Elsie's Plate & Pie, 3145 Government St., was John Cagayao's first stop on Friday.
The LSU student was on a break from his internship in Houston, and he and friend Jamie Pizzuto are regulars at Elsie's.
But both opted to wait outside for their food instead eating inside on the first day of Louisiana's Phase 1 of reopening the state.
Restaurants statewide were required to shutter their dining rooms in March to the battle to flatten the coronavirus curve. On Friday, they were allowed to reopen at 25% capacity.
Front House Manager Rebecca Aycock said Elsie's removed some tables, leaving only enough seats to comply with the 25% rule. She and the rest of the staff wore masks and gloves and repeatedly wiped surfaces with sanitizer.
Usually at noon, Elsie's regular 100-seat dining room is filled to capacity with incoming customers waiting in the seating area or outside. At noon Friday, only a handful of diners were sitting inside.
"It's going to take some time," Aycock said. "We're still offering takeout, and our menu is limited, but our customers will come back gradually."
Meanwhile, Cagayao and Pizzuto waited outside as their order was filled.
"We love Elsie's," said Pizzuto, who ordered the boudin burger. "I always come here first when I come home, and we usually eat inside, but we're not really ready to do that today."
Pizzuto, who ordered a chicken salad, said she and Cagayao would probably take their food to the park and eat it.
"I like eating in restaurants," she said. "I like being there and being part of it. But I work in a hospital, and I was there during the first stages of all of this, so I personally want to be cautious."
Still, Cayagao and Pizzuto felt it was important to patronize their favorite restaurant.
"We definitely want to support Elsie's," Cayagao said. "But I don't think we'll be ready to eat inside a restaurant until mid to late summer.
For dining in, Aycock said customers will be asked to wear face masks while ordering. Masks can be removed for eating.
"We'll be offering our limited menu through the weekend, then we hope to expand it from there," she said.