Sassafras is a tree—the leaves of which are used to make filé powder—which in turn is the zesty thickening agent used in the cooking of Louisiana Creole gumbo. The decor at Sassafras Eclectic Food Joint is replete with colorful “sugar skull” artwork, perhaps intended to evoke a New Orleans voodoo vibe. There is a full stage and dance floor for live music, and plenty of beer and cocktail options on the requisite chalkboard menus.
As for food, there is a full menu of starters, cold deli sandwiches, salads, pizzas, hot grinders and burgers. There’s also a two-page menu of specials to choose from, and yet a few more daily specials your server will tell you about. We ordered plenty of food and still didn’t make a dent in their collection of more than 70 items to choose from.
Our order of “Eviled Eggs” ($6) earned their name by presentation alone. Three boiled egg halves were amply stuffed with a very smooth and delicious blend of cooked egg yolk, smoked paprika and roasted pepper, topped with spicy shrimp and garnished with two sticks of jicama—essentially a deviled egg complete with horns. A fresh pickle of carrot and cucumber was included on the side, both very tart and flavorful.
Not to be outdone, the “Superfraggacheesalicious Loaf” ($10) also lived up to its name. A sourdough round is stuffed with roasted garlic and a combination of cheeses, then baked long enough to become a gooey, garlicky delight. Served with garlic ranch dipping sauce, my wife loved this appetizer so much I thought she was going to leave me and run away with it.
What to order with your bread and cheese? More bread and cheese, specifically a cheesesteak grinder ($10) with sweet and hot peppers, onion, mushroom, provolone and pepperjack, melted together and practically falling out of a large sourdough roll with fresh pickle on the side. Though the meat had good flavor, it was a little chewy. The veggies were well grilled, and I can’t remember the last time I saw a sandwich with that much cheese. Doubling down on the fromage, a side of blue cheese slaw completed the dish and was a tasty treat.
From the specials menu I selected the cottage pie of the day with house salad ($17). A small ceramic baking dish was filled with housemade chorizo gravy, carrot, green pea and smoked turkey, topped with a mix of mashed potato and cheese, which was lightly browned and slightly crispy on top. I enjoyed it, though the applewood-smoked turkey almost overpowered the dish. Taking things down a notch, the salad with serrano vinaigrette featured a very nice assemblage of fresh carrot, jicama, green bean, white corn, cucumber, tomato and spring mix, but I couldn’t detect much in the way of dressing. There was absolutely no sense of serrano pepper, so perhaps a miscommunication in the kitchen?
A small “El Guapo” pizza was shared by the table, topped with housemade chorizo, smoked chicken, roma tomato, serrano pesto and plenty of mozzarella ($13). The crust was thin and crispy, and on first taste the powerful combination of flavors worked quite well. Though generally a fan of smoked meats, after a slice or two my palate was overwhelmed—the chicken was even more powerfully smoky than the pie’s turkey. I tried to quench the stench with a sip of bourbon, but it just made the whiskey taste like I’d ordered a peaty scotch. If you really, really love smoked meat, these folks have what you’re looking for.
I’m not usually big on desserts, but I couldn’t resist the strawberry-rhubarb cobbler a la mode ($8). The tart rhubarb and sweet strawberry goo was topped by a biscuity crust and scoop of vanilla ice cream. It was the perfect end to an evening of bold flavors and festive surroundings.