Restaurant Review: City Barbeque
The history of gumbo is as deep and rich as a bowl of the potent bayou soup itself. That's because gumbo has been whipped up in a literal melting pot in which French and Spanish cooking techniques stewed with African and American-Indian ingredients. Like most beloved regional dishes, there are as many recipes for it as there are fierce arguments over everything to do with it.
What seems indisputable is that gumbo must be flavored by the Louisiana mirepoix mix of green peppers, celery and onions, and that gumbo takes its name from the African Bantu word for okra. You see, okra was introduced to the American South by Africans and its viscous cooked texture came in handy when thickening up brothy concoctions like what would eventually become gumbo.
But genuine gumbos can also be thickened with a roux (equal parts butter and flour) and/or a ground sassafras powder favored by the Choctaw known as file. So what must go into gumbo? As far as I'm concerned, just my spoon.
Which brings me to City Barbeque's smoky and meaty version of the stew. At first glance, its lack of okra might be slightly disconcerting, but at first bite you won't mind one bit because it's delicious. And besides, it is roux-thick and tastes like it might have file in it too (it has that je ne sais quoi tea-like flavor).
What's for sure is that this Columbus-style gumbo is strewn with a butcher's case-worth of good and lusty meat. Peeking through its rich and thickish powerfully poultry-based broth are large swaths of City's excellent housemade smoky Texas sausage, hammy tasting chunks of smoked turkey and strands of long-smoked pulled pork.
Lending it all a legitimacy is that aforementioned "holy trinity" of flavoring veggies - they come in big old chunks - and a forceful peppery aspect. Get a whole mess of this rib-sticker stuff on Fat Tuesday, either by the bowl ($5) or with two sides ($8 - try it with City's great green and baked beans for symmetry).
Afterward, toss cheap beads to complete strangers out of your car on the drive home while wildly singing out to them in a bogus bayou accent - it's probably as close as you're going to get to Mardi Gras this year.