It was once an old rundown sugar mill, a building which had been empty for over twenty years and was under the ownership of Fenner and Fenner Real Estate. Tiana's father was the first one to dream about opening a restaurant here, where he would serve his home-made gumbo together with his daughter Tiana. He couldn't save up for the place, though, because he had to work three jobs to make sure his family had enough money.
Role in the film
After Tiana's father passed away, Tiana started saving up to get the restaurant as well. She worked extremely hard and much to make sure she had enough money to pay for her and her mother's expenses, as well as save for the restaurant. She mostly saved up tips from her waitressing jobs. Once Charlotte La Bouff paid a large amount of money to her for a lot of man-catching advice, Tiana finally had enough and placed a bid on the old sugar mill. The Fenner Brothers then promised to bring her the papers to sign.
However, the Fenner Brothers later told her she was "outbid," but as it's unlikely that someone would bid on the mill in the same week Tiana placed her bid after twenty years of it being untouched, the Brothers probably made that up to prevent having to sell the mill to a woman of color. Once Tiana returned to the Fenners with her new husband Prince Naveen and her alligator friend Louis, she was able to pay for the building and open her restaurant.
With a lot of effort on her and her husband Prince Naveen's behalf, the building was transformed into a restaurant. Tiana took the name her father had imagined it, Tiana’s Place, but gave it a slight change, making it Tiana's Palace to emphasize her royal title. The restaurant became the crown jewel of New Orleans, even inspiring the other buildings in the neighborhood to become vibrant and re inhabited. It became revered as the favorite restaurant of visiting royalty - Naveen's parents, the King and Queen of Maldonia and his brother, Prince Ralphie - and also hosted a live jazz orchestra, the Firefly Five plus Lou, led by Louis.
There is a direct pun in the name of the band. The name "The Firefly five plus Lou" is a pun on the name of the band Firehouse Five Plus Two, which was a Dixieland jazz band, popular in the 1950s, consisting of members of the Walt Disney Studios animation department.
The theme design for Tiana's restaurant seems to be inspired from Lily of the Valley and Lotus.
In the English version of The Princess and the Frog, the poster of a fancy restaurant James wrote for his dream to come true prior to his death reads "Tiana's Palace". In the international versions, this was altered simply as "Tiana's" to get over the language barrier.
The sugar mill before becoming a restaurant.
The inside of the sugar mill before becoming Tiana's restaurant.
The ceiling of the sugar mill.
Construction begun on the sugar mill.
Tiana and Naveen turning the mill into a restaurant.