Uptown Oak Street
A limited reservation policy and long waits keep the front bar jammed on most nights. Another option for your wait is the Maple Leaf bar. One of the oldest live music venues in the city, it's just two doors down from Jacques-Imo's, and provides a cozy, friendly atmosphere with live music from local and international acts almost every night of the week. And it's a little known fact, Beyoncé and Jay-Z actually filmed their "Deja Vu" video there.
Leonardi has a strong pedigree within New Orleans restaurant circles, through associations with legendary chefs Paul Prodhomme and Austin Leslie. Leonardi spent several years working in Prodhomme’s Big Easy mainstay K-Paul’s, a restaurant well known for the distinct flavors of its “magic seasoning blends”. Leslie, internationally known as the “godfather of fried chicken” and former owner of the celebrated Chez Helene restaurant, worked the fryer at Jacques-Imo’s before his unfortunate death in 2005. All the best characteristics of classic New Orleans food carry through to Leonardi’s kitchen, but with a unique emphasis that makes his restaurant stand apart.
The restaurant certainly owes a large debt to Leslie because he brought his killer fried chicken recipe to the menu and it absolutely lives up to his nickname. The fried chicken plate served at Jacques-Imo’s is one of the best you will find anywhere, served steaming hot, right out of the fryer, with just the perfect amount of Creole spice. Of course, the first thought that comes to your mind when you think about New Orleans cuisine is Cajun food, and while there are many traditional Cajun items on the menu, such as jambalaya, crawfish étouffée, and gumbo, what really carries Jacques-Imo’s over the line is soul food. Traditional Southern items like the aforementioned fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, country fried venison, smothered chicken and biscuits, and stuffed catfish, bring to mind easy country living in the best artery-busting way possible. This is not food for the overly health-conscious.
Two major highlights on the menu are the carpetbagger steak and the shrimp and alligator sausage cheesecake. The sausage cheesecake is a legendary item around Southern foodie circles and is really more like a dense quiche. It carries just the right amount of spice and is the top shelf item on the appetizer portion of the menu. The carpetbagger steak is a recipe with an origin claimed by both Americans and Australians, and in its simplest form is a steak stuffed with oysters. Jacques-Imo’s doesn’t stop there though, adding caramelized onions and blue cheese to the poached oysters inside the filet, and covering the whole thing in Tasso hollandaise sauce. It is the most highly recommended item on the entrees list by regulars and servers alike, and with good reason.
Ultimately, Jacques-Imo’s is a character restaurant, in keeping with its mother city. The atmosphere is vibrant and friendly. Reservations are generally not accepted, except in the case of large groups, resulting in hours-long waits. This, however, deters few and the front room bar, with a ceiling covered in ornately framed paintings, is packed with regulars and tourists alike sharing lively stories over hurricanes or Abita beers. It is a place for celebrations or a casual night out with friends, and should be the first name on a list of must-visit restaurants in the Crescent City. Just make sure to wear pants with a little slack in the waist, and bringing a defibrillator probably wouldn’t hurt either.
>Jacques Imo's Cafe