Boateng’s Cajun Creations

Several of you readers have told me about this place-it’s been on my “to-visit” list for awhile. My only hesitation was that I’ve never had Cajun food before, and so I was waiting to find the perfect dining companions who could help me navigate the menu. Telling this story to a colleague, she proclaimed extensive experience both eating AND cooking Cajun food (see her awesome cooking blog). One dining partner became two, two became four, and soon we were eight, including Mr Foodie and I.

We all met at the restaurant, which is just off of the main drag in Bessemer. The only landmarks I knew of in Bessemer were the DMV, Bright Star, and Gip’s Place, so the explorer in me was really excited to see what this place would be like.

I forgot to photograph the exterior, which is adorable-looks like a modest size southern house with white trim. Inside, the vibe is relaxed and casual. We had made reservations and our table was waiting for us.

Turns out eight is an ideal number for visiting this little gem. The menu is pretty extensive and many things are available in both 8 and 16 oz sizes-perfect for ordering multiple snack-type items and sharing. Mr Foodie and I were in foodie heaven.

Here’s the menu:

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We ordered strategically so that between all of us, we would be able to taste nearly everything on the menu. This meant ordering po boys and fish plates, with multiple combinations of sides. Here are the things I sampled or ate and can vouch for:

First, a friend got the chicken po boy. The chicken was deep fried and juicy, served on a crusty bun. The chicken reminded me of the chicken at Shark’s-fantastic. Shown here with an 8oz shrimp and grits, which I’ll get to in more detail in a moment:

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Next to arrive was my shrimp po boy. Wow. Again, deep fried shrimp, crusty bun. Served with shrimp and grits.

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Don’t forget the roumelade and tartar sauce-we experimented with both and although I liked the roumelade a tad better for the po boys, both were excellent.

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I’ve been sidestepping the shrimp and grits because it deserves its own paragraph, maybe its own blog post. This was a different style than I’m used to-sauce was more tomato-y, spicier, and slightly less creamy than what I’m used to. Although you can’t see it the grits are beneath the shrimp in the little bowl. This was the BEST shrimp and grits I’ve had. Now, I am a Yankee, and my experience with shrimp and grits is limited, but I’ve had it at places like Dyron’s and Highlands, both of which are fantastic, but Boatengs was out of this world. Try it and let me know what you think.

Next was a talapia plate. Grilled talapia. The fish was great; very flavorful and a nice departure from the deep fried stuff. On to the critical test for a Cajun restaurant-jumbalaya (on the left) and gumbo (on the right). I have only had gumbo once (meh) and have actually never had jumbalaya. Yes, I know. Remember, prior to moving to Bham 3 years ago, I had only ventured below the Mason-Dixon Line to go to Miami on vacation and for a brief southeast road trip that did not include Cajun country. Both the jumbalaya and the gumbo were fairly spicy. They cleaned out my sinuses but didn’t blow my head off-a good thing. Both were extremely flavorful. The jumbalaya included delicious sausage that gave it a smoky taste and a nice meaty consistency. The gumbo made me a believer in gumbo-the veggies were perfectly cooked (I’m always wary of slimy okra-but this was not) and the spiciness was cut nicely by the white rice. It also came with surprisingly tasty buttered toast that served the same purpose:

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After that light meal, we figured the damage to our arteries was already done and we might as well keep going. On to the banana bread pudding. Layers of bananas, bread, cream, and ?rum. The table ordered 2. One came looking all pretty:

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… and the other a little worse for wear, which gave us a chuckle (and hey, it only matters what it tastes like):

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A decadent, rich way to end a flavor and spice-packed meal. We were in our foodie happy place.

This meal was one of my favorites in awhile, ranking up there with Rafiki’s and Southern Jamaican Caribbean Restaurant. Definitely proves that there’s even a better reason to visit Bessemer than the DMV.

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