Pappadeaux, for me, has always been a surprising restaurant. I spent my teens in Louisiana, and my father lives there to this day. I was in Houston during the 1980s, during the formative years of the Pappas family’s growth, and other than the fondness my major professor had for their establishments, I don’t recall a thing about them from those years. Perhaps the joys of Ninfas and access to real delis at the time (delis were novelties for those of us new to cities) overshadowed what the Pappas family was doing. Perhaps it was that finding decent Cajun in Houston just was not that big a deal. Spicy food was easy to find, if not in Houston, then surely in Galveston or Kemah, where the newly arrived Vietnamese guaranteed easy access to lots of freshly harvested shrimp. Seafood was available, spicy, and cheap.
So fast forward to the late 1990s and not only is Pappadeaux in Atlanta, it’s in town with a kind of popularity reserved for Internet millionaires and pop stars. The first time I tried to get into the Norcross location, it took 45 minutes to just get to the bar. And what’s also amazing – because I didn’t see this coming either – is that the food was actually good, compared to most things that pretended to be Cajun in Atlanta. And I’m not sure which surprises most, that a Greek family from Houston can so dominate the Atlanta Cajun scene, or that so many Atlanta restaurants would rather commit ritual seppuku than spice their food appropriately.
I’ve had my share of bad Cajun dishes recently, and I’m still trying to get that taste out of my mouth. So a trip to Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen was in order:
By the time we park, there are two free slots in the parking lot and I’m going, “OMG, we’re going to have to wait an hour.” But the receptionist just smiled and assigned us table #94. So we go weaving through the thick crowd and get seated in a nice but dimly lit part of the restaurant (I apologize for the dimness of my photos). We had plenty of space where we sat, but it seemed cramped at times, with all the staff moving about. But pretty soon we had drinks, and we had also ordered appetizers.
For appetizers we selected red beans and rice, Pappadeaux’s crispy fried alligator, and a bowl of their seafood and andouille gumbo. All were really good. Now my daughter loves shocking her peers with the meats she’s eaten, so she pretty much finished off the alligator by herself. The red beans and rice had chunks of sausage in it, and some spice, that built nicely as you ate. The seafood gumbo had more things in it than I can remember, but shrimp and sausage and oysters and fragments of fish do come to mind. It’s one of the richest bowls of gumbo I’ve had in this city, though the flavor and spicing is a hair behind Benny’s excellent gumbo.
For entrees my daughter ordered the pasta mardi gras and my wife and I ordered crawfish etouffee.
Both dishes were excellent. I’ve had chefs in the city tell me that Pappadeaux’s dirty rice is good, and yes, that went over well too. The only gotcha was both wife and daughter filled up so much on appetizers that we took, to a first approximation, two whole plates of food home.
Service, if I haven’t said, was top notch. I loved our server this day.
Verdict: Huge restaurant (> 150 tables) that serves up reliable Cajun dishes in really large quantities. Great Service. Highly recommended.
Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen
5635 Jimmy Carter Blvd
Norcross, GA 30071
Other locations include:
10795 Davis Drive
Alpharetta, GA 30004
2830 Windy Hill Road
Marietta, GA 30067