by Ian McNulty
Animal crackers stalk the tables at J'Anita's, the new Lower Garden District barbecue joint I reviewed this week.
In just one of the little quirks that abound in this colorful restaurant, proprietor Craig Giesecke and his crew like to sprinkle a few of the pale, zoologically correct cookies around the plate before they send them out to the dining room. It doesn't matter if you order a plate of beef brisket, a burger or even biscuits with gravy (pictured above) from the breakfast menu, you'll probably get a few.
During our interview, Giesecke told me it was a touch he thought would make a meal just a bit more memorable, a little lighthearted gimmick to make customers smile. Certainly, it made me smile. Visiting J'Anita's several times over the course of a month I had more animal crackers through this riff on lagniappe than I have eaten in all the years since grade school combined.
Though they come out with the meal and sometimes even embedded in the coleslaw or gravy I began to look at them somewhat like fortune cookies and saved them for the very end. In this case, however, instead of discovering a fortune within the cookie the treat is learning just how a the old, familiar animal cracker tastes with remnants of your lunch or breakfast stuck to it. I doubt I'll ever dip an animal cracker in barbecue sauce again, but I must admit the sweet, mild little cookie did have a little something going for it with a smear of that peppery white sausage gravy at breakfast.
- Ian McNulty