"Swampy," the cartoon alligator, dominates the menu at Thibodeaux's Bistro, but neither the cheesy mascot nor the Cajun name can disguise a drab hotel-lobby atmosphere, indifferent-to-incompetent service and bland hotel food.
I had high hopes for Thibodeaux's. After all, it's independently owned despite its location in the newly remodeled Crowne Plaza Hotel. But a trip for dinner disappointed, and a return for breakfast sealed my resolve never to return.
Our server at dinner was woefully untrained. When asked if the ravioli is made in-house, she had to leave the table to ask (returning to say that it is). When asked the same about dessert, she said she didn't know; we had to ask her to find out. Ten minutes after ordering a couple of Laughing Labs, we were informed they were out and offered another Bristol brew, Mass Transit, instead (at $4.66 a draft).
Hint to servers: When your customers include women paying 11 bucks for a martini glass of shrimp and iceberg ribbons, "Which one of you guys ordered the shrimp cocktail?" doesn't cut it. Know who ordered what, and please don't call us "guys." The Cajun-spiced (but somehow not spicy) shrimp tided us over until our entres arrived, as did a cup of gumbo ($5), but not memorably. The loaves of stale bread sat almost untouched in spite of our ravenous hunger.
When the crab ravioli ($15) arrived, their machine-precision, Day-Glo yellow and orange stripes inspired deep skepticism about the accuracy of our server's information. Perhaps the ravioli was made, or at least filled, in-house, but whoever made them, they were undercooked and in another unremarkable sauce.
The crawfish touffe just made me pine for the earthy, spicy stuff they used to serve at Old Colorado City's Old City Caf (where Paravicini's stands today). Thibodeaux's rendition was primarily sour and a little peppery, lacking depth and spice. Plump but chewy crawfish offered a masticatory workout.
The 7-ounce sirloin ($18) might have satisfied had it been prepared medium-well, as ordered, rather than very well done, but the crawfish po-boy ($8.50) just failed. Greasy masses of fried breading laced with tiny bits of meat came piled on flavorless bread. Amid this wash of mediocrity, only the crispy, cakey hush-puppies and fresh fried okra stood out.
A slice of homemade bourbon pecan pie at meal's end can hide a multitude of culinary sins, and Thibodeaux's delivered there. But don't get your hopes up about the beignets. Sad and overcooked, ours lay abandoned on the plate after two bites.
Unless you're a hotel guest on company dime, don't waste a good breakfast on Thibodeaux's, and whatever you do, don't order biscuits and gravy ($6). My companion left half of his doughy biscuits soaking in the bland gravy and diced sausage patties. The kitchen accommodated my request for poached eggs instead of scrambled in the Southern hash ($8), with bell peppers, onions and Andouille sausage (again, no spice), but the eggs' sheen, shape and rubbery texture said they were pre-cooked and kept warm, and probably steamed, not poached.
Thankfully, in the Springs there's enough good food at reasonable prices that you never need to waste money on mediocre hotel food masquerading as authentic anything. I'm not Cajun, but if I was, I'd be a little steamed about Thibodeaux's tarnishing my cuisine's good reputation.