Oyster po boy and etoufee Redbones Little Rock image

  • Jess Miller
  • Oyster po’ boy and etoufee

Elmore Leonard’s number one rule for good writing is to avoid opening with the weather, but that just proves that he never had the pleasure of walking around the River Market when spring is just starting to make itself at home. The folks at Redbone’s Downtown know how to take advantage of such a day, though: throw open the windows as wide as they’ll go and let the sounds of zydeco music and the smells of Cajun-inspired cooking draw in the crowds.

Little Rock is no stranger to restaurants that try to capture the spirit and flavor of South Louisiana cooking (with varying degrees of success), but Redbone’s is one of the better examples of Creole cuisine in the city. On a recent visit, we sat down in a large, comfortable booth and were pleased to see Abita Amber on draft, a south Louisiana brew that’s one of the smoothest, best-tasting craft beers around. The beer came quickly, and it came cold — we were off to a winning start.

We started our meal with some gumbo and etouffee, figuring that these two classic dishes would be the best measure of how authentic the food really was. The gumbo was dark and thick, filled with chunks of sausage and vegetables and topped by a scoop of sticky white rice. The flavor of the gumbo was rich, and it had a sneaky spice to it that really became apparent as we kept eating. The crawfish etouffee had much the same spice profile to it, and although I found the texture of the rice to be a touch gummy, I was pleased with the amount of crawfish that was in the dish; in too many places, crawfish etoufee is a lot like crab rangoon on a Chinese buffet — all filler and no meat.

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