By Lauren H. Dowdle
Locals and travelers alike are transported to the French Quarter the moment they step into a shopping center off I-459. The covered outdoor patio resembles Café Du Monde, with its striped overhang.
That experience continues when they walk through the wrought iron French doors of Jubilee Joe’s and to their seats, some of which are restored church pews that came from a church in West Bank New Orleans that was flooded during Hurricane Katrina. The pews offer “the cathedral feel of New Orleans,” says restaurant owner Kash Siddiqui.
But, Jubilee Joe’s is hardly the same concept it began as back in 2004. Back when he was a student at UAB, Kash and a group of classmates presented their business strategy for The Bearded Clam to a group of investors. Their proposal beat out other students from across the country and won a $250,000 grant to start the business. Kash didn’t know how to cook and never worked in a restaurant, but surrounded by people with experience, he opened the doors in Lake Crest Plaza in the beginning of 2005.
It began as a fresh seafood market with a restaurant being built next to it, but soon they decided to change the name to Jubilee Joe’s and create more of a family-oriented environment. Their motto became the catchy, “Jubilee Joe’s, where the fisherman goes,” and mascot Joe the shrimp can be spotted in the apostrophe of the restaurant’s logo.
Then, a few months after opening, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, making it difficult for Kash and his team to receive supplies. And when thousands of New Orleans residents moved to Birmingham following the hurricane, he decided to switch the focus from a seafood market to a Cajun seafood restaurant. “This food is very popular in coastal areas, and we felt like there was a demand for it,” Kash says.
They changed directions and overcame the struggles brought on by the hurricane, only for the economy to crash in 2008—and for the highway in front of their original location to undergo construction that reduced their traffic. That was all followed by the BP oil spill in 2010, which severely hurt their business. So, in September of 2010, Kash closed the doors of Jubilee Joe’s.
“It was very hard for me,” he remembers. “I couldn’t pay my employees and had to shut down.”
When his father found out, he reminded Kash of how hard he had worked to get the business where it was and that the factors causing him issues were out of his control. His father lent him the money, and Kash reopened after being closed for three days.
Through all of the trials, residents have continued to support the restaurant—and Kash has looked for ways to give back to them, as well. The business donates proceeds to local groups from their annual Crawfish Boil and Fest (read about the event in the sidebar) and holds spirit weeks where the proceeds go to local schools. “The community helped me after I helped the community,” he says.
That support led Kash to build a larger location, opening in The Shoppes at Hwy. 150 Crossings on Sept. 23, 2020 in remembrance of his nephew. Their new space is more than double the size of the previous one, which will allow them to serve nearly 200 guests when they are able to stop social distancing tables. They can also accommodate several large parties at the same time, along with buses, and after renting for 16 years, now Kash owns the whole shopping center where it was built.
In addition to the atmosphere being reminiscent of the Big Easy, guests can enjoy live music several times a week, the indoor/outdoor bar, a large projector for special events and games, Mardi Gras specials and, of course, authentic dishes.
Jubilee Joe’s has become known for its boiled crawfish, chargrilled oysters and gumbo—which has won best gumbo in Birmingham four years in a row. You’ll also find fried crawfish tails, gator bites, grouper, crab cakes, pastas, po’boys, salads and a variety of seafood platters on the menu. To top off those straight-from-the-coast meals, they also serve homemade desserts like key lime pie, bread pudding, banana cream cheese pudding, cheesecake and a brownie with ice cream.
Jubilee Joe’s might have evolved in its identity during almost two decades, but today it’s certainly as resilient and full of life as the city that inspires it day by day.
Jubilee Joe’s is located at 5190 Medford Drive in Hoover. They are open Tuesday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, visit jubileejoes.com.
What started as a crawfish boil to thank customers in the Jubilee Joe’s parking lot has now grown into a multi-day Crawfish Fest. This April will be the third year for the festival-style event, which will include food, drinks, live music and a celebration the whole community can enjoy.
This event has brought in names like Sister Hazel, Everclear and Tonic in the past and will feature five types of bands this year, ranging from country to zydeco. There will be a different band each day. “If you only want to listen to country music, come that day,” Kash says. “We’ll have good music all week long.”
The Crawfish Fest will be held at their restaurant April 19-24 and benefit Destination Hoover International (DHI).