J. Gumbo's comes to town 

Out with the donut burgers, in with the drunken chicken. Badaboomz is out of 15 E. Maryland St. J. Gumbo’s is in.

Patrons and passersby with a modicum of appreciation for Badaboomz’s 40-plus tapped brews have worried the change to the Cajun chain might affect the plentiful beer lineup. I’ve got news for those people: It will. For the better. By the end of this week, the restaurant will pay homage to its New Orleans roots by tapping Abita Purple Haze and Amber. Turbodog was already an old faithful.

And a few others in the impressive lineup bear mentioning: They also have Bell’s Oberon, the popular summer wheat; Goose Island Matilda, a small-batch beer out of Chicago whose sweetness has made it more popular of late; and, my personal favorite, Rogue’s Dead Guy Ale. There’s an impressive lineup of local brews, including three from our own Brugge; Gumballhead, Robert the Bruce and Dreadnaught IPA from Munster’s Three Flloyds; and Mad Anthony from Ft. Wayne.

With a beer lineup like that — and a faithful following to match — the food might be secondary. But owner Mike DeWeese apparently thinks the Cajun offerings will do better than the previous gut-bustin’ pub fare: The famed Badaboomz Burger was meat and cheese sandwiched between two glazed donuts.

J. Gumbo’s menu is a bit similar to Yats’. All the étouffée, jambalaya and creole dishes are to be expected. And there are still other similarities: The “Bumblebee Stew,” with its “sweet and spicy blend of juicy yellow corn, black beans and sweet onions,” bears an uncanny resemblance to Yats’ B&B veggie dish. Among other things.

I didn’t try the Bumblebee Stew. I actually visited J. Gumbo’s on their first day of food service, and I knew the recipes, understandably, might not yet be up to par. Ambient staff consensus told me the Voodoo Chicken was more or less “there.” The slow-cooked chicken infused with garlic and drowned in a spicy “Voodoo” sauce was tasty, but thank God for the extinguishing rice it rested on. And that buttered slab of bread ...

The dish was listed under the “hot & spicy” column of the menu, which also offers “sweet & mild” and “medium zesty” picks. It wasn’t “just-bit-into-the-pepper-seeds” heat. It was a “this-isn’t-so-hot” heat that turns into a cumulative burn. The burn goes away after about half a pint of beer.

And that’s the brilliant part of this menu change: At $6.49 or so a plate, it fits the drinkin’ food bill. Cheap enough to match the cost of some drafts, but spicy enough to remind that you did, indeed, eat dinner last night.  

J. Gumbo’s has a Caj-Mex thing going on, too. The Cajun Burrito Bowl has Bumblebee Stew, more slow roast “drunken” chicken, cheese and sour cream over a flour tortilla. A few appetizer dishes put Cajun dishes over chips.  

In fact, next time I go — correction, next time I eat at J. Gumbo’s — I’ll be scooping up some crawfish cheese dip, that “heapin’ helping of crawfish tails smothered in étouffée and served with tortilla chips.”

So maybe I visited the new J. Gumbo’s before it was ready. But people have been eyeing that new sign confusedly, and I’m here to help.

And have a pint of that new Abita they’re gonna tap.

J. Gumbo’s
15 E. Maryland St.


Weekdays and Sunday: 11 a.m. to at least 11 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. to at least 1 a.m.

Three and a half stars
Atmosphere: Four stars
Service: Three and a half stars
Recommended: Rogue’s Dead Guy Ale! Or the Voodoo Chicken.


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Jennifer Litz

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