Corner of Gay and High St.
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire? Last year we wrote a post about Johnny Oak’s cajun BBQ truck. In it’s previous iteration, they were serving up BBQ, but have recently moved away from that after finding that downtown office workers called the fire department when they spied plumes of BBQ exhaust emanating from their on-site smoker.
Having closed his North Campus restaurant, Johnny is now focusing on mobile food completely, and the revamped menu found on his new trailer (in the same downtown location) is closer in content to the old restaurant menu.
Johnny is deliberately trying to keep his prices down, and as a result his sandwiches are one of the best lunch deals around. We heartily recommend the creole shrimp po boy, and were particularly impressed with the plump, tasty and well cooked shrimp. Not too surprising for a place that has the crustacean featured in its name, but we can think of a few seafood-themed restaurants that should be begging him for his supplier’s contact info. The photo below, sadly, is not a great picture and it’s not the whole sandwich either – this thing was huge (as in, probably 14″ long), and all of $5.50.
There are also sides available if you have room for them. Of the two we tried (beans and greens) we preferred the greens which featured a generous amount of bacon.
If you’re in a hurry you can call or text in your order. But don’t forget to leave a tip – as of our last visit, the cooks were working for gratuity alone.
Also, keep an eye out around town – Johnny is prepping a full-on Cajun assault with the impending debut of a fleet of 4 trucks.
Cuisine: Cajun BBQ
Gay and High st.
Monday-Friday 11am-3pm (or until sold out)
Last summer the corner of Gay and High was home to the cupcake truck 3 Babes and a Baker. This summer it has a new resident – Johnny Oak’s Cajun BBQ. If the name Johnny Oak’s sounds familiar it’s because Johnny already has a restaurant in Columbus – Johnny Oak’s Po Boy and Shrimp Shack located on North Campus. You won’t find any Po Boys here though, as the truck and restaurant offer different menus (the only overlap is the side dishes all of which Johnny himself cooks from scratch). Both menus have the same inspiration, the period of time that Johnny lived in New Orleans.
Johnny opened the Po Boy Shack 5 years ago when he wanted to get out of the construction business and do something that he loved. Johnny (pictured above) is a character and an extremely warm host who offered us samples to help us decide what to order. He jokes with customers ‘this ain’t Burger King’ and takes justified pride in his food. He closed up shop early the day we were there because he was almost sold out and didn’t want the remaining small amount of meat to dry out on the grill.
Here’s the menu, which as you can see will have some variability based on the whims of the owner.
We split two sandwiches and were divided over whether we preferred the pulled pork or the brisket. The pulled pork was a delicious mess of a sandwich oozing with BBQ sauce and coleslaw (note to self – don’t wear a white shirt). The pork was tender and the creamy coleslaw balanced the heat of the BBQ sauce. I also liked the crunch that the coleslaw added.
The blackened brisket was nicely (but not overly) fatty, juicy and with less sauce than the pork. The beans were what really won my heart, less sweet than the usual bbq baked beans, with a decent kick of heat and a rich flavorful broth. The greens with bacon were also very good, less bitter than others I have had.
As well as running the truck and restaurant Johnny caters parties and will pretty much grill any meat for you from goat to turkeys. He also builds and remodels trailers and trucks. There’s more information about the restaurant, catering and trucks here.
Location: mostly 15th Ave. and N. High Street (weekdays, 11am-2pm) and with trips to Gay St., Clintonville, and special events occasionally.
Follow them on Facebook for updates on location.
If you’ve heard of Da Levee, it might be because their Short North location has made a reputation for offering piles of delicious and flavorful Cajun favorites. On the sidewalks, Da Levee Express has the most vibrant paint job in town and dishes up those same comforting favorites as the bricks and mortar, Mardi Gras bead laden counter. Anticipating colder weather, the saucy stews have made it onto my list of lunchtime eats on campus. I caught them north of 15th Ave on N. High St. between classes and picked up a very late breakfast.
By no means am I an expert on Cajun cuisine so Justin, the owner, was quick to break each dish down to their main ingredients. On today’s menu, pulled pork in the form of Ropa Vieja (did I hear with capers?) and an all vegan succotash with hearty beans and veggies. Since I had skipped breakfast, I was famished and debating between the chicken in the Creole (tomato based sauce with cilantro) or the Pozole Stew.
Fans of Pozole are pretty vocal about their love for the hominy stew so it was the deciding factor for my lunch, I had to try this popular dish. From the above photo, you can see the hominy, black beans, corn, and red bell pepper. The shredded white chicken was plentiful and the generous helping of rice and heaping spoonful of pozole was more than enough to last me through the afternoon. I didn’t need to eat the bread but it was so greasy and salty that I couldn’t help myself.
Da Levee Express will be making appearances at the Ohio Historical Society Food-Truck-A-Palooza (get there early!) on October 14th and at Food Cart Food Court at Wonderland Columbus on October 17th.