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Cajun Experience in Leesburg?

w
WestIndianArchie Apr 30, 2009 10:05 AM

http://www.cajunexperience.biz/

Why has no one brought this to my attention?
I demand answers!

Seriously, do I have a VA alternative to Acadiana/Bardem?

  1. k
    klackey May 26, 2011 11:36 AM

    I lived in New Orleans for 21 years, and it so misunderstood by people who have never visited. I am particularly touchy about how the food is represented, and I am perpetually disappointed in what most people label "Cajun" or "Creole" outside of the Big Easy. The Cajun Experience was one of those disappointments.

    Food: We started with two appetizers--the fried okra and the hush puppies, which were actually quite good and a hit with my kids. Hush puppies are no more than seasoned, fried cornmeal and I kind of thought the portion should have been bigger. They have a nice selection of Abita beers, but were out of the one I wanted and I heard a server tell another family at another table that they were out of the beer they wanted as well. A restaurant loses points for being out of stuff. Choosing an entree was difficult, but we finally settled on poboys because I assumed that if they imported Leidenheimer bread then they must be authentic. Oh, we were so disappointed! First of all, they were small. Anyone who's eaten at a mom and pop poboy joint in NOLA knows that New Orleanians don't mess around with portion size. We eat big. Second, the bread was toasted (a no-no), but worst of all the bread was over toasted and burnt in places! Not *browned,* but BURNT. How could they let something like that leave the kitchen? Overall, though, the flavor of the innards of the sandwich--shrimp and sauce--was good. But not enough to make up for the inadequacies. The po-boys were served with potato chips, which were pretty unexciting. I suspected they might have been homemade, but there was something....missing. Just plain old French fries would have been a better alternative, but even better would be some choices. After I finished my poboy, I asked if I could have a small sample of the red beans--just a taste so I could decide if it would be worth it to come back. The waitress was happy to do this for me. The beans were pretty good--good texture and appropriate balance of spices, But the rice was undercooked and crunchy--a very amatuerish mistake in my book. For dessert, we couldn't pass up beignets. Overall, they were good, but not up to Cafe du Monde standards. Three doughnuts come in an order, and two of them were nice squares as they should be, but the third was tiny, deformed, and misshapen. Again, how can a cook let this come out of the kitchen? I also felt like I was cheated out of a beignet. I would've asked for a replacement, but it took so long for the beignets to come out in the first place (about 15 minutes), we couldn't wait any more with our restless kids. The cafe au lait was overly sweet, which suited me, but not my black-coffee-drinking husband. It was not, however, authentic tasting.

    Service: Our server was very sweet and worked hard. She might have been new, because she was not knowledgeable about the food--she didn't know what a "dressed" poboy was and when I asked her if the cafe au lait was authentic (which it wasn't), I had to explain what an authentic cafe au lait was. The beignets took forever to come out and every time our waitress passed she assured us that they would be "right out." I'm glad she reassured us that we were not forgotten, which I appreciated, but when food takes that long to come out, I expect it to be on the house. It was not her fault, but the kitchen's.

    Decor: Oh my. So many restaurants fail here. I know, I know, that sounds horribly arrogant--forgive me; I just have some strong opinions about decorations. Lots and lots of extra points for being in a cozy, historic building, but they lose points on everything else. Not only did the tables and chairs not fit in with the ambiance of the building, but they looked like they were purchased second hand or dug out of the dumpster. The chairs had dirty, mauve-colored cloth seats. Mauve! And there were the obligatory cheesy Mardi Gras beads draped over things and the cheap Bourbon Street sign on the wall that looked like it was purchased in one of the sleazy souvenir shops in the Quarter. Please, please let's represent our city better than this! How about some beautifully framed professional photographs of stately oak trees or endangered shotguns or the swamp lands? There is so much visual beauty in New Orleans--the walls of a Cajun restaurant would be such an ideal place to show it off.

    Cleanliness: I had some concerns about the cleanliness of the restroom. It needed a good scrubbing, particularly the floor and the baseboards and needed some tidying up--it also served as a storage area.

    Another thing that perplexes me about restaurants is that waiters, owners, and chefs rarely seem to be genuinely interested in what their patrons think of the food. Often, there is a quick, "How is everything?" as the server runs by, and it's kind of like when someone asks you how you're doing--you just automatically say, "Fine." I guess they figure we'll vote with our wallets, which is what I'll do--we won't return to Cajun Experience.

    12 Replies
    1. re: klackey
      v
      VaPaula May 26, 2011 12:50 PM

      "..plain old French fries...." Sounds likes Zapp's would have been better, too!

      Thanks so much for the review. Sorry it was lousy. We lived in New Orleans for awhile (husband is from SWLA) and I can feel your pain. I have hesitated to try any "New Orleans" type restaurants here because I am always disappointed whenever eating "New Orleans" food outside of NOLA. I use the quotes in the previous sentence because it is amazing to me what people try to pass off as New Orleans food. For starters, it ain't Cajun!!!!!!!!

      What I wouldn't do for a Parkway po'boy about now....

      Don't get me started on the decor - totally agree with you. Every Mardi Gras, I scream at the TV because that's all they show is stinkin' Bourbon Street! Would it kill them to have a couple shots of St. Charles Ave. parades?!

      1. re: VaPaula
        k
        klackey May 26, 2011 09:20 PM

        Yeah, Zapp's would've been much better! Sigh....a roast beef poboy from Parkway, dressed, with the "debris"...

        Have you been to Bayou Bakery in Arlington? It's better than Cajun Experience--great beignets and boudin. Their muffaletta was a little wimpy (not like the monsters at Cafe Maspero's), but their daily "hot plates," like jambalaya, are pretty spot on.

        1. re: klackey
          v
          VaPaula May 27, 2011 07:53 AM

          No, but Bayou Bakery is high on my list, though - as is Clarence's (there was a discussion here about it fairly recently), although that's a bit of a haul for us. Good to know BB passes muster with you. ;-) I just heard David G has a snowball machine and Wedding Cake - my favorite - is a flavor, so we will be hitting it up soon.

          Mmmmm....debris.

          1. re: VaPaula
            k
            klackey May 27, 2011 10:19 AM

            Oh my goodness--wedding cake with sweetened condensed milk--love it! You and I are on the same page. In the end, if you really want good New Awlins food around here, you just have to make it yourself.

            1. re: klackey
              alkapal Jun 1, 2011 06:07 PM

              Bayou bakery has very nice beignets, which i guess you both know. i ask them to go light on the sugar, though. Chef Guas is very nice. I have yet to try their special dinners.

      2. re: klackey
        m
        MikeR May 26, 2011 01:28 PM

        Leesburg isn't New Orleans. Cajun Experience, for the Leesburgers, is a change from pizza and "fine dining." I guess that with your experience with New Orleans food, you'd best wait to go back there again to relive your dining experiences. Remember, down there, they have hundreds of New Orleans restaurants, some of which I'm sure are not as good as Cajun Experience in Leesburg. Leesburg has one.

        When I was there, the owner spent a fair amount of time at our table (there were about 10 of us, so we got a room to ourselves). We had come, hot, dirty, and tired from working all day at the Celtic Festival and were treated to a pleasant meal that was more welcome than pizza or a TGIFridays. I only wish that he hadn't sent the dishwasher with his bagpipes in to play for us. We had enough of that during the day.

        I agree that it's not Cajun like what you find in real Cajun country. If you want to review another SW LA restaurant, try Clarence's Taste of New Orleans in Edgewater, MD next time you're up north of Baltimore a ways.

        1. re: MikeR
          k
          klackey May 26, 2011 09:21 PM

          Thanks for the tip! I've never heard of Clarence's. I'll definitely check it out if I'm in the area.

          1. re: klackey
            b
            bordeauxfan May 27, 2011 10:02 PM

            Glad another CHer is mentioning Clarences. Had some delicious gumbo and spicy shrimp creole there for lunch yesterday.

            NB for DC folks: Clarences is across the street from the MARC rail station. If you wanted to make a day trip out of it, you could ride the train directly from Union Station to Edgewood. Would also allow you to enjoy a hurricane or two.... But the MARC train only runs weekdays. Amtrak trains don't stop there on weekdays or weekends.

          2. re: MikeR
            b
            bordeauxfan May 27, 2011 10:09 PM

            Just a correction: Clarences is in Edgewood (NE of Baltimore) not Edgewater (S of Annapolis).

            1. re: bordeauxfan
              m
              MikeR May 28, 2011 09:19 AM

              Thanks. I'm a dummy. I knew that (and even wrote "north of Baltimore")

          3. re: klackey
            s
            Steve May 29, 2011 04:01 PM

            Not that it's any consolation to you, but I've had the po boys three times at the CE in DC,and the bread never came out toasted. The size was plenty generous, at least what I would have expected at Domilise's.

            1. re: Steve
              k
              klackey May 29, 2011 05:31 PM

              Interesting. You know what I suspect? That maybe the bread was on the stale side, so they toasted it.

          4. kukubura Sep 6, 2009 10:02 AM

            We ate at The Cajun Experience last night and I wanted to share my thoughts. After reading everything I could find on the internet (which in these days of instant information can be pretty harsh on a new restaurant) we were really pleasantly surprised. There's still room for improvement but I thought it was a terrific little restaurant that has shown a clear commitment to improving and getting it right.

            Let me also say this: We can be pretty hard on restaurants. We have pretty much had it with a lot of the restaurants in Baltimore and if I bothered to write them all up you would be reading a lot of reviews that just said "For crying out loud, just go out of business already." Couple that with the fact that we LOVE the cuisines of southern Louisiana and have been to the region a bunch of times, eating our way through many of its notable and historic restaurants, I feel like this was a situation where we could swung hard in either direction. So I'm really pleased overall.

            First off, the house is great. I love the way it looks on the outside as you're approaching and I love the feel on the inside. It felt homey and inviting. We sat in the red room, which had a hint of that New Orleans opulence thanks to the wall color. When I was planning this birthday excursion (which also included a ride on White's Ferry, a premier wine tasting at Tarara Winery, a picnic, and a stroll through Leesburg, which is great) I was warned that the restaurant is very casual - and it is. But I was happy to see more than a few tables where people had clearly dressed nicely to go out. That was nice to see in this day and age and helped make the place seem casual in the GOOD way. (I think a lot of restaurants and diners think that casual means "sloppy" or "half-assed.") I would also say that we saw the two ground floor dining rooms get really pretty busy. A good sign, I'd say.

            We were greeted by Chelsea, who was our server, and who I thought did a great job. She was welcoming, friendly and attentive. I will say that I noticed that finished plates tended to sit on the tables a little longer than they could have, so if I had one bit of constructive criticism it would be that, but honestly Chelsea (and the other servers that I saw) were much better than most of the service we've gotten at more expensive restaurants lately.

            We started with the shrimp remoulade, which I understand was just added to the menu that night. This was a tricky thing for us because we make our own shrimp remoulade based on classic creole recipes, so we're pretty biased. It was tasty but I missed the heat that you get from the horseradish. If this is the owner's family recipe or something that's fine, but I missed that little zing. I have to give credit for the direction it's going however. Most of the time that you see "remoulade" sauce around here it's like a pink mayo dipping sauce that is not in anyway related to real creole or cajun remoulade. So it's close!

            I would also suggest bumping up to a medium sized shrimp from the small ones they had, just so you get more of that juicy shrimp texture with the sauce. The shrimp were nicely cooked, however, and it was a refreshing start to the meal. The tomato slices were also very fresh and good.

            For entrees we ordered the seafood gumbo and the crawfish etouffee. The gumbo had a bit of that flour taste that you get when something isn't exactly right with the roux. And it didn't have as much of a layering of flavors as you get in the best gumbos. I would work on that some more. I think it's almost there but with a little extra attention it could be really good.

            The etouffee, however, was great. I actually thought it was better than the crawfish etouffee I had at French Quarter staple The Gumbo Shop the last time we were there. I think it's a good comparison because The Gumbo Shop is a casual, inexpensive, reliable restaurant and for The Cajun Experience to outcook them on a dish shows that they can do it. 

            Both entrees came with the chef's personal potato salad and that was really a nice surprise. It was very creamy and unlike other potato salads I've had. I forgot about the whole "put the potato salad in the gumbo" thing so we didn't do that, but the potato salad is a real winner.

            Also the hunk of New Orleans bread was a great touch. It's so airy and crusty. Damn, that's good bread.

            Since they don't have their liquor license yet I brought some Abita Ambers (the Louisiana favorite) and chilled them in the picnic cooler all day so they were ice cold by the time we had them with our dinner. Wells Liquors on York Road in Baltimore carries various Abita beers so they can be found in this area. Hopefully when the liquor license comes through The Cajun Experience will continue its habit of stocking Louisiana brands and have it because it went really well with the food.

            We had the beignets and cafe au lait for dessert. I'm not sure what the cooking apparatus is that they're making the beignets in (versus, say, Cafe Du Monde) but they weren't puffed up, more on the flat side. Still, they tasted great, but if they could get them to be little pillows that would be awesome. The cafe au lait is made with sweetened condensed milk, which is not how Cafe Du Monde makes it (I think they just use hot milk). Maybe this is a Cajun twist on it or a family recipe and, taken on its own, it was delicious, but paired with the beignets I think it's just too much sweetness. The reason that the coffee + beignets thing at Cafe Du Monde works so well is because of the interplay between the unsweetened coffee and the ultra-sweet beignets. I would maybe offer a choice of sweetened milk and regular hot milk.

            The one other thing I wanted to mention is the decor. As I said up top, I love the house and I loved being in the restaurant. They picked a great location and they got a really good start at making it have the right atmosphere. My two suggestions would be regarding the chairs and the wall decorations. I would love to see them replace the chairs with all sorts of mismatched old, wooden chairs. Farmhouse chairs, whatever. The sort of thing you can collect piece by piece over time, if possible (I know, impossible to do when you're running a restaurant 6 days a week, but I'm just thinking out loud.) It would fit the space better and really add that rustic look.

            As for the walls, they're a little bare and I have two ideas: There's a cool store around the corner called The Cottage that has all sorts of vintage metal signs and stars and things. Maybe something could be worked out where their stuff hangs on the walls but remains for sale (courtesy of The Cottage.) That way they get an additional venue for their stock and the restaurant gets free decorations. They might be able to help with the chairs, too. Their aesthetic fits the cajun theme, I think. 

            The other idea would be to get local artist(s) to hang work that could be for sale. Maybe offer artists an opportunity to hang stuff for 2 or 3 months at a time. That's a cheap way to get something colorful on the walls and to have it vary over time. As a painter myself I've done this before and it's worked out well. Also, I appreciate the zydeco and New Orleans music that they played. It also added to the atmosphere. There's nothing more jarring than going into a restaurant that has a particular culinary point of view but then just plays an 80s mix station or something. 

            All in all I give The Cajun Experience a very positive review. Judging by the things I've read it's clear that they take constructive criticism very seriously and are committed to fixing the problems that inevitably spring up when opening a new business. Running a restaurant in ANY economic climate is risky and daunting and opening one this year especially is crazy. If I had one main bit of advice it's to just go all out on the food and the atmosphere. Don't water down any aspect of it. Keep the recipes as true as possible and the restaurant will be awesome. It's already got a damn good start, I think. I'd be happy to revisit the Cajun Experience the next time I'm in the area and see how it's evolved.

            4 Replies
            1. re: kukubura
              Bob W Sep 7, 2009 12:20 PM

              Thanks for the outstanding review. We've been to NOLA several times so we know what good south LA food should taste like too. We'll make the drive to Leesburg at some point.

              Just one question: Why didn't you try the bread pudding??!!

              1. re: Bob W
                kukubura Sep 8, 2009 06:46 AM

                We didn't have the bread pudding for the same reason we didn't have the crawfish pie app, which I had been looking forward to: Our wine tasting at Tarara was so much longer and more awesome than I expected that it pushed our picnic back and when dinner rolled around we weren't quite as hungry as I thought. But I'd love to try both of those dishes.

                If you getting to Leesburg requires a bit of a drive I suggest basically following our steps: Go to noon premier tasting at Tarara (really, their wines are surprisingly good, and when you do the premier tasting thy break out some very special limited edition bottles), then enjoy the area, and then have dinner. We'll probably retrace our steps with friends next time we're looking for a day trip like that.

                Here's a pic of me with the etouffee. Since we weren't as hungry as we thought we took the leftovers home. I mixed the etouffee in with scrambled eggs for brunch the next day... awesome!

                 
              2. re: kukubura
                c
                cajungirl Sep 25, 2009 12:36 PM

                Thanks for the thorough review. I was wondering if you tasted cream in the etouffee.

                1. re: cajungirl
                  kukubura Sep 25, 2009 01:53 PM

                  I don't remember a noticeable cream taste. It was definitely not "creamy" in any defining way. It was damn good, though, as I said.

              3. kukubura Aug 23, 2009 08:34 AM

                I'm looking for a birthday dinner for my wife and am wondering if this place would be good. The previous post definitely has me concerned, as does the PB&J kid-friendly menu. But I'm still intrigued. Let me tell you a little about us and maybe someone can say whether or not this is a good fit:

                We are big fans of the cuisine of New Orleans and southern Louisiana/cajun country. We have eaten a lot of cajun and creole food in the region where it originated, including at some of the traditional favorites (K-Paul's, Commander's, Galatoire's, etc) We don't like fake cuisine. We also like to get dressed up for a special meal (birthday, anniversary, things like that) and we get annoyed when other diners are wearing shorts and sandals in an otherwise nice restaurant. We like to "do it up" as it were. If you look at my post history you'll see a lot more posts in the New Orleans forum than in the mid-atlantic forum, since that's really where my heart is.

                We also don't eat meat other than seafood (which doesn't look to be a problem on the Cajun Experience menu).

                My main questions are:
                -Is the food true to its roots?
                -Is the place too casual for us? I'm not expecting Commander's Palace, but will it be overly bright and have kids screaming and running around?
                -Is the service really as bad as the previous poster (Truck403) makes it sound?

                I like a casual restaurant as much as the next person but it's not necessarily what I'm looking for for this meal and don't want to drive and hour and a half to be really disappointed. I'm thinking of pairing dinner up with an afternoon wine tasting at a vineyard in the area, so I kind of want it to be a nice birthday experience. Also, if the restaurant still doesn't have its liquor license then I can bring a local wine from the tasting.

                Also, I considered Acadiana but (a) we're going to be in DC twice later that week for two different events and I want to mix it up a bit and (b) someone just told my wife that it's not that great and I don't want to immediately turn around and go there after that non-recommendation.

                Sorry for the mega post! Thanks in advance for all responses.

                8 Replies
                1. re: kukubura
                  m
                  MikeR Aug 23, 2009 10:30 AM

                  I've only been there once, and it was fairly late on a Saturday (about 8:30, which I guess is late for Leesburg), with a group of about ten (Potomac Celtic Festival stage crew), without reservations. I'd read about the place here and figured that it was the most interesting place in town for the crew to eat. They looked almost closed when we came in, and we inquired if we could still eat dinner. The owner welcomed us and took us to a room of our own upstairs (we really didn't look or smell all that bad). We had excellent service, tasty food, and it was a great way to end a tiring day.

                  As far as whether it's true to New Orleans cooking, in spirit, yes. They use the right ingredients, but fairly lightly. Since you've eaten in the restaurants that defined modern New Orleans cooking, you won't be blown away. But it's different from about anything else you'll find in Leesburg, in a pretty good way. I don't really know my way around Leesburg eating but I can tell you that the night before, we got out later, and at 9:30, the nicest place we could find to eat was a TGI Friday's.

                  I'd call and ask them about the liquor license. When we were there (June of this year) they didn't have a license but the owner said that if we had brought our own wine he would have happily supplied glasses.

                  1. re: MikeR
                    kukubura Aug 23, 2009 11:07 AM

                    Thanks. I noticed that the owner of TCE has been in this thread so maybe he can chime in too? I don't know what "nice for Leesburg" means because I've never been to Leesburg. If we do eat at Cajun Experience we'll be driving out from Baltimore basically for no other reason than to eat there. I'm definitely attracted to the old farmhouse location. Of the three birthday ideas I have this is the most intriguing to me and I hope it can work. Also, if there's any opportunity to let the owner know that our table at least isn't afraid of heat and of real cajun cooking, so maybe they won't "northern" it up for us!

                    1. re: kukubura
                      m
                      MikeR Aug 23, 2009 12:52 PM

                      I certainly wouldn't drive from Baltimore to Leesburg to eat there. If you were going to tour some wineries in the area as you suggested in your earlier post, it might be a nice way to end the day, but I wouldn't make The Cajun Experience your reason to drive close to 200 miles round trip. I suspect that there's some finer dining in Leesburg (you might want to start a new thread and ask). This just hit the spot for us after a long work day. The kid who washes dishes even came upstairs with his bagpipes and played us a couple of tunes (not at all what we needed, but it was a nice thought). When we were looking for a place to eat the night before (and this was after 9 PM) we saw a bunch of bars downtown, and one nice looking place that looked like it used to be a bank that had an attractive menu, but they told us that the kitchen was closed so we couldn't get anything but bar food there.

                      Old farmhouse location? I guess my memory's kind of foggy about that. I remember it as a row house, on one of the downtown streets, but I just looked at the photo on the web site and it looks like it's standing alone. Maybe I was just thinking row house because that's mostly what's downtown. I guess there could have been farm houses downtown.

                      1. re: MikeR
                        kukubura Aug 23, 2009 02:02 PM

                        Gotcha. Like I mentioned, we are particularly big fans of the cuisine (and also of getting out of Baltimore for the day!) so the drive isn't an issue as long as it's a good place (and, yeah, I'd pair it up with an afternoon activity)... Still thinking on it...

                  2. re: kukubura
                    Dennis S Aug 23, 2009 10:55 AM

                    We haven't yet made it to Cajun Experience. We were set to go 1 or 2 weeks ago but plans changed at the last minute.

                    For a nice birthday meal in Leesburg, our fave is Lightfoot.

                    1. re: kukubura
                      Truck403 Aug 24, 2009 06:13 AM

                      I will say the owner has been in contact with us offline to say they were aware of the problems we experienced and have made some changes and are encouraging us to come back.

                      1. re: Truck403
                        kukubura Aug 26, 2009 06:49 AM

                        Well that's good. I'm sure some of these issues come from being so new.

                      2. re: kukubura
                        j
                        jendrew99 Aug 28, 2009 12:13 PM

                        This is definitely not a dress up place. No bright lights and screaming kids, either, but is more casual than a Tuskies or Lightfoot.

                      3. Truck403 Aug 10, 2009 11:42 AM

                        We went to Cajun Experience this past Saturday for my birthday dinner. We first called to make sure the restaurant would be open, just to be sure. We were told by whomever answered the phone the place would be open until 9 and we should make reservations if we wanted to ensure a place to sit, so we did.

                        We arrived a little past 7:30, our scheduled reservation time only to find out there was no need for reservations and there was seating available wherever we wanted. We placed an order for boudin balls as a starter, the gumbo and the jambalaya. Having to been to Louisiana and New Orleans in particular I was intrigued on their take on all three of these classics.

                        After about 20 minutes our waiter asked us, “what we were waiting on?”. I told him the appetizer, the boudin balls, to which he responded he would check on them right away. A couple of minutes passed and the order arrived, fresh from the fryer. The boudin balls were ok, rather bland, but the remoulade was quite nice and helped provide some much needed flavor.

                        We then sat and watched a group of three people who came in after us order, eat and leave while numerous other tables around us get served. The waiter returned to ask the same question as before, “ what were you waiting on?”. I told him entrees and he asked “what did you order again?”, which was a large red flag. It was our belief at this moment that he had not placed the order. The two things we ordered were no cook to order items and to see plates of the same dishes going past to other tables who came in later was disconcerting at best.

                        We made a decision at that moment when the waiter once again returned to the kitchen that waiting 45 minutes to receive our entrees was long enough. We left the money for the appetizer and left (as we only had water to drink, it was a relatively cheap meal).

                        I am disappointed we were not able to taste the entrees. We tried to rationalize a lot of different reasons as to why this happened the way it did, but the bottomline was there was no concern over the fact we were not served. Unfortunately, based on our experience, we both agreed we don’t feel the need to return to Cajun Experience.

                        1. m
                          MikeR Jun 15, 2009 09:34 AM

                          I was just there this past Saturday night with a group of eight, sound and stage crew from the Potomac Celtic Festival over the weekend. We spent too long setting up on Friday night and didn't get off the site until past 9 PM and by the time we got clean enough to eat, we had to settle for a biker bar or Ruby Tuesday's (Ruby won that one).

                          We made it to Cajun Experience right about 9 on Saturday night, hoping that they wouldn't tell us that the kitched had closed early. We were met by the owner who took us to a private room upstairs (well, we were a pretty scruffy looking bunch) and was very hospitable, telling us about the menu and making suggestions. It wasn't very busy when we were there, just a couple of tables downstairs finishing up, so we had great service - the owner, and two perky waitresses, and got a few samples.

                          I have a part time shrimp allergy (though not all shellfish) so I had to rule out about half the menu, but the chicken and andouille sausage gumbo was excellent - well balanced, a bit spicy but not hair raising. Crayfish pies were little miniatures about the size of a little cocktail quiche, tasty and had big chunks of meat (big relative to a crayfish tail anyway). The boudin balls were gone by the time they got down to my end of the table so they must have been good.

                          Others in the group had seafood gumbo, jambalaya, a shrimp po boy, and a chef's special which was fish and shrimp (I think) in a maque choux sauce. Beignets were good, about the size of large ravioli. The chicory coffee needed to be stronger.

                          We were telling him about the festival and a few minutes later, the kid who works there as a dishwasher came up to our room carrying a set of highland bagpipes and played us a couple of tunes. We had really heard enough bagpipes for a day or three, but he was pretty decent. Don't expect this as regular entertainment tho. He says he usually plays at funerals. <g>

                          They don't have a liquor license yet, but apparently it's OK to bring your own wine.

                          Nice, friendly place, and they seem to know what they're doing. I don't know how it compares to Acadiana because I haven't been there. I doubt I'd make a trip to Leesburg just to eat Cajun, but I'll probably eat there again next time I'm in town.

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: MikeR
                            t
                            Transplanted Texan Jun 20, 2009 08:46 PM

                            Hubby and I went to Cajun Experience this evening. We got there just before 5 and it was empty, but not for long. I was pleased to see the place pretty much filled by the time we left at 630 or so. The waitress was friendly and competent; even when she got very busy she was personable and efficient. One of the chefs came out to chat, which was nice.

                            I had the Chef's special, which was blackened Tilapia over crawfish etouffee. It was served with some potato salad and a piece of stale toasted french-type bread. The Tilapia was out of this world, quite thick and a generous size, very fresh, that was perfectly done. I enjoyed the etouffee although it's different from what I've had before; more cream in the sauce and less taste of roux. Hubby had shrimp maque choux, which he enjoyed thoroughly. Truthfully they could lose the bread without worry; it didn't add much to the meal but came in handy to sop up sauce!

                            The Chef's special came with a couple beignets for desert. We ordered an additional round to finish off our cafe au lait. The beignet dough is very brioche-like, one of those rare doughs that actually would be interesting without being fried. The oil had soaked in a bit, so maybe the oil wasn't hot enough? Don't know how you fix that. Really a minor quibble, especially considering the appetizer of boudin balls was perfectly fried.

                            Hubby had the banana pudding, which was obviously home made and delish. The fresh banana slices and the 'Nilla Wafers were clearly added at the last minute, which makes for nice crispy cookies and non-slimy banana slices, yay! I'd agree with the previous poster that the cafe au lait could be stronger.

                            We will definitely be back!

                            Oh, the website needs to be updated! Still has stuff up about Mother's Day and the hours are different now, so you might want to call before you go.

                            1. re: Transplanted Texan
                              Dennis S Jun 21, 2009 03:29 AM

                              I'm gathering it's family friendly. True? ( a 2 and 4 yr old, in my case).

                              1. re: Dennis S
                                m
                                MikeR Jun 21, 2009 07:57 AM

                                Glad you enjoyed your meal there, Tex. I think what was the chef's special the night we were there was probably the same as what you had, and described better than I did. One of our party had a banana pudding as well and loved it.

                                I don't see any reason why not to bring kids as long as they're accustomed to going to restaurants. It's a perfectly civilized but casual place.

                                1. re: Dennis S
                                  t
                                  Transplanted Texan Jun 21, 2009 04:24 PM

                                  Oh my, yes, very family friendly. There were several large groups there when we left and at least two of them had small kids. I overheard them say that they had macaroni and cheese for the kids and PB&J sandwiches.

                              2. re: MikeR
                                j
                                jendrew99 Aug 28, 2009 12:39 PM

                                "They don't have a liquor license yet, but apparently it's OK to bring your own wine."

                                Actually, it's illegal to bring alcohol on premise of any restaurant w/o a liquor license. I wish VA would change this law to allow for BYOB licensing. I'm hoping that Cajun Experience (and the other new-comers to Leesburg - like La Lou Bistro) will get their license soon.

                                1. re: jendrew99
                                  m
                                  MikeR Aug 28, 2009 01:31 PM

                                  It sounded kind of fishy to me too, but the owner said "If you had brought a bottle of wine, I'd be happy to bring you some glasses." So I wouldn't count on wine until they're licensed. In fact, with that kind of food, I wouldn't count on wine anyway, but a beer might have been good.

                                2. re: MikeR
                                  m
                                  mdzehnder Oct 12, 2010 04:00 PM

                                  If by "a biker bar" you're referring to the Downtown Saloon, you should definitely go there the next time you're around. It does look a bit sketchy from the outside, I grant, but its a fun place to go and definitely a Leesburg institution.

                                  1. re: mdzehnder
                                    Dennis S Oct 12, 2010 06:08 PM

                                    Better in here than across the street!

                                    1. re: mdzehnder
                                      m
                                      MikeR Oct 13, 2010 04:14 AM

                                      Not sure what the name of the "biker bar" was, but there were a lot of motorcycles parked outside, very loud music (not live), and very loud shouting above the music. We were tired and just wanted to eat and relax, not go to a "fun place."

                                      When we went to Cajun Experience, it was with a bunch of people, we had a room to ourselves, and enjoyed our meal and an opportunity to relax after a hard day.

                                  2. q
                                    quietstorm May 9, 2009 10:17 AM

                                    A couple of friends and I tried this place last Friday. I believe it was "First Friday's" in Leesburg so it was extremely busy. Being a native of the New Jersey Parish, I am by no means an expert on Cajun cuisine, but I thought the food was very good. My boss is more familiar with the food and after telling him about it, he went and agreed it was very good. It is located in an old house in downtown Leesburg that must be from some time in the 1800's. Overall I really enjoyed myself. My buddy and I got the etouffee and jambalaya and split it. I liked the etouffee a lot better. However being that it was First Friday's, and the restaurant was slammed, they had a line cook pulled to be our server. Understandably the service was a little lacking. If you sit upstairs make sure you watch your head going up, because I'm convinced everyone from the 1800's was 3 foot tall. Once they get fully staffed and some more experienced servers I will be going here a lot. The manager/owner came to our table and made sure everything was OK, chatted for a bit and gave us free dessert. I even came the next day to get two plates of etouffee to take to another one of my friends house. Overall a pleasant experience in a nice old house with good food. A welcome addition to Leesburg.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: quietstorm
                                      t
                                      Transplanted Texan May 11, 2009 05:45 AM

                                      Thanks for the report, quietstorm! I can't wait to try it.

                                    2. a
                                      antepiedmont May 4, 2009 09:32 PM

                                      Okra's in Manassas is really nice too. I am not an expert on NO style but the dishes I have had there have been good. Also they have a good bar.

                                      1. l
                                        louisianachef May 1, 2009 09:25 AM

                                        I am the owner and one of the executive chefs of the Cajun Experience. We are from Lafayette, LA and we moved to the Northern VA area from Europe (I worked as an Emerging Markets Consultant). We specialize in traditional cajun food. The food is made up of crawfish etouffee, seafood gumbo, chicken and sausage gumbo, poboys, beignets and chickory coffee just to name a few items. We are open Monday - Saturdays for Lunch and Dinner. Our prices are from $7-$16. Check out our menu's on the website www.cajunexperience.biz

                                        18 Replies
                                        1. re: louisianachef
                                          l
                                          LuLuBlaubugunder May 1, 2009 10:15 AM

                                          this is exciting!! i just got back from new orleans and my mouth was mourning the loss of the delicacies there.

                                          1. re: louisianachef
                                            Dennis S May 1, 2009 11:03 AM

                                            Sorry if you're pure cajun and this is not appropriate, but any chance of a muffaletta?

                                          2. re: louisianachef
                                            c
                                            cajungirl May 1, 2009 01:36 PM

                                            Interesting menu, but I've never heard of cream (or cream sauce) being used in etouffee.

                                            1. re: cajungirl
                                              c
                                              Creole Lady May 1, 2009 06:39 PM

                                              I am Creole. We make etoufee with condensed milk (Pet or Carnation).

                                              1. re: Creole Lady
                                                t
                                                Transplanted Texan May 2, 2009 06:36 AM

                                                No kidding! I had no idea. Can you explain when the milk is added? After the roux is made, I assume? Then what?

                                                1. re: Creole Lady
                                                  c
                                                  cajungirl May 4, 2009 11:17 AM

                                                  Tell me more. I've never heard of that before.

                                                  1. re: Creole Lady
                                                    pattisue Aug 28, 2009 12:33 PM

                                                    Condensed milk or evaporated milk? Cuz if it's condensed, that's just crazy.

                                                2. re: louisianachef
                                                  t
                                                  Transplanted Texan May 2, 2009 06:35 AM

                                                  I am SO thrilled you're here and wish you the best of luck. Hey, what are you offering for breakfast?

                                                  1. re: Transplanted Texan
                                                    l
                                                    louisianachef May 2, 2009 06:44 AM

                                                    we do beignets and also grits for the time being...looking to add some sausage bread etc.

                                                    1. re: Transplanted Texan
                                                      l
                                                      louisianachef May 2, 2009 06:45 AM

                                                      what is not appropriate??? me being a coon ass from Louisiana?

                                                      1. re: louisianachef
                                                        Dennis S May 2, 2009 06:57 AM

                                                        If this was about the muffaletta - I wasn't fully sure if that sandwich is truly cajun or if it was creole or if it was just a New Orleans thing; and neither cajun or creole.

                                                        That explained - will there be one offered ever?

                                                        1. re: Dennis S
                                                          l
                                                          louisianachef May 4, 2009 03:46 PM

                                                          we will consider it soon.

                                                          1. re: louisianachef
                                                            r
                                                            rHairing May 4, 2009 07:52 PM

                                                            I moved out of Leesburg but this may get me back for a day trip. I love Acadiana but it's not something I can afford regularly. Can I put a bid in for a good fully dressed oyster po' boy???

                                                          2. re: Dennis S
                                                            kukubura Aug 23, 2009 08:35 AM

                                                            It's neither. It's something that Italian immigrants introduced to New Orleans and, in that NOLA sort of way got folded into the local cuisine.

                                                          3. re: louisianachef
                                                            t
                                                            Transplanted Texan May 11, 2009 05:44 AM

                                                            I'm not sure what your question is about. I didn't say anything about you being inappropriate! Maybe you replied to the wrong post?

                                                            1. re: Transplanted Texan
                                                              Dennis S May 11, 2009 01:04 PM

                                                              Yeah - I think he was responding to me - where I was asking about a muffaletta - the inappropriate part was if that sandwich weren't truly cajun and I was about to be called out for asking about one.

                                                        2. re: louisianachef
                                                          Meg May 12, 2009 06:21 AM

                                                          After just returning from a long weekend in NO we're jonesing for cajun food and particulatly OYSTERS. Though I don't see any on your menu (not even po'boys). Is it just a matter of waiting until they're back in season?

                                                          Thrilled to have what sounds like authentic cookin' in the neighborhood.

                                                          1. re: Meg
                                                            j
                                                            jendrew99 Aug 28, 2009 12:11 PM

                                                            They actually have updated their menu to include oyster po'boys. Haven't tried them yet, but have been excited to try some of their new menu additions

                                                        3. m
                                                          malveaux Apr 30, 2009 03:27 PM

                                                          > Seriously, do I have a VA alternative to Acadiana/Bardem?

                                                          If you haven't heard of RT's Restaurant by now, you have no one to blame but yourself!

                                                          http://www.rtsrestaurant.net/

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: malveaux
                                                            w
                                                            WestIndianArchie Apr 30, 2009 03:30 PM

                                                            ^^my new best friend

                                                          2. Bob W Apr 30, 2009 11:07 AM

                                                            This is the first I've heard of it too, but it looks like it's worth a try.

                                                            I hope the fact that they felt the need to explain how to pronounce shrimp maque choux is not a sign that their food will be "dumbed down" for the local audience.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Bob W
                                                              t
                                                              Transplanted Texan May 2, 2009 06:34 AM

                                                              Oh, I think that around here the owners would have to assume very few could recognize and pronounce maque choux. The pronunciation is on the menu to avoid the inevitable irritation the wait staff will feel after the millionth person asks "How do you say that again?" Of course, they owners are also assuming the clientele actually will read it! :-)

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