Dec 27, 2019

An unbeatable breakfast at Jimmy J’s Cafe, New Orleans

Foodies and travel enthusiasts like me have likely heard of the television show, “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” which features various celebrity chefs and other famous personalities discussing their all-time favorite dishes from restaurants all over the world according to each episode’s theme.  If they ever ran a version of this show featuring commoners like me and my wife Punky, I’m fairly certain she’d want to be on the breakfast episode talking about this …

… the cochon du lait eggs benedict at Jimmy J’s Cafe, a small but crazy popular breakfast and lunch spot in New Orleans’ French Quarter. 

Located on Chartres Street just about a block off of Canal Street, Jimmy J’s might at first seem like just another hole-in-the-wall diner in the Quarter, especially if you’re passing by after its 3 p.m. closing time.  But try to get into this place for breakfast any day of the week, and your liable to be find a long wait in line outside the door.  Take my word for this; we’ve experienced it.  But in the end, it’s worth the effort.

What makes this little brunch spot in the Quarter so popular?  In New Orleans, it’s ultimately the quality of the food that will make or break any restaurant.  As a personal testament to that, while we were in line mid-morning, we saw shipment after shipment of produce and other fresh ingredients being delivered past the line and into the kitchen.  It also probably doesn’t hurt that the chef at Jimmy J’s formerly worked at Emeril’s.   

The reason for the long wait and slow-moving lines becomes much more obvious when you finally get to the door and get your name on the list.  To say that seating is limited is an understatement.  What you see here is basically 80 percent of the tables.  Most are four-seaters, but a couple of two-seaters line along the front of the room, affording the lucky few window views (or views of the people who are still waiting behind you after you finally get sat down).  What you can see of the interior is colorful, funky and exuding New Orleans charm. 

A fittingly small bar at one end of the room does a surprisingly brisk business, especially considering the seating capacity of the place.  But then again, this is New Orleans where cocktails for breakfast are par for the course. 

So, you might as well relax and enjoy a round while you wait for your breakfast order to be made.  Another way you know a good restaurant in New Orleans is by how well it makes a Bloody Mary.  Their blend has just the right amount of Cajun kick to serve as both a thirst quencher and appetizer before the meal.  And, I’m always happy to see a generous number of add-ons, especially the spicy pickled green beans. 

Getting back to how this blog post began, Punky’s choice of the cochon du lait eggs benedict may in fact be the perfect breakfast plate to order here. The poached eggs were done perfectly, the braised pork was literally dripping with its own juices, and the bed of home-fired potatoes – nicely crisp on the outside and tender on the inside – brought all the flavors together.   

With so many enticing selections on the menu, I had spent much of my wait in line debating internally about what I was going to order.  Something very New Orleans like Punky ultimately chose, or something in another direction?  I finally decided to go with a “house specialty” on the menu – the Tuscan-style eggs. 

My instincts did not fail me.  Like the benedicts on the menu, the Tuscan-style eggs features two perfectly poached eggs on top, a spread of vegetable ratatouille below that, and a bed of some of the best polenta I’ve ever been served.  This may not seem like a “typical” New Orleans dish, but the polenta worked every bit as well as a bed of the best-cooked grits to absorb all of the other flavors of the dish.  

Between the breakfast cocktails, the freshly made hot breakfast plates and never-ending cups of coffee throughout the meal, Punky walked away (barely – it’s more food than it appears to be) from Jimmy J’s more than extremely satisfied.  In fact, she still proclaims this as her best breakfast ever.  I won’t go that far, but I will agree this was one of those rare occasions where the meal was, in fact, worth the wait.     

I will admit I was surprised to see some mixed reviews for Jimmy J’s Café online.  Yes, the lines can feel frustrating … I chalked it up to not feeling the best from the night before.  (If you’re in need of faster service, I’d suggest Daisy Duke’s right next door for a fine, filling breakfast and excellent Bloody Mary in its own right.)  We also found the service at Jimmy J’s Café to be excellent, especially considering the non-stop crowd and cramped setting, and we obviously enjoyed our food immensely. 

Jimmy J’s Cafe has earned its excellent reputation as a go-to place for breakfast, but I’m hoping next time to try their lunch menu. Between the po-boys, burger and classic New Orleans hot plates, how can one go wrong?  I’m fairly certain it won’t be a hard sell to convince Punky to return.

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