My un-foodie sister once told me, "You'd eat anything if it was drowned in garlic butter, or fried crisp!"
To be fair, that's not entirely true. But I can think of nothing better than something perfectly seasoned and crispy-fried except that something, dipped in remoulade (a Cajun, kicked-up version of tartar sauce).
I got both at Culpepper's Louisiana Kitchen. Tucked into the elbow of the north side's Union Town Center, Culpepper's serves traditional, made-from-scratch Cajun and Creole favorites.
Let's start with lunch: The flash-fried oysters ($10) were delicately crisp with a burst of juicy freshness. The crawfish bisque ($3.50 cup, or $8.50 bowl) was deliciously creamy and loaded with large chunks of crawfish. I derived joy in Culpepper's seafood gumbo (same price), largely from the memory of having vainly slaved over a stove with a wooden spoon in one hand and a penny in the other, trying for the perfect copper-colored roux (a mix of flour and a fat source, such as butter). Only our entre failed to shine: The Mardi Gras Pasta ($8), a mix of fettuccini, andouille cream sauce, shrimp and chicken, was a bit thick and lacking salt.
But Louisiana-born owners Martin Anderson and Kathy Culpepper Anderson, along with their sons and a nephew, offer other options for sit-down or take-away lunch service. The menu includes po' boy sandwiches chock-full of seafood, sausage or meat ($7-$10), as well as salads and Cajun specialties like blackened catfish ($9).
As for dinner, standing in line Friday evening made it clear: The word is already out on Culpepper's. With tables pushed together for large parties and zydeco music playing, dining felt more like spending time at a backyard party. Diners indulged in Hurricanes, the New Orleans signature cocktail of light gold rum with passionfruit, orange and lime.
But I had a job to do. So I skipped the Hurricane and turned attention to the expanded dinner menu. My husband liked the alligator pears ($8), two halved avocados nicely stuffed with tangy garlic-lime-soaked shrimp. The fried crawfish starter ($9) was served over a small bed of rice and crawfish touffe. I dipped these bites in the homemade remoulade, which seemed to go well with everything.
The crawfish touffe ($16) a mix of blond roux and crawfish served over rice, offered the appropriate amount of heat. For those wanting to leave smoking, Tabasco and authentic Louisiana Tiger Hot Sauce awaits on each table.
The crab cake trio ($17) comes with slaw and fries; I opted for Yam Brabant Potatoes ($3). If you like sweet with your savory, these crunchy, candied cubes do the trick. The crab cakes were great, but I'd take two with less filler.
The Andersons plan seasonal seafood boils, with blue crab coming later this summer. Also look for their beignets (classic French doughnuts) and chicory coffee jazz brunch soon.
Looking out onto the mountain-view patio, and listening to a Louisiana transplant call his festive, bead-draped cocktail "the real deal," I had just one regret: Why didn't I order the damn Hurricane? email@example.com
Culpepper's Louisiana Kitchen
Union Town Center,8810 N. Union Blvd., 282-8479, culpeppers.net
Hours: Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.