A few weeks back I had the opportunity to meet with Robert Alley the executive chef and co-owner of Gumbo YaYas, a New Orleans inspired dining spot here in Jax. Like many other places I had previously driven by this establishment on several occasions, but on this day I decided to pay them a visit. As Robert and I sat down and began talking he informed me that he and his wife Lauren were originally from New Orleans but had moved to Jacksonville in 2003 to work for one of the regional auto groups. When the economy took a turn for the worse Robert and his wife found themselves planning out the next phase of their professional careers. Robert had grown up in the food service industry as his parents had been restaurant owners back in New Orleans and he had developed a love for cooking since the early age of five. Everything Robert knows about cooking comes from his family’s knowledge in the business and many of his recipes go back several generations.
Robert and his wife opened Gumbo YaYas back in May of 2009. I am very familiar with several New Orleans staples such as gumbo, po boys, and jambalaya but I had no idea what “YaYas” meant. Robert told me that, “YaYas is a term of endearment in New Orleans. It means the equivalent of Nana, or, Grandma and that is what we are striving to create here. An experience that brings our customers to that special feeling of going to Grandma’s house for dinner on Sundays. Building that anticipation of a great home cooked meal.” Robert also told me that the restaurant’s best sellers are the Oyster or Shrimp YaYa. They get their oysters from Louisiana, shrimp from the gulf, catfish from Mississippi, and their ship bread from New Orleans. Robert also told me that they make their own hot sauce called, “YaYa’s Hot Sauce”, which is sold in store for $6 per bottle.
During the football season Gumbo YaYas has become the place in town for LSU and Saints fans to catch their favorite teams in action. Every time either team scores a touch down Gumbo YaYas gives away free jello shots. The interior is also decorated in festive fashion that is inspired by the mom & pop shops located in New Orleans. Other than jello shots Gumbo YaYas also offers several beers as well as wines and frozen hurricanes which is a popular beverage amongst the regulars.
Gumbo YaYas stays involved with the local community by contributing to the JayFund, Brew at the Zoo, and Toast To The Animals with the Humane Society. They also offer a military discount for lunch at 10% off which is also extended to police and fighter fighters. They also have a limited kids menu with offerings such as chicken tenders, fries, and mac & cheese. Incase you can’t make it in and have a craving for some great New Orleans cooking, Gumbo YaYas has also teamed up with Door Step Delivery which will bring the grub to you.
For more information of this fun and authentic New Orleans inspired restaurant, check them out online at www.gumboyayas.com.
Follow me on Twitter at; www.twitter.com/WritingAboutJax.
Written and published for BUZZ Magazine, May 2016.