We've all heard it from out-of-towners: "Beale Street? That's like Memphis' Bourbon Street, right?" But now Beale Street truly does have a little haven for New Orleans-style Creole, and patrons will be grateful for the hat tip to the southerly cuisine.
Johnny G's Creole Kitchen is the newest Beale Street joint brought to you by Bud Chittom and Second and Beale, Inc. The space is cozy and clean with a kitchen in the front to serve customers at a walk-up window (they offer the full menu for take-out) and sit-down seating and a full bar in the back. Ashley Ewing, event coordinator for Second and Beale, Inc., says the restaurant caters and hopes to be a venue for private events as well.
The most unusual item on the menu is without a doubt the deep-fried strawberries (pictured above) dipped in a beignet batter — they also serve beignets — and topped with chocolate, whipped cream, and powdered sugar. But before you get to dessert, you can sample some of the entrées, which include many familiar items: red beans and rice; gumbo; jambalaya; and a variety of rice bowls with names like Voodoo Chicken and Drunken Chicken. Chef Larry Crawford says they want people to test out the rice bowls before they order a dish that might be too spicy.
The Drunken Chicken, for instance, is a stew of chicken, tomatoes, and Cajun spices slow-cooked in beer with a heat that builds throughout the course of the meal. The Bourbon Chicken, on the other hand, is cooked in butter-hoisin sauce, which Crawford says is perfect for anyone who isn't a fan of spicy food.
One of the items Chittom is most excited about is the brisket po'boy, served au jus with peppadew, a sweet and warm pepper from South Africa. There are vegetarian options as well, from fried pickles to Bumblebee Stew, a blend of corn, stewed tomatoes, onions, and black beans in a sweet and spicy sauce. A range of po'boys, salads, wraps, oyster dishes, and seafood platters rounds out the menu.
A number of the recipes are taken from J. Gumbo's, a Cajun franchise in Kentucky (hence the Johnny G's). But Chef Crawford has added his own signature items, like those fried strawberries and his Po'house greens made with hot Italian sausage and hot sauce.
Prices range from $6.95 for a rice bowl to $18 for a seafood platter. True NOLA fans will be pleasantly surprised to find Abita root beer on tap, along with Abita beers and a range of other draft beers.
Johnny G's is open every day at 11 a.m. and closes at 11 p.m. on weekdays and whenever Beale Street clears on the weekend. They deliver within a half-mile radius, but if you're already on Beale, just find the sign with a giant, cigar-smoking, top hat-toting catfish, and you've found Johnny G's.
Johnny G's Creole Kitchen, 156 Beale (528-1055)
So long as we're on Beale, let's talk fried pies — those delectable half moons served à la mode at Miss Polly's. The pies come from a Mennonite family in Whiteville, Tennessee.
"I raise cattle and farm in Whiteville," says Miss Polly's owner Ty Agee. "My friends the Yoders make the pies for me and bring them in every week."
The Yoders not only supply fried pies and bundt cakes for Miss Polly's, but they also bake for Backerman Bakery and Cheese Shop on Highway 64 in Whiteville. The bundt cakes come in German chocolate, red velvet, and carrot.
Once Agee has the pies, which come in apple and peach, he puts them in a skillet with butter and fries them fresh for each customer. The pies sell for $4.95. Add ice cream for another dollar.
Miss Polly's Soul City Café, 154 Beale, (527-9060)