Secreted away in an industrial section of Mineola is a 1940s vintage railroad-car diner. In its gleaming interior, some of the most satisfying Louisiana-style food in these parts awaits.
Health food, it's not. On one recent night's list of specials was chicken-fried bacon. No question, co-owners Joan Gallo and Tom Fitzgerald aren't out to lower your cholesterol. And seasoned Southern chef Robert Bouyer doesn't exactly have your goal weight in mind.
His cooking, however, may have the power to lighten your mood. Dig into one of his flaky, crusty, meltingly delicious biscuits -- big as a grapefruit and blanketed with creamy andouille sausage gravy -- to understand how. Slow-smoked chicken wings have great depth of flavor; alligator sausage slices have snap and verve. Smart to have napkins handy, since the chicken and andouille gumbo may make you sweat. Ideal for sharing: house-made potato chips topped with Bouyer's subtly spicy chicken and andouille jambalaya.
Jambalaya, ordered as a main dish and served over rice, packs a lot more fire power than the appetizer version. Meaty smoked spice-pebbled ribs are a treat. So, too, a casserole of meltingly good, crusty, bubbly macaroni and cheese.
"Would you like that medium-rare at the center?" asks a savvy waitress after taking an order for blackened wild salmon fillet. Definitely, medium-rare. The fish is fiery-sweet perfection. The same holds true, another evening, for a thick slab of blackened catfish. Ditto for shrimp and grits -- plump blackened shellfish drizzled with barbecue sauce over what amounts to a lush polenta. Another winner: light and crisp fried chicken with waffles.
It's with side dishes that the kitchen sometimes falters. One night, BBQ beans with smoked brisket is smoky; another night, it's way too sweet. On neither occasion is it hot enough. Collards with smoked turkey, rice and beans: all OK, but not near the level of the main courses.
For desserts, a peach cobbler is warm and wonderful, a scoop of vanilla ice cream elevating it even more. Tart Key lime pie and warm pecan pie are homey and good, deserving of freshly whipped cream rather than the aerosol variety.
Minor cavils aside, Biscuits & Barbeque is the kind of place you go when you want to cheer yourself up -- or celebrate just how cheerful you can be.