The first time I tasted jambalaya was over three decades ago. I was in Baton Rouge and this guy I knew took me to Iberville Parish and to a small bar run by a woman with no teeth.
I fell in love with the dish then and have had it all over the place since. I'm not a world class expert, but I can hold my own.
And I was incredibly surprised by a local serving of jambalaya at a brand new bar / restaurant in Whitefish Bay.
The new place is Aliota's Pub and Grill, 261 E. Hampton Ave., in the same spot that T. J. Aliota's was for years and years. The old place closed and the new one is cleaned up and redesigned and it's got all the earmarks of a great neighborhood pub.
Now, to the jambalaya.
I asked Megan, one of the most delightful servers I've had in a long time, about the jambalaya.
She said it was great but that she was "afraid of shrimp, so I can't tell you how good it is with the shrimp in it." But she swore by the rest of it, even though she smilingly declined the idea of getting professional help for her phobia.
One thing that can be a problem with jambalaya is that people get so intent on ratcheting up the kick they overwhelm the flavors.
The best jambalaya has some kick, but is also left alone so the wonderful flavors of the shrimp, crab, chicken and andouille sausage along with the tomatoes and garlic can shine.
That was just what the wonderful dish was at Aliota's and why it's such a pleasure to discover a brand new place with such a great menu item.
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