So7, So Cajun
Bayou Jack’s Cajun Grill is a small restaurant wedged into a West 7th street location between apartment complexes, more apartment complexes, and a location of the Mexican-food chain Chuy’s. In fact, if you call Jack’s for directions, you’ll likely be told, “We’re right before you get to Chuy’s.” That was the pitch I gave my review partner: “If Jack’s isn’t any good, we can just go next door for margaritas.”
Fortunately, a stop next door wasn’t necessary. Bayou Jack’s margaritas held their own. The frozen version even came with a swampy little drizzle of tequila on top, almost like icing. Bayou Jack’s, with an original location in Roanoke, has a spacious dining room and a patio with a five-seat bar and a few tables, perfect for a balmy Fort Worth autumn.
You could say Jack’s is proud of its boudin balls. The backs of all of the servers’ shirts tout the restaurant’s “Dirty Balls”: little bits of boudin sausage mixed with Cajun dirty rice, shaped into billiard-ball-sized orbs, dredged in flour, and fried. What’s not to like? The extremely tasty appetizer came out with a hollandaise-like sauce floating atop a spicy tomato bisque. The contrasting tastes made for really good dipping, but the balls were flavorful enough to be eaten on their own.
Perhaps the most effective way to assess Bayou Jack’s authenticity (or lack thereof) is the restaurant’s Ménage a 3: a cup of étouffée, a cup of gumbo, and a cup of red beans and rice –– sort of the Holy Trinity of Loozianan eats. Jack’s scrumptious gumbo had a sprinkling of filé powder on top, which did not add to the stew’s deliciousness factor. As I’ve been told by people who home-make the stuff, filé powder is something that you cook into the gumbo, not a condiment like hot sauce. As it was, the gumbo included fairly generous portions of shrimp and sausage and not too much rice.
The crawfish étouffée was even better. The dark roux-enriched broth was thinner than I’m used to, but the crawfish tails were cooked perfectly. My dining companion observed that this étouffée might be the perfect hangover cure: a little spice to clear the head, a little rice to absorb the lingering booze.
But the best part of the trio was the red beans and rice. It’s a dish that’s ridiculously simple to conceive but takes forever to create. The beans were perfectly done –– not too mushy but still melt-in-your-mouth –– and the spicy broth (similar to the étouffée’s) was peppered with just enough sausage. The dish was, for lack of better superlatives, extremely well-made Cajun comfort food.
For reasons that aren’t clear, Bayou Jack’s also offers the definitely non-Louisianan fish and chips. The white fish was fresh and clean-tasting cod (thankfully, not catfish), and the batter was beer-based (light, fluffy, and just greasy enough). The British presentation was made Cajun with the addition of some spicy battered fries that we couldn’t stop eating. The whole plate was well-conceived and incredibly tasty.
For dessert, Bayou Jack’s bread pudding with whiskey sauce consisted of a fairly thin square of decent bread pudding covered in a super-sweet maple-flavored sauce. It was only fair. Frankly, we wished we’d kept the basket of fries to nibble on.
Jack’s few shortcomings, though, were overcome by a wealth of flavors and swarms of good-spirited employees. Is Bayou Jack’s authentic Cajun? Perhaps. Is it tasty, fun, locally owned, and unusual for So7th? You bet, cher.
Bayou Jack’s Cajun Grill
2401 W 7th St, Ste 117, FW. 817-744-8631.
11am-9pm Sun, 11am-10pm Mon-Thu, 11am-11pm Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
Dirty Balls ………………………………… $6.25
Ménage a 3 ……………………………. $11.97
Fish and chips ………………………….. $9.50
Bread pudding w/whiskey sauce .. $4.99