J. Gumbo’s is a small chain of fast-casual Cajun restaurants. According to their web site, there are about three dozen locations in the United States.
The Huntsville J. Gumbo’s opened in December, and it’s kind of tricky to tell you where it is. It’s in an east-facing shopping center on the south side of University Drive, accessible from both University and the Target/Dick’s parking lot. Been to IHOP or Five Guys? Look west from there. There you go.
It’s easy to forget when it’s 9 or 99 degrees, but we have about four months’ worth of spectacular days around here every year. J. Gumbo’s has a garage door in the front to take advantage of such. Colors and furnishings are cheery without being garish.
The ordering experience is typical fast-casual with partial table service. Order and pay, and then they bring it to you, as well as check on you periodically. We received polite, professional, and unintrusive attention throughout our dinner.[sws_pullquote_left]If your children are already eating composite sauces and soups without a problem, and/or you’d like to introduce them to Cajun cuisine, then J. Gumbo’s is a fine and fun choice for a family dinner… [/sws_pullquote_left] We ordered a Black & Bleu Dip appetizer, which is the Bumblebee Stew sprinkled with bleu cheese and served with tortilla chips.
I’ve had this sort of “Texas caviar” before, and I love bleu cheese, but I’d never had them together and wasn’t sure it’d work. It does. It’s a fabulous fusion. We’ll get that again (as well as add bleu cheese when we do similar dishes at home!).
Entrées are served in big bowls, with a piece of French bread stuck in the side.
They are helpfully listed on a chart, from hottest to mildest. My nine-year-old went straight for the red hot buffalo chicken at the top. He liked it, but said it was “not hot.” However, both boys’ palates are nearly as warped as mine from eating ultra-hot peppers and sauces, so we aren’t reliable reporters for the masses. Lea tasted it and said “spicy, but I could eat it.”
All your Cajun favorites are available here. Besides Aaron’s chicken, we also ordered crawfish etouffée and gumbo, and I had a hearty white chili. There are numerous vegetarian and gluten-free options, prominently labeled, for diners requiring such.
Everything was good. Flavor profiles were satisfying if not especially adventurous, which is about what you’d expect for a strong-willed cuisine making a “franchiseable” play for broad appeal. There are a few different hot sauces available on the table, including Cholula, Tabasco, chipotle Tabasco, and the house Louisiana hot sauce.
Bowls are a good value at $7.50. You can order a half-portion of two different entrees in the same bowl for $1.00 more, or a third-portion of three different entrees in the same bowl for $2.00 more. The kids’ menu consists exclusively of smaller portions of the primary offerings for $5.00.
There are also po’boys available, which we’ll try on a future visit. They’re served open-face with a bag of Zapp’s potato chips.
After dinner, I went back to the counter to research dessert. As of our visit, the only option was shrink-wrapped brownies by the cash register. I asked if there were plans to add anything more. I was told that they were expecting to tweak the menu soon based on what they’d learned about the area’s desires in their first few months, and that additional dessert options were being considered.
Highchairs are available. Restrooms are clean and well-stocked, but single-seaters. There are no changing tables. We had a pleasant and satisfying time at J. Gumbo’s. All of our staff encounters were friendly and professional. We were served promptly. The décor is fun without devolving into kitschy excess.
The food is of high quality and priced right. However, as I mentioned earlier, the kids’ menu consists exclusively of smaller portions of the regular entrées. If your children are already eating composite sauces and soups without a problem, and/or you’d like to introduce them to Cajun cuisine, then J. Gumbo’s is a fine and fun choice for a family dinner, complete with party beads at the table.
But if you haven’t yet budged them off chicken fingers and fries when they’re out to eat, then this might not be the best place to try.
The Rocket City supports several hundred restaurants, but comparatively few of them offer Cajun fare. I’m glad to have this appealing and cost-effective option in the Research Park area.