It’s not much to look at from the outside. In fact, if I hadn’t already heard about this place from other people, I might not have ventured inside.
Cajun Cafe on the Bayou is located on Park right next door to the Wagon Wheel Flea Market. It’s set back off the road in a shack on a bit of water (the “bayou”) with lots of outdoor seating. Walk inside, and you feel like you’ve stepped into a small Louisiana town. It’s rustic, with Mardi Gras beads everywhere and the distinctive smell of Cajun food.
I ordered a cup of the Gumbo ($5.50) and 2 Boudin Sausages ($8.95). They have a selection of boudin flown in from Poche’s in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, including alligator, chaurice (their spelling), duck and chicken, pork and crawfish. The Pork Boudin is the classic one, so I had to try it. This link is a mixture of pork and pork liver, with cajun spices and rice in a natural casing. I also ordered the Crawfish Boudin, basically the same blend of spices with crawfish meat and rice.
The Gumbo was exactly what one would expect, although a little thinner than I’ve had in the Bayou. Smoky, sliced sausage with tender chicken simmered in the trinity (green pepper, onion and celery) with Cajun spices and rice, served steaming hot.
About this time I started noticing all the signs scattered throughout the restaurant. At our table was a sign telling us to turn off our cell phones. On the menu was another notice about how children should behave in their establishment. So far, the food was pretty good but it’s not Bern’s or anything. I wasn’t really getting the point of all the signs. (I’m not big on authority figures.)
The Boudin came and I couldn’t wait to try it. It’s supposed to be the real deal. I honestly thought I would like the crawfish better than the pork, but no. The crawfish was tasty with all the spices and rice, but it did not approach the complex earthy flavor of pork and pork liver with just the right amount of peppery heat in that natural hog casing. I’m not usually much of a sausage eater, but I ate the whole thing.
I ventured to the ladies room only to find more signs. A sign telling ladies not to hover and another sign telling us not to bunch up the paper towels by trying to extract them too quickly from the dispenser. At this point, I had to laugh just because of the attitude. It’s just one of the quirky things about this place and was becoming sort of endearing; kind of like when your mom tells you to clean your room.
My dining companion ordered the Shrimp Po’ Boy ($10.95) and my son got the Popcorn Crawfish ($9.25). On our visit, the bread for the Po’ Boy was not the French roll shown in the picture. It was thinner slices (about an inch thick) and because it wasn’t a roll, the shrimp kept falling out, so that was a little frustrating for him. I tried a few of the displaced shrimp. The breading was a burst of Cajun flavor and the shrimp were of excellent quality. The crawfish tails (Popcorn Crawfish) were also good, but a little smaller in size than we have had in Louisiana. I also thought the portion was a bit on the light side for the price. (Maybe I should have left a sign about that.)
All in all, it was wonderful to go to a place with authentic Cajun and I wished the whole time that we could try more things on the menu. Etouffee, Shrimp Creole, Jambalaya and other dishes await. I’ll be heading back there, signs and all.
Elizabeth Dougherty has been a food writer for over 10 years, attended culinary school and holds a Bachelor’s degree, Magna Cum Laude in Hospitality, Business and Labor Relations from NYIT. She has been a talk show host of nearly 150 episodes of Food Nation Radio which airs each Saturday morning at 6 on AM1010 CBS and other stations. You can read her articles and hear previous shows on her podcast page at http://elizabethdougherty.com