Oyster & Okra Gumbo at Cajun Town Cafe

Categories: On the Menu

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Photos by Katharine Shilcutt
On the way back from the horse track on Saturday night, I took an unusual route home (okay, I was out of change for the tollway). And that alternate route landed me heading south toward 290 on North Houston Rosslyn, past a mostly unfamiliar part of town. And as I drove, I realized I was hungry.

At a stoplight where North Houston Rosslyn turns into Bingle, I turned my head and saw a tiny red awning next to a yawningly large Food Town on West Little York: Cajun Town Cafe. It seemed as good a place as any to stop, I figured. And how badly can you screw up a po-boy?

I never got to find out the answer to that question, because the shrimp po-boy that Cajun Town Cafe turned out ,along with a cup of seafood gumbo that blew my socks off, was almost too good for words.

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Cajun Town Cafe has a sister restaurant in Greenspoint, and from what I can glean from online reviews, it's not nearly as popular. Customers cited poor service as their main complaint, something I didn't notice at the West Little York location. In fact, I found the service beyond accommodating: Even though this is a counter-service place, an employee came around checking on each table, including mine, during dinner.

I even marveled at the cloth napkins that were delivered along with our food. They smelled hand-washed. I hate to admit it, but I have a sweet spot that's very easily manipulated by intensely personal touches like this. Other sweet spots: restaurants that are off the beaten path, restaurants whose employees smile at you genuinely, restaurants that are serving authentic, delicious food for approachable prices. Cajun Town Cafe had me rolled over on my back, belly showing.

Metaphorically speaking, that is. It's hard to eat gumbo on your back.

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A dark roux in combination with a net full of seafood -- oysters, crawfish, shrimp, crab -- along with some fat nubs of okra had me over the moon at Cajun Town Cafe's gumbo. As with the creamy, corn-studded bisque that I also indulged in, you could tell the fat crawfish tails were fresh.

And the shrimp po-boy was exactly what I look for in a close-as-we-can-get Louisiana po-boy: crusty bread that was soft in the middle, crispy lettuce, ruby-red tomatoes (these were thick slices of Roma tomatoes that I wanted to pick out and eat on their own), a tangy tartar sauce, punchy red sauce and thick, well-battered shrimp. Even the thin, batter-coated fries were excellent.

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Cajun Town won't win points on aesthetics any time soon, but no one in the packed but dimly lit dining room seemed to be complaining. And if the lack of decor means that I can get better food for far less than what I'd pay at Pappadeaux just down the street at 290 and Hollister, I'm happy to take it any day.



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Location Info

Cajun Town Cafe

6476 W. Little York, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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14 comments
Bodl
Bodl

Seafood gumbo - great. Chicken-andouille gumbo - great. Mixed gumbo - that is great too. While the light, peppery version is fine, my roux is thick, rich, and dark. With a rich, dark roux, you can add anything, in any combo, and still have a winner ( just take it easy on the okra!).

Eric Henao
Eric Henao

 Since Robb W. reviewed this place back in 2005, http://www.houstonpress.com/20... , I've been going during lunch times from work. It has been consistently good. Real jem of a place. Weekday lunches gets the place pretty crowded for the weekday specials. Thanks for the reminder of such a great place.

Matthew
Matthew

 Just the other day, I had an urge for some okra, but I had no idea where to go. In a pinch, I ended up at Luby's. The okra wasn't bad, but everything else... Well, I'm not sure what I was expecting.

I'm going to get okra gumbo this weekend. Thanks for the great read.

brandius
brandius

 I want to go here and just roll around in the food. As I roll around, I will attempt to catch bites of different things and therefore taste everything they have to offer.

It wont be attractive, but hell, it will be delicious. 

Anse
Anse

 I was once told by a native of New Orleans that gumbo should never contain crawfish. I am also aware that what is right in New Orleans is not necessarily right in other regions of Louisiana. Can somebody clarify?

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Oh, awesome! Of course Robb reviewed an awesome place like this. Great to know some more background about the guy that runs it. Thanks for linking!

pbd007
pbd007

Crawfish is better in a bisque than in gumbo. South Louisiana style gumbo should be made with a dark roux, no okra and definately no tomato.  

brandius
brandius

A lot of people from NOLA do not use crawfish in gumbo as it's not the preferred meat of choice for the area. Gumbo is a very special dish in Louisiana because each region can make it drastically different from another.

For example, one of my grandmothers was from central Louisiana. Her gumbo had a light roux and was very "watery" and somewhat soup like. She would use meats such as sausage, duck, or crawfish and she made sure things were peppery.

My other grandmother was from NOLA and her gumbo was incredibly thick and dark. She never mixed meats (as in if you are going to use seafood, ONLY use seafood) and would make hers with a dark roux or okra and add in shrimp and crab.

I prefer dark rouxs and okra and while the bulk of my family is from NOLA, I still prefer SOME crawfish. Though, Im typically not making gumbo during crawfish season so this hardly ever happens. 

Did that help?

Ali
Ali

Yes, I'm from Breaux Bridge and we make ours much thinner and lighter. We don't mix our seafood with non-seafood, though. Typically we make seafood gumbo with shrimp and crab, and add crawfish and oysters if they're available. 

If we do non-seafood, it's chicken and sausage and sometimes we add duck. If we do okra, it either has chicken or shrimp in it. I'm not fan of okra- it feels like snot to me. My favorite is seafood and I will eat my weight in it.One thing they all have in common is what we serve with them. There's always a scoop of rice in the gumbo. Then we make potato salad, but not like everyone makes here. We smash potatoes and eggs and mix them with salt, pepper, mayo and cooking oil. It's creamy with a little bit of chunks - much more like mashed potatoes than potato salad. I make it for people here and they flip out over it. I had one friend that literally licked the bowl and spoon after eating 3 servings of it. You can serve it on the side or scooped into the gumbo. And we add a nice, chewy, crunchy french bread with lots of butter, too.That's the perfect gumbo, to me. It's how it was served by everyone I knew- friends, in school, everywhere. GOD I'm hungry now. Glad my momma's making an etouffee tomorrow for a family get-together!

Ali
Ali

Also, I'm sure either myself or my parents know whoever made it for you. Because everyone knows everyone there. 

Ali
Ali

Katherine, boudin is serious business in Breaux Bridge. I know people who make their own. If you swing back through, stop by Charlie T's. I love theirs. And their gratons (cracklin).  

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Breaux Bridge? That's where I had the best boudin of my life, courtesy of an awesome employee at E.P. Breaux Electric whose wife made it for me while I was working out there.

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