You know we love our Cajun and Creole food—hubby went to school in New Orleans and spent a lot of years “studying” the cuisine. His love for it has spread into the rest of our family and it was my daughter who kept nagging me about going here (that, and she has been a little obsessed with my blog lately and wants to make sure we go to new places).
The first things you notice about the place are the cute interior and the super friendly people. They have done a nice job decorating the interior with murals of scenes from New Orleans and the entire place is pretty much purple, gold and green—the official mardi gras colors. It’s a big place too—a fair amount bigger than I expected.
The people who work there couldn’t be friendlier. They are excited to tell you about the menu and help you make your choices. This enthusiasm is infectious. I was really hoping to like the place—the people are just so nice.
Hubby and I split a couple of things to try and get a taste of as much as possible. We had the soft shell crab po boy ($11.95) and a sampler of the entrées. This is a good deal for $9 for three choices, as most of the individual entrées are $3.50-$5.50 per cup if you buy them on their own (for the small size). I got the soft shell crab po boy because my son was getting the shrimp ($9.95), which would often be my first choice, and I knew I could try it too. My daughter had the catfish po boy ($8.95). All the sandwiches come with fries as well.
Hubby and I really enjoyed the crawfish etouffe that we had in the trio sampler. It had that nice rich, buttery flavor with chunks of peppers and onions and some really nice, really tender, pieces of crawfish. Like actual, recognizable pieces of crawfish, unlike some etouffes I have had in this town. It was seasoned really well and was my favorite. Hubby loved the red beans and rice—he declared they were the best he’s had outside of New Orleans. They were good—they had a nice creamy texture, not that watery consistency this dish sometimes has. Our least favorite was the seafood gumbo, although, it wasn’t bad—just not as good as the other two. Of course, we tend to not be as big a fan of gumbo in general, so it may be a predisposition. There were nice pieces of scallops and shrimp in there though—and it was made with a nice dark roux (there’s crab in there too, according to the menu, but I couldn’t see any particular recognizable pieces). I liked that with all three of the dishes, they put just a small dollop of rice in there, giving it just the right amount of texture without turning it into a rice dish with a little bit of sauce. They also give you some nice French bread with it.
As for the po boys, my favorite was definitely my son’s shrimp. The shrimp themselves were nice and plump and juicy and breaded and fried well. The bread is pretty authentic. The only thing I would say is that I wished for a bit more moisture on the sandwiches—I had mine fully dressed (my kids got theirs plain) and it was just lettuce, tomato and pickle on the bread—there was remoulade sauce served alongside, which I appreciated, but I needed that plus some mayo on the bread. And maybe some hot sauce too. Typically, I expect some mayo on a dressed po boy, and I think it would have improved it a fair amount. The soft shell crab on mine was large, and fried pretty crisp. Between it and the pretty dense bread and the little bit of sauce, it was kind of dry. The catfish was also good—probably my second favorite sandwich. The fish was more lightly breaded and nicely seasoned and was wonderfully juicy inside still. Next time I would get he shrimp and ask for mayo as well and I think it would be a darn good combo. Oh yeah, and with a side of that etoufee (you can sub it in for a surcharge instead of the fries). The fries were decent—those seasoned, lightly breaded fries, but the homemade stuff there is so much better.
We also had the beignets ($4.50) for dessert. If there is fried dough, and my kids are with me, that’s gonna happen. We tried the chocolate and caramel sauces as well ($1 each). The beignets are good. Possibly more authentic to what you get at Café du Monde in New Orleans than most, although, I tend to like the ones with the slightly crisper outsides. These were still very good though. I preferred the chocolate sauce. I was a little surprised that they charged a dollar for these little cups of sauce—seemed a little steep to me. I think it might be nicer to just up the price a bit (maybe $5?) and include one sauce. Just a thought.
Overall, I think this place is a nice addition to our local independent food scene. It’s a cuisine that isn’t oversaturated, they are super nice, the food is good and they even have local beer (Sun King) and wine. The kids really enjoyed it and look forward to going back. I look forward to perfecting my order on another visit.
Borel’s Cajun and Creole Cookery
2274 West 86th Street