Hi there! Looking for Creole/Cajun fare in the heart of Texas? Well you're in luck! This guide has been updated! Please visit A Creole Crawl |Austin's Best Cajun/Creole Fare, 2016 #ATXBestEats City Guide, which will go live March 4th, for all the skinny on the current state of Creole affairs in Austin, and surrounding area.
A Creole Crawl in the Heart of Texas:
C'est Ci Bon!
As a contributor to the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance City Guide, we were happily charged with the task of providing an overview of Cajun and Creole dining in the Austin area. We met the challenge head, or rather mouth-on, and set ourselves out, over the course of several weekdays and weekends, to sample the fare.
Mais, Cher, we were not disappointed!
Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, a member of the Pappas family regional chains, which still serves hundreds a day, competently. I was a single girl, so trips there, even if for a bowl of their delicious Lobster Bisque, alone, were a rare treat, as Pappadeaux was out of my price range, and there was little else of a Louisiana variety that fit the bill. With no other choices, free chips and salsa and two-dollar tacos became a mainstay in my entertainment/food/recreation/anythingextra budget. No gumbo, no oysters, no poboys, no etouffee, no pain perdu, no softshell crab, no crawfish boils. I was one homesick girl, friends.
Mais now, some 15 years later, how things have changed! Austin's grown by leaps and bounds, and luckily for us all, so has Louisiana's presence on the local food scene. Big changes since one nasty girl, Katrina, visited the Gulf Coast, displacing and dispersing some fine creole cooks and budding entrepreneurs who have now encouraged, influenced, and transplanted themselves right into, the thick of things. We are happy to report, now, YES to gumbo, oysters, poboys, etouffee, pain perdu, softshell crab, crawfish boils, and MORE. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and desserts, from budget to elegant dining, North, South, East, West, and Central--you'll find delicious Cajun/Creole fare that meets every meal, budget and craving just around many Austin corners.
Some of our favorites include:
Breakfast and Brunch
Cherrywood Coffee House is serving up Creole breakfast fare, including pain perdu, for weekend brunch, from 10-3, along with an exceptional cup of Joe.
Hoover's Cooking is still one of our favorite spots for a weekend breakfast and his etouffee-smothered grits, fried catfish or chicken over biscuits, never disappoints.
The well-liked Cypress Grill, where the only thing bad about their Cajun Hash and Cypress Eggs Benedict is that I can't have them every day of the week, knows how to do brunch, as well as lunch and dinner, and they do them all quite well.
And a recent visit to the lovely Bee Cave location of Gumbo's, found a new brunch-spot favorite. From our table under a covered patio overlooking the duck pond, we were spoiled with professional, attentive service and a menu that met the desires of egg-lovers and seafood-cravers alike. Favorites included Trout George, pan-fried, topped with sauteed blue crab, over herb beurre blanc, and Eggs Sardou, the poached eggs on artichoke bottoms with creamed spinach and tasso hollandaise, which we've never seen this side of the Sabine River. We finished with a steaming cup of strong Community brand coffee and the off-menu Chocolate Bread Pudding with Hard Sauce for which words do no justice. Ask for it. We didn't eat again for two days.
You ever get thirsty, friends? You know, that kind of thirsty? The thirsty that nothing other than an ice cold Abita Purple Haze can quench? Well join us at the oyster bar over at Quality Seafood. Forego the regular menu, get an ice cold Abita from the case, belly up to the bar, and slurp down a dozen or so of their plump, briny oysters on the half shell, in season. They have some of the finest around.
If you're itching to catch a favorite game, it's a good bet you'll find it on one of the many screens around Shoal Creek Saloon, but be forewarned--Saints' and Tigers' games get first billing and those are the days in which you'll find yourself among a sea of purple, or black, and gold (and that is a very fine thing.) In season, Shoal Creek throws a Cajun-proper crawfish boil on the weekends, but call ahead--dem mudbugs go fast.
|Evangeline Cafe, makes all their dressings in house, serves perfectly-|
prepared Cajun favorites, and features live music, Monday through Saturday.
Big Easy Elegance
While Cajun food is often thought of as highly-spiced, fried fare, there are more delicate and refined dishes embodied by Creole cuisine. Our recent trip to Gumbo's, (with individually-owned locations in Downtown Austin and the original in Round Rock, as well) for brunch, above, reflects that elegance in food, as well as setting, as does the newest offshoot of the Gumbo's legacy (through the former Mama Roux), French Quarter Grille. Esteemed food critic and writer Virgina Wood of the Austin Chronicle recounts two flawless visits, and we can attest--the orange creme brulee is to die for. If you're looking for an upscale experience, true to creole cuisine from start to finish, Gumbo's and French Quarter Grille are excellent options.
Off the Beaten Path
As thousands of weekend bikers will attest, Austin, and the surrounding Hill Country, is a rider's paradise. Winding roads, big skies, and beautiful scenery, are found northwest of the city on Farm to Market 1431 (FM 1431), which travels from Taylor, at its eastern terminus, to Lake Buchanan at its western, and the section on the north shore of Lake Travis, from west of Cedar Park to Marble Falls is especially scenic. When the open air finds you parched and hungry, and close to Jonestown, fate has smiled upon you, friend. Parrain's Louisiana Kitchen is the perfect stop for a cold beer or glass of wine, or two, boudin balls that are rivaled by no other in the area, some hearty grub, and some more refined, too, and on a recent visit, ice-cold oysters on the half shell that were the size of our fist. Almost. Of course getting there by car, while less of an adventure, is perfectly enjoyable, too.
|Quality Seafood: Selling their sole six days a week, since 1938.|
Fresh seafood is the crown jewel of Quality Seafood, above. Fresh and frozen gumbo fixing's include gumbo blue crab, shucked pints and oysters in the shell, and at least one type of shrimp (Call ahead to ensure heads-on, when available) You'll find cold Abita beer in their beverage case, too.
In Northwest Austin, discover the Cajun market and cafe, Stuffed Cajun Meat Market, serving daily specials and standards like crawfish etouffee (blonde roux), smothered green beans (just like your mama makes, if you're lucky), boudin (mildly-spiced), and more. Skip the cornbread and ask for a loaf of Gambino's bread. They'll fish it out of the cooler in back, and it will be worth every little bit of trouble. Hard-to-find Louisiana favorites like Blue Plate brand mayo, creole mustard, seafood boil, Camelia brand dried beans and regionally-preferred canned veggies line the shelves. Reasonably priced prepared gumbos, etouffe, dirty rice, casseroles, and other creole delicacies stock the cooler, and andouille, stuffed shrimp, bacon-wrapped and seafood stuffed jalapenos, pork tenderloin, quail, stuffed pork chops and more, are offered fresh, daily.
Did I mention Gambino's bread??
|Stuffed Cajun Meat Market has the best andouille in Austin. Eat some there, and take some home.|
For an experience closest to stepping into a Creole granny's kitchen, check out Nubian Queen Lola's, for Cajun-inspired soul food specials, like all-you-can-eat chicken and sausage gumbo on Fridays. Lola will take care of you right. I hear she's started making beignets for breakfast, but much like the Cajun way, it's hard to pin her down. Call ahead, and don't go in a hurry (now, was your little grandmother a short order cook!? These things take time, cher.) and don't go on Sunday, because that's the day, all day, that Lola feeds the homeless. Unless, of course, you'd like to volunteer. Lola could use the extra hands.
Hoover Alexander, of the brick and mortar Hoover's Cooking, above, puts a healthy spin on traditional soul food fare at his sunny yellow Soular Foods Trailer and Garden at the 12th Street food trailer park also home to Osmo's Kitchen, below, and others. If you've overindulged during your travels, stop by for local favorite 'veggie-centric' blackeyed pea/collard greens wraps. But lest you think this all soulful health, and no soulful Cajun--no worries. They offer fried okra, butter beans, okra and tomatoes, and often, boudin. 'Busking Night', a community-building event where local musicians and entertainers play for tips, are held once a month on Saturday evenings, (and beer flowed freely upon our latest visit).
Cajun/Creole on Wheels
As you likely know by now, Austin's burgeoning food trailer scene offers everything imaginable to share al fresco; the specialties of hospitable chefs, at a good price. One of the finest ways a food lover can spend a beautiful Central Texas day is to hop from trailer to trailer, sampling the cuisine for which you have a yen. Cajun/creole? Well, we have a yen for that any day, and the food trailer scene provides a great big SCORE. Hospitable folks all proud to serve their finest. True to the laid back, easygoing Cajun spirit, locations, hours of operation and menus may vary according to availability and inspiration. Call ahead.
|Lee's Hurricane Party served our favorite Seafood Gumbo of the Day. Osmo's Kitchen's Blackened Shrimp Poboy stands|
out from the poboy crowd. We'll be making our way back to each, soon.
|As you see, the prettiest little hostess in town.|
Bud's Poboys, It took a little bit of hunting down, but when we did, the trek was so worth it. Bud served up a mahogany-rouxed Shrimp Gumbo that did not disappoint, and the rare but stuff-of-which-a-Cajun's-dreams-are-made Softshell Crab Poboy, was fried crisp and light, best-dressed, and pressed between two slices of perfectly toasted New Orleans-style bread. This fella knows his Cajun stuff.
Lee's Hurricane Party located close to the UT campus, where we visited with the most Cajun-who-isn't-a-Cajun-but-could-be owner, Lee, who offers South Louisiana favorites with a heaping helping of hospitality. We loved the grilled french bread that accompanied what would be our favorite Seafood Gumbo of the day, though we wished we'd gotten just a little more in that bowl, cause it's just. that. good. Try his open-faced Roast Beef Poboy topped with gravy and fries. It's a delightfully messy, transcendent experience, y'all.
Kate's Southern Comfort offers an affordable, authentically Cajun snack we havent' found anywhere else in town, 'cept occasionally in our own kitchen, --the beloved fried meat pies we miss so much. Paired with the tomato cucumber salad (have some vegetables, forevermore!), one makes a light lunch, two makes a filling supper. Our favorite? The Bleu-din-- a happy accident, one not-up-to-par plain boudin batch spawned this inspired creation in which blue cheese pairs perfectly with the straightforward pork, rice, and seasonings. All wrapped up in a golden flaky-crisp pastry shell, this is one Texan-inspired modification that Louisiana would do well to note. Save room for dessert-- Bread Pudding with Sailor Jerry Rum Sauce. Oh. My.
Creole Seafood Gumbo inspired by our local research. Hard to keep your focus when your stomach's pining away for Creole food.
According to a recent poll, the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance voted for their Top 3 Cajun Spots--the aforementioned:
Nubian Queen Lola's
and, Gumbo's (three locations, combined).
Do you have any to add? Maybe some hole in the wall we haven't yet discovered? Did we miss a favorite dish? Questions about a specific location? Please don't hesitate to leave your thoughts in the comments, below. We're always looking for a new place to try!
View Cajun/Creole Crawl Deep in the Heart of Texas in a larger map for a list of locations, in order of appearance.