News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

May 30, 2013

Variety is the spice of life: Will walk for Gumbo

Downtown Cajun restaurant hopes to open at new site Wednesday

TERRE HAUTE — Today will be the last day people can grab a bite to eat at J. Gumbo’s 428 Wabash Ave. location, but customers won’t have to walk far to enjoy a Cajun-style meal once the restaurant reopens down the street in a few days.

J. Gumbo’s is relocating to 665 Wabash Ave. and expects to be open in its new spot next week.

“We are shooting for a Wednesday reopening,” said Jeff Habermel, J. Gumbo’s owner.

The restaurant is moving to the former location of the Blu Katt bar and will fill a vacancy in a section of downtown that has been steadily developing in recent years. It will be the third restaurant in that block.

The business and expansion in the downtown Terre Haute area show commitment and success, said Mic Orman, owner of Mic’s Pics, 667 Wabash Ave. Orman is also going to be a neighbor to the relocated J. Gumbo’s.

“It is nice to know we have an established business [coming to] this area,” Orman said. “It will definitely help the downtown area, and it says something about his (Habermel’s) belief in the area. Expansion can’t hurt anything, and other people may look at his success in the area and decide to expand or move into downtown. Also, his relocation opens up the Fifth Street [and Wabash Avenue] building so another business can move in.”

With J. Gumbo’s change in location, other improvements and innovations are being considered at the restaurant, Habermel said.

The new location will have more room for seating than the old spot, which was limited to 36 chairs, he added. The kitchen area will also be larger than the current one and will help J. Gumbo’s transition into a more of a sit-down restaurant atmosphere, Habermel said.

“Eventually we want to establish a full-sized kitchen to cater to the dinner crowd,” he said. “We want to get the working-crowd people to come back in. There is an opportunity for growth, and that begins with J. Gumbo’s becoming a full-service restaurant.”

Another plan is to develop an L-shaped alcohol bar toward the back of the restaurant.  A J. Gumbo’s location in Louisville, Ky., has a bar that has done very well, Habermel said.

The plans won’t be complete until September or October, he said.

The menu may also undergo changes.  

“We may add a catfish sandwich, oyster Po’ Boys and other entrees,” Habermel said. “By adding new dishes, it’ll give the food a different flavor, but we are still keeping it southern.”

There are also plans to bring live music to the restaurant, he said. For example, a grand piano may make its way to J. Gumbo’s so customers can enjoy a performer as they dine.

All the future plans aside, the focus now is on reopening so people can start coming back in, he added.  

“Overall, this relocation and renovation is scary,” Habermel said. “We are doing great at our current location, and this is like rolling the dice all over again. This project is a lot of hard work, stress and it is frustrating, but hopefully it will pay off.”

Reporter Dustyn Fatheree can be reached 812-231-4260 and


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