Sarah and I honeymooned in New Orleans in 2002, for the food as much as anything. The closest we’ve previously come in Cleveland to recreating our food experience has been Battiste and Dupree, which has excellent, authentic cajun and creole dishes. Based on its size, though, it’s always struck us as more of a take out place. So we’ve still been on the lookout.
Enter Jezebel’s Bayou in Shaker Heights, which we found through Doug Trattner’s review in the Scene. We made reservations for a Saturday evening and were seated quickly. The establishment is classy but not too formal with a pleasant ambiance.
Based on Trattner’s recommendation and Jonathan’s love of catching crayfish. we started with the “Cajun Popcorn” ($10.95), deep fried crawfish tails. While they were quite tasty, the price for the portion size seemed a bit much. Each of the 18 or so pieces was about the size of a popcorn kernel and was mostly breading. This works out to 60 cents per “kernel.” These might not be overpriced considering the possible cost to the restaurant, but 5–6 tasty mouthfuls for $11 seems steep for the diner, especially considering the value of other items on the menu. The creamy sherry dipping sauce was excellent.
Next we had a bowl of gumbo with chicken, andouille sausage and ham ($7.95). This was exceedingly good, full of rich deeply cooked tomato, savory meat and spices. “Party in your mouth” is not an exaggeration. Even Jonathan loved this and wished we had more.
Sarah ordered the Grilled Boneless Chicken Breasts ($13.95) for her entrée for something on the lighter side. While it was fairly good and well-seasoned, it’s definitely on the “safe” end of the menu. The accompanying red beans and rice, while smoky, had almost no heat or meaty flavor.
I had the Jambalya ($15.95), which couldn’t have been better. The spicy sausage and chicken were flavorful and generally portioned, and the rice was full of rich spices. Deeply cooked sweet/smoky tomato tied everything together and made for an outstanding entrée.
I ordered an Abita Amber to drink, which went perfectly with the food. They had a couple other interesting drafts / bottles as well, plus an intriguing cocktail list. I’d really like to try the Treme, a mix of Rye Whiskey, Saint Germaine and Benedictine.
Jonathan had a root beer and very much enjoyed shared portions of our entrees. While some people worry about giving kids authentic cuisine, we’ve had a lot of luck with it. The combination of meat, salt and spice really appealed to him.
Our service was passable but less than ideal. We didn’t see our waitress much, but a manager approached us a few times about this and quickly got our food to us. Considering the manager’s concern, we’d guess that kinks are probably being worked out. Or perhaps they already have been, as we dined there about a month ago.
We will definitely be returning to Jezebel’s Bayou the next time we want tasty, authentic Cajun food in an enjoyable setting.