Ready for a magic trick? I’m guessing the first thought to pop into your head after reading that they offer Southern cuisine included some variation of the word “spicy;” whether that was preceded by “too,” “adequately,” “awesomely,” or “freakishly,” can be your little secret, but let me tell you one of mine—at J. Gumbo’s, it’s not about how much spice they can pack into a bite. “It’s more about the flavor,” clarified John. And there’s nothing like some good Southern flavor to celebrate Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras, which just so happens to be tomorrow, the very day that J. Gumbo’s is offering a remarkable all-you-can-eat special!
Pairing well with their unique selection of food, J. Gumbo’s also has a very unique story. John Krabacher, manager and chef, was able to sit down with me last Friday to give me a history lesson, including that of himself and the company. John grew up along Brown Street, having his first Cheese Steak from Milano’s when it still occupied J. Gumbo’s present location. He even had his first beer at Timothy’s! He and his friends lived among these college parts and even developed a weekend routine, which included sneaking past the cops who always used to wait in Arby’s parking lot. After some growing up, John has become a chef, helped run Kanoe Cafe, and shared recipes through his blogs; John’s latest adventure is managing this newest baby of the J. Gumbo’s franchise. Whilst speaking to me about it, he said, “If you told me two years ago I’d be here, I’d tell you that you were nuts. I don’t like franchises.” So naturally I wanted to know why he decided to dive into this franchise. Usually a chain like this wants to stick to certain recipes, which, in John’s opinion, takes away from the creativity of the food. But John’s great ideas, knack for taste, and personal relationship with the founder has given him the ability to tweak recipes, and now he proudly claims his J. Gumbo’s houses the best food of the franchise. This was only possible with the help of his right-hand lady, Erin. “Erin’s really good at what she does,” which consists of a whole slew of things, including perfecting their bread pudding recipe; baking their corn bread, bread pudding, and apple cobbler from scratch; and the daily task of keeping John in line. They complement each other brilliantly, both fully understanding what is needed for their Store Number Thirty-Nine to succeed.
Store Number One was founded by a thoroughbred jockey, named Billy Fox. He was getting tired of the stable food, so he started cooking Cajun. After his career as a jockey, he retired to Louisiana, where he started Gumbo A Go-Go. Eventually, after some hard work, the company evolved to what we have today on Brown Street—J. Gumbo’s. Their gumbo has evolved along with them, which can now only be described as none other than delicious. Considered by John to be the restaurant’s must-have item, their gumbo has improved a lot over the years. If you’re interested in more of a sweet dish, J. Gumbo’s offers a vegetarian entrée, entitled Bumblebee Stew, which happens to be my absolute personal favorite. Pair that with their Jambalaya, and you’ve got my ultimate Southern combination. Want to dive into something with a little more zing? Their Voodoo Chicken, tomato-based and spicy, might just be what you’re craving. Billy Fox actually started the company on only two recipes: the previously mentioned Voodoo Chicken and what they call Drunken Chicken—made with black pepper and pepper corn seasoning, marinated for 24 hours in beer. College students, let me repeat that—BEER! And don’t worry, not Natty.
On that note, John was very excited to tell me they will be getting their liquor license very soon and plan to house an assortment of Louisiana brews, the perfect way to top off this Southern meal. If you’re still a bit hesitant to try something completely new, J. Gumbo’s offers free samples to first-timers. Try it out this Tuesday, the twenty-first of February! And once you realize you love it, you will be happy you chose to come to J. Gumbo’s on Fat Tuesday. ‘Why?’ you ask. Because this Mardi Gras, J. Gumbo’s is having ALL YOU CAN EAT for only $12! You get a stamped card once you pay, and you can come back for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if you so choose. This is the ultimate gift for your taste buds, whether you’re just seeking flavor or hoping to get a little spicy on Mardi Gras!
And to keep us all coming back, J. Gumbo’s is dishing out the deals every week. Mondays are Kid’s night, where Looney Ballooney, a local balloon artist, makes balloon figurines for the families, giving dinner a whole new dimension of fun. Tuesdays, in general, college students can save 10% all day by showing their ID to the cashier. On Wednesdays, municipal workers get 10% off all day, and J. Gumbo’s is just waiting to hear of other specials in which we, as customers, would like to partake. Eating there will satisfy our taste buds; why not satisfy our wallets, too?
J. Gumbo’s casual, down-home Southern cuisine and atmosphere, complete with music of the South, is sure to win you and your taste buds over. I’ve always ventured to have my readers try something new. I haven’t steered you wrong before, and I’m not planning to now. Cajun and Creole food may be completely new to you, as it was for me, or it may be a trip down memory lane of your last trip down South. Either way, J. Gumbo’s is definitely worth a visit. Especially this Mardi Gras!
So grab your beads and meet down on Brown in front of the Crawdaddy sign. And have a happy, flavor-filled Mardi Gras!
1822 Brown Street