Homestyle Creole cooking makes Ferdi's famous with locals.
Thursday, November 16, 2000
I''m sitting around on the morning of the day we''re going to Ferdi''s for lunch (they only serve lunch) and into my head fly images of the Fight Doctor, Ferdi Pacheco--you know the guy, the one who sounds like a real street guy, who does color commentating for boxing matches. He used to be part of the fabulous foursome that included Ali, trainer Angelo Dundee, and handler Drew "Bundini" Brown ("float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, rumble young man rumble...").
So much for that fantasy. There wasn''t as much as a snapshot of Ali in the joint. Probably because the place has nothing at all to do with the Fight Doctor, Ferdi Pacheco. Besides, I think he spells it Ferdie.
Ferdi''s is an innocuous little storefront joint in Seaside, about a long par five from where Broadway angles right off of Fremont. It''s on the right hand side, between a picture framing place and a laundromat. From the outside the place is like, "Are we really going in this joint and it''s not three in the morning?"
Ferdi''s is a two-headed little beast; the left side is a mostly takeout deli style sandwich and whatever storefront with about three tables; and the right side, from the outside, appears to be a neighborhood bar. Here I am with my Sweet Thing, who''s looking particularly businesswoman-fine that day, and I''m flashing back to late night, bad neighborhood joints in inner cities, chest (what there is of it) puffed out, attitude screaming, rough-house ready.
Boy, am I an idiot.
Ferdi''s is your down-home, family and neighborhood friends, plus all the folks who work around there, "let''s pop in for a hearty lunch," kinda spot. What I mistakenly took for a bar is actually a mini lunch counter. There is beer and wine served at Ferdi''s; two beers and one wine. You pop in, and order your whatever and a beer, or a glass of wine, or an iced tea or soda or one of about a dozen fresh fruit shakes and that''s that.
The decor alerts your stomach as to what type of afternoon it''s gonna be. The cafe-style curtains are patterned with peppers. All types of peppers. Atop the six tables sit three kinds of pepper sauce, plus a pepper mill. "Homestyle Creole Cooking" is the fare here. Me and Chickie Boom are starting to salivate.
I don''t know about you, but we likes to go spicy. We likes to roll up our sleeves, load up a fresh hanky and start sweatin''. Flavors in food are like colors in painting; you regularly need to have ''em be bright.
So we order up a couple of long necks and commence to reading the menu. A big list of sandwiches starts it off. They come by the fraction. One-sixth equals 4 inches (no wisecracks); one-quarter equals 6 inches; one-third equals 8 inches; and one-half equals 1 foot. Therefore, class, the starting point for the sandwich scale is: a) four feet; b) two feet; c) three feet; or d) all of the above? If you chose b, congratulations, you passed basic algebra. By the way, the whole loaf (which is how long?) is also available.
Salads and soups are next. We split a chicken and sausage gumbo ($3.50/small; $5.50/large). Our waitress brought it over. It looked as dark and rich as a Louisiana swamp. We dove right in. Flavors were stacked up like fish in a cannery (a little local metaphorical indulgence) and the heat was just right. It had a unique--come to think of it, everything here is unique--underlying flavor which distinguished it from other gumbos from my past. (How about that for a book: Gumbos From My Past.)
Next we chose from the specialties column. Although I loved the name, I passed on Satchmos Nachos and decided to try the BBQ Ribs ($7.95/small; $9.95/large). My lunch date had the Manale ($9.95), "sometimes called BBQ shrimp, these are cooked in their shells w/lots of different peppers & garlic," says the menu. Ferdi, or is it Ferdi''s, wasn''t kidding. The shrimp, which just as easily could have been crawfish, reclined like rich widows in a mud and herb bath at an exclusive spa, only they were sporting a sass and spiciness you can only find along bayou backroads. And they were cooked to perfection.
My ribs (well actually some poor pig''s ribs) escorted a little bowl of potato salad and another little bowl of baked beans, New Orleans style. At first I wasn''t sure about any of it (that uniqueness again). But the more I ate, the surer I got. And the next day, I realized just how much we enjoyed the you-know-what out of that lunch. The food left a wonderful taste in our mouths for a solid 15 minutes afterward and kept us satisfied until a late dinner.
Give this fascinating little down-home joint a try next time you''re looking for fun, friendly food. I only wish I could stagger in there after a night of Mardi Gras madness for that special early morning life-saving, stick-to-your-ribs sustenance--and a long neck of course.
Ferdi''s Creole Cuisine, 740 Broadway, Seaside, 394-2244. Open weekdays for lunch.