- Matthew Schniper
- Do yourself a favor and bypass barbecue for catfish.
It probably won’t be music that puts Jazz-Funk Connection on the map locally; it’ll be the killer catfish coming out of the attached Shandelicious BBQ. Excellent, crisp-jacketed catfish fillets, simply seasoned, juicy and needing no dipping sauce to be thoroughly relished. Plus, two pieces are only $6.95, a steal when contrasted with a two-meat barbecue platter bearing three sides, bread and a fountain drink for $24.95.
That may sound like a lot of items, but the value’s not quite there, as the portions aren’t huge and nothing else we eat comes close to being as memorable as that catfish. But let’s back up and set the scene.
Jazz-Funk Connection and its bar/eatery arms (spread over three storefronts) opened three months ago in the former Royal Castle Lounge & Grill next to Platte Furniture. It’s a burgundy-hued, dark and dive-y spot, formerly rockin’ a reggae vibe, which works rather well for a makeover into a broody live jazz and blues club (with an upgraded sound system) that’s trying to hit all demographics by also programming karaoke (Wednesdays) and Monday Night Football the evening we visit. Club manager Stephen Greenz, a warm, welcoming face to the business, says they’re thinking of adding hip-hop and Latin nights.
Greenz tells us that owner Michael Arkadie comes from an IT background but also plays several instruments (just not on-site, he says, joking how the staff keeps bugging him to play). Arkadie envisioned a club for musicians — taking a page out of Motif Jazz Cafe’s book, though on a much less opulent scale — but of course he didn’t want to ignore the bar and kitchen’s potential. So he enlisted cheffing support from his son-in-law, Jac Rabb, who Greenz says holds more than a decade of experience, partly coming up under Momma Pearl’s Cajun Kitchen owner Robert Brunet.
Location Details Jazz-Funk Connection Nightclub
Greenz won’t tell us anything about Rabb’s method/recipe on the catfish, citing the usual “secret” aspect, and I don’t really care just so long as it still tastes this good next time I come in. Rabb’s barbecue menu — only ribs and hotlinks are served, not brisket or pulled pork — ranks just OK by comparison; flavors you’ve had before and will have again, most likely at a backyard party.
The hotlinks are dark, shriveled weenies not made in-house and bearing about as much spice-heat as paprika — meh. Ribs are “St. Louis style with KC BBQ sauce,” and their meat pulls from the bone just fine, with scant bark, subtle smoke, and the notable semi-sweet tang of a ketchup- and molasses-influenced sauce. Both are served inside faux newspaper parchment-lined plastic baskets, with my selection of cornbread (thick, dry, crumbly, not too sweet, just fine) and Cajun corn, which takes on pleasant caramel flavor from its sugars scorching in a fryer. “Greenz” are made “with succulent neckbones” notes the menu and they arrive fully tenderized, watery and indeed bearing a meaty essence. Red beans and rice are wholly unremarkable as is a blues-worthy “tater salad,” with egg, pickle and a deli-anywhere quality.
We appropriately nurse Modelo and Miller High Life beers and snicker at a now-trending “My Girlfriend Ain’t Hungry” option of fries and a small side for $3.50 (sidestepping online debate as to whether it’s a misogynist trope), resolving to return when the brass is blaring instead of the TV, offering an excuse to eat more catfish.