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Is there any good Cajun food in Denver?

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One of my husband's co-workers from India is visiting Denver next week (where the company is based) and my husband, whose family is from Lousiana, thinks that Cajun/Creole food would be an interesting cuisine to introduce an Indian to since the executions are similar, but it's distinctly American also.

So, my question is are there any good Cajun restaurants in Denver? We've tried a couple of places around town and they were pretty bad. My husband thinks we should take him to Pappadeaux because it's near the office and it offers some sort of representation (not very good) of Cajun food.

I think we can do better than this since this co-worker took us to some fabulous restaurants when we were in India.

Suggestions please?

Thanks!

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  1. There are no great Cajun restaurants in Denver. In my opinion, finding even "good" Cajun food outside of Louisiana is pretty rare. One exception is Heaven on Seven in Chicago, if they are even still in business. I make the the best gumbo in the area (thanks to Paul Prudhomme!) However, Lucille's in Boulder is excellent for breakfast and lunch, they don't serve dinner. But the menu is more Creole than Cajun. I definitely would avoid Pappadeaux - I think it's an atrocious choice. It's criminal to take foreign visitors to a chain when there are so many local, individual choices.

    For a definitively unique local experience, he should consider going to Vesta's Dipping Grill. Fantastic food and the choice of sauces is similar to the variety of chutney's available in Indian restaurants. Two other places that are unique to Denver are the Buckhorn Exchange and The Fort. If your friends are Hindu they probably won't appreciate the emphasis on beef at those two, although they might enjoy the Buffalo.

    1. Lucile's Creole Cafe (there's one in Denver, one in Boulder, and one in Longmont -- and despite having three locations is nothing like a chain restaurant!) is a good option for breakfast or lunch (but they don't do dinner). They serve lots of excellent Cajun specialties.

      3 Replies
      1. re: vanillagrrl

        I'm just glad that for once, you didn't recommend Frasca! :)

        1. re: Mutt

          It would be pretty disappointing to eat there if you were expecting Cajun food! ;-)

          1. re: vanillagrrl

            Yeah. They would have a single shrimp etouffe for $27.

      2. Lucille's is good, and I personally like Gumbo's (although I hate the name). It is right on the 16th St. Mall, so the location is good.

        1. I'm glad someone else mentioned Gumbo's - my husband, son & I happened upon it for a quick early dinner a couple of months ago. All of us agreed that the gumbo was very good, and the etouffe was the best we've ever had!

          1 Reply
          1. re: MarilynLam

            I'm curious. Have you ever been to Louisiana?

          2. I think its safe to say its hard to find cajun food anywhere as good as you find in Louisiana. But if the guest is from India, and has not traveled extensivly, how will he or she know the difference? For instance, I thought Gumbos was ok. But I don't have much experience with cajun or creole food. I am not even sure what the difference is. I do love Lucilles for breakfast except for all the people who have the same idea.

            3 Replies
            1. re: ColoradoFun

              I've never been to India but I can discern the difference between good and not-so-good Indian food. Maybe I can't make the comparison to Indian food in India but I do know taste and quality. Others can do the same. That being said, most guests if they have any sense of courtesy would compliment the food wherever they were taken. Gumbo's is good but it doesn't have the "soul" of real Cajun cooking.

              1. re: Mutt

                Certainly the food in India is simple but very well executed and it seems based on my experience there that Indian people have fairly discerning palates especially when it comes to the freshness of the ingredients as that plays a big role in Indian cuisine.
                We also determined that many Indian people mostly just like Indian food or other cuisines made with an Indian flair.

                There do seem to be a lot of similarities between Indian food and Cajun food and we would love to be able to share this with our friend, but obviously Denver is not a haven for Cajun food. My husband, who is very proud of his Louisiana heritage, really wants to share this cuisine with his friend, but perhaps we're better off taking him to just a good restaurant in Denver?
                Are Gumbo's or Lucile's passable?

                Thanks!

                1. re: empecot

                  Lucille's is light years better than Gumbo's and is excellent.
                  Remember, Lucille's only serves breakfast & lunch. My guess is that he'd be pleased taking his friend there and they wouldn't be disappointed. The andouille is great but don't expect to find boudin anywhere!

            2. I am not trying to get off subject or be a smartass, but if you have never eaten Cajun food I do not believe you are going to be able to discern whether the food is excellent or merely good. As an example, I was recently in Croatia and received a recommendation for a restaurant serving authentic Croatian cuisine. Some of it I liked, some of it I didn't. But I have no idea if any of it was really authentic or compares well with other Croatian food.

              Also, Mutt, if my qualifications for great food was that a restaurant captures the "soul" of the cuisine being served, I would probably never eat out in Colorado. I grew up on the ocean and I can guarantee you that no matter how fresh the seafood is, it is not the same "soul" as eating on the ocean. Also, having eaten in France and Italy, I can confirm that no French or Italian places in Colorado capture the essence of eating in those countries.

              Finally, if freshness is your standard, this time of year all produce in Colorado is imported, as is of course all seafood.

              My point being I think Gumbos and Lucille’s (I cannot speak to other Cajun places in Denver) serves good food and are probably good representations of the Cajun experience. There are many excellent restaurants in Colorado that may not recreate a certain food experience, they do create there own unique dining experience.

              2 Replies
              1. re: ColoradoFun

                Fun, you make some good points. Food is quite subjective. I've been going to Lucille's since Fletcher Richards first opened up in Boulder and it's one of my favorites, as I mentioned. IMNSHO, Cajun cooking is special and one of the types of cuisine that gets adulterated and misrepresented more than most. Gumbos tend to be nothing more than minestrone on steroids and blackened fish tepidly pan fried in pepper. I just believe that if you're going to introduce folks to a specific type of food, you shouldn't just settle on something because it's there and the label is correct. However, that doesn't rule out non-authentic combos. Once in Cochem in Germany on the Mosel I passed a Mexican-Balkan restaurant. Unfortunately, it was closed!

                By the way, if you grew up on the ocean, when did you finally hit dry land? :)

                1. re: ColoradoFun

                  You make a very good point about the "authenticity" of specific cuisines. Just because a dish, or meal, is authentic, does not make it good to one's palete. When it comes to Louisiana cuisine, one has a mix of several similar, but different cuisines: Cajun, Creole and then the unique blend of many cultures, including the two previous, New Orleans. Mention has been made of gumbo. I have had great gumbo that was almost clear, over rice with a few shrimp, all the way to a heavy "soup" that was almost black and had to eaten with a fork. All were good. Many were great. All were from old Louisiana recipes done to perfection by Louisian cooks and chefs. One could not say that one was more "authentic," than another. However, I do feel that great cuisine will have "soul," and it should come through, whether it's from Java, Polynesia, Croatia, or Louisiana.

                  In the very old days in Denver, I typified the dining there vs. New Orleans as: in Denver, one eats to live, while in New Orleans, one lives to eat. Now, while there, I saw this change drastically, and I am sure that the dining scene has expanded even more so in the last eight years. I think that it was the introduction of this "soul" to the food in Denver, that accounted for the difference.

                  Hunt

                2. You have gotten a few recommendations. None was in existance, when I lived in Denver, so I cannot comment. However, there seems to be some divergence on whether they are worthy of taking an international guest. My suggestion would be to take your guest to a "Denver" restaurant, and then do a Louisiana-influenced meal at your home. The best Louisiana chef to live in Denver moved (with me) to Arizona, some years back. We never found good Louisiana cuisine there, though did find great food in time. For Louisiana dishes (more New Orleans, than Cajun or even full-Creole), she cooked at home. We had to import most of the ingredients, but our friends, my clients, and others, lined up for her food. Her gumbo is still the one, by which all others will be judged, and I've had more, than most 100 people, that you could possibly name. Other than at my home, we haven't found anything outstanding on the Louisiana front in AZ either - some passable, but nothing to "die for." Here, the Papadeaux has a "Shrimp Stew," that is quite good, but their other dishes are from a corporate kitchen in Dallas. Dine with the cuisine of the area, and do the other in your home. Your guest will appreciate the gesture.

                  Hunt

                  1. Bayou Bob's in downtown Denver has been an institution for 20 years or so. I haven't been there in a while, but I remember it as being fun and serving tasty fare. There also is (or was) a Creole/Cajun place in Littleton, south of Denver and not all that far from Pappadeaux, so if one is convenient to the office, the other will be as well. I've never eaten there, but friends who live in that part of the metro area have spoken well of it.

                    RedFish FishHouse and Brewery is located in Boulder just off the Pearl Street Mall. The food has gotten mixed reviews. some people love it. Some are disappointed. the last time I ate there, which was a chef or two ago (and perhaps an owner ago as well), I remember it as all right but not great. The beer is often praised.

                    Whatever, any of these have GOT TO BE BETTER than Pappadeaux, a Texas-based chain.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: ClaireWalter

                      My father worked for a cajun company in Montegut, Louisiana, and loved Bayou Bobs. In fact, after he passed, his wake was at the old Bayou Bobs, I believe on 19th Street. I've eaten a lot of Cajun food in Louisiana, and, if you can't be there to eat, Bayou Bobs is your best bet in Denver. It's been a while since I've been there, but on Fridays and Saturdays, in crawfish season, they had a great boiled crawfish dinner with corn and potatos. Good luck.

                    2. P.S. Lucile's is indeed terrific, but it's only open for breakfast and lunch. If you're eating there on a weekend, come early -- and/or expect a goodly wait.

                      1. Yes, with Redfish I've had very good experiences and indifferent ones too but can never guess what the food will be like because by the time I get back there, they have all new people working there and usually a new menu to go alongside. I don't know if that's true, but that's how I feel about the place.

                        Speaking of Boulder, Jax has been known to mix in some good southern fare with their seafood schtick; and I believe the West End Tavern has been specializing in a sort of urban southern comfort fare of late, which seems like perfect bar food when you think about it.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: vanillagrrl

                          I agree about Redfish. Have never been thrilled by the food. West End has always had some Southern touches. The fried chicken is excellent. Since West End and Jax are both part of the Dave Query "empire", you often see some menu item spillover.

                        2. Storyville Creole Cafe, at 246 Main St., in Longmont is excellent. They do both lunch and dinner.

                          1. The top of my list is Bayou Bob's, mainly for the fried shrimp. The only ones I've had better were at Brunet's in Baton Rouge.

                            Next up is Lucile's (yes, nearly everyone in this discussion misspelled the name of the restaurant, even those professing to be regulars). My favorite dish there is Carlin County, but the wash day special (red beans and rice) is the best I've had in Colorado.

                            Gumbo's is surprisingly good, and I've had some real good gumbo there.

                            The south Pappadeaux was good when it first opened, and has gone downhill. The north one was never very good. In the Houston area (where the chain is from) Pappadeaux restaurants are way better than they are here.

                            I'm curious which restaurants you've tried around town and found "pretty bad."

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: ToddBradley

                              Do you realize that you replied to a 4 year old thread? Every single post but yours (and now mine ;-) is from 2006!

                              1. re: LurkerDan

                                That's the problem with the related threads section below a given thread. I've made that mistake before too...It's been discussed on Site Talk but what are you gonna do.

                                FWIW, this year, 2 Vietnamese-Cajun joints have opened in town: Red Claw and another whose name I forget (but it was recently profiled on Cafe Society).

                                1. re: LurkerDan

                                  LurkerDan,

                                  Since many come to CH for recs. many years later, so long as the later posts can help them, then all is not lost.

                                  Obviously, the OP's will have made a decision long ago, but the next diner might still be looking for the same thing.

                                  Some CH's hate zombies, but they can be very useful. Let's say that someone replied, "oh, restaurant X has great Cajun-inspired food," and that was in 2008. You come along in 2010 and add that "restaurant X still has great Cajun-inspired food." The newcomer sees that restaurant X is still turning out good Cajun-inspired food, so they are helped.

                                  Enjoy,

                                  Hunt

                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                    And while we are feeding off the zombie I'll re-state a previous post and say that I *loved* NoNo's Cafe in Littleton for Creole and Cajun inspired food. Good service, dedicated ownership and some very tasty food.