My granddaughter Natalie is home from college and I got to take her on one of my little jaunts for dinner recently. We wanted to try Blue Orleans on Market Street. It is easy to find, but when it is busy - parking can be tricky. We had to circle the block but found a place to park just a little ways down from the restaurant.
After a bit of a wait, a pretty girl greeted us and seated us at a table along the wall where dark curtains divide the tables. I guess that’s nice for couples to have their privacy, but my granddaughter likes to be “in the scene”. I normally like to have dinner early and not have to fight for parking or wait too long for a table, but Natalie likes to eat late and it seems the rest of Chattanooga does too; it was pretty busy.
The menu had quite a few interesting items. When I know I am going to write a story, I like to order something I have never tried before when it is possible. I haven’t eaten creole but one other time, so I knew I wouldn’t have a problem trying something new. I asked the pretty lady who seated us what they had that was spicy. She pointed to two items, one was a shrimp dish and the other had Crawfish.
After we ordered mushroom buttons as a starter for $7, Natalie played it safe and ordered the Nawlin’s Pasta for $16 and I asked for the Crawfish Étouffée for $16. I wasn’t sure what an etouffee was, but I was sure it would be interesting.
The waitress asked if I wanted to taste it first and I told her no. She then said, “If you order it, you can’t change your mind and exchange it.” I must have had a bewildered look on my face because I have never sent a dish back in my life. If I order something and didn’t like it, I would never be snooty to snap my fingers and demand something else. But her body language was warning me with her suggestion once again, to taste it first because it was a rather expensive dish.
My eyes got wider and I asked, “Well, what’s wrong with it - is it going to be looking at me?” I had no idea what to expect now! She laughed, relaxed a little and explained that some people just can’t take the spice. My expression went from ‘a deer in headlights’ to a wide grin with a gleam in my eye. “I don’t need to taste it – this is what I will have,” I said confidently. She obviously had never seen an old lady who liked her dinner to bite back!
The music was the best I had ever heard in a restaurant. They didn’t just play a few songs I liked, but all of the music was wonderful. It had been a long time since I heard a trumpet being played with a mute. I could have listened to that all day.
The mushrooms were a tad saltier than I like and the remoulade sauce was different, but good. I am used to more horseradish flavor with mushrooms, but this had maybe a dill flavor. My taste buds were glad to experience the new flavors of creole.
Our meals arrived and both came in a bowl.
Étouffée is chunky soup. $16 for dinner in a bowl? At first, I felt the price was pretty steep for this dish, but then I tasted it and it was more than a soupy meal. I could tell that this was a carefully prepared and flavorful roux. Surrounding a bed of rice topped with parsley and with tender pieces of crawfish swimming around waiting to be caught!
I had never eaten crawfish. I expected it to taste like miniature lobster. I was wrong. It took a second bite to decide if I liked it or not. I didn’t pay attention to the spice on the first bite because I was focused on the crawfish. It was different, but I did like it. As I took bites of the rich liquid, I tasted the spice. It wasn’t too hot to enjoy or to mask the flavor of the food, but it was hot enough that if someone did not like spicy food, they may not be able to continue eating it – at least without a Kleenex and a tall glass of water.
I didn’t have to reach for my water and my nose didn’t run until after I added hot sauce toward the end of my meal. The girl had brought a bottle of Louisiana hot sauce to the table in case I wanted it. I ate most of my meal without it just because the flavor was so good, but then I added dollops of sauce on the rest of it because I like the challenge. Natalie said her meal had just enough spice – she doesn’t like spicy. The sausage had enough bite to make it interesting but not too hot for her. The chicken was tender and the pasta was covered in a very tasty, very rich cream sauce. She loved it.
The chef came out to ask everyone how they liked their meal and when he got to our table he asked if I liked the Étouffée. I raved about it and he looked down and saw the added hot sauce and said, “You ADDED hot sauce… wow!” I know that chefs who take such care to put these wonderful flavors together, must wince when patrons add condiments. In this case though, I think he was more surprised.
Natalie and I shared a dessert. We tried the ‘Who Dat’ chocolate cake. It was so big, that neither of us could finish it. The chocolate was decadent and even the decorative sauces on the plate were delicious! It was not sickening sweet, but it was the perfect amount of chocolate all the way through.
Blue Orleans was a wonderful, welcoming place with good food. The music and the dessert alone were worth visiting this place. I am not an expert on creole food, but I think they got everything just right!
Located at 1463 Market Street
Hours of Operation:
Monday through Wednesday 4-9 pm
Thursday and Friday 11-2 pm and 4-9 pm (lunch & dinner)
Saturday 4 pm-10 pm
Sunday - Closed