Skip the alligator nuggets for this authentic Creole fare

Half-Diablo Catfish Poboy with Jammin' Jambalaya. - STEVEN GILMORE
Steven Gilmore
Half-Diablo Catfish Poboy with Jammin' Jambalaya.

It's occasionally the case (let me hedge from the start) that Cajun/Creole food can come across as a kind of cartoon. As legit as they may be in some swampy circles, alligator nuggets come to mind. And when most things on a menu seem to come smothered in an equally swampy gravy, the what-are-you-trying-to-hide? alarm bells sound. But then there are those apostles of Crescent City cooking that abstain from alligator and smother with uncommon grace. Big Easy Café is such a place.

Make sure that you note that they have moved (I didn't) from Randolph Boulevard to Walzem Road — " just behind IHOP." But hardly in the shadow of it. Now open daily, the cheery Café serves lunch only (with an array of daily specials) Monday to Wednesday, brunch Sunday, and is open in the evening the remainder of the week. The website indicates that lunch is a buffet-style affair, but there was table service on a Tuesday when the smothered pork chop served with "jammin'" jambalaya beckoned from a list that also included blackened catfish, several poboys, and Salisbury steak with Cajun smashed potatoes. (I'm game for almost anything, but Salisbury steak doesn't make the cutoff.)

To be brief, the chop was a thin affair that managed to be both juicy and flavorful; it stood up to an unusually good and gutsy gravy. A bowl of sweet corn was oddly crunchy, but that beats mushy any day. And the jambalaya, spicy and studded with shrimp, sausage, and chicken, avoided the gluey consistency that often plagues this dish; it was good enough to order on its own.

My dessert selection of bread pudding with butter pecan rum sauce was made by grandma, I was told by the waitress' granddaughter (grandma runs the front of the house, and mama reigns in the kitchen). The pudding was smooth in texture, interrupted by only an occasional raisin and "smothered" in its own right by the buttery-sweet sauce amply accessorized by chopped pecans. Tooth-aching but hard to stop. You know the feeling.

Big Easy Café

4822 Walzem
(210) 653-5688

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