Gravy from ear to ear

You have to be very comfortable with someone to eat a genuine New Orleans-style roast beef and gravy po'boy in front of them. What makes it so good is what makes it so messy -- the slices of simmered roast beef smothered in rich, smooth gravy ladled over fresh French bread that soaks up the sauce. As soon as you pick it up and bite in, everything goes everywhere, sliding around in that finger-licking gravy, changing shapes and textures in the color of brown. There's no hiding.

Here in town, it's been possible to re-enact this authentic experience for $5.95 at Jockamo's in Fern Park (7800 S. U.S. Highway 17-92; 407-834-0220), down the road from Orlando Jai-Alai. And the rest of Jockamo's menu stacks up similarly: muffulettas better than some of the best in the Crescent City ($4.75 half, $10.75 whole); simply styled red beans herbed with bay leaf over rice (from $1.59 for a cup to $6.79 a quart); and every-man-priced portions of jambalaya ($2.59-$9.59), crawfish etouff?e ($3.39-$12.99) and gumbo ($2.99- $11.79). Only the beignets don't hold up -- the deep-fried rectangles sprinkled with powdered sugar are made from frozen dough that doesn't do the job.

My other gripe about Jockamo's was that it closed at 3 p.m. and didn't open on Sunday. But the new south-side Jockamo's that opened in early March stays open later (11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, until 3 p.m. Sunday). The new space is oddly tucked into a sprawling Wal-Mart/Lowe's plaza, but there's more room inside to enjoy the same menu, plus daily specials.

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