Wth Mardi Gras only days away, we thought it was time to celebrate Cajun cuisine. Here's the lowdown on three gumbo gurus in the East Valley, shiny beads included:
The most truly Cajun restaurant of the three we visited, VooDoo Daddy's serves alligator, for heaven's sake.
The list of Louisiana-loved dishes runs long — gumbo, red beans and rice, étouffée, catfish, crawfish, po' boys, muffalettas, bread pudding, etc. There are only a handful of non-Cajun choices — always a good sign.
The restaurant has a swamp feel, too, with alligators — big and small — placed throughout the V-shaped space. There's also a swamp scene painted on the back wall, marshlike plant life, wooden boats and fishing nets. Lamppost lighting, brickwork and a street musician mural add a nice New Orleans touch.
1706 E. Warner Road, Tempe, (480) 897-8660 or voodoodaddysrestaurants.com/
REDFISH SEAFOOD GRILL
Shrimp étouffée and jambalaya share a menu with less authentic items, such as Looziana egg rolls and Asian fried chicken salad. It's a good pick if you're going with kids or picky eaters, but it also will satisfy a true Cajun craving.
Very clean-looking, almost too perfectly put together. The completely separate bar area is like a second restaurant — it's huge and has a cabana bar. The main dining area is all brick and wood with giant vintage aluminum signs, flaming black oil lanterns and faux balconies.
2530 W. Chandler Blvd., Chandler, (480) 821-1455, and 7401 E. Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd., Scottsdale, (480) 998-6995 or redfishamerica.com/
Wow, this place is huge (five bars, 5,000-square-foot patio, pool tables) and exploding with crazy paint work. It's like a candlelit Gothic-church-turned-lounge with a scary devil painting, carved stone faces hanging beside booths, light wood crosses inlayed into dark wood tables and a confessional. Kind of crazy, but really cool.
The menu is eclectic and there are only four real Cajun options — seafood gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice with blackened chicken, and steak with creole sauce. There's a dog-friendly brunch on Sundays and live music nightly.
3102 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, (480) 970-6556 or sugardaddysaz.com/
How's the gumbo?
Redfish Seafood Grill ($5.29): A dark brown, sticky roux with large chunks of grill-marked chicken and andouille sausage poured beside white rice. Almost too much diced green bell pepper, sweetest of the three.
Sugar Daddy's ($4): Creamy, thick blond gumbo with loads of baby shrimp, but none of the promised white fish or crawfish. Two types of sausage, both rather dull, and more veggies than the other two. Slices of fresh okra were a nice touch.
VooDoo Daddy's ($3.29): A piping hot, soupy gumbo with bite-size pieces
of chicken and sausage that simmered so long they changed color. Chopped bell pepper, onion, celery and long grain rice made it the heartiest.
Andouille: Spicy Louisiana smoked pork sausage.
Étouffée: Thick, spicy stew of crawfish and vegetables served over white rice.
Jambalaya: Cooked rice with a variety of ingredients including tomatoes, onion, green peppers and almost any kind of meat, poultry or shellfish.
Muffalettas: Traditional New Orleans sandwich.
Piquante sauce: Spicy brown sauce made with shallots, white wine, vinegar, gherkins, parsley, and various herbs and seasonings.
Roux: Mixture of flour and fat used to thicken soups and sauces.