Juke Joint Café
327 Fourth Avenue, Gaslamp
Louisiana gumbo is not a Campbell's soup. Thick and spicy, somewhere between a soup and a stew, and between the devil's lure and heaven's reward to good eaters, it's a dish that each Louisiana cook makes with his own secret recipe. Juke Joint's "Gaslamp Gumbo" is definitive, the real thing, up there with New Orleans' own best, rich enough to draw tears of pleasure. Instead of a typical San Diego big-rice-little-meat ratio, it sports just a dollop of rice on top to mix in as you see fit. It's a filé gumbo, thickened with an aromatic ground sassafras-thyme mixture (filé) as well as roux, a flour-and-fat mixture painstakingly sautéed to a mahogany-red color. The broth also includes chicken bits, soft green pepper squares, okra so nicely cooked you hardly know it's there, and juicy, spicy smoked sausage that tastes as if it came straight from some smokehouse on the Cajun Prairie. When you stir in the chopped raw scallions floating as garnish, they give it up to the liquid, too. Along with the accompanying soulful corn muffins, a big bowl of this gumbo is all you need for a dinner or a thrill.