JD's Louisiana BBQ - Gumbo be gone, Jerk moved to town
By D.K. Crawford 06/23/2011
JD’s Louisiana BBQ
1045 Patterson Road
We arrived there at noon on a Friday. JD’s Louisiana BBQ is conveniently tucked between Ray’s Barber Shop and the Red Hot Salon. “You can get coifed and get ribs,” noted my companion.
The sign said they open at 11:30 but the chairs were still up on the tables and the door was locked. A friendly man with long dreadlocks appeared out of nowhere, knocked on the locked glass door and shouted to the people working in the kitchen. “Twenty minutes,” he announced before disappearing again. As we pulled out of the parking lot to run some errands, I smelled grilling barbecue wafting in the air.
We returned 40 minutes later. The tables were down but the door was locked. I knocked and a man appeared. He had a measured gait and spoke in a Louisiana-tinged voice that was slow and sugary like Steen’s cane syrup. Another cook popped out of the kitchen and greeted us with a Jamaican lilt. Both were warm, informative and relaxed.
JD’s BBQ is in the process of changing over from featuring ancient Southern recipes like jambalaya and gumbo passed down from JD, (the owner’s father), to island food — jerk chicken, curried goat, ackee and saltfish, and oxtails. The “meat” of the menu, barbecue, has remained but many of the Louisiana/Cajun dishes have given way to Jamaican fare.
We ordered a variety of dishes: baby back ribs with potato salad and coleslaw, Jamaican jerk chicken with rice ’n’ peas and plantains, a shrimp po-boy and Jamaican meat pie, Ina’s peach cobbler (all the desserts are named for someone), and two tropical iced teas.
Our plates arrived and each was decorated on the edges with colorful lettuce leaves. My first bite was of jerk chicken. The chicken was moist and tender and its skin covered with spicy jerk sauce. When I got a bite with a lot of skin or sauce, I felt the fire – it was a strong medium-hot – but the rice and peas was a lovely way to quell the fire. The kidney beans in the reddish rice were tender but I didn’t get the hint of coconut-milk flavor I long for with rice and peas. I had also hoped to taste more allspice and layers in the sauce. The fried plantains were a sweet treat.
Next, I tried the ribs after my companion finally agreed to pass the plate. They were a chunky, meaty, tender and messy, slathered in JD’s house barbecue sauce. I could taste the tomato and brown sugar, light vinegar and slight heat of the sauce. The meat didn’t fall off the bone but it was plenty tender. The coleslaw was creamy and simple.
Two slices of garlic bread came with our order and they were dangerously and intoxicatingly buttered, with little crisp edges.
The shrimp po’ boy, one of the last Louisiana hold-outs on the menu, was by far the most intriguing dish. The shrimp were fried in a cornmeal Cajun batter. Herbed mayonnaise, cherry tomatoes, bread-and-butter pickles, pepperocinis, lettuce and red onions were tossed in a sort of vinaigrette, all piled high on a hoagie roll. It wasn’t a classic Cajun po’ boy like I grew up with but it had the basic flavors of the South with a California twist. It was surprising, fun, and we ate every last bite. The cornmeal and grilled bread with the darkened flavors, crisp veggies and dressings made it crunchy, pickled yet sweet, and almost like a sinful salad. Just writing about it has me craving another.
The Jamaican meat pie was a beautiful golden hue from the turmeric in the dough. Inside were a spicy ground meat mixture and herbs with a touch of sweet. It also had some chili heat and the sweetened tropical iced tea with its combination of fruit juices and spearmint was the perfect complement.
The construction workers received their orders, dropped off by the Jamaican man. “I wanna see your face when you take the first bite!” he said, pausing. One man took a bite and said, “Awww…. Hell yeah!” Feeling a bit like the woman sitting near Meg Ryan in her famous deli scene, I asked what he was having. It was the Memphis-style pulled pork sandwich with chili beans on the side. I know we’ll be tasting these when we return.
Then a warm container of peach cobbler appeared. It was slurpy, with pale, anemic dough that sort of disappeared into the container. From its looks, neither of us thought we’d get beyond a bite, but we were surprised. It reminded me of the cobblers I had at church socials as a girl. It wasn’t sophisticated, but something about half-cooked dough brought me back home and I swear, we ate the whole piece.
JD’s Louisiana BBQ is transporting. It’s a simple, homey, family, down-to-earth, slow-moving place. I regret not eating there before they removed the other Cajun dishes from the menu. After tasting that po-boy I’d really love to have tried the shrimp creole, jambalaya and gumbo. Admittedly, though, it was fun to eat Jamaican food.
We left with full bellies and felt as though we’d gone outside of time and place. As we walked to our car, we walked again past the friendly man with dreadlocks who again seemed to materialize out of nowhere!
For more of DK Crawford’s writing, go to www.thefoodsavant.blogspot.com.