Exceptional Nawlins food, whether down-home Cajun or dressed-up Creole, isn't that easy to track down in the Bay area. Just in the past three years over a half dozen local Louisiana-themed places have closed their doors. Maybe the recent attention paid to the Mississippi Delta area will revive the cuisine in our neck of the woods. In the meantime, here are some prime places to "laissez les bonnes temps roulez."
Cajun Café On The Bayou
Right on the water in Pinellas Park, Cajun Café feels like a little piece of backwoods Louisiana, just off Belcher. Fantastically fat po' boys, homey crawfish etoufee, and giant servings of bread pudding soaked in whiskey butter are worth a visit, but the entertainment is what seals the deal. Cajun Café routinely books some of the best national and local zydeco bands to rock their ramshackle venue. 8101 Park Blvd., Pinellas Park.727-546-6732, www.cajuncafeonthebayou.olm.net.
NOLA Cafe and News Stand
A little slice of Café du Monde-style heaven right on the west bank of downtown Tampa, the NOLA serves chicory-laced café au lait and hot, crunchy-chewy beignets while New Orleans jazz plays in the background. For lunch, the red beans and rice are done spicy and smoky, with delicious sausage setting off the flavors. Crawfish etouffee and jambalaya are also on the menu. 301 W Platt St., Tampa 813-258-8778.
Landry's Seafood House
Sure, it's a national chain, but the food is generally good and many of the seafood dishes have a Cajun flair, from the blackened Gulf snapper to deep dark seafood gumbo with shrimp, crab and oysters, sprinkled with sassafras. Try the blackened chicken salad with creole buttermilk dressing. 7616 W. Courtney Campbell Causeway, Tampa, 813-289-7773, www.landrysrestaurants.com.
Bayou Bistro, 456 Causeway Blvd., Dunedin, 727-736-6467
Copeland's of New Orleans, 9210 Anderson Road, Tampa, 813-884-8400
J. Mallory's, 1811 N. 15th St., Tampa, 813-248-5632
Kelly's Cajun Grill, 6901 22nd Ave. N., St Petersburg, 727-381-6688
Po Boys, 302 S. Howard Ave., Tampa, 813-250-0434