They say when one door closes, another one opens. In the case of Gumbo Kitchen, the door that closed was brother/sister team Michael and Genevieve Cotter's Bar None, when a roof fire ripped through the place.
But from that temporary setback for the Cotters (who now have Bar None back up and running, doling out cocktails to the Hawthorn/Camberwell crowd), Michael, along with business partners Patricia Stanton and Elvin Ho created Gumbo Kitchen – a mobile food truck that cruises the streets of Melbourne’s north, blaring New Orleans brass band jazz and serving up authentic Creole food.
Po’ boys are a New Orleans classic: fluffy bread rolls stuffed with, in this case, everything from spiced, deep fried shrimp or oysters to ‘beef debris’ (shredded, slow cooked beef in a rich gravy topped with all the accoutrements). Both the seafood and meat versions (along with a surf'n'turf combination of the two – hailed as the ultimate hangover cure on a Saturday or Sunday) have been in such hot demand since since the van's inception that the crew opened up a permanent shop front, Po' Boy Quarter, in Smith Street.
As the name suggests, they’re also serving an array of classic, southern-style Louisiana gumbo stews, featuring fresh seafood or chicken and smoky sausage cooked up with southern vegetables in a lively filé spice ground from the aromatic dried leaves of the sassafras tree.
A vegetarian option is generally also on offer while, at the sweet end of the spectrum, the Lemon Ice Box Pie is odds-on to become a summer staple on more than one Melbourne menu.
Daily Facebook posts give last minute lunch and/or dinner locations. In the right locations, you can get yourself a beer from a local bottleshop or bar and enjoy the two together. It’s a luxury generally not afforded by the other food trucks around and one that seems appropriate for anything labelling itself ‘authentic N’Awleans’.