Cajun and creole food are a rare sight outside of the Gulf Coast, but J. Gumbo’s Cajun & Creole Cooking Co. is bucking this trend, with 20 locations centered around the Ohio and Midwest region. For those unused to New Orleans cooking, J. Gumbo’s introduces such foreign dishes as jambalaya, drunken chicken, and of course, gumbo. The traditionally savory Cajun food is often a unique offering, even in the heart of a major city. It’s refreshing to see something ambitious like this.
Like all Cajun food, J. Gumbo’s has its share of spicy things. Primarily jalapenos and Cajun spices accentuate these dishes, and the spiciest of them has a good enough sear to impress but not overwhelm the senses. It’s not “hot for the sake of hot,” the heat here really adds flavor, and the dishes would not be quite so good without it. This is a rare instance where I feel the heat isn’t just a gimmick; it’s got a place in the dishes. As the restaurant will remind you, though, all cajun food is not necessarily spicy. In fact, most of it uses heavy amounts of herbs and seasonings but spice is only one of them. Also important, there is a difference between Cajun and creole food; J. Gumbo’s offers both of them.
So the items like drunken chicken are a very rustic take on Cajun dishes. The flavors are intense and a little goes a long way, and so they usually come with rice and bread to soak up a little of the flavor. The naturally strong food on the menu here packs a lot of flavor in the sauces and meats, I would caution it’s probably something you would want to try and avoid eating with a lot of other items or flavors; it will easily snuff them out. It’s also very salty, and you’ll be clamoring for water after the meal.
The environment of the restaurant is modern and friendly. It is sort of mismatched with the rustic feel to the dishes, but I suppose it’s impossible to make them mesh given the roots of the food. Service is good, though like many other food places, this doesn’t seem to be one that handles large crowds especially well so it would be best to avoid the prime rush hours. It’s a pleasant enough restaurant to enjoy (the Columbus location has outdoor seating, for example) and worth a dine-in with a small group of friends.
The food is a little unusual for those who haven’t frequented the Gulf, but J. Gumbo’s does a decent job of making otherwise unfamiliar dishes a little bit of comfort. It would make a pleasant place to try for a lunch or quick meal.
- You don’t have to get spicy food to have a good cajun or creole meal. There are plenty of non-spicy options.
- The food is easily packaged to go, but dine in options are actually very pleasant.
- There are a few “cajun brews” to try too at select locations.