When I went to New Orleans, I was told two things:
1) Start drinking early
2) Go to Jacques-Imo’s
I’ll be damned if I didn’t follow directions perfectly.
Jacques-Imo’s isn’t on the beaten path. It’s in a dodgier part of town and they don’t take reservations for parties under 5 people – you have to wait for at least an hour. You just show up wearing torn jeans, order a glass of wine or a beer at the dark, crowded bar, and clamor for a seat as people around you inhale plates of crisply fried green tomatoes. If you are lucky, you might see Jacques himself, a true bon vivant. He is a real character, and goes around the bar taking pictures, taking names, and taking shots with the patrons. It is the kind of crazy place that you might see a fraternity, a couple of well-to-do lawyers, and a rabid foodie.
It’s the kind of place where too much is just enough.
The time you spend waiting goes quickly thanks to strong drinks and the infectious laughter of the place. Also, you are actually quoted the time that you wait – none of that “15 minutes becomes 90 minutes” crap.
By the time you sit down, you should be – if you did it right – tipsy and starving. That’s where this stuff comes in:
Not just any corn muffins. Moist but not mushy with a garlicky-licious explosion of flavor. They are very savory, and moist enough to enjoy sans butter.
That’s obviously due to the intense amount of butter already in these suckers.
They are sweet but not sugary and a really great start to an unconventional meal.
It sounds gross. It sounds repulsive.
It tastes like angels singing on high.
It’s that miraculous.
It’s a rich, garlicky quiche. The bits of shrimp are sweet and snappy and the alligator sausage just tastes like very seasoned pork sausage. It’s the classic combo of pork and shellfish – salty, sweet, and savory. The cheesecake itself is served with a creamy seafood sauce that isn’t muddy or fishy at all – it’s really just buttery. This is a dish I would never have ordered but I am so glad that I got to try some!
The unpictured interlude of spinach salad with sesame dressing and one perfectly fried, crispy-crusted oyster, is a welcome reminder that no dish can be too healthy if it really wants to call itself Creole.
What, you want a closer look at one of the best sandwiches I have ever eaten in my life?
Yeah, there it is. Soft French bread filled with tender, wonderfully moist(though well done) roast beef, and melty Swiss cheese. It’s all fried to a very soft golden brown then dunked in hearty beef gravy. Let’s not forget the pickle – for some reason the rest of the country hasn’t picked up on how fantastic pickles are. They are all over N’awlins and always to spectacular effect. Here, they are vinegary and bright and TOTALLY cut through the heavy sandwich. This is just so delicious. It’s saucy and melty and cheesy and beefy – like a Big Mac gone Creole. I loved this dish so much that I ate it past the point of comfort.
It was worth it.
That’s the whole thing about Jacques-Imo’s. Everything is just a little too much. A little too noisy. A little too small. A little too out of the way. Certainly too cheap and with far too sweet and friendly service for how busy it is.
But, somehow, it’s all perfect.
Because, for a few days a year, too much is just enough.