I have to admit, the entire mystique built up around New Orleans leaves me a little cold. I’ve seen The Big Easy, I’ve eaten at some Cajun restaurants, but ultimately I think the entire thing is sort of silly, and kind of irritating. Paul Prudhomme is, I think, kind of awful. Perhaps if I ever actually went there, I’d feel differently, but I suspect I’d prefer a colonoscopy to being in New Orleans on Mardi Gras. Truly.
However, battles like this between my stomach and my prejudices always are won by my stomach. In fact, my stomach usually wins everything all the time anyway. Perhaps I’m oversharing. The point is, I just had dinner at, yes, a Cajun restaurant in Santa Cruz, and it was great.
Louie’s Cajun Kitchen and Bourbon Bar (deduct points for cutesy name) is in a place that used to be called Clouds, and was a fairly staid watering hole for Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce types. A few years ago it got a mild interior makeover, and a new menu and theme, and the results are wonderful. Another enormous, terrific meal, another review to write without having to grasp for different ways to say “bad food.” Yay Louie’s.
Downtown Santa Cruz, right off Pacific and right across the street from a parking garage. If you’ve got a credit card or two dollars, you’re all set for parking.
Address: 110 Church Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Telephone: (831) 429-2000
Dinner only – 16:00 – 22:00 every day except Monday; Sunday brunch from 10:30 – 14:00.
A nice, open two-level space which is sort of nondescript, except for the enormous, multicolored New Orleans mural that encircles it, covering every wall. The bar is also enormous, and backlit, giving the place an interesting, modern feel.
Good, except that the server was a somewhat slow-speaking slacker/surfer dude (this is Santa Cruz, after all) and used the word “awesome” at least a dozen times, which is eleven too many.
Moderate. Ninety dollars, but that includes drinks for everyone, dessert and coffee. Portions are really big.
Absolutely wonderful. This is Cajun cooking that really swings for the fences – I didn’t want to use it, but the word “bold” comes to mind. The chef at Louie’s knows how to use spices, and does not hold back, and the result is really, really great.
New Orleans was settled, basically, by people who didn’t have any other place to go, and who lived on the seafood of the Mississippi River, the Gulf of Mexico, and the bayous and swamps of the region. This meant not wasting anything, making meals out of food other people would consider uneatable (like crawfish) and adding a strong French influence. As a people, Cajuns were French-speaking Catholics who got run out of what is now the Maritime Provinces of Canada, moved south, and eventually settled around New Orleans.
First, appetizers. We started with an order of hush puppies. For those who aren’t familiar with these, they are balls of cornmeal that are deep-fried, sometimes with stuff rolled into the middle. The name comes from their original purpose, which was to create something quick and cheap to throw to whining dogs to shut them up. Louie’s include a little hit of peppered cheese in the middle, which adds a nice touch. These were really good – a little bit crunchy, with real cornmeal and not too sweet. Great.
The other appetizer was Oysters Rockefeller. These were prepared in an interesting way – with spinach, pernod and Gruyere cheese laid across each, then the whole oyster was broiled. A little unusual – this dish is usually smooth and creamy and mind-bendingly rich – but very good.
One of our entrees, inevitably, was jambalaya. Unless someone is supremely incompetent, jambalaya is almost impossible to screw up, and this was very good. Rice, chicken, sausage and pork, all simmered in a tomato-based broth. Louie’s was spicy enough, but not too hot, and surprisingly, the broth was not too heavy, and retained the tomato taste in the midst of a bunch of other ingredients competing for attention. Nice job, and plenty left over for lunch tomorrow.
The other was a blackened pork loin, served with crab, cream cheese and green onions on top. This was, simply, absolutely amazing. Given the ingredients I’m amazed they offered this at $15.95. This was one of those over-the-top luxury dishes that remind me of those people who like to serve steaks with blue cheese on the top. I like those people very much, by the way.
Louie’s version of this is a thick cut of pork, heavily coated with blackening seasoning, perfectly broiled, and served with an unbelievably rich crab/cream cheese dressing on the top. Absolutely jaw-dropping, served about ten seconds after it came out of the broiler. This is a very assertive, flavorful dish, which isn’t intended for old women or the faint-hearted. Man, was it good.
Dessert was bread pudding, which was also excellent. Instead of the usual pile of gelatinous, sugary bread, this had been baked, almost like a cake, and was delivered in a compact square about the size of a couple of brownies. Delicious, not to sweet, and with coffee, the perfect end to a wonderful meal.
So, yeah, I’m going to say it. Dinner at Louie’s – laissez les bon temps roulez, definitely.Published On: Saturday, September 14th, 2013