Sunday, April 22, 2007

Evangeline Cafe

Old Austin didn't die . . . it just moved South

http://www.evangelinecafe.com/

The Errant Nephew buzzed through and that plus the tax blues was a good excuse to hit the town. We got a mile from the house, saw the Evangeline Cafe and that was town enough for us. The first time I had Evangeline goodies was back in the winter of aught-four. We were on the mainland for the arrival of the #1 Grandson and I was holed up in the double-in-laws guest cabin cranking out "Hell in a Briefcase." I emerged long enough for dinner and a glance at the bambino and some kind soul brought takeout from Evangeline. After four years in Hawaii, where Cajun is hard to come by, words cannot describe my elation.

The Evangeline is tucked in a strip mall along Brodie between Eskew and Alexandria. There are some tables out on the sidewalk and a bunch more inside, where the ambiance is South Austin neighborly. There seem to be a lot of regulars and you frequently see folks coming in and visting with other tables before taking a seat. The walls are overloaded with photos of musicians and others sprinkled with oddities in an eclectic yard sale bargains motif.

The first time you go, you have to try the stuffed pistolette, a petite French roll stuffed with shrimp or crawfish in a creamy cheese sauce. Serious appetizer action, folks. This time we tried the boudin, which was nice and spicy. Spread a little on your cracker and you're doing Cajun pate! I decided to take it easy and stay on the appetizer menu, going for the small seafood gumbo and a cup of red beans and rice. When they said cup, they really meant it. It was interesting eating red beans and rice out of a coffee cup, but it was just the right amount. On the other hand, the small gumbo was pretty significant in size, as you can see from the Rokr photo. In the background you can see the baby Shiner glass they give you with the beer. The Errant Nephew followed suit, but The Woman got the fried Shrimp dinner and raved about it. Eight oxymoronic jumbo shrimp.

A few weeks later, some readers on spring-break stopped by to treat us to dinner at the Evangeline. I was impressed, seeing as how the review hadn't been posted yet, so they had discovered the place strictly via the Internet. Google is your friend. By the way, gentle readers, if there's some place you want to see reviewed, this is the way to make it happen. Come on into town and take me to dinner there. I'll review it. Guarranteed.

This time we experienced the Evangeline the way it should be. Ten folks crowded around tables pushed together, dishes ordered family style and passed around. The matriarch of the visiting clan directed operations from one end of the table while everyone else enjoyed the fruit of her labors. Pistolettes, boudin, seafood gumbo, red beans and rice, cornbread, and the coup de grace, the Catfish with Crawfish Macque Choux. So in demand that additional orders were placed and we passed it around again. Picture, if you will, pan satueed catfish served on steamed rice, smothered with a crawfish creole corn chowder. Sounds unusual, doesn't it? Tastes incredibly good. It's the thing to order. But go in a group so you can sample what everyone else gets, too.

From past visits I can also testify to the Crawfish Evangeline, the etoufee and the creole. It's probably hard to go wrong at the Evangeline, which got a Zagat A rating and has won several Critic's Choice awards from the Austin Chronicle. With two Cajun eateries a mile or so from my house, both great, I'm pretty much set. If you're trying to decide between the two, I'll help you out. Evangeline is more authentic Cajun and has a more relaxed, down home atmosphere. Cypress is trendier, with a more eclectic menu and the irresitable muffaleta. Both have Abita beer, Community Coffee and live music. That really didn't make it any easier, did it?

Better idea. Try them both!

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