Cafe Society

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Because the ribs were sublime. Meaty, fatty, dark pork ribs, smoked forever over enchanted wood, spice-rubbed with what I can only guess was salt, pepper and magical pit-man pixie dust, and so juicy that when I squeezed them, juice ran out. I had my first taste of these ribs on our initial visit, ordered more to go when we were done, ate them again the next time I was at Brooks, ordered another batch to go, and long after those were gone, my refrigerator still smelled like wood smoke. Three days after I'd picked up my last order, Laura found me sitting in front of the open fridge in the middle of the night holding an empty Styrofoam box in my lap and weeping quietly to myself because there were no more ribs, and Brooks was closed the next day.

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.

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Jason Sheehan
Contact: Jason Sheehan

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