It's been some time since this region had a Cajun restaurant - which makes the opening of Bourbon Street Bar and Grill even more sweet. The New Orleans themed restaurant is a tiny destination that's more bar than restaurant in downtown Puyallup. It opened Dec. 16.
A first-bite visit in the inaugural week showed a restaurant that was trying hard to do the right thing. The food was decent, the service was friendly despite being painfully slow - I suspect this restaurant will be a hit with local diners, but only time and your dining dollars will tell.
What I liked most about the restaurant was the New Orleans inspired menu that read like the greatest hits of Bayou dining - jambalaya, gumbo, blackened seafood, po' boy sandwiches. They were all there. Execution was hit and miss, but I'm not going to criticize much because the restaurant is in its fledgling days. I'll follow up with a full dining report in early 2014.
Temperature on two of the three dishes sampled skewed a tad lukewarm - but I could tell the flavor profile and ingredient list were accurate for Cajun eats. Jambalaya ($11.95) was threaded thick with shrimp and in-the-shell clams, the rice lightly spiked with heat (I would've liked more spice, but the flavor was right).
Gumbo ($4.95/$7.95) was thick with andouille and chicken, and somewhere between brick red and muddy brown - the right color for the roux-based soup. A New York steak was an oddly thin cut, but the price was fantastic at $14.95. Good steak for that price.
Here's what I loved - the po' boy shrimp sandwich ($10.95) with fries. Breaded shrimp spilled out of the baguette, stuffed with tomatoes and lettuce and a punchy remoulade style spread. Tiny quibble - no pickle slices and I would have preferred crispy iceberg over the fancy greens used on the sandwich. A good po' boy needs crunch from the lettuce and pucker from pickles.
The restaurant is the project of Mike de Alwis, who learned about Cajun cuisine while managing restaurants in Louisiana while attending college. He and his wife have owned the Misty Mountain Montessori school in Puyallup since 2010.
The Bourbon Street space is a converted gas station - and looks remarkably lovely considering that fact. This is the sole Cajun restaurant in the immediate South Sound area. Years ago, From the Bayou operated in downtown Puyallup (2005-2006) and in Parkland (1998-2007) and there was Creole Cafe, operated by Blandon Dillon from 1999 until 2010. I've been looking forward to the return of Cajun dining in the South Sound.
Here's how the rest of my Bourbon Street Bar and Grill experience rated:
Service: Slow and forgetful, but I'm willing to overlook those two things if the server is apologetic for those problems. Ours was. There also was reason for slowness and being overburdened - the restaurant was packed beyond capacity. Frequent check-ins and apologies made me think that the servers probably have their act together.
Atmosphere: Lovely wrought iron accents inside and out with wood-clad walls and a glossy decorated ceiling that required skyward gazing. It truly is an interesting looking restaurant and felt right for a New Orleans themed haunt.
Seating: Here's where things might get tricky for diners. The restaurant is broken into two seating areas. One is open for diners of all ages, but it's a space that had about 17 seats with four tables, three of which were high-top tables. I suspect families with kids needing high chairs will have trouble here. Most of the restaurant's seating is in the bar. The restaurant looks like it will have a large dining patio for the al fresco dining season.
Menu: See below. The pricing was exceptionally fair on the opening menu, which is an abbreviated offering. Expect a menu expansion soon.
Bourbon Street Bar and Grill - 401 S. Meridian, Puyallup, 253-604-4404, Facebook