Work on your Southern accent at these new local fry houses and Cajun-Creole restaurants.
Da’ Bayou Creole Kitchen
Opened: July 2020
Those of you who’ve been in the Valley long enough to remember Chez Bubba on RoRo will find your pulses quickened by this old town Gilbert startup. That is to say, chef-owner Ali Biller similarly trafficks in Creole cooking – the saucier, more Caribbean half of the Creole-Cajun chimera. It’s an all-too-rare artistic choice in the Valley, and it makes for some dreamily good eating here. Biller has no problem with the basics. The fried green tomatoes ($9) are firm and bready, and sweet-tea-brined fried chicken ($15) decadently overhangs two slices of toasted brioche for a grade-A sandwich experience. But it’s down-menu – e.g. redfish Pontchartrain ($24), a seared filet of spottail bass under red pepper cream with a very Creole retinue of mushrooms, tomatoes and shrimp – where Da’Bayou really shines, and announces itself as a contender for the year’s best new restaurant.
Wild Card: Did we forget the gumbo ($7.50/$12)? It’s amazing, with shrimp, andouille and okra in a dark roux with a hell-ton of filé that actually makes it lean more Cajun than Creole.
313 N. Gilbert Rd., Gilbert, 480-704-3405, dabayoucreolekitchen.com
Opened: July 2020
Yes, the wings dominate the convo at this South Scottsdale fast-casual fry pit – it’s not called Valley Lasagna, after all – but can we talk for a minute about the fries? Cut steak-style but unusually thin, the taters are given a quick dunk in that flavor-packed bath of oil in the back, coming out of the fryer golden brown and just a bit chewy ($3). I think they might be the best freakin’ fries in the Valley. On the wings: The popular ideal usually includes a crispy exterior and very little residual skin or fat, and that’s exactly how owner Jerome Green cooks them, served naked in a light Cajun seasoning or tumbled in one of nine sauces, including a shellac-like mango-habanero (starting at $5.75 for five pieces). Thank God this guy didn’t choose lasagna.
Wild Card: Get those flawless fries smothered in pulled chicken with bacon ranch sauce ($10.50).
1495 N. Hayden Rd., 480-687-9006
Down By the Bayou Bistro
Opened: August 2020
Set in a gutted-out dive bar, this food-truck-turned-restaurant is precisely the kind of high-character eatery you love seeing in a ho-hum Valley strip mall. Stick with the Cajun-Creole fare that comes out of the smoker, like the “loaded” fries and nachos ($10-$12) topped with brisket, pulled pork or a pile of smoky chopped chicken. The same pork makes for a perfectly passable po’ boy ($12) on toasted French bread. Fried catfish is DBBB’s other core competency, available as a four-piece basket ($12) and not a whit dry or overcooked. The only disappointment of our lone visit: the crawfish étouffée ($12), which tasted OK but was clumpy, lacking the bright, zingy richness of that fabled rice dish. Music fest food.
Wild Card: Can’t go a day without a taco? Get two ($7-$8) with any of the proteins, save the catfish.
5160 W. Northern Ave., Glendale 623-217-2958, bayoubistroaz.com