Travels with Frenchie

Part XI: Lost in the bayou

click to enlarge Standing, from left: Diamond Scott, Frederick Poole, Adrienne Grogan, Daisy Grogan, David Grogan; seated: Dr. William C. Davis.
Standing, from left: Diamond Scott, Frederick Poole, Adrienne Grogan, Daisy Grogan, David Grogan; seated: Dr. William C. Davis.
Release Date: 2009-07-29

Welcome to another installment of Travels with Frenchie, the monthly food series in which a trio of culturally mismatched San Antonians explores our city’s culinary nooks and crannies. As before, the team consisted of: Frenchie (aka Fabien Jacob, sommelier at Le Re^ve), Carlos the Bike Mechanic (aka Carlos Montoya, informal taco scholar), and me (recovering vegan and known taco-truck stalker). We were joined by Current intern Haylley Johnson and this month’s special guest, my mentor and former instructor, Dr. William C. Davis — chemist, inventor, and human bridge through time (more on that in a second).

On a strong recommendation from local filmmaker/Bunsen Burgers restaurateur Kevin Cacy, we headed to the “Little Korea” neighborhood at Rittiman and IH-35 to try the underappreciated D’s Seafood, Jerk & More. We arrived to find a house packed with a lunchtime crowd of professionals and city workers. D’s de´cor is minimal, but the jovial staff fills the room with life. The menu offers an exciting combination of Southern seafood, Creole, and Jamaican items not found anywhere else in town.

While navigating D’s diverse menu, we chatted with Dr. Davis, who’s best known for being the brother of Hollywood actor and activist Ossie Davis, and inventing instant mashed potatoes. But Dr. Davis is compelling for other reasons. He doesn’t even like potatoes; he’s a rice man. More importantly, throughout his long life he has gained insight and wisdom from crossing paths with a number of historical luminaries, including Thomas Edison, Ernest Hemmingway, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Wernher von Braun. Davis shared fascinating anecdotes, including one about MLK teasing him for playing the violin when they worked together at a summer camp picking tobacco to pay for college.

Ocasionally, we ate. Frenchie tried the grilled frog legs. Why? Because he’s Frenchie. After a few bites, he expressed complete satisfaction — the little frogs were plump and grilled perfectly with a Creole spice. Haylley enjoyed the savory hush-puppie appetizers. She found her chicken wings to be slightly dry but loved the amazing jerk sauce. “It lingered in your mouth for a while,” she said, “yet it didn’t stick around like a torture device.”

The plantains were slippery and thick. They weren’t the specialty of the house, but like the pineapple-flavored tropical rice, they expanded the menu’s impressive range of flavors. Dr. Davis and I ordered the sweet and spicy Jamaican beans and rice with tilapia for a modest $5.99. Normally, I have to order a Thai curry to taste coconut milk and peppers on the same plate, so I enjoyed this culinary co-evolution.

Carlos raved about his fried fish. “I enjoyed the extra-crunchy breading on the catfish strips — not too moist, not too dry,” he said. I echoed Carlos’s opinion but liked the grilled tilapia even more. I ordered mine “spicy,” and it was delivered as promised — as with the frog legs, D’s proved to be quite skilled with the grill. The homemade bread pudding was a great way to end the meal. D’s exemplifies the best of casual dining — outstanding flavor, variety, and excellent prices. If you can’t make it in for a weekday lunch, go on Saturday, when they serve beignets.

This review marks the one-year-anniversary of TWF. It started out like a high-concept Hollywood pitch (“Anthony Bourdain meets Charlie Rose”) and somehow became a reality. Yet, this month is bittersweet for me as I’ll be leaving the Current staff to pursue my plan to become a physician assistant. If meeting Thomas Edison as a young child inspired Dr. Davis to pursue a life in science, meeting Dr. Davis did the same for me. But I promise to continue Travels with Frenchie for as long as I can. With so many hidden restaurants and interesting people in San Antonio, it seems crazy to stop now.

Final thoughts
Frenchie: They get great flavor in unexpected ways. I love this place.
Carlos: On my next visit I may order a dozen catfish strips and just take my time.
Me: Beignets and farm-raised alligator legs on the same menu? Where else can you find that?

Hayllee: Just give me some cornbread, fry it, dip it in their sauce, and I am so there.
Dr. Davis: Wonderful people.

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