Cajun and Creole cuisine at The Bayou North
Published 12:32 pm, Wednesday, July 31, 2013
By Donna Christopher
I’d heard about fried artichokes and crab cakes at the Bayou North in Ridgefield. Seeking to break up a long, hot summer workweek, I decided to give it a try. My dining partner and I hadn’t eaten much that day so we both arrived hungry.
The Bayou North restaurant features savory Cajun and Creole cuisine. It opened in March in Copp’s Hill Common, in the former home of Tre restaurant.
Decor is simple and casual, with a New Orleans vibe. There was no live music the night we visited, though they have it regularly. I can imagine the fun when a blues or zydeco artist is in the house. Popa Chubby was among the national talents performing there recently. Next time I’ll plan ahead and call for the music schedule.
We conversed over our menus in a long, narrow dining room, next to one that’s similarly sized and houses a cocktail lounge with a bar, tables and a big-screen TV. Our area was less trendy, but neat and relaxed in appearance.
It had wood paneling painted breezy hues of green and beige, as well as an extensive collection of hot sauces. The sauce is in dozens of small jars lining ledges on the walls, where framed art celebrates the New Orleans theme. The hot sauces are for sale; price lists are on each table.
Attractive furnishings with hand-painted designs in red and green are also part of the decor, as are black lanterns like ones you’d see in the French Quarter. There are black leather chairs and black floors.
We started off with a fresh lime and coconut beverage, non-alcoholic. It was refreshingly good, nothing like a pina colada, in the sense that they’re syrupy sweet.
Having heard us discussing the crawfish, our waiter opined we might try Crawfish Etouffe, because “the work is done for you.” We took his suggestion and found the tasty dish of miniature lobster tails smothered in rich Creole gravy was hearty and filling.
We also liked the sweet blend of collard greens and couldn’t help but love the accompanying wedge of cornbread. The crispy crust seemed to have butter baked onto it. There was also rice, which I didn’t try because it was all so filling. Those with slightly bigger appetites will not leave here hungry.
We ordered Louisiana crab cakes and alligator sausage for appetizers. “It tastes like other sausage and is spicy,” explained our affable waiter, who was dressed in a nice shirt and cargo shorts. He was so helpful in explaining the menu, it made me think of Southern hospitality, which was nice.
Other dishes included fried chicken with smashed potatoes and cole slaw, grilled catfish, and barbecued ribs. Steaks, shrimp and other seafood are also served here, as well as an entree called “Mo’ Betta’ Meatloaf.”
Among the meatless options is Cajun Gardener’s Pie — sauteed vegetables with black beans in a smashed potatoes crust.
There’s a selection of Po’ boys — Louisiana-style heroes often filled with meat like pulled pork and skirt steak. And there are salads, appetizers and “side splitters,” such as sweet tater fries and Slab o’ Cornbread. Honestly, it was so tasty, I’d go just for the cornbread.
I ordered the buffalo popcorn chicken salad, but opted out of the spicy chicken for grilled strips. The basil dressing it comes with is smooth and pungent.
The Bayou North is owned by brothers-in-law Peter Van Cott and John Pennetto. Pennetto previously owned Tre. He said the new restaurant appeals to families.
Van Cott owns the Bayou in Mount Vernon, N.Y., as well. He told me that after traveling around the U.S. and loving his time in New Orleans, he opened The Bayou in his hometown. That was 22 years ago.
“I loved New Orleans — the music, the food and the atmosphere,” he said, adding he’d worked 15 years in restaurants before opening the Bayou.
He explained how Cajun and Creole food differs. “Cajun is the food of the French Acadians who settled in Louisiana, and the Creoles are the original people of Louisiana.”
Desserts are ordinary but fun at the Bayou North. Among the choices are pecan pie and chocolate mousse; we tried both. Each was served with whipped cream and a tiny molded piece of white chocolate — a green-colored alligator. Sweet ending.
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The Bayou North, 109 Danbury Road (Copp’s Hill Common), Ridgefield, 203-894-5274.
HOURS: Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-9 p.m. CREDIT CARDS: American Express, Master Card, Visa, Discover
PRICES: Starters $14.99-$6.99; salads $14.99-$9.99; po’boys/sandwiches $12.99-$8.99; house specialties $25.99-$17.99.