In 2015, chef Jarred Zeringue and Matthew Moreland, a New Orleans attorney, purchased Wayne Jacob’s Smokehouse & Restaurant (WJS), a heritage business in Laplace, Louisiana. The smokehouse had been passed down through generations of the Nolan family, producing artisan-smoked meats and fresh sausage they ultimately shipped worldwide.
Zeringue’s family owned a farm on River Road in Vacherie and had shopped at the smokehouse for generations.
Upon assuming ownership of the business, the partners took a minimally invasive approach. They closed for only two days so as not to disrupt the habits of the community it served, instead sneaking in after hours to paint and make physical improvements to the restaurant.
The smokehouse’s on-site restaurant is open only for weekday lunch and a Sunday brunch that showcases Bloody Marys made with in-house smoked tomatoes, onions and garlic. Deviled eggs are topped with tiny slivers of house-smoked bacon. Rounds of roasted andouille sausage “chips” are served with Creole mustard. Smoked tasso enhances creamy macaroni and cheese, and the dessert list is comprised entirely of Zeringue’s Grandmother Winnie’s recipes for scratch-made treats like banana cream cheese pie, chocolate chip buttermilk pie and blonde fudge cake.
Lining the restaurant’s shelves are products from Zeringue’s Circle Z Foods line of house-made vinegars, condiments, pepper jelly, smoked salts, salsas and roasted fruit butters, all presented in elegant, minimalist packaging. There are cartons of fresh yard eggs for sale from the variety of chickens, both common and exotic, that now live in the backyard, merrily feeding off of peppers and leftover donuts from a shop down the street. The result is ultra-rich deep golden yolks with a slight peppery kick. Moreland and Zeringue have planted numerous fruit and nut-bearing trees and vines including muscadine, Moreland paper-shell pecan (Moreland’s grandfather patented the variety, a result of grafting a paper shell and a candy pecan root stock together), avocado, fig and olive. Lines of numerous varieties of citrus trees – including a pink lemonade variety with vibrant flesh – are forming a lovely allée in the yard. The wealth from the garden is used in the restaurant and in the Circle Z Foods line.
In 2017, Moreland joined Zeringue, his best friend, in ownership of EAT New Orleans, the perennially popular French Quarter corner restaurant he opened in the spring of 2006. For lunch, brunch and dinner the small dining rooms are packed mostly with people from the neighborhood, but the occasional in-the-know tourist makes it to the picturesque spot at the corner of Dumaine and Burgundy streets where a rotating gallery of works from local artists adorn the walls.
The peerless smoked meats and pickled vegetables from WJS have found a natural home at EAT blending seamlessly with Zeringue’s farm-fresh, home-style, seasonally driven menu of southern heritage cuisine. All starters are generously sized and intended for sharing and it is hard to go wrong with offerings like bleu cheese and fig torte; crawfish boullettes; fried chicken livers with house-made pepper jelly; and hog head cheese served with and andouille chips.
Salads are more than an afterthought. Two are favorites: Smoked chicken with avocado, bacon, bleu cheese and mesclun greens with house-made bleu cheese dressing; and warm Brussels sprouts with bacon, roasted pecans and goat cheese with house-made bacon vinaigrette.
Plate lunches and dinner specials include choice of protein and a side and may include roasted bell peppers stuffed with either beef or shrimp; panéed pork loin; crawfish pie (seasonal); or shrimp and crab fettuccine.
Butterbeans and shrimp are offered as a side; don’t miss out.
The tradition of making labor intensive crawfish bisque during Holy Week dates back generations in the Zeringue family. Though out of season now, real deal, nearly impossible to find crawfish bisque made with stuffed heads is offered on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday at both WJS and EAT during Easter week in the spring so mark your calendars.
EAT New Orleans
900 Dumaine St., 522-7222, EatNola.com
Wayne Jacob’s Smokehouse & Restaurant
769 A West 5th St., LaPlace, LA, (985) 652-9990