Austin Food Blogger Alliance: 2012 City Guide

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 Guidewhich 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!

When I moved to Austin from South Louisiana in the late 90's, the Cajun scene was, sadly, a desert, with only a few spots, including, one, a sad excuse for a seafood boil, now thankfully out of business, and, 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.

Rustic Revelry
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.
And last, but nowhere near least, is a local (and the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance's) 'best of' many things--Evangeline Cafe.  If you really want to get an infusion of Cajun hospitality and joie de vivre, make Evangeline's a must-go on your agenda. Delicious food (Oysters Contraband is a personal favorite--housemade chips topped with fried oysters and spicy sausage remoulade, meant to be shared.  Meant to be.) served from M-Th 11-9:30, and F-S 11-10, when the kitchen closes and the fais do do begins!  Great bands play live, Monday through Saturday.  If you see Curtis, the affable mustachioed resident Tiger fan and owner, and you likely will because he greets everyone in his path, tell him Maggie sent you.  (Maybe he'll give me a table by the band or something.)

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.
Provisions for the DIY'er
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.
A Little Bit of Louisiana-style Soul
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.
Osmo's Kitchen now located on 12th Street, along with the Soular Foods Trailer and Garden, is "serving up delicious, Southern Louisiana Style Cajun and Italian American fare daily!"  We were charmed by great service and great value, and were happy to set aside the fried fare we'd had all day, thoroughly enjoying the suggested Blackened Shrimp Poboy  dressed with spicy slaw.  It was as satisfying as fried, but without the heavy batter that often obscures the most precious gifts of the sea.  We weren't there for Italian that day, but you can bet we'll be back to try those Mussels fra Diavlo.  And for those with a sweet tooth, they serve the best apple pie I've ever had.  (sorry, mom)
As you see, the prettiest little hostess in town.
The Original New Orleans Poboy and Gumbo Shop-- Chief, and chef, Darold, comes to us by way of the tempest, Katrina, and happily set up shop--now 'representin' the creole way on South Congress.  A fine spot from which to watch the fineries, and oddities that make up SoCo, if you close your eyes for a moment, listen to the New Orleans sounds streaming from the speakers, soak up the aromas of fried seafood in the air, and feel the sun on your face, you just might imagine yourself transported to a levee, watching the riverboats go by.  Darold, a genuinely nice man, makes a great oyster poboy, and his lovely hostess, see picture, right, provided snippets of delightful dinner conversation on our visit.
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.

Bud's Poboys is owned by the former kitchen manager at Shoal Creek Saloon.  He made this girl's dreams come true with 
that softshell crab.  We were lucky to stumble upon Kate's Southern Comfort--the directory we consulted had an old address.  Now that we know she's on East 6th, we'll be stopping by often to try the rest of the menu, and sit around the fire.
While not an exhaustive overview (but, yes, somewhat exhausting), we've covered all of our favorite spots.  It's really quite a feat considering we got so hungry writing this that we kept stopping and snacking every thirty minutes or so, on a big ole pot of 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:
Evangeline Cafe
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.


  1. Wonderful post! I've always wanted to go to Gumbo's. Thank you for sharing all these fabulous places with your readers. I'm going to have to jot down some of these places so I can visit them when I'm in Austin.

  2. Oh, Steph. Thank you so much for your kind words. This post, while a subject so near and dear to my heart, likely took about 70 hours of research and development. Today, alone, I spent 13 hours straight on it. And almost as soon as I had it posted...DING, your sweet comment. When you're in Austin, we'll have to hit a few! Lemme know when!

  3. Wow! Who knew there were so many wonderful Cajun spots here? Oh I guess you did and fyi I also think you were the PERFECT choice to write this. I have learned most of my Louisiana food history from you after all. Evangeline is the only one I have gone to on this list so looks like I have plenty of choices to try some new ones out. Thanks for all your hard work on this city guide. I just LOVE watching all the bloggers come together for this project.

  4. Ditto what Miss Grits said, I had no idea there were so many spots here! Great write up. And when y'all are ready to go and eat somewhere, holler! :)

  5. When I read your post, I knew it was very comprehensive and no beignet was left unturned, ha! LOL. If I'm in Austin, I'll take you up on your offer. Happy Friday!

  6. Heck, Kristina, when I took on the assignment, I didn't either! Bout broke me!! I swear I'm ten pounds heavier, and about $200 lighter, but it was an utter joy to complete the research! Thank you both for your encouragement. This was quite an undertaking. (those Google maps are for the birds, cher!) @Step--No beignet unturned! bwahahahaha!
    When you guys feel like doing a cajun crawl, ring me up!

  7. Oh wow! I'm sitting with a goat waiting for something to happen, and now I am drooling over myself wondering when I'll get back down South for some of this yumminess. Beautifully written, and fab photos, as usual. I'm wishin Idaho weren't so far away right now, and not so danged cold!

    1. How is all the kidding going? I was so happy to successfully intercede in my first birth. We've had babies before, but never had 'issues'. My husband says, if it had been him here, instead of me, we'd just be buying a new goat. lol

  8. What an amazing list. I don't think I've ever seen such an exhaustive list of cajun spots in Austin. I'm going to share with Adam and my dear friend Betsy who are ALWAYS on the lookout for great cajun grub.

    1. Hey Jodi, Thanks for stopping by! There is a new place on my radar that I'd like to try-- The Mojoe Room @ Lincoln Village. It's a bar at night, but has what looks to be a great menu of cajun favorites. I'll update when I get by there. Maybe you, Adam, and Betsy would like to join us?!?

    2. That would be so much fun!

    3. I will let you know when we can get a group together to go. What are good days/times for you to knock around?

  9. Maggie, I want to dive into every one of your photos. And believe it or not, I have never been to one of these places besides Quality Seafood! Shame on me! Thanks for inspiring me to give one of these a try. :)

    1. Now that's quite a compliment coming from you and you're talented self. Thank you! I think we're going to have to arrange a Creole Crawl for you someday soon!

  10. Evangeline's is definitely worth trying! Here is a profile I wrote on them back in 2010:

  11. Great post! I'm from southeast TX (15 minutes from LA) and my husband is from Baton Rouge. My grandparents' first language was Cajun French and Cajun food was a staple in both mine and my husband's households. We also arrived here in the late 90s and I remember being shocked that I couldn't buy roux or Tony's seasoning anywhere. Now I make my own roux, but it's still nice to see that the Cajun scene has vastly improved. The bbq shrimp at Shoal Creek deserves a mention - it's fabulous!

    1. I lived in Baton Rouge for 18 years, and just returned from a few days there last week. The traffic is AWFUL but I still love it, and miss much about my time there. I remember mailing Tony's to my family, One time, I packed a cooler full of live crabs and carried them onto the plane when I was flying home. And they LET me! lol I'll have to try that bbq shrimp at Shoal Creek next time I'm down there for an LSU game. I've never even seen it on the menu (else I'd have tried it some time ago!)

  12. I love your photo collages, and great write up! Nature sure did influence the Cajun influx to Austin. That was right around when my son was born. The hospital he was born in was taking bus loads of people coming from Katrina's wake.

    1. Thank you! It seems like the Big K was just yesterday, doesn't it?

  13. I love cajun food, oh so much. I am bookmarking this post straight away! Thanks for giving me a list of new places to obsess over.

    1. We're thinking of planning a 'creole crawl' to do together. Would you like to join us??

  14. Parrain's! I've been trying to remember the name of that place since I heard they had the best gumbo in town, like over a year ago! Thank you.
    And I just love Quality Seafood and the patio at Shoal Creek Saloon. Thanks for reminding me it's time to get some crawdads!

    1. It sure is time, Cher! I really do enjoy Parrain's and the chef there is just about the nicest and humble head chef I've ever run into. We live waaaaaaay out northwest, about 70 miles from Austin, and Parrain's is hands-down the best food around. Join us on our soon-to-be-arranged 'creole crawl' and we'll be sure to find some mudbugs on our travels!

  15. Wow! great and very thorough list! who knew this all existed in AusTin?? Can't wait to try french quarter grille!!

    1. Shef, don't miss that orange creme brulee! It is not to be overlooked!!


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