A Locals Favorite
Loco Jo’s serves up fun and unique fare
BY: REBECCA JONES
Yin Yang, is the philosophy that everything in the universe flows with opposing but complementary forces to create a harmonious balance; welcome to Loco Jo’s Bar & Grill in Southport: keeping traditions yet innovative, playful yet serious about great food and service.
Loco Jo’s yin yang approach comes naturally with husband and wife, Brian and Joann Kimball. “Brian is the business side, to my creative side,” says Joann, “He balances my ‘crazy -creative side’ out,” she laughs. And she means it in a good way; the restaurant is named after her and a play on words: “Loco”, genial slang from the Spanish word for “crazy”; also ‘loco’ as a shortened version of ‘lo- cals’; and the ‘Jo’, short for Joann.
The name captures the personality of Loco Jo’s. Loco Jo’s has a fun, casual at- mosphere, with bright walls, covered with photos of fishing, boats, sun and surf; cozy seating, a unique menu, a reclaimed wood bar that runs the length and host to a wide selection of micro brews; a couple outdoor tables, where one can dine with a four legged companion and a friendly staff- where you get the impression that “ev- eryone knows your name”- but you don’t have to be a local to feel like one.
Brian and Joann both have roots in Southport. They have been together
since 1990. The couple found themselves, like many, when the market crashed, wondering what to do next-Brian was in the building business, and it was time for a change. “When the market went south- we went south – to Key West,” says Joann. While there, “we spent time in the local hangouts. Some were little hole-in-the-walls with really good food and not super expensive and decided: that’s what we wanted to do,” Joann explains enthusiastically about their ‘aha moment’- “we wanted a small place -where the locals hang out- where you could serve good food in baskets!”
They brought the idea back home to Southport, finding a cozy end-spot in the Purveyors Building on Howe Street. They balanced their talents and used Brian’s building knowledge on the business side and relied on Joann’s previous restaurant knowledge. Joann grew up in the business, working in her Mom ‘s restaurant, Y’s Cafe, “an Asian restaurant serving fried rice and burgers”, says Joann, a fixture in Southport from 1986-1999, and remembered fondly by many.
Joann has brought the Vietnamese background in food to the Loco Jo’s menu. The menu features the “Asian Persuasion”, choices like the Thict Noung: seasoned grilled pork over steamed rice with sliced cu- cumbers and tomatoes with a Vietnamese dipping sauce, ‘Nuoc Mam’. On this day, the special was Mekong Snapper, named after the Mekong River that runs between Vietnam and Thailand, a traditional Vietnamese meal of whole, head and tail, fried local red snapper in a Thai chili sauce reduction with Asian vegetables- top it all off with a cold bottle of Vietnamese beer, 33 Export, and the dish is complete! Joann incorporates some of her Mom’s tried and true recipes from Y’s Cafe, her sister, Kim’s, spicy chicken is a feature as are her Mom’s infamous egg rolls with the special homemade mustard sauce. “Kim comes in to roll them by hand,” says Joann. It’s a special nostalgic treat for locals that remember Y’s and a favorite for new customers.
The menu also features starters, like fried green beans and buffalo shrimp bites; salads, sandwiches and wraps, like the Loco Burger topped with mushrooms, onions and Swiss- try it with one of the micro beers, Railhouse Brewing Company or Double Barley are two-both from North Carolina, on tap. The Loco Jo’s “Favorites” include the number one selling baja-style fish tacos served with tortilla chips and salsa. Loco Jo’s also features what Joann calls, ‘Blackboard Specials’ that change daily – one to watch for: the Bohemian Conch Ceviche offered during the summer months it’s “phenomenal!” exclaims Joann.
Loco Jo’s quickly earned it’s reputation as being a local’s favorite the first day the doors opened for business on Christmas Day 2008. Brian and Joann explain the Holiday date: locals had been checking the progress of the restaurant, while Brian was working on all the renovations: “’Why don’t you open on Christmas Day?’ they asked- ‘we can come and celebrate’”, and being true to the vision of a fun gathering spot-where the locals hang out-and the good food is served in baskets- that’s what they did-creating a loyal following.
Loco Jo’s is open Monday thru Saturday 11am-9pm and continues the tradition of being open on Christmas Day. They are located at 602 N. Howe Street in Southport, They can be reached at: 910-457-9009 and found on Facebook at Loco Jo’s.