Friday, April 22, 2011

Better Creole Food

Big Easy Cafe
5170 Randolph Boulevard
   (road construction locally makes Randolph one-way northbound)

N.B.: I'm told this restaurant has relocated to a spot near Loop 410 and Walzem Road. Haven't checked that out yet. 8/8/12

After my disappointing excursion to the Southside a couple of weeks ago, in search of good N'Awlinz-style cooking, I decided to try this Northeast-side outpost of creole after reading a few mixed comments about it on Urbanspoon. Big Easy is the creation of a family of Katrina refugees who found San Antonio a better place to be than New Orleans Post Katrina. And who can blame them.

I went with a friend who was off from work because it's Good Friday. I guess a lot of people were off work, because there was almost no traffic on the drive over. Construction has Randolph Boulevard down to one lane right now, but luckily it was going in the right direction for us; the return to the freeway afterwards involved a short detour up to Weidner Road.

Neither of us is Catholic, so we had no problem ordering the red beans and rice with sausage and a link of andouille, which came with salad. Next time, though, I'll know to let him order first, so I can sample something different. After I placed my order, his instruction to the waitress was, "I'll have the same thing." Anathema to a foodie.

The salad was good: a mixed green salad out of a bag, I reckon, reasonably fresh and livened up with a sprinkle of fancy-shredded cheeses and a little seasoning that gave it a more special taste. It was served in clam-shaped white bowls that seemed — I don't know why — in keeping with the New Orleans theme, but were unsteady on the table; a problem I've noted at other restaurants as well. I don't know about most people, but I very much dislike having to hold a salad bowl down with one hand, to keep it from dumping its contents onto the table or my lap.

The red beans and rice were thoroughly authentic New Orleans, right down to the excessive salt. It was well-cooked, but not overcooked. The cooking liquids seemed a trifle thin to me; I prefer that rich, dark water that beans and sausage produce; this seemed more like the water the rice was boiled in. Still, it had the flavour I expect of red beans and rice, and the quality of sausage was excellent. The same sausage was served in a split link over top, and it was genuine andouille, with all the flavour that entails.

Last city inspection: May 2010
28 demerits
The dish went down perfectly with a big glass of swamp water, and when time came for dessert, I was primed by yesterday's enticements at another local eatery, where I nearly dislocated my shoulder from patting myself on the back, having resisted temptation. My will-power can only do so much. And so I succumbed to the offer of bread pudding with what the waitress called rum sauce, but which clearly was a far, far better concoction than that: a sugary burnished pecan praline sauce. I would have thought it could not be gotten outside of New Orleans East, the only place where I've ever had it before. Even the bread pudding without the sauce was delicious, firm but not dry, satisfying in every way.

Big Easy Cafe on Urbanspoon

(Just for the sake of comparison, I ordered red beans and rice at the City Diner in New Orleans a few days later. See my review of that restaurant on The Other Curmudgeon.)


  1. AnonymousMay 10, 2011

    City Diner's not in New Orleans, its in Metarie

  2. A distinction without a difference, in this context.

    I admit to occasionally engaging in hypertechnical precision myself, but in this case I use the geographical designation of "New Orleans" in the metropolitan sense. It would be pointless to insist on exactitude here, as few people, when searching out a restaurant, will see the need to honour political distinctions between a city and its suburbs. I know I'd get frustrated if restaurants in Alamo Heights were not listed with San Antonio restaurants.

    But, yes, City Diner is in Metairie, the unincorporated area on the East Bank in Jefferson Parish.


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