Amid the hustle and bustle of Uptown New Orleans, it's hard to miss the activity at Jacques-Imo's, the flagship operation of high-energy chef Jacques Leonardi. Jacques-Imo's offers new spins on Creole and Cajun delicacies, all prepared under the watchful eye of one of the city's most talented and idiosyncratic gourmands.
It's very easy to get a feel for how Jacques-Imo's operates. The animated Leonardi roams the floor checking on customers. These same customers are ushered into the restaurant right through the kitchen, giving them an insider's perspective on operations at one of the busiest restaurants in the city.
The colorful decorations match the spirit of the restaurant and the cuisine. Signs order patrons to "Be nice or leave," although the hospitality is far more gracious than the signage would suggest.
The meal is supplemented by small plates brought out between starters and the main course. The corn bread muffins were divine. They were drowned in a bath of garlic butter and tasted good enough to justify me eating three plates worth of corn bread.
The vegetarian delight was an acorn squash stuffed with broccoli, cauliflower, black beans, sweet potatoes and onions in a coconut curry. The presentation was a beautiful array of colors. The flavors ran the gamut from sweet to spicy to rich to vegetal. Many of the sides are vegetarian, as well, including mashed potatoes, okra and collard greens.
Dessert was a bread pudding that was like a liquid version of a cinnamon roll. It was a savory take on delicious.
The bar does a fairly brisk business. Jacques-Imo's doesn't take reservations for parties less than five, and patrons wait patiently at the bar for tables to open up.
My personal highlight from the bar was the special Jockamo IPA from Abita. The aggressively hopped brew was a perfect foil to the spicy food.
One of the other highlights at Jacques-Imo's is the two top truck. Two patrons may sit at a table in the back of a Jacques-Imo's pickup truck in front of the establishment and enjoy the atmosphere of Oak Street.