Smokey Joe’s Creole Café is an ideal place to go if you want a no-fuss meal that is packed with flavour. The food is based on New Orleans Creole cuisine (which we will explain later) and much of it is created in the kitchen from scratch with the famous sausages and jambalayas being standouts.
What is Creole Food?
Our understanding of the food of New Orleans grew very slowly and we still only have a outsiders understanding. In fact the city itself is difficult to get to know.
The city holds a prime position almost at the mouth of the Mississippi River in the state of Louisiana. It was founded by the French in 1718 and the city was dedicated to the then Regent of France, Philippe II who was Duke of Orléans. At the time the thirteen colonies in the east and much of eastern Canada were controlled by the British.
However, this was not to last and much of Louisiana, including New Orleans, was ceded to the Spanish in 1763. Many of the French citizens remained and continued to trade but there was also an influx of people from Spain eager to take advantages of the opportunities here. These immigrants became known as French or Spanish Creole people.
The Spanish made an impact on the architecture of New Orleans during this period with many fine buildings being erected. You can also still detect the influence of the Spanish in the food such as the Chaurice sausages deriving their name from the Spanish chorizo sausage, for example.
This all finished in 1803 when Napoleon sold the state of Louisiana to the fledgling United States of America.
There is another parallel story that also involves the French and explains some of the other influences on New Orleans.
In the early 1600s many French fled religious persecution to the eastern parts of Canada now known as Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Many of these immigrants married into indigenous families and called the area they lived in Acadia.
We get a glimpse of what is was like from the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who devoted a long poem, Evangeline, to the people of Acadia when they were ruthlessly dispersed from the area to allow farmers from their colonies in America to take over the fertile farms there.
Where is the thatch-roofed village, the home of Acadian farmers,
Men whose lives glided on like rivers that water the woodlands,
Darkened by shadows of earth, but reflecting an image of heaven?
Waste are those pleasant farms, and the farmers forever departed!
Scattered like dust and leaves, when the mighty blasts of October
Seize them, and whirl them aloft, and sprinkle them far o’er the ocean
Naught but tradition remains of the beautiful village of Grand-Pré.
When the British occupied much of Canada in the early 18th Century they began to expel the French Acadians many of whom moved to western Lousiana and lived a peasant-like existence there. This became particularly nasty in 1755, two years after the Boston Tea Party when the British need to sure up their colonies in Canada, hence the widespread expulsion of the french.
The cuisine of the Acadians in Louisiana still retained French elements such as basing dishes on the three vegetables, onion, celery and capsicum, which was often made into a roux using fat and flour. This cuisine became known as Cajun derived from the origin in Acadia.
So we have the more refined cuisine of New Orleans cooked by the Creoles from France and Spain (or more often their servants or slaves) and the peasant food of the Acadians from France via Canada.
Many will be aware that in addition to the food there are other legacies of the French and Spanish such as the ever popular jazz music, the architectural footprints, the Mardi Gras and the tradition of visitors drinking Hurricanes on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter.
And like all differences, as time passes those differences become less pronounced and now the difference between Creole and Cajun food is less pronounced.
We have a lot more about Creole food and Cajun food in an article which will be published on foodtourist.com in a couple of weeks.
And now to Smokey Joe’s Creole Restaurant
We first became entranced with the food at this restaurant when it was a small hole-in-the-wall in Charles Street with a couple of tables on the footpath. We used to enjoy juggling the food and our bottle of wine on the wobbly tables. But the food won us over.
The restaurant moved to more upmarket premises in Lawrence St and has been there now for nearly 17 years. How time flies!
About five years ago we had one of the best meals that we have ever tried at this restaurant. The squid entrée and the chicken salad were quite nostalgic. The presentation and the flavours reminded us of our time in the deep South. In other words, the presentation was basic as it always is in the south, but the flavour was good!
But it was the main courses that really sang. The Cuban style pulled pork sandwich was stunning. Last year we travelled through the United States and one of our missions was to sample the best pulled pork sandwich. We loved the one we tried at Sentinel in San Francisco as well as a number of others in smart places in New York, but this moist, flavoursome bun was sheer heaven!
And the long cooked brisket slices were also amazing. Although the outside of the slices was a bit dry, the flavour of the meat and the strips of fat that ran through the brisket were very moorish. This was very good food. We hope that Jon stays in the kitchen where his talents really shine. He actually understands the basis of southern food and he understands flavour.
At our most recent meal we ate chaurice, a fresh pork sausage we’d never eaten before, with white beans, then quail stuffed with dirty rice served with creamed cabbage seasoned with pieces of andouille sausage mix (the cabbage based on his grandmother’s recipe). As a note, we remind readers of the words we wrote in the introduction about chaurice being named after the period when the Spanish took over Louisiana with the name being derived from chorizo.
And finally jambalaya, with the andouille as a fully-formed sausage and garnished with tasso, just to make sure there’s enough pork. Jambalaya is common to both Cajun and Creole cuisine with the Creoles favouring tomatoes as a base for the dish. Another very satisfying meal that reminded us, once again, of our stint in New Orleans many years ago.
At our most recent meal we had white beans with Angeline Cornbread and also enjoyed very much a dish of dirty rice.
This is a very casual restaurant that you might walk past without noticing. But we like it very much!
Street: 20 Lawrence Street
Town/Suburb: Launceston, 7250
Phone number: +61 3 6331 0530
Opening hours: Dinner Tue – Sat
You can see some excellent photos of the food being prepared at Smokey Joe’s on their Facebook page which you can reach by clicking on the linkk below: