Along Williams Boulevard in Kenner, Louisiana, a suburb of the New Orleans metropolitan area, you’ll find an expansive range of restaurants boasting international fare. Mesoamerican, Japanese, Middle Eastern, Brazilian… it’s a true culinary kingdom! LCI Workers’ Comp is proud to provide comp for many restaurants in this area including Mazaj Café and Chilangos Restaurant. One of our members in this area, however, has made a name for themselves by serving up authentic and traditional Louisiana dishes.
Williams Seafood & PoBoy was born in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to serve the good people of Kenner and beyond some much-needed comfort food. The restaurant started by Pamela Tran and her husband Vinny has withstood yet another massive chaotic event, and it shows no signs of slowing down or ceasing.
By Locals For Locals
Pamela Tran makes New Orleans food because she is a New Orleans native, and she’s incredibly proud of that fact. Her pride is noticeable in the way she talks about where she went to school. “I went to school in the French Quarter: McDonough 15. It was amazing to be able to have that experience to see all that culture every day and be in the heart of the city on a daily basis. It definitely cemented my love for this city. We moved around back and forth but as soon as I was an adult, I knew New Orleans was just where I wanted to be. I came back, and I’ve been here ever since.”
When she settled back in her hometown, Pamela started pursuing a degree at the University of New Orleans. Her educational path, however, had nothing to do with the culinary arts or business management. She explained, “I started at UNO, and I was doing pre-med. Originally, that was the plan to do medicine and get a completely different kind of job than I have now. I met my husband during college, and we decided to open up our restaurant and that took precedence over everything.”
Williams Seafood & PoBoy came into existence in the wake of Hurricane Katrina when Vinny and Pamela believed that starting a restaurant was a safe bet. “My husband was doing what he does now, but he was doing it for someone else. He said, ‘I want a piece of the pie.’ We were really young. I don’t think I would ever take that jump now, but we were in our twenties and we felt like we had nothing to lose. We just went all in, and it worked out. Katrina was a changing point for the city. It was terrible. But, for some of us, it gave us the opportunity to jump right in. We looked at so many different places, and our landlord was so open to renting to inexperienced kids that just had an idea. We were very, very fortunate.”
Part of the restaurant’s success may have been due in part to Pamela’s background in accounting during the early days of Williams Seafood & PoBoy. “I was working at an accounting firm. It’s so concrete; you know you’re balancing to zero. That’s definitely helped out with the restaurant, profit and loss statements, being able to read any sort of financial statements, make a budget or make a plan. We think that in order to have a successful business, you have to have a concept of where your money is going and how to spend it. Luckily, I fell into it and it worked out. A business background is very helpful in knowing all the different tax laws and everything. It helps you see things more clearly.”
Pamela even went back to school in recent years to increase her knowledge about business management to ensure the restaurant’s long-term success. She said, “I went back about three years ago to Delgado and got a Business Administration Degree with a concentration in Accounting. So I have that! I’d love to go back and finish through a Master’s Program or even a CPA, but business and family take precedence over pretty much everything. Between family and the restaurant that’s pretty much all I have time for. I’m happy with where we ended up. I’m happy that my husband and I made that decision together that we needed to focus on the restaurant in order to succeed, and it has.”
Comfort Food For Hard Times
From starting out during Katrina to staying open during the COVID Pandemic, Williams Seafood & PoBoy has prevailed against all odds. “When the COVID restrictions hit us, we stayed open; we just converted to mostly take-out and third-party delivery. It made us adapt to a new era where everything is online. It has actually helped us reach out to a broader market. Unfortunately, a lot of major restaurants are closed down right now, and we’ve been able to tap into that market that would normally never bother with a mom-and-pop shop. For us, it hasn’t been as horrible as it has been for a sit-down restaurant that relies on waiter service. We’ve done well, but I can say it’s just from adapting. We had the third-party delivery services already integrated into our system. They did a great job of helping small businesses. Social media is something that I took to and just went full head-on. For us, we’ve been very fortunate that we’ve been able to adapt so quickly with the whole situation. We were only closed four weeks in the beginning. Thankfully now, everyone is wearing masks and everyone is aware. So by doing that and helping each other out, we’ve managed to continue full steam ahead.”
Pamela grew up in the heart of New Orleans, but she finds that Williams Boulevard where her restaurant is located is a true melting pot of culture. “I think Williams Boulevard has a little bit of everything here. There’s so many taquerias, Mediterranean, small pizza places. Anything you think of that you need, it’s going to be on Williams. I think it’s great. It’s brings a lot of traffic. The Pontchartrain Center does a great job of bringing in all of the conventions and bringing an influx of tourists and people that would never consider coming to Kenner. I think that’s why we’ve managed to have such a variety of restaurants. I think it’s wonderful. It’s great for our city.”
Some of the amazing dishes on the restaurant’s menu started off right in the Tran household as Vinny experimented with new flavors and ways of cooking. Pamela told, “My husband enjoys making new recipes, and I love being the guinea pig. My husband has perfected his roast beef and gumbo recipes from doing it at home. I figured out the best bread pudding recipe from making it at home then bringing it to the restaurant. We’re into anything sweet like peach cobbler!” Pamela also runs, rides bikes, and does arts and crafts with her Lily, and they’ve only grown closer as they’ve quarantined together. “As a family in the middle of COVID, I try to teach my daughter all of the amazing things that we did as kids that they don’t get to do because they’re stuck on iPads.”
Down Home Cookin’
If you’re in the mood for po-boys, gumbo, towering fried seafood platters, and even daily specials like Grilled Chicken Alfredo, Williams Seafood & PoBoy is ready to serve you. “Come check us out; we’re a mom-and-pop neighborhood joint. Any time that you solicit a restaurant like this, you’re helping out a family. We really put our heart and soul into our business and into our food. That’s something that we would love to share with anyone,” Pamela enthusiastically ended.
For a look at the Williams Seafood & PoBoy menu and for more information, visit Williams Seafood & PoBoy.← News and Insights