I’ve been ill for at least two weeks, cooped up at home. The symptoms have begun to ease up, and so I had the itch to try a place I normally couldn’t get to. John Bickford and Malika Harricharan have both been to Henry’s Louisiana Grill and thought highly of this eatery (see reviews here and here). I grew up partly in Louisiana. Some of my youth and almost all of my teens years were spent there, and there are few things I like as much as a simple crawfish étouffeé. So, time to crawl for some Louisiana food, and check out Henry’s.
To note, in Louisiana, places like Baton Rouge and New Orleans are not really Cajun country. New Orleans is Creole land, the place where Cajun and European and African influences mixed and created a sophisticated urban cuisine. Cajun country is more out in the swamps, in places with names like Breaux Bridge, but largely south of I-10, east of Lake Charles, and west of the Mississippi River. It’s a rural cuisine, simpler and more “whole pig” honest. It’s also rich and spicy, and although rich foods do not scare Atlantans, spicy foods do. To my tastes, about half of the restaurants in Atlanta that call themselves Creole or Cajun are whole “I can’t talk about them because they’re so bad” busts, largely over inadequate spicing.
It’s a bit of a drive to get to Henry’s. Head north on I-75 about 15 miles past the intersection of 75 and 285. Exit the interstate you get to exit 277. At the intersection, head left. Stick on this road until you reach Main Street. Turn right. Eventually, you’ll see what looks like a renovated strip of buildings on the left, and Henry’s will be among those.
Ambience – It’s one thing to buy Mardi Gras masks and party beads to decorate a place. It’s yet another to know enough of the history of Louisiana sports to understand Billy Cannon’s place in college football. One of his jerseys is there, along with newspaper articles of the LSU Sugar Bowl win over Oklahoma. And yes, there are posters and New Orleans memorabilia, and some nice jazz that flows from all the speakers. Waiters dress in black tops and pants, sometimes with white undershirts. I think they look elegant, myself. I see a lot of tag team waiter work. About three people helped me at my table at one time or another, from the bartender on down.
On the tables there are plenty of hot sauces, at least two from New Iberia, the hot sauce capital of Louisiana.
Bread and cornbread – Cornbread to be preferred. There is a hint of spice in their yellow cornbread, enough that I asked for a refill.
Red Beans and Rice – Spot on for the most part. Sausage used compliments the beans, decent spicing. I can understand why, after letting this sit on my tongue, why John Bickford comes back to this dish again and again.
Gumbo – Not sure I actually had the gumbo, as there really was no liquid to speak of and no okra either. A lot of rice, chicken, and sausage and perhaps some beans. But the flavor wasn’t the same as the red beans and rice. A good dish, but not a gumbo as I know and remember gumbos.
Creole – Best of the appetizers, a nice tomato flavor, good tasting shrimp and decent spicing. This probably would be an entrée choice for me next time.
Étouffeé – A hole in the spicing, somehow. Lacked a certain richness. It could be the seasoning, it could be a lack of crawfish fat, but in part was surely a lack of coordinated heat. In this kind of cooking, you really want a cornucopia of peppers in the dish, and not too much of any one of them. Heat should flow over the tongue from the back of the mouth to the tip, and there should be a lingering aftertaste, more black pepper sizzle than cayenne fire. You can get that if you spice the dish yourself, but that isn’t the point when you go to a Louisiana themed restaurant. I did a brief review of spicing a Cajun dish. This dish isn’t a fail but neither is it a success.
Bread Pudding – Some sweetness and hints of cinnamon, raisins used to good effect, a dish that was quite tasty and one I usually dislike.
Overall, this is a place with hits and misses. I wish I had read Malika’s review more thoroughly, as the Ooh La La appears to be Henry’s signature dish. It just doesn’t sound Creole or Cajun to me, even if it’s good, and the lack of heat puts it outside of my largest interests. Nevertheless, this place has more hits than misses and with a little more courage in their spicing, they could become a lot more consistent. Consequently, I recommend the place.
Henry’s Louisiana Grill
4835 North Main Street, Suite 100
Acworth, GA 30101