Sometimes there’s a side benefit to foraging for local cuisine, especially if you’re a tourist in New Orleans. And who doesn’t want Real Nawlins Food? We sure ’nuff do, so whenever we visit, we duck out of the French Quarter to a favorite place of ours — Jacques-Imo’s on Oak Street, at the far end of the Garden District.
So, what’s the side benefit? A slow trip via the St. Charles Streetcar past stately homes and graceful, long-armed trees that have survived hurricanes, Louisiana dampness, and Mardi Gras parades. (Disclaimer: These photos were taken from a seat on the trolley, so they’re not the best. But you’ll get the picture.) And if you love Old South architecture and lovely homes, this just may be a passage through heaven.
Some homes seem framed by far-reaching branches. Like this lovely home with tall, to-the-floor windows, ionic columns, and leaded glass door.
Others seem skinnier (relatively speaking) but quaint. This one with tall shutters, a sweet sitting area on the front porch and pretty landscaping offers a more casual Garden District look. And oh, that balcony — all the better to watch the parades, my dear!
By now, you’re seeing a trend as more and more of the homes follow a pattern: columns, balconies, wicker chairs on front porch. We can’t get enough of it.
You can almost see inside some of the homes if you pass by at twilight, and the interiors are lit. Those leaded glass doors just sparkle.
We almost felt that we were in the French Quarter peeping through gates to see the courtyards when we passed this home. And the clay tile roof just adds to the ambiance.
It seemed that a few homes were so dignified they should be on Embassy Row in some international city. Wouldn’t you want to stay here if you were ambassador to the U. S.?
The route through the Garden District parallels S. Carrollton Street, and you’ll have to let the driver know you want to get off at Oak Street, home of Jacques-Imo’s. Believe us, he’ll know where you’re going. It’s been a book-your-reservations-early place since Jacques Leonardi and his wife Amelia opened the restaurant in 1996 in the Riverbend/Carrollton area. And, if you’re really lucky, Jacques himself may come cavorting through the restaurant, slapping you on the back or singing for all to hear.
Jacques-Imo’s decor defies description. At least our description. It’s a little bit swampy, little bit Duck Dynasty, little bit VooDoo, and a whole lotta garage sale meets Southern style.
And that’s the fun of it. The food is the joy of it. If we hadn’t filled up on muffalettas and gumbo at Napoleon House for lunch, we would have stuffed ourselves with any one of their signature entrees: Blackened Redfish with crab-chili hollandaise or Eggplant Pirogue with sautéed shrimp and oysters in a lemon cream sauce or Grilled Grouper with Crabmeat Imperial. Oh, be still my heart.
Instead, we opted for three appetizers and drinks (You’re in New Orleans. You have to.) and were full as ticks when we left. Our choices? Numero uno for sure: Shrimp and Alligator Cheesecake which the Times-Picayune (August 27, 2014) described beautifully. “This is essentially a quiche with biceps: rich and custardy, in a pool of mustard-tart sauce. A few bites and you’ll feel strong enough to wade into the swamp.”
But that’s not all. We downed two more: Fried Boudin Balls stuffed with jalapenos and pepper jack cheese in a Creole mustard sauce and Deep-fried Roast Beef Po-Boy. You won’t leave hungry.
Of course, the down side is that you have to walk back to the trolley when you can barely waddle. But the exercise and warm Southern breezes will help you find the route back to your hotel.
It’s just another memorable evening in New Orleans — through the Garden District to Jacques-Imo’s!
For more information:
Jacques-Imo’s, 8324 Oak Street, New Orleans, LA; 504-861-o886; jacques-imos.com
New Orleans Streetcar Schedules: http://www.norta.com/Maps-Schedules/Streetcar-Schedules-Maps.aspx
If you’d like to see more of where we ate and what we saw in New Orleans, click here or go to Travel Series: New Orleans at the top of this post. Thanks for traveling with us!
–Bert and Rusha