by Times-Union - Erica Burks
Gumbo Ya Ya's makes a jambalaya that literally brought me to tears. My dad was from Mobile, Ala., and up until now, I have found no one who could make jambalaya like that man did. But I'll be darned if this little shop on Beach Boulevard (at the corner of San Pablo) doesn't come pretty close.
And the jambalaya wasn't the only surprise. From the red umbrellas outside to the smartly clad staff inside, this restaurant serves the most authentic New Orleans-style food I've ever had in Jacksonville.
During a recent lunch, my husband had to peel me off the dessert case to order, and I went nuts, ordering a slew of items for our table. Everything we had was delicious and clearly made with quality ingredients. The crispy, dense breads were a standout, the sandwich meats were plentiful and the seasonings in the Cajun dishes? Well, they are flat-out perfect.
The Chicken and Sausage Gumbo ($5.45 cup) came loaded with rice, white breast chicken and what the owner tells me is a sausage shipped all the way from Louisiana, one with little to no fillers. In addition, while there is a kick to everything - including the gumbo - it is the right kind of spiciness, one that enhances with a complex and arcane mix of ingredients rather than a handful of cayenne.
The Shrimp Poboy ($7.95 regular) came loaded with crispy-fried Gulf shrimp, fresh lettuce, tomatoes and mayonnaise. The shrimp were tender and coated with a light batter of roughly ground cornmeal and just a bit of flour. When you add Gumbo's homemade hot sauce to the top, you have a bit of New Orleans right in your hand.
We also loved the Jambalaya ($4.95 cup) and fisticuffs almost broke out over the last bite. This dish is done right, with the appropriate mish-mash of flavors required in true jambalaya. We detected chicken, sausage, green and red peppers, onions and perfectly cooked rice, one that had absorbed all that Cajun goodness. I am certain that a dark brown roux was involved somewhere in this process.
And finally, we come to the Muffuletta ($9.95). What can I say? From the fresh olive salad to the round, Italian style bread, it was wonderful. Get it baked and let the juices from the salad seep into the bread and dress the sweet ham, salamis and cheese.
The lovely owners behind all this fine food, Robert and Lauren Alley, hail from New Orleans and have extensive restaurant experience.
They should. This is the way restaurants are supposed to look - clean, neat and professional - and the food is authentic and made from the top-of-the-line products. Gumbo YaYa's is a winner all the way.
BOB MACK - The Times-Union
Just a few of the New Orleans-style dishes at Gumbo Ya Ya's on Beach Boulevard (from left): a Catfish Poboy, Jack Daniel's Bread Pudding, Seafood Gumbo, a Stuffed Artichoke and a Muffuletta sandwich.
Type of cuisine: Traditional New Orleans.
Hours of operation: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon. to 8 p.m. Sunday.
Credit cards: Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover.
Bar service: Beer, wine.
Children's menu? Yes.
Gumbo YaYa's is located at:
14333 Beach Blvd. Suite 101
Jacksonville , FL 32250
(at the corner of Beach and San Pablo - look for the big awning)
1-877-66GUMBO or 904-223-0202