When it comes to comfort food for a good price in Buffalo, New York, the Louisiana Cookery on Walden Avenue brings it home. The menu may be somewhat slim, offering only a choice selection of dishes, but the focus on bringing out the iconic flavor of these Southern classics is held above all else.
One simply cannot have a Southern cooking restaurant without that staple dish of jambalaya. The jambalaya at Louisiana Cookery comes two ways: regular or shrimp. The jambalaya features smokey, spicy andouille sausage, assorted vegetables, and rice, all simmered together in a pool of secret creole spices and seasonings. If the presence of andouille sausage is not enough to sell one on the dish by itself, the blend of spices and the aromatics that accompany the meal will surely make it memorable.
The shrimp jambalaya is merely the same recipe jambalaya as mentioned above with four large shrimp thrown in to top it off, but in terms of seafood as far inland as Buffalo, they are very fine shrimp. Being adjacent to Lake Erie, Buffalo has the capability of producing good freshwater fish, but ocean and salt water fish can be iffy at certain restaurants. Louisiana Cookery is not one of them, between the size and quality of the shrimp, one can simply taste the commitment to quality in the flavor development.
The other iconic bowl dish of Southern cooking, gumbo, follows a similar pattern in presentation. The shrimp and chicken gumbo is, like the jambalaya, the same recipe with four large shrimp for two bucks more. Again, one cannot go wrong with the addition of shrimp at Louisiana Cookery, especially considering the average price of seafood at any other local restaurant.
The chicken gumbo is everything hearty and flavorful it should be on its own. The signature broth-based dish starts with a dark roux, mixed vegetables, sausage, and chicken, spooned over rice. The balance between rice and liquid is achieved nicely with the broth adding a thick coating to the rice, but not drowning the grains. The sausage and chicken is so soft and tender after spending so much time in the broth, each bite melts in one’s mouth, really bringing it all home.
Red beans and rice is another of Louisiana Cookery’s more popular dishes, offering the classic Southern side as a main entrée three ways: original, sausage, or shrimp. The original features slow-cooked red beans over rice, a recipe as pure as it is delicious. The tang of the beans’ juices alongside the soft capsules of rice is blissful, and for bargain hunters, the price makes it an easy go-to for lunch.
The red beans with rice and sausage is in many ways the icing on the cake for an already superb dish. Anyone who has never tried andouille needs to sample it this way. The smokey flavor of the andouille sausage is able to come out more than in the gumbo or jambalaya with the ease of access on top. The same can be said of the shrimp dish, and like those before it, the core ingredients do not meander from the original save for the addition of eight large shrimp.
Another Cajun classic, crawfish, come in two unique dishes as well at Louisiana Cookery. The crawfish bread offers more of a vehicle for those unfamiliar with the dainty little prawn. The crawfish is covered with cheese and topped upon a six-inch piece of French bread, edging those unfamiliar taste-wise in the direction of the protein, while also easing the visual appearance of the crawfish’s body, which can put some diners off before they even try it.
The Crawfish Etouffee, aside from having the fanciest name on the menu, matches that hype with the range of flavor throughout the dish. The plate, which consists of crawfish tails and mixed vegetables in a light roux, comes served over rice. The tails are similar to the texture of shrimp, for those unfamiliar, but the roux is where the flavors truly come alive.
Much like jambalaya, no Southern kitchen is complete with po’boys. At Louisiana Cookery, they come in three varieties: catfish, shrimp, and sausage. All three come standard with coleslaw and remoulade, though there is nothing standard about these Louisiana-style subs. Value-wise, the po’boys beat out all the area competitors by a few bucks easily, and the quality does not suffer as a result. Each bite is home-cooking done right.
Where there is Cajun cooking, there will be grits. Off-putting to many the first few tries, the texture of the classic porridge dish is, as the name implies, gritty. Much like red beans and rice, Louisiana Cookery treats grits as an entrée all its own rather than a side, leading to some delicious concoctions all their own. Loaded grits, for example, are the base of all the other grits dishes: cheesy brewed grits, topped with crumbled bacon and scallions.
The shrimp and grits features eight shrimp over cheese grits, topped with bacon and green onions. Similarly, the sausage and grits includes sliced andouille over cheese grits with bacon crumble and scallions. The fish and grits is quite popular, showcasing deep-fried catfish with cornmeal breading served over cheese grits, and topped with bacon and green onions.
For those who just want a huge plate of country-fried goodness, Louisiana Cookery does three big plates: shrimp, catfish, or combo. All plates come standard with coleslaw and cornbread, also serving as the only meals with sides included, just a heads up. The shrimp plate features sixteen shrimp and two sides, while the catfish plate comes with two cornmeal breaded catfish filets, and choice of two sides. The combo plate retains the two sides but halves the shrimp and catfish filet doses.
The cornbread, not to leave out this divine creation, is magnificently fluffy. At a dollar a piece, the price cannot be beaten either. One other item of intrigue on the sides menu, the sauteed alligator, comes in the form of a two ounce steak for those ready to try something new.