If you’ve been following my posts over at Our Valley Events, then you saw that J Gumbo’s opened back in November. Inspired by the break in the frigid temperatures, the hubby and I spent a Saturday running errands and stopped in for lunch.
It’s a fast casual type set up, where you order at the counter, but your food is brought to your table. They offer Po’Boys and wraps, but the real attractions come served in a bowl. Jambalaya, gumbo, red beans and rice, chili, drunken chicken…all served over rice with a slice of buttered french bread. I was happy to see they had a helpful (and large) “spicy scale” rating the various dishes. This way I knew to steer far clear of the Voodoo Chicken and my hubby knew to kick it up a notch to the white chili.
However, they even went one better than just posting ratings, they will also let you taste any of the dishes before ordering. So those who HATE all things spicy? You can dip a toe in the water before committing to an entire dish. And those who like it hot, but not too hot? You can also gauge how well their scale matches your own.
Deciding to throw caution to the wind, the hubby and I ordered without sampling anything–the bumble bee stew for me and a bowl of white chili for him. I impulsively added one of the brownie like items sitting on the counter because they just looked so pretty. We paid and headed to the soda bar to fill our cups. I stuck with the tea, but I was tickled to see that the soda bar included “red cream soda”. (In my imagination that’s like a foamy, creamy, carbonated version of red velvet cake.)
Once seated, I scoped out the decor. Custom folk paintings celebrating their menu items bounced across the walls with stencilled fleur-de-lis filling in the gaps. Most of the front wall is occupied by a roll up door which was fully open to take advantage of the “warm for winter” weather. Pendant flags hung high above the register, and silent flat screen tvs set to basketball were abundant. Jazzy music was piped in, a little too loudly, but not so loudly that it impeded conversation.
Our food came up quickly and my dish was beautifully plated…something fast casual isn’t really known for. My french bread stood erect out of the bowl…a little carby exclamation point punctuating the dish.
My bumble bee stew (shown above and at the top of the post) was more like a thick chili than a stew. There was no broth to speak of, instead each ingredient was coated in a creamy, sweet and spicy butter sauce. The sweet creaminess hit first, followed by a punch of spice in the roof of my mouth. Any spicier and it would have been a no-go for my mild-medium loving taste buds, but happily, the burn did not build nor linger so I was able to revel in the sweet-spicy-sweet-spicy tango.
The other star of the dish was the abundant whole kernals of corn, bursting with flavor and freshness. The supporting roles were filled by long strands of white onion, chunks of cooked tomato, and black beans, in just the right ratio. The entire thing was served over white rice which was loose enough to mix in as you ate and integrated seamlessly into the dish.
It was absolutely delicious.
The french bread was thickly buttered with a crunchy, flaky exterior and a chewy interior. Despite being advertised as “buttered french bread”, it had a strongly garlicky flavor. No complaints from this quarter, I just thought the marketing a bit odd to have left that detail out. A few bits of greenery speckled the surface, but made no discernible mark on the flavor.
The hubby’s white bean chili was not white…which made sense considering it was “white bean” not “white” chili, but as reading comprehension when hungry is not one of my strengths, I was surprised. He described it as “good”, “warm”, and “hitting the spot”, but he did regret that he had’t chosen something spicier. As he’s a hot-medium kinda guy, and this was over half way up the chart, I suspect the true fire breathers may find even the spiciest dishes a little tame. There are tableside options for amping it up, but only a few–tabasco, Cholula, and a J Gumbo original.
We snuck a few bites of our brownie…only to discover it wasn’t really a brownie. (And this is where I admit to flubbing brownie photos. Please imagine a very pretty square drizzled in patterns of tan and black.) Instead it was a graham cracker crust, layered with something very like a dense, gooey brownie and topped with caramel and chocolate drizzles. The graham cracker crust was crunchy and..cinnamon-y. The caramel was deliciously salty and gave the small square it’s visual pizzazz. It had an odd aftertaste, something not really bad, but not really right, that I couldn’t place. I’m beginning to wonder if there isn’t a certain sweetener that leaves (to me at least) a funky aftertaste. This isn’t the first sweetened item I’ve had this issue with, though it’s usually cornbreads, not desserts.)
Our experience at J Gumbo’s was delightful. My bumblee bee stew was winsome enough that even after having it for/with 3 meals (the serve healthy portions, yo), I was still sad when it was gone. We’ll absolutely be back. The hubby wants to check out some of their spicier options and I might try the Drunken Chicken…if I can pry myself away from this stew. If you are looking to check it out, be forwarned that it is not visible from the street. It is in the east facing block of shops behind David’s Bridal.
Total for the meal : $21.58 (includes two entrees, two fountain drinks, and one dessert item)
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