The lunch specials at the new Iron Fork are a mouthwatering line-up of what co-owners Tory Cummings and Hershall Bergeron call soul food with a Cajun twist.
A dish of red beans and rice is accompanied by chicken fried chicken, green beans, sweet potato casserole and cornbread. The half-rack of St. Louis-style ribs is slathered in sticky barbecue sauce and served with baked beans and cheese and spaghetti, that version of mac-and-cheese that deploys vermicelli rather than elbow macaroni. And, depending on the day, diners will find dishes like homemade meatloaf, lasagna or fried fish topped with shrimp Alfredo or crawfish etouffée.
It’s all part of a waist-expanding menu that also includes burgers, po-boys and the occasional salad. The flavors here are big, and the cooks behind it, serious about Southern comfort food.
Cummings and his wife, Jackie, and Bergeron and his wife, Kaci, opened the Iron Fork in mid-October in the Beau de Chene shopping center on Perkins Road near Essen Lane.
Cummings acknowledges that the location has been home to several previously shuttered eateries, but says he believes their quick-service concept, which also includes a market area with fresh and smoked meats and prepared foods, will appeal to busy workers in the area’s bustling medical district. The idea, Cummings says, was to create a lunch menu that would get patrons in and out fast, during which time they can also pick up a pan of lasagna, ribeyes to throw on the grill, or some other easy dish to serve for dinner.
“We were thinking about what people want and need right now, and it’s like they’re completely exhausted,” Cummings says. “They don’t have time to go to Albertsons and put together food on a weeknight.”
While the restaurant faces Perkins Road, its entrance is on the side of the complex. Diners place orders at the counter, then grab a fountain drink and a table, or wait for a to-go order.
The market’s refrigerated section includes frozen entrees and side dishes, including Thanksgiving favorites like carrot soufflé, sweet potato casserole and green bean casserole. There are also stuffed jalapeño poppers, stuffed chicken and pork, meat pies, crawfish pies, chicken and dumplings and seafood kickers—morsels of crab, shrimp and crawfish rolled with spices and breadcrumbs into bite-sized balls ready for frying. Smoked ham hocks, smoked whole chickens, boudin and sausage are available, too, making it easy for patrons to pick up a whole meal, or just an element or two to enhance home cooking.
Cummings and Bergeron got to know each other six years ago when Cummings hired Bergeron to cater his son’s birthday party. Also a longtime caterer himself, Cummings wanted a break from cooking that day, so he farmed out the preparation to Bergeron. In short order, the two men became friends and it wasn’t long before they began discussing the idea of opening a restaurant.
“We both love food and we both love people, and you put them together and you got something,” Bergeron says, adding that the concept, which combines plate lunch specials with prepared foods and a Cajun meat market, is unique to the area.
“There’s really nothing else like this around here,” he says. “We hope people will give us a try.”
The restaurant also offers a hot breakfast menu and a Saturday buffet lunch. The dining area and the bar area are both available for private events. The partners say they have applied for a liquor license and hope to open the bar soon.