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Ron's Cajun Connection in Utica

A thread about good eats along the I-80 corridor (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...) has spawned a fair amount of comments about Ron's Cajun Connection. After realizing good cajun food seems to be overlooked a bit here, I decided Ron's deserved his own thread. I love this place.

Does anyone else know of any other great cajun eateries in the area? I'm not a fan of Pappadeaux's and Heaven on Seven if much fancier than what I look for in Cajun food. For plain old good bayou cooking, I'm thinking Ron's is the best in the area.

Thoughts?

http://www.ronscajunconnection.com/

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  1. Great Job creating a thread for Cajun Ron...

    I have eaten @ Heaven on Seven (Chicago location, and the Naperville location), neither very good to me. I also have had Pappadeux many times, and the only things I like on their menu are the snow crab (1.5 Lbs for like $15), and the crab cakes, which are above average. .. I also have gone to Maple Tree Inn, a cajun restaurant in Blue Island on Western Ave. It has really gone downhill in the last few years, they used to have a crab augratin that was outstanding. However the last 2 visits there were a big dissapointment, and made it not worth the drive.

    For my money, and taste buds, Cajun Connection is the best at what they do. Luckily I now live(transplant from Naperville) about 15 mins from here(exit 97 on I-80), so I can go pretty often, however I sometimes do not go, knowing the line could be out the door, so I settle for something else in the area, and the pickings are slim.

    1. I've eaten at 2 outpost of Heaven on Seven and find no comparision to Ron's. I think the appeal of Ron's is that it's down home style cooking, not someone pretending to make Cajun. The fact that Ron is such a character adds to flavor of the place. We have had just about everything on the menu except burgers (can get that anywhere)and everything has been good, we ask questions, have been given samples and are always treated well there. As I mentioned in the other thread, when we come home from the in-laws in Peoria, we frequently call ahead and bring home a huge carry out order that we share with some friends who love Ron's too. They have always packed the orders well, helped us out to the car and have included reheating instructions.

      1. We always pass Ron's CC when we're out motorcycle riding out to Starved Rock area, always passed it up til I read this - will definitely stop next time . What would you suggest as a first try plate for the tender and light eaters stomach? My wife and I have started to split most dinners out and not feel so stuffed full which would otherwise result in uncomfortable afternoons.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Birddog415

          For a first timer, you've gotta try the ettoufes (A-too-Fays, as Ron likes to spell 'em). It's not a spicy dish, but is very rich. The red beans and rice with andoullie sausage is also excellent (actually, everything's excellent there). Gator Bites (I've had gator bites elsewhere that can seem a bit gristly. I've never had anything but tender gator from Ron's) and boudin balls (basically, bulk boudin sausage rolled into balls and deep fried. If you aren't into spicey food, stick with the mild balls) are a must do, as are the corn nuggets (corn on the cob, batter dipped and deep fried. One of Ron's specialties).

          Ron did cut back on his spices when he first started as he realized that the Chicago pallette can have a bit of a time with it. But, he will spice it up if you like and he does keep a few different spices on his tables. I like to sprinkle a bit of "Hot Damn" on my beans and I love "Sweet Heat" (like BBQ sauce) on my gator bites.

          If your waitress is Janet, tell her I sent ya's (She's my Sister-In-Law).

          1. re: Crissup

            Not to be misunderstood - I love hot and spicy- problem is as I get older it does NOT like me at all. I used to be able to eat black edged cracked jalapenos off the vine-thats hotter than hot. I guess with all of the voices here telling me I have to stop in to Rons ,I'll have to make it there .

          2. re: Birddog415

            You really should stop in and give them a try next time you are in the area.

            For light eaters, or those not into spice. I would suggest the Gumbo, always excellent and not that spicy. The Fried Shrimp are great as well. I will second the recommendation on red beans and rice w/ andouillie, and the ettoufes. All great. Alos his nightly specials havwe always been a hit with, me. I have never had anything bad on a visit here. and I have been there 10 times in the year or so I found out about Ron's..

            The spice level i guess is relative to each individual, I dont find the food there spicy but then again I consume hot sauces on almost everything I eat.

            Stop in and enjoy.

          3. Check out Ron's menu on the link supplied above, his menu side orders are pared down versions of a full order, that way you can sample a little of all he has to offer. Also check out hours of operation as they are limited, Ron goes back to Louisiana nearly weekly to get supplies.

            2 Replies
            1. re: LikestoEatout

              Just have to add one more to bump this post again - we just went to Ron's today and sampled a bit of everything - gumbo, shrimp etoufee, jambalya, alligator, bubba shrimp, etc..Everything was excellent! We also sample the sauces to add some more heat if you desire. Highly recommend it - we will be back and intend to get take out to share with family next time we visit.

              1. re: domestic goddess

                glad you enjoyed Ron's this place is a "hidden" gem in the Chicago area.

            2. Love that Bubba Gump shrimp and nearly everything else on the menu. I agree with all of the posts above - but let's not forget the pecan pie!!! Wonderful stuff if you can leave room for it, if not you must take a piece home.

              1. My wife & I dined @ Cajun Connection again on Saturday, we got there for an early dinner @ 4:10, and the place had a line out the door by 5:00., and it was about 20 degrees out....

                We brought our 3 month old baby, and really appreciate that the entire restaurant does not allow smoking.. Cajun Ron even stopped by and said the baby looked like him.. :) funny guy.

                The special on Sat. was Soft Shell Crab, Bubba Shrimp, and Shrimp Etouffe. all for $15...

                I went with a pick 3 combo. Bubba Shrimp, Shrimp Etouffe, and Red Beans & Rice with Sausage.. The meal comes with a choice of a cup of Gumbo, or a salad. for $13... I went with the Gumbo, as usual, and ate every last drop, it is probably the best Gumbo I have ever tasted, and is always excellent.. My wife had Bubba Shrimp, and the Shrimp Etouffe. As always top notch service, and food.

                1. Hands down Ron's is the best compared to the ones you mentioned. They are adequate, but Ron's is miles ahead. The seafood gumbo is the best gumbo I have ever had! And the prices are so reasonable and the portions huge. My son loves the alligator.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: libgirl2

                    I also love how Ron works the dining room on most nights, and teases folks who do not try the alligator, or frog legs.

                  2. As manager of Hurricane Gumbo (Chicago's Zydeco & New Orleans Style Funk Band) We alsway stop in at Ron's after the Gumbo Ya Ya Event in Rock Island, IL. every June. That is one of the best things about touring, you get to find these little gems that are out there. Ron, is one of the best host I have ever come across, he make's you feel like your at his house. We are looking forward to Gumbo Ya Ya this year, and stoppin' in Ron's on the way back.

                    1. Im hoping Ron has something special planned for Fat Tuesday, his website appears to be down, so I will have to give him a call, and see what he may have planned for that week. Hopefully a crawfish boil.

                      I just copunt myself as lucky living 15 minutes from the best Cajun food north of New Orleans.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: swsidejim

                        I know he had something last year, I think he used that union hall further west on 6. His website is probably getting too many hits, seems there's a lot of love for him lately! Go Ron! And Amy too!

                        1. re: LikestoEatout

                          thanks,

                          if we cant sneak out for Fat Tuesday, I think a trip later on in the week will be a sure thing. Hopefully he will carry over any specials for a few days.

                          1. re: swsidejim

                            It's way to early for crawfish. Unless they use farm raised crawfish. They don't come in season until late Feb. Crawfish from the Pearl River are the best. Don't forget to wash down them mud bugs with a Abita Beer.

                            1. re: Chicago Willy

                              We always enjoy some Abita beer when we pay Ron a visit. Thanks for the tip on the crawfish season.

                              1. re: Chicago Willy

                                Ron does crawfish boils in season but he also throws a heck of a Mardi Gras party too.

                                  1. re: LikestoEatout

                                    Why oh why do I live so far from this place?????!!!!!

                        2. Ron's website is back up, and he is going to be open on Fat Tuesday (Feb 5th). Reservations only @ $45 per person

                          A cajun buffet meal of alligator, shrimp, jambalaya, gumbo, etouffe, chicken, and more as well as desserts, soft drinks, and live music.

                          A perfect rexcuse to come out west of the city, and try the best cajun food in Chicagoland bar none.
                          www.ronscajunconnection.com

                          1. Had lunch @ Cajun Connection on Sunday, and Ron told me his next crawfish boil would be the third week of March, I am looking forward to that.

                            Another great meal, the gumbo was of its typical top notch quality with a rich brth, and chunks of pork, and sausage. I had the Bubba Shrimp, and Jambalaya, both excellent. As an appetizer we had the fried corn again, and it is becoming a regualar favorite as well. My wife went with Bubba Shrimp, and Red Beans with Rice and sausage. All Very good. Our 15 month old daughter had the deep fried alligator bites. The alligator was very good, and I couldnt believe I had not tried it before. Kind of a chicken texture, and taste, with a slight hint of a seafood taste to finish.

                            All in all another great meal, we will be going back for the crawfish boil next month.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: swsidejim

                              My son loves the alligator there! So do I. And I love the bubba shrimp.

                            2. Been so busy that we haven't made it out to Ron's in a year! Had some aligator at the Islamorada Fish House in Bolingrook a couple weeks back and it was horrible! Makes one realize just how much they miss Ron's and his fantastic gator.

                              1. Just FYI... I was at Ron's this past Sunday and he told me he's planning another crawfish boil for this weekend.

                                I had a strawberry Abita beer that was excellent. I didn't even know he had it until my brother told me. I think it's a seasonal brew or something.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Crissup

                                  thanks for the heads up, I see some crawfish in my future.

                                  1. re: swsidejim

                                    We went to Ron's Saturday for an early dinner, and the place was packed @ 4:10 when we arrived(they open @ 4:00). Crawfish boil was on.

                                    4 Lbs of Crawfish, corn, and red potatoes was $20.00

                                    2 Lbs was $12.

                                    The crawfish was excellent, lots of flavor, and perfectly cooked.

                                2. Finally made it to Ron's a couple of weekends ago. It was fantastic! (I think I might have to start making more trips back home to Illinois.)

                                  There were seven of us in all. We arrived a little after noon on a Sunday - we got a table right away - however there was a wait within a half hour. We started out with a sampler platter of Gator Bites, Boudin Balls (spicy & mild), Popcorn Shrimp & Crawfish, and Fried Corn. Sooo good! My kids just about snarfed down all the Gator Bites before the rest of us got to try them. I loved the Boudin Balls - both kinds - I could eat a platter of those myself. The Fried Corn was a crowd favorite, too. My youngest was a bit leary at first - but soon wasn't sharing either.

                                  I also tried my first (and second) Abita (Golden) Beer. My goodness - I've got to find some of that in Kansas City.

                                  The Gumbo was so darn good I could have snorted it. I had the Jamba-Too-Fay - Etoufee over Jambalaya. It was incredibly rich - very, very good. It was a bit sweeter than I was expecting - but didn't suffer for it. I can't hardly remember what my tablemates had - I know there was quite a bit of raving about the Bubba Shrimp. (I think most people got the Cajun Combos.)

                                  We didn't have room for dessert - we would have exploded. Next time. Next time for sure.

                                  What a great little place - fun atmospere - excellent food. Can't wait to go back.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Mushroom

                                    Glad to hear you enjoyed Ron's. You can see why people are willing to travel so far for it.

                                    1. re: Mushroom

                                      I echo what Crissup said, glad you enjoyed your visit to Ron's. Keep and eye out for his crawfish boils for a future visit.

                                    2. Heads up! Just got an email from Amy and she mentioned an upcoming crawfish boil and Mardi Gras in July. I quoted her comment below...

                                      "We are having a crawfish boil on July 11-13 while they last. Mardi Gras in July on July 25-26 with a Crawfish Boil and live music by Creole Stomp."

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Crissup

                                        great news, we were at the last crawfish boil a couple of months ago., and what a deal, 3 pounds of crawfish were $20, that and a cup of gumbo made my night.

                                      2. I was just there this past Saturday. Prices went up a bit but you still get a great amount of GOOD food for the price. And as usual the gumbo is spectacular!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: libgirl2

                                          I'll be going this Saturday, I cannot miss a crawfish boil.

                                        2. Jonesing for my Ron's fix! Was at a place last night with Jambalaya on the menu, but it was over pasta. Am I the only one who make a distinction between jambalaya over rice and pastalaya? I gotta get to Utica! Been too long since I've gotten down there. Anyone been there lately?

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Crissup

                                            Picked up my turducken from cajun Ron on Wednesday night. I was there for dinner twice in the last few weeks as well.

                                            The turducken was one of the best things I have made/eaten all year. The meals I had there were excellent as always, the Gumbo excellent, he has also had some tilipia, and some pasta with a seafood cream sauce(scallops, crab, shrimp). I am hooked on the boudin balls, and the fried oysters right now.

                                            As a side not Ron also was named a GNR(great neighborhood restaurant) by LTH forum.

                                          2. Crawfish bowl this weekend!!! March 6-8, 2009!! Ron just got back

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: tcmeagher

                                              One I have to work, two I live too far away to go after work! Darn it!!!!!

                                            2. FYI... Just got this email from Amy. Crawfish Boil Easter Weekend...

                                              ---

                                              Happy Easter everyone! Just wanted to let you know that we got a hold of some live crawfish and are having a spur of the moment crawfish boil this Fri & Sat while they last. Hope you can make it . Amy & Cajun Ron of Cajun Connection

                                              ---

                                              1. Another crawfish boil...
                                                ---
                                                Crawfish boil this weekend May 1-3, come and get 'em!

                                                Blackberry bread pudding Thu-Sat.

                                                Amy & Cajun Ron at Cajun Connection
                                                ---

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Crissup

                                                  Blackberry bread pudding? Drool!

                                                2. This just in... Another crawfish boil...

                                                  From: Amy Martin
                                                  Sent: Wednesday, May 27, 2009 3:21 PM
                                                  Subject: crawfish boil

                                                  Laissez les bon temps rouler!
                                                  Crawfish boil this weekend Fri-Sun May 29-31; oysters on the half shell.
                                                  Next week we start our summer hours Wed-Fri 4-9pm Sat 12-9; Sun 12-6.
                                                  (June 3-7) Dungeness Crab.
                                                  See you at the Cajun Connection!
                                                  Amy & Cajun Ron

                                                  1. I just received this email from Amy at Ron's Cajun Connection today...

                                                    Friends of Cajun Connection, one of our great customers submitted a letter about our place to ABC Nightline News People's Platelist. We were one of 20 chosen to be a finalist. We submitted a 3 min. video (amateur, unpolished, like us) for people to vote on their favorite. Starting Aug 26 you can vote on abc website. On Wed Aug 25 there will be a preview on Nightline, which airs at 11:35pm Eastern, at the end of the show. Only 1 restaurant wins, ABC goes to the winner and does a 3 camera shoot . We are asking our friends to vote, Aug 26-Sept 26, 1 vote per IP address. Thanks to everyone for your continued support, we are nothing without you!

                                                    Amy & Cajun Ron

                                                    http://www.abcnews.com/nightline/

                                                    1. Crawfish Boil this weekend!!

                                                      Just received this today...

                                                      ----------------------------------------
                                                      Subject: Crawfish Boil

                                                      Crawfish Boil this weekend at the Cajun Connection, Friday April 1- Sun April 3 while they last. Ron also got some Oysters so we will have Oysters on the half shell, while they last. Ya'll come, hear! Amy & Cajun Ron