Mr. Bluebird’s On Our Shoulder, So to Speak

by Chris Smith, Collections Director at SoFAB

An old, hurricane-addled sign from the recently closed Bluebird Café on Prytania Street in New Orleans has found a new place to roost in the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.

“I am just totally honored for it to be in the museum,” says Sally Roberts, the person who created and operated the café for 21 years. “I never dreamed something from the restaurant would be included in a museum.”

In two decades, Roberts managed to create an iconic restaurant beloved by locals and tourists.

“I’m not originally from here; I am from Kansas,” she says. “I came here and loved it. I loved all the little neighborhood places, the little po’ boy shops tucked into the neighborhoods and the little hole-in-the-walls. I was so pleased to become part of that, the New Orleans experience. Operating the Bluebird Café was a dream come true. And now to have my sign immortalized in a museum, it’s more than I ever expected to get. I could not be more thrilled.”

Roberts donated the sign to the museum when it closed in May 2009. The sign is an oval, roughly 4 feet by four feet. It is white with a one-inch blue trim around the edge. In the center is a bluebird perched on a branch with a body of water in the background. Lake Pontchartrain? The Gulf of Mexico? That is left to the viewer’s imagination. The words “Bluebird Café appear in red lettering with red trim.

“It’s not the original sign from 1988,” says Roberts. “This sign is about 12 years old. It was made by a commercial sign fabricator here in New Orleans. I found a similar design for a flour company and we used that as a model. I had a friend who was an artist and who did the lettering.”

Roberts says there are bluebird cafes in cities across the country. “Bluebirds represent all that is good,” she says. And she adds “It felt like we had been there forever.”

The sign was blown around quite a bit during Katrina, but it was Gustav that blew it off and wedged it into the fence. They did not get a chance to put it up again.

The sign is emblematic of the café. “We went from 20 employees to eight after Katrina. The facility was unscathed but the employees were blown all over. That was difficult, managing something from a distance, depending on other people.”

Though the Bluebird Café is gone, Roberts is working with friends to plan something else in the food industry though she doesn’t want to make commitments now. “Food service is what I know, though I am trying to take a break. Right now, I’m working on relaxing and traveling and visiting with old friends.”

One of those old friends is perched on a branch on a sign inside the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.


Another Bluebird?


2 Responses to “Mr. Bluebird’s On Our Shoulder, So to Speak”

  1. Wendy Karcher Says:

    I’m very sad to see that The Bluebird Cafe is no longer but happy to revisit the old memories. I worked at The Bluebird for or 3? or more years?…so long ago hard to remember. I was there with the original sign..I was once mentioned in Gambit’s ‘Best Of” issues as one of the top reasons for going but I think I was voted by an ex boyfriend. We all know one of the top reasons was the Huevos Rancheros. I do feel it necessary to mention one of the other original owners…Bart. He and Sally were two of the best bosses/friends that I ever worked for. I miss you both and wish you all the best. Hello to My dear long lost former fellow waitress/friend Carol..another Bluebird icon. Much love from NYC, Wendy.

  2. August 2009 | Southern Food and Beverage Museum Says:

    […] Mr. Bluebird’s On Our Shoulder, So to Speak […]

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