Food News

Jessie's Smokin' NOLA Is Serving Cajun Eats at Max Taps Centennial

Owner Jessie Rayford is the man behind these Cajun eats.
Owner Jessie Rayford is the man behind these Cajun eats. Jessie's Smokin' NOLA/Facebook
After running a food truck for more than five years, Jessie Rayford opened a brick-and-mortar location of his Cajun eatery, Jessie's Smokin' NOLA, in Centennial in 2019. But last July, he opted not to renew the lease and closed the place. "Retiring" was his simple answer for any question about what he planned to do next.

"I didn't retire," he says now.

He spent a few months fixing things around the house. "I did a lot of stuff I never did before," he notes. "Thank God for YouTube." But then "I got bored," he admits, and he wanted to go back to work.

David Gardner, the owner of Max Taps, which has locations in Centennial and Highlands Ranch, had been a customer of Jessie's Smokin' NOLA, and mentioned that he had a kitchen at the Centennial outpost that was available.

The two sat down and talked, and last October, Rayford resurrected his Cajun restaurant inside Max Taps, at 11405 East Briarwood Avenue; he's currently leasing the space on a month-to-month basis.

Earlier this week, Jessie's Smokin' NOLA was slammed for Fat Tuesday. "There was a line out the door. We had to turn off online ordering," Rayford continues. "It was stressful, but we did it."
Fried seafood is a staple at Jessie's Smokin' NOLA.
Jessie's Smokin' NOLA/Facebook
While he's happy to have such a strong fan base, he admits that finding staff is still a challenge, as is cooking in a smaller space that's not entirely his own. He had to scale back his menu at Max Taps, though it's still filled with fan favorites like po'boys, jambalaya, gumbo and fried seafood platters.

Eventually, Rayford says he would like his own brick-and-mortar once again. "A bigger place with a full bar" is what he envisions. He'd even had interest from some potential partners. "I guess I'm doing something right," he adds.

One thing is certain, though: He doesn't see himself ever going back to working for someone else. After years of running his own business, he's committed to making his new place a success, and continuing to share his Cajun cooking with hungry diners in metro Denver.

Jessie's Smokin' NOLA is located inside Max Taps Centennial, 11405 East Briarwood Avenue in Centennial, and is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 8  p.m. Friday and Saturday. For more information, visit
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Molly Martin is the Westword Food & Drink editor. She’s been writing about the dining scene in Denver since 2013, and was eating her way around the city long before that. She enjoys long walks to the nearest burrito joint and nights spent sipping cocktails on Colfax.
Contact: Molly Martin

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