While I lived in New Orleans, one of my favorite go-to restaurants was Jacques-Imo's Cafe, a restaurant heavily frequented by Tulane students and alumni, among other eager New Orleans residents. If you want to dine at Jacques-Imo's, you have to arrive early and free your schedule of all evening plans, as you are guaranteed to wait in line to be seated at this popular eatery, even with reservations.
Each meal at Jacques-Imo's begins with a moist cornbread muffin garnished with feathery chopped parsley and a light plate of complimentary spinach salad. The salad is drizzled with biting balsamic vinegar and topped with a flavorful "crouton of the sea," a battered, breaded, and deep-fried oyster with luscious green entrails.
Next, after the salad, comes Jacques-Imo's appetizers. I've enjoyed the crab cakes at Jacques-Imo's. Their crab cakes are served on a delicate bed of greens and dressed with a silken, coral-colored remoulade sauce. The crab cakes are made with blue crab (which is prevalent on the East Coast) and seasoned with fiery Bayou spices. The crab meat in the cakes does not come in large chunks, but wispy, stringy threads, and the meat is bound together with heavy seasoned breading that has classic Southern undertones of Thanksgiving stuffing.
I highly recommend the oysters brochette appetizer, which is made of oysters wrapped in a thick-cut pieces of fat-laden bacon. The bacon-wrapped oyster is coated in cornmeal, deep-fried until golden-brown and served either on oyster shells or a hot serving plate doused with a luxuriously thick and flavorful oyster gravy and simply garnished with chopped scallions and parsley. The fresh herbs bring out the meaty and welcoming flavors of the bacon and the velvety texture of the oysters. As a warning, this is not an appetizer for the cholesterol-adverse.
As for entrées, I can unequivocally say that the best entrée in all of Jacques-Imo's, is the signature carpetbagger steak, which comes topped with a hamburger-sized slice of grilled red onion. The menu claims that the onion is caramelized, but in my several visits to Jacques-Imo's, I noticed a bit of a crunch to the sweet red onion slice. The tender, melt-in-your-mouth steak is really the masterful centerpiece of the entrée. The steak is a supple filet cut, and is enriched with the decadent blue cheese and oyster tasso dressing. Each buttery bite of the steak finishes on a high note with the tangy blue cheese gravy, and you might catch a surprising chunk of briny oyster in each forkful.
Jacques-Imo's also serves a variety of fish entrées, including mirliton with oyster tasso hollandaise, but I suggest you order the carpetbagger steak over any fish selection.
Also, included with your meal at Jacques-Imo's, is your choice of classic Southern side dishes, including slow-cooked collard greens, long-grain white rice, soupy butter beans, buttered and spiced corn, and cubed beets.
You won't have room for dessert if your order the oysters brochette and carpetbagger steak. Your pants will be unzipped before you have finished half of the entrée. But I promise, at the end of your meal at Jacques-Imo's, your bursting stomach will already be thanking you profusely.