With few Cajun dining options available in northern Colorado, I was excited to see J. Gumbo’s open in the Front Range Village on the south side of Fort Collins. J. Gumbo’s is a popular chain restaurant with multiple locations throughout the East, South and Midwestern United States.
I have visited the restaurant a couple of times and have sampled a number of dishes. This includes the Bourbon Street Chicken, Creole Ratatouille, Crawfish Etouffee, Drunken Chicken, Voodoo Chicken and Apple Cinnamon Rice Pudding.
Nearly all items can be served as big-bowl entrees over a large amount of rice, or as a Po’ Boy sandwich — open faced on French bread. Other entrée options include Red Beans and Rice, Jambalaya, Gumbo, White Chili and Chicken Red Hot. All run $7-$7.50.
The food is delivered very fast here, because pretty much everything is served in stew form. Pre-cooked shredded chicken serves as the base for a number of dishes, so it’s just a matter of varying the sauces that envelope it.
All of the dishes were tasty in their own right, but I did find that the flavors all start to blend together after a while. This is especially true if you order the “two entrees, 1 bowl” option, though this is a good way to sample more than one dish for only $1 more.
The Bourbon Chicken was bathed in a nice, mildly sweet butter-hoisin sauce. Its tangy, semi-Asian taste was my favorite of all the dishes I’ve sampled here. The Etouffee was my least favorite. It’s described as having plump crawfish in a hearty roux sauce with onions and celery. But I found only one very small piece of fish in the whole thing, and the sauce itself was more gloppy than smooth and creamy as a good roux should be.
The Voodoo Chicken, simmered in a tomato sauce with garlic and spices, has four hot pepper bottles next to it, indicating the highest level of heat. It definitely had a kick, but I wouldn’t say it was very spicy by any means.
The Drunken Chicken, with three pepper bottles, was disappointingly mild for heat, but did have an interesting flavor of beer, Cajun spices and stewed tomatoes.
As a vegetarian option, the Creole Ratatouille is a good choice. The New Orleans spices work well in this traditional French dish but the vegetables, consisting of zucchini, squash, okra, onion, pepper and tomato, got rather mushy and lost their structure.
Perhaps the most disappointing dish here was the apple cinnamon rice pudding from the daily desserts selection. The rice was undercooked, making for a pudding that was al dente in texture (good for pasta, not rice pudding) instead of luscious and creamy.
J Gumbo’s will satisfy those looking for a quick meal that’s unique in taste and different from your traditional sandwich or salad option. For me, the “wow” factor was definitely missing.
Shannon Teslow is a Windsor resident.