GOMBO aims to bring Creole, Cajun classics to Northampton

April 25, 2023 | Ryan Feyre
rfeyre@thereminder.com

Veteran chef John Piskor is opening a restaurant serving Cajun and Creole classics this spring in downtown Northampton
Reminder Publishing submitted photo

NORTHAMPTON — A new restaurant serving Cajun and Creole classics is on the cusp of opening in downtown Northampton on 159 Main St.

GOMBO Nola Kitchen & Oyster Bar is set to open either at the end of April or early May in the former Wine Witch location with Chef John Piskor at the helm.
In an interview with Reminder Publishing at the restaurant, Piskor said he was first exposed to Cajun and Creole cuisine in his early 20s when he was the executive chef for five years at Chef Wayne’s Big Mamou in Williamsburg — which was helmed by the legendary Wayne Hooker.

Since then, Piskor has been all over the restaurant industry. He has served as a food & beverage director, ran Garnish Catering, which had a food operation at the World War II Club in Northampton, and worked for the Pioneer Valley Hotel Group at LaQuinta and the Hadley Farms Meeting House. More recently, he ran JP’s Steakhouse at the former Opa Opa location in Southampton.

With the hope that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is behind us, the longtime chef is looking to bring “the fun” back into the restaurant business by having a full circle moment with the opening of GOMBO.

“My idea was to just go back to that fun, light, causal restaurant experience,” Piskor said. “I think that after COVID-19, we need an outlet … the reality is a lot of people choose where they spend their money, and a lot of people want to go out again on a Friday night to a buzzing restaurant, to have a good time and eat good food.”

Piskor said he admires the Cajun and Creole cuisine because of its good mixture of qualities. It is a casual cuisine but there is a lot of personality to the food, which is highlighted through its melting pot of inspirations and cultures — including French, Spanish, African and more.

“It’s very unique,” Piskor said. “I kind of just fell in love with it.”

When designing the concept of the restaurant, Piskor said he wanted to avoid stereotyping the Cajun and Creole culture, so he made sure to capture the spirit and ambiance of a similar place you would find on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, which is where Piskor visited to experience the vibe in the south and build on his experience while working with Chef Wayne.

“I want the food to represent that area when you walk inside the restaurant,” Piskor said, of his restaurant. “That’s about creating that diner experience for the public that maybe they’ve been missing.”

As far as the menu goes, Piskor said they will incorporate five or six different oysters, chicken etouffee, seafood jambalaya, gumbo, boule, a voodoo black and shrimp creole, as well as some more esoteric dishes on the menu like bananas foster for dessert, or blackened ribeye with crawfish jambalaya on top.

The restaurant will also incorporate a brunch menu with classic items like chicken and waffles, crab cakes eggs benedict, sweet potato hash and more.
“Sunday is going to be a thing here,” Piskor said. “We want to get known for that.”

When it comes to entertainment, Piskor said he hopes to incorporate Northampton’s lively artistic scene into his restaurant by emulating a famous jazz club on Bourbon Street in New Orleans.

“I hope to do the same concept, where the kitchen is closed, it’s nine o’clock on a Saturday night, and people just come out and order a drink and listen to jazz,” Piskor said. “We just want to get that vibe going.”

Piskor also wants to incorporate more artwork in his restaurant from local artists in the area and bring a similar vibrancy to a place like Jackson Square in New Orleans. “You can feel it down there, the culture, the art, the music, and the food, and how it all ties together,” Piskor said, of New Orleans. “We want this to be a similar place where the community can come in and have a really good time.”

The restaurant’s hours will be Wednesday and Thursday from 4-9 p.m., and then Friday and Saturday 4-10 p.m. The restaurant will be open for brunch on Sundays.

Readers can follow updates on the restaurant by visiting its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100090362465873.

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