Every time I went to Brooks, Ronald or Louella (or both) slipped a little something extra either onto the table or into my bag of leftovers -- a side of rice, an extra rib, a big scoop of summery, mustardy, church-picnic potato salad, a glass of homemade strawberry fruit punch thick with mashed berries and sweet as all get-out. In Louisiana, that's what they call a lagniappe -- a little something extra. The fact that the Brookses give you a little something extra without ever calling attention to it just proves they're good people. And great cooks.
Unlike Emeril Lagasse -- who's a few lagniappes short to start with and, despite all those years at the Commander's Palace in New Orleans, still can't do an étouffée as good as the one here -- the Brookses know instinctively what American food is supposed to look and smell and taste like. They know it's supposed to come from the heart, not the wallet or the boardroom or a focus group. And they understand that sometimes -- okay, most of the time -- people will be happier with wonderful food and friendly service in a garage than with mediocre food and stuffy help in a room fit for Louis the XIV.