Creole/Cajun


Claude’s off the Bayou is housed in a modest brick and siding building just to the side of Highway 78, and serves both barbecue and some simpler Cajun dishes. It’s an intriguing combination, but for bloggers, represents something of a challenge. It’s just about impossible to make a judgement on barbecue and Cajun in one trip, and for now, that’s all I have.

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crawfish tails with fried green tomatoes, foreground, and alligator bites with fries, background.

Crawfish tails with fried green tomatoes, foreground, and alligator bites with fries, background.

The short take home is that you can’t go wrong with any of Claude’s fried platters. The alligator bites are good. Crawfish tails are tasty and have a hint of spice to them. Hugh puppies are decent. I wasn’t fond of Claude’s gumbo, lacking spice, but overall this restaurant can be ranked into the pretty good to good category. About half of all restaurants that claim Cajun/Creole roots in Atlanta will never be written about on this blog. They’re not good enough. And Claude’s is good enough to talk about.

There are bits of bark in that mustard sauce drenched meat.

There are bits of bark in that mustard sauce drenched meat.

Claude's smoker: do they use it to its potential?

Claude’s smoker: do they use it to its potential?

In terms of their barbecue, based on a single pulled pork sandwich, I can say they like their product to be fall off the bone tender and to allow the sauce to carry flavor. But clearly there are dark spots in that light brown meat, and hints of smoke flavor. Further, there is a smoker in the back of the restaurant. So without knowing any more, I’d have to say Claude’s has some tantalizing hints of being able to provide a smoked meat product. But whether they do, and on any kind of consistent basis, would have to be determined on further visits.

Claude’s Off the Bayou
2200 Commerce Drive
Loganville, GA 30052
(770) 466-8889

Claude's Off The Bayou on Urbanspoon

Scott Serpas is one of the name chefs of this city, and his restaurant has certainly been on my wish list for a long time. This Sunday I finally made time to visit. I took my family, and we were all pretty happy we showed.

It’s a roomier restaurant than I expected. It isn’t cramped, the tables have plenty of space. The restaurant has a long bar that occupies maybe a fifth of the total space, never entirely straight, bent at angles. Tables and walls are finished in natural wood. It’s a nice look, clean and modern. Staff are dressed in brown, with aprons, and staff were excellent this day. There is complimentary valet parking if you eat at Serpas. The valets were a pleasure to deal with.

Beignets (excellent).

Beignets (excellent).

Oyster appetizer.

Oyster appetizer.

Bread Basket, with a scoen and some cornbread peeking out.

Bread Basket, with a scoen and some cornbread peeking out.

Food: we enjoyed it. Everything was good. We may have enjoyed appetizers most of all, with a good bread basket, good fried oysters, and beignets that left the table arguing about whether they had better in Breaux Bridge or not. My wife ordered pancakes, as she’s recovering from oral issues, and my daughter ordered fried oysters eggs benedict. I ordered the creole omelet.

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Eggs benedict or eggs florentine?

Eggs benedict or eggs florentine?

There was little to regret with the entrees. Yes, I wish I had a bit more andouille in my omelet, and my daughter complained of sour flavors in her eggs benedict (or are those eggs florentine, really). But overall the experience was excellent, the feeling was the food suggested an understated expertise in preparation.

Serpas Restaurant
659 Auburn Avenue #501
Atlanta, GA 30312
(404) 688-0040

Serpas True Food on Urbanspoon

It started when my wife and I decided we wanted to take a look at Rice University, and the little chapel where we were married back in 1983. It’s been 29 years and some change so far, and by December 17 on 2013 we’ll have been married 30 years. So we drove out of northwest Louisiana, where we go for Christmas, and where my dad stays, and headed south. We used a GPS, as I wasn’t familiar with the roads. Highway 59, which forms most of the path south, is a lot wider and a better road than the one I remembered. It’s also a faster trip, closer to 4 hours than the 5 to 5 and a half I used to remember.

Once we toured the University, we looked in the “Village” district for landmarks we remembered. Almost none remain from my time in Houston, but this one immediately caught our eye.

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Kahn’s deli, in its first incarnation, appeared in the 1980s, with Mike Kahn as its owner. The new owners (version 3) were nice enough to pull out some photos and chat up the past of the restaurant.

The original owner, Mike Kahn.

The original owner, Mike Kahn.

The walls are new, as owner #2 imported the brick from New York City. At this point, the emphasis is to recapture the taste of the original deli, as the folks I spoke to told me they ran every recipe through Mike, to see that it met his standards.

I didn’t eat at Kahn’s when we were there, but I loved it back in the day. It’s one of the few holdovers in the Village from older times.

While I chatted up Kahn’s, my wife and daughter found this place and bought plenty of sweets.

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Afterwards, I couldn’t talk my family into Kahn’s, but another old time restaurant did gain their approval. Goode Company Barbecue was ranked as perhaps the best Houston BBQ back in the 1980s. With barbecue culture growing, and the ever growing emphasis on smoked meats, barbecue gurus such as Full Custom Gospel Barbecue* no longer rate it as Houston’s best, but certainly good, and further, accessibility and the ease with which they serve food keep it popular (A #1 Urbanspoon ranking in Houston in the barbecue category, as I write this).

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It is an easy place to get into and get out of, even if the parking is limited. We were eating roughly around 4 on a Sunday, so we didn’t have a lot of competition for the few parking spaces in front.

beef brisket, slaw, Goode Company's take on jambalaya.

beef brisket, slaw, Goode Company’s take on jambalaya.

Ribs and turkey. The one rib I tried was excellent.

Ribs and turkey. The one rib I tried was excellent.

We tried Goode Company’s turkey, their brisket, their ribs and their sausage. In our hands the meats were real barbecue, clearly smoked, but at times a little underwhelming. The brisket was a bit disappointing, the ribs were very good, the turkey and sausage satisfied our eaters. If Goode Company were to be pulled out of Houston and dropped into Atlanta, I don’t think it would rank up with smokehouses like Fox Brothers, or Heirloom BBQ, or say Big Shanty Smokehouse. It would be in the second tier of barbecue restaurants, a bit like Spiced Right, owner #2, on a good day.

So, after Goode Company we went on to the House of Pies. Despite what others might think, this place is about the pies and only about the pies.

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This is a long time favorite midnight and later eatery. The exotic crowds you would see at this place around 2am made it something of a legend in these parts. A good portion of the late nighters were people from the Montrose district (Houston’s equivalent of San Francisco’s Castro Street), which led to some politically incorrect names back in the day.

Somehow, it just seemed tamer. The apple pie, while good, didn’t seem as big as we remembered. I recall an apple pie that was a fist and a half tall in the middle. Is my memory playing tricks on me? perhaps. However, the French Blackbottom was still there, and diabetes or no, I had a bite of this one. The best of the pies may have been the Bayou Goo.

Sodas at House of Pies are huge.

Sodas at House of Pies are huge.

French Blackbottom. In the 1980s, my favorite pie from this eatery.

French Blackbottom. In the 1980s, my favorite pie from this eatery.

The apple pie seemed so modest. Were our memories playing tricks on us?

The apple pie seemed so modest. Were our memories playing tricks on us?

Favorite pie this day was the "Bayou goo".

Favorite pie this day was the “Bayou Goo”.

After, my wife threw out a shocker, and said we should start driving east right then. And after nearly being killed by a road rage special just outside of Beaumont (someone passing on the right on an Interstate when my car was on the right), we stopped outside of Lafayette, and in the morning, had breakfast at Cafe des Amis in Breaux Bridge LA.

The meal went over well. It started with beignets.

Wife and daughter loved the beignets.

Wife and daughter loved the beignets.

The mix of eggs and etouffee in the “Eggs des Amis” was something my wife could really get into, and I was appreciative of the mix their “Bit Hat” provided. This was easily our best meal of the trip, and my wife hugged our waitress by the time we left.

Eggs des Amis. Etouffee is peeking out from under the eggs.

Eggs des Amis. Etouffee is peeking out from under the eggs.

Big hat (omelette and etouffee) with some andouille grits.

Big hat (omelette and etouffee) with some andouille grits.

After that, New Orleans.

Seen on the  way to  New Orleans. Wine by the glass?

Seen on the way to New Orleans. Wine by the glass?

The problem was, we had to get in, eat, and get out fast. And in what was perhaps a mistake, we chose Parkway Bakery and Tavern. It was a mistake in part because the path the GPS took us through looked at times like alleys in a miniature Italy. I feared for the safety of our tires. It was a mistake, in part, because we arrived in the middle of a Carolina – New Orleans football game, and the crowd at the eatery to watch football was huge.

Side of the eatery, showing a lot of the outdoor seating.

Side of the eatery, showing a lot of the outdoor seating. It’s hard to see, but the body of an old Ford, probably a Model A, is covered in plastic behind the fence.

A football game was on and the crowd was substantial.

A football game was on and the crowd was substantial.

A plaque on the wall  (see also this link; dates on link and plaque are slightly different) told the story of the eatery. Opened in 1922 as a bakery, it became a sandwich shop in 1932 and has been rebuilt at least once. The meal, once the wait was over, was good. Crusty bread, but softer than what you might get at Paneras (soft bread is actually an old fad, started among the rich). Old fashioned and yet satisfying.

Thre sandwiches, fries, banana pudding. Yes, the pudding was really good.

Thre sandwiches, fries, banana pudding. Yes, the pudding was really good.

Beef, with gravy,

Beef, with gravy,

Sausage po boy.

Sausage po boy.

Any eating past this point were mere snacks, and frankly, couldn’t compare to the drive. But, oh what a drive it was!

Kahn’s Deli
2429 Rice Blvd
Houston, TX 77005
(713) 529-2891

Kahn's Deli on Urbanspoon

Goode Company Barbecue
5109 Kirby Dr
Houston, TX 77098
(713) 522-2530

Goode Company Barbeque on Urbanspoon

House of Pies
3112 Kirby Dr
Houston, TX 77098
(713) 528-3816

House of Pies on Urbanspoon

Cafe Des Amis
140 East Bridge Street
Breaux Bridge, LA, 70517
(337) 332-5273

Cafe Des Amis on Urbanspoon

Parkway Bakery and Tavern
538 Hagan Ave
New Orleans, LA 70119
(504) 482-3047

Parkway Bakery & Tavern on Urbanspoon

~~~
*The author of the FCG Barbecue blog is the fella accompanying Tony Bourdain to barbecue joints in the Austin episode of No Reservations.

On point gumbo. Po boys, enormous and good. These are just two of the reasons to go to Boudreaux’s Cafe Acadiana in Duluth. Reasons not to go? Well, I found out I’m addicted to crawfish fat, and a shrimp étouffée, as opposed to a crawfish étouffée, doesn’t quite do it for me. That said, the one cuisine that I eat at and refuse to blog most is Cajun. There are a plethora of Cajun/Creole/New Orleans restaurants in Atlanta that do nothing but butcher the cuisine. Boudreaux’s is not one of them.

The gumbo has the best flavor I’ve tasted in an Atlanta gumbo since Benny’s Bar and Grill was active in my neighborhood. I wasn’t thrilled with the amount of filler compared to meat, but I’d drive half way across town for a broth this good. Highlights are the hit of the roux, the complexity of the pepper blend, flavors driven by black pepper aromatics as opposed to too heavy a hand on the red.

My daughter had the alligator po-boy and it was fantastic. Fried just right, and huge, we took half the sandwich home. This restaurant has a all you can eat catfish night on Thursdays, and it makes me look forward to trying one of those, sometime.

Shrimp étouffée? All I can say is it doesn’t have the flavor highlights of the crawfish kind. It’s probably the crawfish fat that’s doing it to me. What I ate was good enough, but not that heavenly bliss I get from fresh crawfish, properly spiced, in a superb roux.

Boudreaux’s evidently boils crawfish on weekends when they are in season. Check out their website for more details.

Boudreaux’s Cafe Acadiana
2750 Buford Hwy NW
Duluth, GA 30096
(770) 814-8388

Bourdreaux's Cafe Acadiana on Urbanspoon

Two interesting reviews, with perhaps different opinions of the restaurant, are here and here.

It’s a modest restaurant in a strip mall at the corner of Texas Street and Benton Road, and one that has steadily acquired a substantial reputation. The owners of Kim’s appear to be Vietnamese who came from New Orleans as a product of the Katrina disaster. The culinary basis of this restaurant is founded on two solid traditions.

You want napkins? Kim's has napkins.

Kim’s is a classic strip mall hole in the wall. You order at a countertop before you sit. The menu is a whiteboard above the cash register. Napkins are a roll of paper, that you can tear off at will. Chairs are made of hollow metal.

The po boy featured good bread, and small dry spicy crawfish. The gumbo was disappointing. Too much rice and not enough meat and broth.

I honestly made a mistake when I came here. I ordered the crawfish po’ boy, which while good, just didn’t wow me. A lot more happy, almost buried in their food, were the folks who had ordered boiled crawfish. People were ordering and eating those by the buckets. To note, there are also boiled crawfish places in Atlanta (Crawfish Shack and New Orleans Seafood) run by Vietnamese who learned Cajun cooking along the coast, and the crawdads at Kim’s seemed a little pricey to me. I can get them for about $3.00 a dozen cheaper in the ATL. Note: The owner Duc thinks my pricing is the product of a mistaken memory, and he notes that as of March 2012, his crawfish price is 4.49 a pound.

That said, I don’t know Kim’s costs, the volume they serve, the quality of the fish. I didn’t get to those. The po boy had plenty of tasty crawfish (though small) and was a fair serving of food. The gumbo was almost pure rice, wasn’t particularly impressive, and I wouldn’t order it again if I ever went back.

Boiled crawfish are the king here. The po boys are just decent.

Kim’s Seafood
901 Benton Road, Suite E
Bossier City, LA 71111
(318) 752-2425

Kim's Seafood on Urbanspoon

It’s one thing to have a good, easy to access bar and grill alongside an Interstate. It’s yet another to have one with local ownership, an original menu, and above average food. That’s what Clinton MS has, just off exit 36 on I-20, in the Froghead Grill. Yes, you can find bar staples such as burger and quesadillas here, but it’s the Cajun touches that stand out to me. The gumbo? One of the better I’ve had. There was no need to add any spice to that mix of sausage and crawfish. The burgers are oversized and juicy. The burger choices in general are creative (they have a version of SpongeBob’s Crabby Patty), and feature interesting bread on the bun.

Good gumbos are hard to find, and this is a good one.

If you’re a foodie, and tired of the chain scene, this is a stop on the way to Louisiana or Texas to mark down and find time to enjoy. I did. It was well worth it.

Froghead Grill
121 Clinton Center Drive
Clinton, MS 39056
(601) 924-0725

Froghead Grill on Urbanspoon

Many years ago I met and befriended a guy named Wayne Comeaux, and he was from the city of Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. I heard plenty about Breaux Bridge’s crawfish festival, and when I recently visited home to attend a high school reunion, on the way back I decided to give the memory of Wayne the homage it deserved and find an eatery in Breaux Bridge and try  it out. It was about 3 hours out of my way, but I thought it would be a worthwhile detour.

Breaux Bridge is about 6 miles or so east of the I-49/I-10 intersection, and its historic district is less than 2 miles off the interstate. It makes this small community very  inviting for a  traveler, and historic Breaux Bridge itself is an eyeful.

I arrived on a Sunday around 10:30am, and so was ordering from Cafe Des Amis’s Sunday brunch menu. A lot of the items were starchy and  I was alone, so I had to avoid personal favorites for those items I could safely eat. I had a cup of their chicken and sausage gumbo, and what they called their marinated seafood salad.

The cup of gumbo was small (a bowl was available for 5 dollars extra), but flavorful, and not especially hot. I’d say that was also true of the salad as well, being more sneak-up-on-you hot than anything else. I’m still not quite sure of the  salad’s “vinaigrette”. Perhaps it’s me, but I don’t associate that orange shade with any kind of vinaigrette. Nonetheless, I enjoyed  the flavor of the dish, bits of seafood sparkling like jewels between the sauce and chunks of cheese.

The building itself is very pretty upon entry. Walls are largely brick, with plenty of wood and also some aluminum siding towards the front. It looks old, it feels old, but the walls are also decorated in art – abstracts when I was there, along with some religious iconography near the bar. There was seating equivalent to about 15 to 20 or so tables for 4, though some tables were scooted together so large parties could eat. There is a lot of graffiti on the walls, and a sign to please not add to it, unless you were one of the artists that contributed to the walls in one fashion or another.

Service was friendly and excellent. The experience was pleasing. I’m going to have to make this detour at least one more time.

Cafe Des Amis
140 East Bridge Street
Breaux Bridge, LA, 70517
(337) 332-5273

Cafe Des Amis on Urbanspoon

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