In general, I’m a fan of spicy food, however I typically tend to shy away from extremely hot items like Serrano peppers and ghost peppers. Cajun food falls somewhere between mild spicy and I-need-to-drain-a-gallon-of-milk spicy.
If you’d like to spice up your life (yes, I just made a Spice Girls song reference, no I’m not ashamed), Cajun cuisine is the way to do it. Whether you’re a longstanding fan of Creole food, or you’ve never had gumbo in your life, there are several great New Orleans-inspired eateries right here in Metro Detroit. For instance:
Howe’s Bayou, 22848 Woodward Ave., Ferndale, promises “the tastes and feel of New Orleans in fabulous Ferndale,” so you can save yourself a pricey plane ticket. Hot appetizer plates include Voodoo BBQ Shrimp, Baton Rouge Crawfish Cakes, and if you’re an adventurous eater, Sautéed Alligator Sausage. Po’ boys, traditional New Orleans-style sandwiches, also grace the menu. If you’re out for dinner instead of lunch, try the Mississippi Farm Raised Catfish (blackened and served with dirty rice) or N’Orleans Pasta (with chorizo, chicken and crawfish).
Louisiana Creole Gumbo, 2051 Gratiot Ave., Detroit, has been around for over 40 years, dishing up delicious Cajun dishes to its hungry patrons. The menu’s “specialty dishes” include several types of gumbo (shrimp, oyster, seafood and chicken), Creole (shrimp) and jambalaya (Cajun, shrimp and beef). Steak and Rice, Cajun BBQ Chicken, Southern Pork Chops and Cajun Rib Tips round out the dinner menu, and no meal here would be complete without a side dish of macaroni and cheese or collard greens.
Quarter Bistro & Tavern, 300 S. Maple Rd., Ann Arbor, melds Cajun food with the feel of a European style bistro for an interesting twist. There are multiple Creole-inspired items on the menu, like Bronzed Catfish with Red Beans and Rice, Chicken & Shrimp Jambalaya and a Bistro Po-Boy. If you opt for the sandwich, you’ll have your choice of fried oyster, grilled chicken, catfish or battered shrimp.
Fishbones, with locations in Detroit and Southfield, features plenty of New Orleans favorites on its menu, including Creole Baked Eggplant, Southern Fried Catfish, several Jambalayas and Pasta Orleans (fettuccine with fresh seafood and veggies in a pesto cream sauce). There are a few gumbos thrown in for good measure, too.
Gator Jake’s, 36863 Van Dyke Ave., Sterling Heights, is a full-service sports bar and Cajun restaurant wrapped into one. There’s also plenty of live entertainment and a dance floor for after dinner. Fill up on Gator Bites (like chicken nuggets, but alligator), Chicken Creole Pasta (chicken breast, olives, mushrooms and Creole sauce) or Bayou Baby Back Ribs. I’m not sure if Fried Cheesecake can be considered Cajun food, but it definitely falls under something you should try in my book.
Bayou Grill, 404 Main St., Belleville, wants you to “put some south in your mouth!” and the menu ensures you do just that. The number of choices is somewhat overwhelming, but the Fried Seafood Platter, Bayou Teck (eggplant with crawfish étouffée) and Chicken Atchafalaya (chicken topped with grilled ham, cheese and crawfish étouffée) are all good options.
Next time your taste buds are craving something spicy, head out for Cajun food instead of your local Mexican restaurant. Change is good, and so is Creole food!