Homestyle bistreaux finds niche in Lockport

Chartering a Comeback
September 5, 2012
Satisfaction trumps distance when it comes to Schmoopy’s
September 5, 2012
Chartering a Comeback
September 5, 2012
Satisfaction trumps distance when it comes to Schmoopy’s
September 5, 2012

Odds are if you’ve traveled through Lockport, visited the Bayou Playhouse or been on Facebook lately, you’ve heard of Pizza Jac’s.

A quaint homestyle bistreaux on La. Highway 1, Pizza Jac’s roots extend to the Big Easy’s Uptown neighborhood. It was at his Oak Street eatery – the original Pizza Jac’s – that the Gumbo Guru first encountered Jac Culver, the outgoing cop-turned-chef. Culver’s career path includes 25 years in law enforcement, first with the New Orleans Police Department, then the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office and, more recently, the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Uptown, Culver sharpened his kitchen skills, building a name as one of the Uptown area’s best college pizza joints. His fan club included the Neville Brothers who, in exchange for free pizzas, would give Pizza Jac’s a shout out.

In 2007, Culver sold the restaurant and went on a brief hiatus.

By 2009, he was ready to don his chef’s jacket, roll up his sleeves and return to the kitchen … this time in Lafourche Parish.

And great thing he did!

Pizza Jac’s menu still includes fresh gourmet pizzas – the Mediterranean Feast (Alfredo and peso sauces, fresh leaf spinach, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, feta cheese, fresh pan-roasted garlic and red onions), Pizza Jac’s Supremo (pepperoni, ham, Italian sausage, bell peppers, black olives, mushrooms and red onions), Down The Bayou (mesquite and pizza sauces, Italian, Andouille and Tasso sausage, mushrooms, tomatoes and red onions) and Jac’s Bar-B-Que Chicken or Beef (tender barbecue chicken or beef over mozzarella and cheddar cheese) among them.

An array of specialty sandwiches, burgers and salads are also included.

New to Jac’s Lockport menu, however, is a wonderful selection of Blue Plate Specials, signature dishes and fresh, hand-cut steaks.

Walk up the steps of Pizza Jac’s and you are immediately met by a combination of smells: rich rouxs, baking pizza and other inviting aromas coming from the kitchen. The spacious deck includes a few tables and we’re immediately greeted at the door and led to our reserved table. Dining areas are located to our right and left. We’re directed to a table near the bar area and our cheery, helpful waiter Jeff is quick on the scene to take our order.

This night begins with an order of spinach and artichoke dip served with French bread croutons and Creole BBQ Jumbo Shrimp with fresh-baked French bread for dipping.

Bursting with flavor, both appetizers earn thumbs-up all around. The rich, earthy broth and tinge of garlic in the BBQ shrimp were a huge hit. By the way, the shrimp were equal in size and flavor and left my guests complimenting the dish days later.

My guests opt for the Fete du Eggplant and the Crab Cake Lafourche, while I dine on the Braised Ham Shank.

The Fete Du Eggplant is a blend of eggplant medallions stuffed with a crab cake and covered with fresh lump crabmeat and shrimp Alfredo sauce. When asked, my guest immediately suggests, “Tell readers it is absolutely delicious!”

Likewise, the Crab Cake Lafourche gets high marks. The dish includes punches of seafood crab cake served over angel hair pasta and topped with grilled Gulf shrimp, lump crab and Jac’s homemade garlic Alfredo sauce.

The lightly fried crab cake and cream sauce – completely loaded with shrimp and a generous amount of sweet, sweet crabmeat – is a hit. “Probably the best I’ve ever had,” my guest proclaims.

On a visit to our table, Culver proudly announces all of his products are purchased fresh locally. The seafood, he says, is pulled from waters right off the Lafourche/Terrebonne coast.

Likewise, he makes the rounds for the rest of his menu, visiting Frank’s Supermarket, Adam’s Fruitstand and other locals to shop. Even the bread is baked locally.

My dish is comprised of creamy red beans seasoned with bites full of Andouille sausage and pieces of ham shank served with a scoop of Creole rice. Also on the plate is a hunk of braised ham shank. Culver tells me the ham shank was slow cooked for hours. Pieces that fall from the bone are used to spice up beans and other dishes.

New Orleans cooks make creamy red beans unlike few others. Sorry, south Louisiana, but I just find the creamy, well-seasoned blend are hard to find. Jac Culver has done it, much to my delight. Red beans-and-rice Mondays will never be the same.

Don’t be fooled by the name – Pizza Jac’s in Lockport has a lot more than deep-dish pies to its credit. Memorable home cooking, fresh ingredients, friendly service and a quaint setting make it an idea setting for any occasion.

GUMBO GURU | Gumbo Entertainment Guide