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Dining Out: Nostalgic pangs brought to the surface after A Taste of Louisiana
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DINING OUT | A TASTE OF LOUISIANA

Dining Out: Nostalgic pangs brought to the surface after A Taste of Louisiana

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The gumbo at Taste of Louisiana stirred up some pleasant memories for me. Good food has a way of doing that.

Prior to the chicken and shrimp gumbo that I enjoyed at Pokey Black’s restaurant at the corner of First Street and Cornhusker Highway, the best gumbo I had eaten was at CrawDaddy’s, a restaurant owned and operated by the late George Landolt at Seventh and O streets from 2000-2006. So impressed with Landolt’s gumbo, I had him share the recipe on a podcast I hosted in 2007 (you can still find the recipe online).

I also had a soft spot for the late Dr. John Walker’s gumbo. Walker, a longtime Lincoln musician and college philosophy professor, annually hosted a jam session featuring great music and his delicious gumbo and cobbler. That was a treat for the ears and taste buds.

The gumbo I ate last week at Taste of Louisiana was right on par with those, a wonderful brown stew filled with andouille sausage, dark meat chicken and enough Cajun spices to raise beads of sweat on my forehead. It’s something that should be tried.

A Taste of Louisiana

Pokey Black, owner of A Taste of Louisiana, with the restaurant's shrimp fettuccine and seafood gumbo.

Black, who hails from Lake Charles, Louisiana, opened Taste of Louisiana in June 2020 after noting a dearth of Cajun cuisine in Lincoln. Black has been cooking all his life and wanted to share his passion. Many of his dishes are family recipes with his “spin on them,” he said.

Black’s not only a restaurant owner, but a humanitarian, too. He routinely opens his doors to Lincoln’s homeless community.

Food

Taste’s menu features several Cajun and soul food favorites such as gumbo, jambalaya, etouffee, fried chicken and catfish, pork chops, oxtails and Po’ Boys. Most entrees are served with a choice of one or two sides and a choice between regular or shrimp cornbread, both of which, by the way, are worth a trip to north Lincoln. Entrees range from $13 to $20.

On my visit, I enjoyed the aforementioned chicken and sausage gumbo served over rice with a side of Black’s tangy homemade potato salad and cornbread. My wife ordered the seafood etouffee, which featured ample amounts of shrimp, crawfish and crab in a creamy sauce also served over rice. She went with collard greens and the shrimp cornbread.

The food was great. The portions were huge. We both had leftovers for the next night. A warning though, chicken bones and gristle were not removed from the gumbo, so that came as a bit of a surprise.

But best of all, Black’s cooking brought back some fond memories and created another. That’s a mark of a good dish. Grade: A-

Atmosphere

It’s literally a pool room. Black leases the corner site of the strip mall that’s connected to the 1st Avenue Lounge & Social Hall. He has three large circular white plastic tables and a couple of smaller tables set up around two pool tables. The dining room can accommodate 20 to 25 patrons. The large white tables foster communal dining. You may enjoy Black’s cooking with some new friends. Not surprisingly, with limited seating, a bulk of Taste’s business is takeout. We saw three orders picked up during our visit. Grade: C

Service

Taste is primarily a one-man operation, with Black taking orders, then assembling and serving the meals. So patron patience is encouraged. Fortunately, on our visit he had a helper in the kitchen and his teenage daughter assisting him on the floor. Still, even with the help, it took a little while to get an order in. But once we did, the food arrived in less than five minutes. That’s because we ordered the gumbo and etouffee, which is pre-made and just waiting to be dished up and served. Black is extremely personable and loves talking about his food, which makes up for any delays. Grade: C+

Specialty diets

No vegetarian items on the menu outside of side dishes: sweet potatoes, green beans, collard greens, potato salad and a “7 Cheese Mac & Cheese” ($2.50 each). The menu has “Bayou Potatoes” ($15), a baked potato stuffed with shrimp, crawfish and a homemade Cajun sauce, which I’m sure can be served without the seafood. No mention of gluten-free dining, so check with Black. Grade: C

Jeff Korbelik is the winery manager at James Arthur Vineyards, former Journal Star features editor and author of "Lost Restaurants of Lincoln, Nebraska." He's written restaurant reviews for Ground Zero since 1998.

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