Monday, September 19, 2011


Bad Bart's Black Jambalaya
Jambalaya is one of those iconic local dishes that is at the top of every tourist's list of foods to try when visiting New Orleans. After watching Bourdain's journey to Acadiana a few weeks ago, even I have been overcome with a craving for those one pot dishes that our neighbors to the west do oh so well. But while I have little difficulty recommending where to find a good roast beef po-boy, cub of gumbo, or a dozen oysters on the half shell, I'll be damned if I don't draw a blank nearly every time someone asks me where they can get a worthwhile plate of jambalaya in New Orleans.

When confronted with such an inquiry from an out of town guest, many people would probably say, "You know, jambalaya is one of the dishes that we always make at home, so I never to think to look for it, much less order it, at a restaurant. Plus jambalaya is a cajun dish, and New Orleans is all about creole." While I accept that most locals prefer their jambalaya homemade and that the dish is not indigenous to Southeast Louisiana, I refuse to believe that there is not a respectable restaurant version to be found in the city.

One of the best that I have tasted in recent times is Bad Bart's Black Jambalaya from Crescent Pie & Sausage Co. This jambalaya gets its brown color not from tomato but from the aromatic spices and black eyes peas, whose inclusion I had never before seen. This is not a sticky jambalaya (which I also enjoy); the short grain rice retains their individuality. There is a decent - but not disproportionately large - amount of chicken, pork and sausage, all thin slices as opposed to massive hunks. The black eyed peas sometimes cannot be seen, but their texture is noticeable in the rice in that the starch from the beans seems to envelope each grain of rice, adding meatiness without heft. The flavor is neither overpoweringly spicy nor do you immediately reach for a bottle of Crystal after the first bite.

I happen to have sampled some more of Bad Bart's Black yesterday before the game at the Crescent Pie and NOLA Brewing tailgate at the corner of Girod and Loyola. This bowl (pictured above) was not as dark in color and the flavors not as bold as usual, but it was still delicious.

So while we are on the subject, where else can one find a great bowl of jambalaya? K-Paul's is an obvious choice, but I can't say that I have had tried Chef Paul's version in more than 10 years. Is the Jambalaya Supreme at Coop's Place worth waiting in line for?  (Ian McNulty seemed to think so, back in 2003.) Does the jambalaya meat pie at Cochon count?

Let us know about your favorite jambalaya in today's comments.


Leigh C. said...

Joey K's. Love that jambalaya there.

Brad said...

Does the jambalaya meat pie at Cochon count?

I was also thinking of the jambalaya stuffed chicken at Butcher. I have to cook the chicken at home to get to the jambalaya, though, so maybe that doesn't count either.

Jody said...

The best jambalaya in New Orleans comes from festivals. Try the alligator fest this weekend in Luling, LA just a short drive down the road. The festival itself is a little bland, but the food is great.

If you want to go to Houma, Big Mike's BBQ is some of the best jambalaya I've ever had, not to mention the best BBQ in Louisiana.

I can name about a dozen groceries from Port Fouchon to Cameron that do jambalaya as a plate lunch, but I can't think of any other places that has it on the menu.

pmac said...

Went to Coop's a couple of weeks ago, and was disappointed in the jambalaya. Was not nearly as good as in the past - tasted like it had been left under a heat lamp for waaay too long.

Kevin said...

The last time I had ther rabbit jambalaya at Coop's was, well, the last time I had rabbit jambalaya at Coop's. Dry and just old-tasting.

I'll try Joey K's, but no one in New Orleans (to my knowledge) makes the simple and simply delicious jambalaya you can find at any number of places around Lafayette and thereabouts.

candice said...

The jambalaya at the Praline Connection is pretty good, but like everyone I prefer the stuff my cajun cousins make for big events.

Carollynn @ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carollynn @ said...

I really like the drier, less saucy roux based jambalaya, like Black Bart's. Anyone have a recipe for this type of Jambalaya or maybe you could get the Black Bart's recipe?