¦ Where: Blue Orleans Seafood Restaurant, 1463 Market St.
¦ Hours: 4-9 p.m. Monday-Wednesday;
11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4-8 p.m. Thursday;
11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4-10 pm. Friday;
4-10 p.m. Saturday.
¦ Phone: 423-757-0088.
Take a stroll around the corner of Main and Market streets, and you may hear the smooth jazz tones of a trumpet drift out with the smell of seafood from the open door of Blue Orleans.
Straight from the Bayou State to downtown Chattanooga, Blue Orleans brings that good-time atmosphere and Cajun cuisine without the need for air fare.
Blue Orleans stays true to its name by serving up a host of Cajun favorites and Southern specialties on its extensive menu.
For starters, you might try the fried green tomatoes ($7) or a bowl of spicy chicken and andouille sausage gumbo ($7). If you are feeling particularly adventurous, go with the gator bits ($9). The salad selections include one with fried oysters ($13).
The numerous entrees should satisfy even the most discerning Cajun fan's palette. With no fewer than nine options of po-boys, it becomes difficult to narrow a selection. These traditional Louisiana sub sandwiches range in price from $12 to $16 and come with a choice of fries, Cajun fries, coleslaw or salad.
Seafood lovers can feast on a range of platters - from a simple fried catfish ($21) to the Big Easy offering of shrimp, oysters, catfish and crawfish fritters ($40).
But why pick any of these when you can order Louisiana staples such as crawfish etouffee ($16), red beans and rice with andouille sausage ($14) or a 10-ounce Bourbon Street strip steak ($22).
Curiously, a selection of taco plates is also offered on what is already a lengthy menu.
Blue Orleans serves up a wide selection of Abita beers, brewed in New Orleans, of course, on draft, as well as a sampling of wines.
We started off with an appetizer of crab cakes, which were light, flaky and savory. They were cooked just right, with no unpleasant fishy flavors, which too often accompany crab cakes. They were offered with a side of tangy remoulade, which finished the flavor of the crab nicely.
I also sampled a bowl of the soup of the day, a cherry lobster bisque ($6), a creamy, slightly spicy dish. While I was not immediately a fan of the cherry flavor, after a few spoonfuls, I was hooked. It was not too salty, as bisques sometimes are, and the spice gave it just enough Cajun kick.
For my main course, I settled on what should be a staple of any restaurant offering Cajun cuisine: the crawfish etouffee. My girlfriend opted for a dish recommended by our server: the shrimp d'Orleans pasta.
My crawfish etouffee came presented in a large serving bowl with a scoop of white rice dolloped in the center. A quick mix and a sample bite later, I was in Cajun heaven. The dish was a delicate balance of spice and flavor, albeit a little light on the crawfish. It was precisely what I was looking for, but beware if you are sensitive to spicy foods.
The shrimp d'Orleans was a creamy pasta dish, with a generous helping of well-cooked shrimp, tasty mushrooms and other veggies. It was a less spicy but still savory alternative, which my girlfriend enjoyed.
Both entrees came in generous portions and were more than either of us could finish.
For dessert, we decided on Chef Mike's Specialty Bread Pudding ($7), which was made with white chocolate and cherry. Decadently rich, this bread pudding had our mouths watering from the moment it was set on the table. It might have been the highlight of the meal if only it had come with a scoop of vanilla ice cream to balance its flavor.
Our service began splendidly, with a courteous, pleasant and knowledgeable server who answered all of our questions about the menu. A drink and appetizer order later, and we were a happy couple.
As our dinner wore on and the restaurant became busier, things went a bit downhill. My girlfriend's entree arrived several minutes before my own, leaving us awkwardly waiting with only one plate of food. We were offered bread that never arrived, and we saw several couples who were waiting to be seated leave in frustration, despite the restaurant being only half filled.
Blue Orleans occupies an attractive space at the corner of Main and Market across from the Chattanooga Choo Choo. A purple-and-black color scheme, adorned heavily with fleur-de-lis and an occasional New Orleans Saints flag, mixes with the red brick walls and large windows to create a pleasant dining area. A soundtrack of New Orleans jazz on the overhead speakers kept us tapping our toes as we enjoyed our meal.
Beware if you need the restroom. It will require collecting a key and taking a trip outside the restaurant and into the small shopping center with which it shares space.
If you are searching for authentic Cajun cuisine without a trip to The Big Easy itself, you will be hard-pressed to find a better place in the area than Blue Orleans - if you can handle a few bumps in your dinner service.
Contact Doug Strickland at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6305.