Sunday, July 30, 2006

Cypress Grill

Putting the you back in bayou.

Location: 4404 West William Cannon, Suite L, Austin, Texas 78749 GoogleMaps
Phone: 512-358-7474
Hours: Mon-Thu 11a-10p, Fri 11a-11p, Sat-Sun 8:30a-10p

How can you resist a place with The Spanky Special on the menu? (A fried egg sandwich on toasted oat nut bread with 3 pieces of bacon, melted American cheese, mayo, lettuce, tomato and red onion.)

With a Cajun uncle, I grew up eating the real stuff. For Thanksgiving dinner I would regularly bypass the turkey to score a bowl of shrimp gumbo. I've sampled Cajun restauraunts all over the US, finding some pretty good bayou eatin' in unlikely locations like Albuquerque (Cajun Kitchen), Phoenix (Baby Kay's) and even Kailua, Hawaii (Kevin's Two Boots).

So, when my favorite son-in-law called me up and offered to take me to lunch at the Cypress Grill to celebrate my layoff, my response time could be measured in nanoseconds. He had a coupon for a free appetizer and after a quick skim the choice was obvious: crawfish eggrolls. Not that I had experience with crawfish eggrolls before this week, but who can resist that? I say skip the ranch sauce and just eat them straight. Don't want anything to get in the way of that great flavor, I guar-own-tee!

On my first visit to a Cajun place (and if I have anything to do with it, there will be more than one visit) I order shrimp gumbo. It's the standard by which I rate the place. (The second visit is required to sample the red beans and rice.) I was suprised to see that the only gumbo was chicken and andouille sausage. But gumbo, if done right, is worth eating, no matter what has been tossed in. However, tradition must not overwhelm all other considerations. I read the whole menu before I ordered.

That was when I discovered that my Cajun cuisine education had been sorely neglected. The s. i. l. mentioned that he had the muffaletta on his first visit. When I read the menu description (lean ham, Genoa salami, mortadella, Swiss cheese, and homemade olive dressing stacked high on half round of Italian bread) I was faced with a dilemma. I simply had to experience this sandwich, but what of the gumbo tradition? The next menu item solved the problem for me. It was the Cajun equivalent of the soup-and-half-sandwich, titled "Troy's Favorite Lunch."

And no wonder! This is one great sandwich! And the gumbo was perfect. A nice dark roux with just the right amout of pepper and whatever else they throw in those things. For those of you who, like me, thought the po-boy was the only sandwich export of Lousiana, you can learn more of the origins of the muffaletta here. And I hear the Central Grocery is open for business, so book your tickets now.

The Cypress Grill menu is loaded with a ton of other great sounding stuff: Cajun crab cakes, crawfish linguine, rattlesnake pasta, Atchafalaya catfish, and of course etouffe, po-boys, and even an Abita rootbeer float! And Community coffee, of course. (The only disturbing omission was boudin. But it's an acquired taste.)

Although I'm not much of a cocktail fan, they have some interesting sounding cocktails, like the Louisiana Bloody Mary (served with pickled okra and an olive in a pint glass) and the Cypress Tini (light rum, fresh mint and lime with a shot of melon liqueur, served Mexican martini-style with a sugar rim). They also have 11 wines and an impressive variety of beer, including the Louisana brews Abita Amber and Turbo Dog.

The nice thing for me is that this joint is less than 2 miles from my house, right around the corner from Starbucks. I've already signed up for the VIP birthday club.

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