During my college years at UTA, I spent a ridiculous amount of time at the dearly departed Mijo’s Café in Pantego. Even a few days ago, when I visited the building’s newest occupant, Cajun Corner (2304 W Park Row Dr, 817-275-6300), I felt a sensory recall of test anxiety, hangover pangs, and sleep deprivation. Still, the corner spot in that innocuous strip mall felt like a homecoming for me.
The place certainly looks different. Whoever decorated Cajun Corner has an irrational affinity for the color brown. It’s everywhere: the tablecloths, the half-wall, and the booths. The walls are decked out in party supply store-level aquatic bric-a-brac and some obligatory Louisiana-themed framed photos. There’s also a cool collection of pinned-up Polaroids of regular customers decked out in Mardi Gras beads and other frivolous, fun costume jewelry. Clearly people like this place.
On a busy weekday lunch, the service was a little chaotic and slow. Eventually someone greeted my guest and I and things were mostly smooth the rest of the way. There was a brief moment when the cashier couldn’t find my credit card after I gave it to her to pay our bill, but we worked through it.
The lunch menu features a lot the bayou’s greatest hits: gumbo, ettoufee, peel-and-eat shrimp, boiled crawfish, and fried everything. Being a one-pot cooking enthusiast, I started with a small portion of the seafood gumbo ($3.99), whose roux was, like nearly everything around it, tannish brown in color. The soup’s flavor was imbued with the holy trinity of onion, celery, and bell pepper. Sweetness leached from the shrimp, heat from andouille. And like all the best gumbos, a generous heap of okra swam alongside the rest of the ingredients.
My guest’s appetizer portion of red beans and rice ($3.99) was piquant and well seasoned, though neither server could explain to me what spices were in the mix. I suspect, and this is an educated guess, the dish draws richness from some kind of animal fat (bacon? ham hock?) and depth of flavor from some combination of clove powder, garlic, and chile powder. Whatever was in it was delicious.
The downright decadent entree serving of crawfish ettoufee ($7.99) could have been eaten with a spoon or spread over toast. The buttery roux was dark and intense, though the base of the stew-like Cajun classic didn’t overpower the delicate crayfish. The airy, semi-sweet portion of cornbread ($1) is worth ponying up another buck. The cupcake-like bread was the perfect sponge for wiping the dregs of the soup that weren’t soaked up by the accompanying rice.
The kitchen at Cajun Corner really knows its way around a fryer. The cornmeal-battered catfish ($7.49) was crispy on the outside, moist and flaky within. The fried okra was among the best I’ve had: crispy and without a trace of the vegetable’s slime. My guest’s side salad of iceberg lettuce and a few tomato slices was served without dressing and seemed more of a garnish than a side – and the only miss of the afternoon, once the cashier found my card.