Papa Roux

I love New Orleans.  Did you know that? I have been three times, and can’t wait to go back again.  I have even toyed with the notion of moving down there a few times, but I don’t think I could leave all my friends and family in Indiana.  Matt and I went to NOLA in April with my mom and a couple of her sisters.  We have described this last trip as a true culinary vacation.  We ate like royalty!  We tried so many new foods and restaurants.  It was amazing.  We came back to Indiana, and it took a while to get used to eating our normal food again.  We just kept looking at each other, shrugging, and saying, “New Orleans food was so much better!”  They really do it right down there.

That’s why we have been itching to get over to Indy’s east side to try Papa Roux.  We were going to be kind of close to the area a few days ago, so we jumped at the chance to lunch there.  Here is a little description from the Papa Roux website:

“Y’all come on in, order up some delicious red beans or perhaps a bowl of gumbo, and sit for a chat with Papa for a spell. The air is rich with the smell of cajun roux and the sound of cajun fiddles. Take a break from the world outside, and relax with a good cup of bread pudding alongside your café au lait. No, cher, y’all didn’t come to New Orleans. Papa Roux brought New Orleans to Indy. Come pass a good time and experience Papa’s authentic cajun cooking, with recipes handed down from Papa’s parents, and Papa’s parents’ parents. Plus a few new recipes Papa made, making new dishes in all the authentic old styles. Papa Roux is excited to share this special cuisine and culture with you. Something good’s always cookin’ up back in the kitchen, and Papa’s been expecting you. Y’all come!”

This place is TINY! Seriously – so small.  I don’t know if they chose to be in a tiny space because they were just starting out and couldn’t afford bigger, or if they prefer the tiny space.  We found one table available – outside.  Thankfully it was a warm fall day, but I would have probably sat out there in the cold just to try this place!

I have looked at the menu quite a few times before coming here, so I knew exactly what I wanted when I went up to the counter to order.  “I’ll have the gulf shrimp po boy please.”  The lady taking my order replied, “Oh no! I’m sorry – we’re out of shrimp right now. What else would you like?” What? WHAT? No shrimp? I didn’t know what to do.  I would have ordered catfish  for my po boy, but that wasn’t an option (it should be! Papa – get fried catfish for your po boys!).  I chose chicken instead, and Matt got a roasted pork po boy.

The roast pork po boy is first (above) and the chicken is below it.  They were exactly the same, other than the meat.  The bread was a nice, moist french bread, although it was not the typical french bread we found all over New Orleans.  I have heard there is a place near Indy that has the special bread flown in, so I’ll have to try it. Until then, this bread was a good substitute.  The plentiful meat on both was very moist, shredded, and really flavorful.  Each also had a yummy slaw and a spicy sauce they call “Vouxdoux Sauce.” Great sandwich, although a bit messy!

One of the cool things about Papa Roux is that sides are free and unlimited when you order an entree. Isn’t that awesome? We were more than satisfied with our po boys, but we really wanted to try a few sides while we were there.  We asked for etouffee, cornbread and red beans and rice.  (all pictured below)

The etouffee was not my favorite.  The etouffee I’ve had in New Orleans is richer, thicker and more flavorful than this.  I think if I didn’t know what it tasted like down there, I would have enjoyed it more.  The rice was well-cooked though.  Light and moist without being too gooey.

The cornbread was really good, and I wished I had more! You can see that it wasn’t very thick, but it was really dense and tasty.  There were bits of corn kernels in it too, and that gave the bread some nice textural and flavorful surprises.

My favorite was the red beans and rice.  These were great!  Some of the beans were mashed a bit, some were whole, and they were all stewed to form a thick bean soup that was spiced perfectly and so tasty.  The rice, again, was very good here.

All in all, I am giving Papa Roux a fantastic review! Great menu choices that are really close to being authentic New Orleans.  It made me want to go back so much more!  I will definitely go there again.

Katie’s Rating: 4 out of 5


Sunset Waterfront Cafe and Bar

Our last day in Florida was spent over at the Space Coast, visiting the space center and hanging out at Cocoa Beach Pier.  We ended the day with dinner at Sunset Waterfront Cafe and Bar.  It was a great day!

This is a great beachy place to eat!  It’s on the bay side of Cocoa Beach, and we had a great view of the sunset!  Here’s a brief progression of the views we enjoyed during our meal:

We sat outside on the deck, enjoying these views, and listening to an awesome, soothing acoustic set performed by this guy (whoever he is…he was great!):

Matt and I started with the bacon-wrapped shrimp appetizer they had on special that night:

These little suckers were GOOD!  The bacon was just a little crispy, although not burnt.  The shrimp inside were plump, juicy and delicious!  I could have eaten a whole plate of them!  The sauce on the plate was a teriyaki/barbecue fusion thing that was just okay.  I tried dipping the shrimp in it once, and preferred them without.

Next was the salad.  Nothing exceptional here, but better than normal.  I can usually taste whether a salad is a “bagged” salad or if it’s fresh, and this tasted fresh to me.  Plus it wasn’t icy cold from being prepared earlier and refrigerated all day.  I hate when that happens!  It makes the salad all wet and too chilly to enjoy.  This was decent as far as side salads go, but not as good as what I would have made at home.  🙂

Matt ordered the special – French onion encrusted grouper, served with vegetable medley and rice.  Matt really enjoyed this dish.  The one bite he allowed me to steal revealed that the flavorful crust was fried perfectly and the grouper inside was very moist and tasty.  His rice “wasn’t bad,” but we have learned from previous posts that he never really expects much from rice anyway.  Actually, when I asked him to tell me about his rice today (more than a week later), he said, “I don’t recall rice being on my plate.” Ouch – sorry rice!  He just didn’t love ya!  As for the vegetables, they were way overcooked.  Mushy, not very colorful and very watery.  Blech!

With hopes that I would get some more awesome shrimp, I ordered grilled shrimp for my meal.  This shrimp was just okay.  It was smaller than the shrimp used in the appetizer.  It had some good spices added to it, and it was really yummy.  I don’t know – I guess I was really hoping to find some huge royal red shrimp like I’ve enjoyed so many times at The Point in Perdido Key.  These were nowhere near that good, but they weren’t bad either.  The vegetables were just like I mentioned above – watery, overcooked, blech.  I ate them all anyway, because I like the vitamins and fiber.  The slaw was pretty good.  I’m not a huge fan of cole slaw, so it takes a lot to impress me.  This wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, but it was decent.  The dressing was nice and not too heavy.  I hate it when slaw is swimming in dressing, don’t you? Ick.

Much like my other food review from our trip, I am giving this restaurant a decent review based on atmosphere -not so much on food.  I really enjoyed the meal because of the service and setting, but the food could have been better.  It seemed like it would have been a great place to hang out at night with friends also.  Their bar area was really fun!

Katie’s Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Bongos Cuban Cafe

My family and I were in Orlando last week.  (Here’s a little slideshow if you’re interested in some pics!) We had a lot on our itinerary, but took a day to relax at our resort and then spent the evening strolling Downtown Disney.  That’s when we decided to try Bongos Cuban Cafe for dinner.

Bongos is owned by Gloria and Emilio Estefan, and was opened in Downtown Disney in 1997.  There are now 4 locations according to their website.  It was a really fun place to eat!  Everyone in our party mentioned how fun the atmosphere was.  The building looks like it’s been plunked down into Orlando straight from Havana.  The warm breeze blowing gently through our crowd, the lively music pumping from the speakers, the friendly latino waitstaff (who we could only understand half the time!) – it all added to a great evening.

Before I go on with the pictures and food, I’ll apologize for the photo quality.  It was night, we were outside, and the lighting was dim.  It was enough to eat and visit by, but not quite enough for pictures.  I annoyed our table (and probably the others around us) by using flash a few times, and just decided to use what I could.  Also, forgive me for not knowing the exact names of our dishes.  I tried to find them on their website, but came up short.  Plus, other than our appetizer, everything we ordered was on special, so it wouldn’t have been on the menu anyway!

We started with an appetizer combo. It was a huge plate full of little bites of cuban yummies.  We passed it around the table, and everyone really seemed to enjoy it.  No pictures of this one (sorry!), but my personal favorite was the tamale. So good!  Moist and corn-y (is that a word?) and delicious.

Matt ordered the surf and turf special.  It came with shrimp skewers, skirt steak, sweet fried plantains and yellow rice.  According to Matt, everything was “okay.”  The steak was okay.  It was a thin steak, so it’s hard to cook to medium the way he likes.  It wasn’t tough or anything, but he just didn’t love it.  The shrimp seemed over-cooked.  The sweet friend plantains were good, but a little over-sweet.  He could only eat one!  The rice was good, a little on the dry side.  Matt says he wasn’t expecting much from rice, so apparently it didn’t faze him much.

I ordered the seafood platter (above).  It was shrimp, mussels, lobster, scallops and a mess of assorted seafood all cooked in a delicious brothy-stewy sauce.  It was served with fried plantains (not sweet) and white rice.

Let me start with the good: The food looked beautiful! I mean, look at all that seafood!  The brothy sauce was my favorite part of the meal.  It was rich without being too thick and creamy.  It had a great balance of spice and acidity, and was the perfect compliment to a bunch of seafood.  The plantains were good too.  This was my first time trying them, and I was pleased with what showed up on my plate.  I expect more from rice than my husband does, and this rice was really well-cooked.  It was the perfect mix of moist and dry and sticky and flavorful.  I can never get my rice to act like this at home!

Now for the bad: the seafood was really not great at all! I was so disappointed.  I know Orlando is in the middle of Florida, but it’s still not that far from the ocean. Why couldn’t they get some good seafood?  The shrimp was very overcooked – rubbery and dry.  I hate that! Shrimp can be so good.  The lobster was good, but there was barely any meat on this tail.  Everything was tough and overcooked.  I was really bummed.  I ended up eating the broth with spoonfuls of rice instead of the seafood.  I did eat all the plantains too.

Speaking of plantains: I am really impressed at the versatility of these little guys!  Pounded out and fried, they were a yummy, crunchy, savory side.  They were almost like potatoes here, but the texture was a little tougher than if you had fried potatoes.  Matt’s sweet fried plantains would have been a great dessert!  They were so tender and sweet.  It was really nice.   The only thing that bugged me about the plantains is what the waiter called them!  He kept calling them bananas.  I was slightly offended that he would call them bananas, as if no one would have known what they were.  He should have called them plantains, and if anyone asked what they were, he could have said something like, “They look like bananas, but are tougher and less sweet.” I don’t know. It just bugged me a bit that the waiter was totally misrepresenting what they were serving.  If I hadn’t known what plantains were, heard him say bananas were coming, and then ate what I ate, I would have been really put off!

Okay – on with the meal!  My brother got a bloody mary (my favorite!) that I didn’t get a picture of, but I did sneak a few sips of it.  Wow! That thing was spicy!  It was a great bloody mary – lots of kick with some zing from limes (my favorite addition to a bloody mary).  Plus, he didn’t want the olive, so BONUS for me!

After writing all of that, you would think I would have a poor overall review for this place.  You would be wrong!  I really enjoyed my meal here, even though our meals were disappointing.  No one else in my family had bad things to say about their food, so it’s quite possible (very probable) that we are food snobs who have unattainable expectations for our meals.  I would love to go back and try some other things from the menu sometime.  The atmosphere was just phenomenal, and we had a really great time.  If you ever find yourself in Orlando, hop over to Bongos and give it a shot.  Just avoid the seafood maybe…

Katie’s Rating: 3.5 out of 5