She went on to say that everybody that comes through that has something to say about the roots of the restaurant all figure that it was the famous boxer whose name is on the sign outside.
It’s not.Jack Dempsey, New Orleans journalist, was one of those old-school, cigar-chomping reporters who relished a stout drink almost as much as being the first man on the scene of the latest shootout or stickup that took place in town during his nearly 40 year career.
He retired in 1981 but not before allowing a couple New Orleans cops who were opening a seafood restaurant in the 9th Ward to put his name on the marquee.
Four decades later the old wood-frame house on Poland Avenue is still feeding the neighborhood, and the occasional extra-savvy tourist.New Orleans is a macaroni and cheese town. It’s on dozens of menus across the city with all sorts of pastas standing in for actual elbow mac. At Jack Dempsey’s, my favorite in Louisiana is served using that old workhorse, penne. It sits up real nice in a monkey dish, is cheap to produce, and swaddles sauces with the best of them.
New Orleans is a fried food town. Our city donut, the beignet comes hot and ready out of hundreds of fryers stretching across the city on an hourly basis. Fried chicken keeps the entire 9th Ward fed with neighborhood gas stations more than happy to sell you a two piece for .99c.
Be aware there are clip joints out there like Mr. Ed’s that will sell that exact fried chicken for five bucks apiece.
A $26 fried seafood combo platter shows the deft hand of a veteran fry cook. A tiny meat pie is nearly lost in the tangle of fried catfish and fried shrimp. A piece of lite bread rides the platter’s bottom to soak up any stray grease.This is dockhand chow, served hot as blazes and with minimal seasoning. A good jolt of salt and black pepper could work wonders for this dish but nobody’s complaining. We have big plastic squirt bottles of remoulade, ranch and tartar sauce to liven up the action and if that fails there’s a bottle of Crystal on the table.
An appetizer of onion rings is laughably enormous. The waitress looks like she’ll need a block and tackle to get it on the table and even after three of us, trenchermen one and all, take a sustained crack at it there’s still enough to feed a stevedore or two.
The sporting girls that worked the Poland Avenue strip are long gone these days. They’ve all moved up to Galvez or across the industrial canal to the Lower 9th Ward. Driving towards the river and Jack Dempsey’s nowadays only affords one a view of half million dollar bungalows and soaring live oak trees.
A farmhouse brewery selling high dollar glasses of beer sits on the railroad tracks nearby.
A chi chi wine bar of national acclaim holds down the nearby corner.
Jack Dempsey’s soldiers on selling cheap, fried Louisiana fish platters, and cold draws of Abita beer. Neither one will break the bank and something tells me their old namesake is smiling down from above with a cheap stogie and a tale or two to tell the other Times-Pic newsmen who’ve shook off this mortal coil.
738 Poland Ave,
New Orleans, Louisiana
Hours of operation
always call ahead