Gumbo is comfort food and coping mechanism rolled into one. It's a taste of home and a big bowl of feel better.
I started thinking about gumbo as soon as those early cold weather forecasts starts rolling in this month.
But what type? The call for gumbo doesn’t not necessarily have one answer, not for me.
Of course if you have access to home-cooked gumbo, the search is over. The gumbo you eat at home, the one made from someone you love, is the gold standard of gumbo. But we don't always have access to such blessings, and so the mind starts to sort through the options available from our restaurants.
Maybe the answer is Creole gumbo, the most distinctly New Orleans of all gumbo variations. It’s the crucial mix of Creole hot sausage, at least a few other meats and different types of seafood in a roux that is dark, soupy, substantial and slurp-able.
It’s at the old school classics Dooky Chase’s (2301 Orleans Ave., 504-821-0535) and Li’l Dizzy’s (1500 Esplanade Ave., 504-569-8997) and newer additions like Neyow’s Creole Café (3332 Bienville St., 504-827-5474) in Mid-City and the Munch Factory (1901 Sophie Wright Pl., 504-324-5372) in the Lower Garden District.
It’s Mia Moore-Henry’s family gumbo at Café Dauphine (5229 Dauphine St., 504-309-6391) in the Lower Ninth Ward, it’s the late Billy Gruber’s legacy gumbo at Liuzza’s by the Track (1518 N. Lopez St., 504-943-8667), with the seafood added just before service, and it's the recently-returned gumbo at Dunbar’s Creole Cuisine (7834 Earhart Blvd., 504-509-6287).
But then, the chill and wet do bring to mind chicken and sausage gumbo, something thick, saddle brown and smoky with big chunks of andouille. It’s the gumbo ya ya at Mr. B’s Bistro in the French Quarter and High Hat Café on Freret Street. And it's in gumbos that add a little something else, like the tasso, chicken and sausage at Herbsaint (701 St. Charles Ave., 504-524-4114) or the rabbit with sausage at Brigtsen's (723 Dante St., 504-861-7610).
Before we get our mind made up, though, seafood gumbo has its own appeal, one from that deep intermingling of shrimp and crab. The version at Avery’s on Tulane (2510 Tulane Ave., 504-821-4110) always reminds me why I love seafood gumbo in particular. The house style at Creole-Italian eateries like Mandina's (3800 Canal St., 504-482-9179) carries the torch through generations.
It’s gumbo. When the weather gives any hint of turning cold, it's on our minds and in our conversations. Now the next question: is it lunch time yet?
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