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As far as I’m concerned, New Orleans has several important things down to a science: throwing a hell of a party (maybe you’ve heard of Mardi Gras?); all things jazz (don’t miss Preservation Hall for a soul-warming concert); boozy drinks in to-go cups; and, of course, the resplendence that is Cajun/Creole gastronomy.
Located on the colorful, hip Oak Street in Uptown New Orleans, Jacques-Imo’s Cafe ticks off at least two, if not more, of those boxes. Every evening between 5 and 10 p.m., masses line up at the eatery.
My partner, Ben, and I — weathered and wise from living in Los Angeles, where brunch lines and wait times are nearly catastrophic — came up with a game plan before we even took a single step in the restaurant’s direction. We knew of Jacques-Imo’s celebrity as a must-visit dining destination in New Orleans; dozens of family, friends and travel guides shouted the imperative that we couldn’t miss it. (And, unfortunately, reservations are only available for parties of five or more.)
So, at 4:59 p.m. on the dot, we marched up to the front door of the cafe, excitedly tapping our feet below two signs that cheekily state “Jacques-Imo’s: Not Famous since 1996” and “Real N’awlins Food: Not Famous since 1996.”
And not only did we avoid the wait time, which can climb up to two hours; we snagged what’s arguably the best seat in the house (albeit technically alfresco): a wobbly table for two atop the funky painted and embellished truck that’s permanently parked in front of the eatery. (For those who love to people-watch, this is the place to be.)
Wasting no time, we immediately ran through our mental notes of the dishes we needed to order. But before we could utter a word, our smiling server — who was well-versed in Southern hospitality — set down a complimentary starter unlike any I’ve had before: cornbread muffins, topped with parsley and glistening with garlic butter in the golden hour light.
Sweet yet savory, moist and rich, they were the start of an unforgettable meal. Up next was Jacques-Imo’s renowned Shrimp and Alligator Sausage Cheesecake — it tasted like a flavorful, melt-in-your-mouth quiche — followed by the spicy, delicious Creole Jambalaya, which featured fluffy rice. Last to arrive on the table, and perhaps the tastiest of all, was the Blackened Redfish, perfectly seasoned and dressed with a creamy crab-chili hollandaise sauce.
To wash it all down, I had Jacques-Imo’s signature drink — a refreshing watermelon mojito.
And then I took a refill to go.
The DetailsJacques-Imo’s Cafewww.jacques-imos.com