‘You got beautiful eyes,’ said the waitress as she brought me a bottle of beer. My wife was in the bathroom at the time. The waitress wasn’t flirting, she was just saying what she thought, the way they do in New Orleans.
The beer was a very hoppy Jockomo IPA, from the Abita Brewery, about 40 miles away in Abita Springs, across Lake Pontchartrain.
‘You know where Jockomo comes from, don’t you?’ the waitress asked me.
‘Iko-Iko,’ I said.
‘But what does it mean?’ I wondered. ‘What’s a Jockomo?’
‘You got me there,’ she said. ‘I have no idea.’
I Googled it later. A Jockomo is a Jester.
Though the lyrics of Iko-Iko didn’t make any more sense, not even if I’d had several beers. I mean…
My grandma and your grandma
Sittin’ by the fire.
My grandma told your grandma
‘I’m gonna set your flag on fire.’
You can’t escape music in New Orleans, not even having lunch in an unpretentious neighborhood place someone had told us about, Joey K’s on Magazine Street. It was our last lunch after a few days in the city of New Orleans (the music’s catching!), and as one of the Friday daily specials was jambalaya, and I hadn’t had any yet, it was easy to order and hear Hank Williams in my head while I waited, catching that foot-tapping but laid-back Louisiana vibe:
Jambalaya and a crawfish pie and fillet gumbo
For tonight I’m a-gonna see my, my Cher a mi-oh
Pick guitar, fill fruit jar and be gay-oh
Son of a gun, we’ll have big fun on the bayou.
We’d had big fun in the Big Easy, and some fine meals too, at classy places like Shaya, Arnaud’s, and the Caribbean chef Nina Compton’s Compère Lapin, but sometimes the down-home style of a place like Joey K’s hits the spot perfectly. American staples like meatloaf and beef brisket jostle on the menu with local specialties such as trout tchoupitoulas, red beans and rice, po-boys, and catfish.
The jambalaya was a huge and tongue-tingling bowl of flavor, whose savory aromas floated up and made you feel you could eat this the rest of your life.
In the restaurant regulars were coming and going, and for sale on the walls were quirky artworks by a French folk artist, Simon, who we’d bumped into on our way to Joey K’s in his shop/workshop at Simon’s Art and Antiques, on the corner of Magazine and Jackson.
The long-haired and slightly piratical Simon (you’ll find him on Facebook as just ‘Simon of New Orleans‘) specializes in signs with slogans like ‘WE’RE NOT HERE FOR A LONG TIME, WE’RE HERE FOR A GOOD TIME.’ Well, we weren’t in Joey K’s for a long time but we sure had a good time. And the waitress said I had beautiful eyes. Hey, maybe I’ll write a song of my own.
You got beautiful eyes, the waitress said
As she brought me a bottle of beer.
Sounds good to me.
3001 Magazine Street, New Orleans
All Photos (c) Donna Dailey.