Yesterday we had the chance to duck into the soft opening of Rougaroux in Forest Park. Located in the “pink house,” once home to the Pink House Cafe, we were eager to check it out.
Rougaroux comes to us via a collaboration between owner Anne Carter and Hotbox. Walking in you get a distinct feeling of New Orleans, almost like you’re walking into a place in the Bywater. Points for that.
When we visited they’d only been open 24 hours, and they were still in a soft opening period. That said, it was a strong dining experience — so much so we wanted to share it now.
Orders are taken at the bar. The Rougaroux menu is robust, so you might want to study it in advance. Word about this place has gotten out, and the day we visited there was already a line out the door. So here you go. (Nice branding, by the way.)
Although many of the items looked tempting, we believe in judging po boys in their traditional form, and ordered half of the traditional fried shrimp po boy, fully dressed (shredded lettuce, seasoned tomatoes, shaved red onions, dill pickles, Duke’s Mayo and Crystal Hot Sauce). For .50 cents extra, we got the spicy horseradish cocktail sauce, which was a solid choice.
We also ordered a cup of the smoked chicken and andouille sausage.
Portions are generous — the half sandwich was overflowing with delicious fried shrimp. As we looked to diners around us we noticed the same thing, with sandwiches the size of a large man’s hand. This is a good thing. The six inch sandwich was more than enough, and we noticed folks who had ambitiously ordered the 12 inch asking for boxes. (Special shout out to our fellow diner who went for it with the Crawfish Zombie Bread, served with sauteed tails. It looked glorious and she said it was fantastic.)
The po boy was spot on. First, the bread is actually from New Orleans, made by the century-old Leidenheimer Baking Company. We’re not exactly sure how they get it from New Orleans to Birmingham while staying so fresh and delightfully flaky, but we’ll take it.
The andouille sausage in the gumbo was outstanding. And while we had to add a dash of hot sauce to increase the gumbo’s spiciness, we understand not all diners share our proclivity for heat.
Overall, though, the meal indicated that Rougaroux will fill a void in our food landscape — the locally owned place to satisfy our cravings for New Orleans staples. A word on that: we are eager to return to check out the house made boudin links, and the banana pudding (which we have heard very good things about.) We’re also eager to dig into the specialty po boys, including the turtle and veal meatballs, fried chicken livers, and pork cheek cochon de lait. For our vegan friends: they do offer a vegan special with fried eggplant, red bean puree, braised collard greens and spiced praline crumble.
If you go in the coming weeks, you might expect a short wait. There’s a small seating area outside where you can stretch your legs and enjoy our fall weather. And hey, it’s still quicker than traveling to the Crescent City … but dare we say just as good.
The Rougaroux is located at 817 39th Street South, Birmingham, 35222.