Jeff’s Cuisine is right on Main Street in South Norwalk’s busy downtown area. As soon as you walk in you see the display case where all the meats and sides await your selection. You order at the counter and take your meal to one of the few stools by the window or one of the high-top tables down a narrow hall. The walls are decorated with framed magazine articles on Chef Jeff Esau, who has appeared on the Food Network and won prizes for his sauces.
The menu straddles the worlds of barbecue, Cajun and soul food, with an emphasis on the latter. Barbecue items include ribs, pulled pork and barbecued chicken. They also have fried catfish, fried whiting, jambalaya, seafood gumbo, fried chicken, jerk chicken and smoked hot sausage. Sides include the usual BBQ/Southern items.
I tried the Chef Jeff’s Sampler, which has 3 ribs, 2 pieces of chicken, pulled pork and 2 sides for $15.99. The ribs were big and meaty and drowning in sauce. Underneath they had a good flavor, as if marinated before being cooked. But they weren’t smoky. The pulled pork was a pile of mushy meat, also heavily covered with sauce. Not smoky and not that good. For the chicken, I got one piece jerked and the other barbecued. I liked the jerked piece, which had a mild spiciness and was pretty juicy. I didn’t care for the barbecued piece, whose skin was soggy from sitting in the display case since long before I arrived. As I looked over my takeout menu later that night, I realized that there are two kinds of ribs, Memphis and Kansas City. I’ll have to try whichever one I didn’t already have, but I think I'd try the fried chicken first.
As I waited to order and for my meal to be prepared, I watched some of the other items being served and some of them looked very good. My guess is that the soul items are the better choices here.
Sides were good. The collard greens had a very strong, pleasing flavor, possibly from butter in addition to spices. Cole slaw was ordinary. Cornbread, though a little unorthodox, was excellent. It had the same moistness and flavor profile as a good carrot cake (minus the icing), only made with corn. I got a few extra pieces to go.
The bottom line: I wouldn’t call Jeff's Cuisine serious (or even particularly good) barbecue, but you can get a quick and decent meal here. I’ll be back though, if for no other reason than to get a few more pieces of that cornbread.