually become Brother’s Seafood — 93 years ago.
Though they’ve changed the name twice, the restaurant has been in the Chapman family all along. Formerly known as Freeman & Harris Café and Pete Harris, the most recent name change honors Arthur’s son, the late Willie “Brother” Chapman. Today, “Brother” Chapman’s grandson Damien Lewis represents a fourth generation of the Chapman family as he works alongside his aunt, Fonda Lavera Chapman, and his grandmother, Bettie Scott Chapman.
Before heading over to Brother’s Seafood, I did a little asking around. I kept hearing two things over and over. First, I heard that I was going to eat good if I ate there. Most people recommended the gumbo or the stuffed shrimp. The second was what a wonderful man third-generation restaurateur Chef Orlando Chapman was. Not just what a phenomenal chef he was, but simply that he was a wonderful human being with a big heart who acknowledged the Lord in everything he did. Tragically, Chef Orlando passed away on Sept. 24, 2013.
By the time I walked through the door of Brother’s Seafood, I already knew I was in a place with a deep sense of history. Everything about my time there confirmed that.
As I sat down, a retired couple seated at the table next to me talked about the fact that they had been coming back regularly for 40 years. Nearby, another elderly gentleman told his waitress that he no longer lives in Shreveport, but used to eat here regularly and now makes it a point to stop in to Brother’s Seafood every time he’s in the area. Shortly after I was seated, I heard one young man, who led a sizable group into the restaurant, proudly telling his guests, “This place is the best thing that’s ever happened to the black community in this area.”
After finishing my gumbo and stuffed shrimp -- both of which more than lived up to their reputation – I spoke with long-time Chapman family friend and Brother’s employee Patricia Jones about the restaurant’s history. The conversation kept coming back to Chef Orlando. Jones said of him, “He touched the hearts of everyone he came into contact with. Everyone was someone to him, no matter who they were or what position in life they had. He had a heart of gold.”
Brother’s Café is the oldest continually operating restaurant in Shreveport. What’s more, it’s the oldest continually operating African-American family-owned restaurant in the United States. They’ve been in business since 1921, and have been serving up Creole and soul food at their current location at 4916 Monkhouse Dr. since 2008.
By Scott Rutherford