Copycat Cajun and Creole restaurants cashing in on New Orleans fame

Don Ames
February 23, 2018 - 10:26 am

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, New Orleans restaurants are receiving plenty of praise across the country.

New Orleans' Cajun and Creole cuisine has long been acclaimed world-wide. And it's being copied from coast to coast.

Copycat Cajun restaurants have been around for years, but New Orleans' tricentennial has given many of them added publicity this year.

There've been articles about the Cajun Grill in Buffalo and Howe's Bayou in Detroit. Portland's New Orleans Bistro and Washington D.C.'s Chasin' Tails have invited folks to enjoy Mardi Gras meals and Carnival cooking.

Las Vegas, Atlanta, Portland and San Diego are among many cities that boast 10 or more Louisiana style restaurants. In Charlotte. you can dine at the French Quarter or Boudreaux's Louisiana Kitchen. There more than a dozen Hot N Juicy Crawfish franchises.

WWL Food Show host and restaurant critic, Tom Fitzmorris, says chefs Paul Prudhomme and John Folse are largely responsible for the fame of our food.

"Those guys are very much behind the whole New Orleans and Louisiana culture. Chef Paul did a job on that that made us a world-wide phenomenon."

Fitzmorris says some out-of-town restaurant owners do it right, and regularly visit New Orleans to keep up with the cuisine.

"God bless those people who come here for that reason. Those are the best visitors that we have. Not only do they come here and spend money, but they help us continue to put forth this cuisine that's so disntictive and spread it around even more."

Chester's Cajun Grill in Buffalo is such a place, offering a true taste of New Orleans' flavors.

Unfortunately, though, there are more of them that seem to miss the mark.

"There are some of them almost feel sorry for them," says Fitzmorris. "They just don't have a clue at all."

"There's a lot of...I'm not going to say fraudulent, but not a lot of chefs out there in the rest of the country actually understand what Louisiana taste is. And, if you don't know what it's supposed to taste like, you'll never get there."

He says those restaurants should not claim authenticity anywhere on their menus.

"If you wind up in a restaurant that has a New Orleans theme in Ponca City, Oklahoma, and you see barbecue shrimp on the menu, do not assume that you're about to get the barbecue shrimp that you got at Manales' or Mister B's or the other places that really do it," Fitzmorris says.

"What you're going to get there is probably shrimp with some barbecue sauce poured out of a bottle."

Fitzmorris says those types of places can actually do us a disservice. He hopes folks in those places don't judge us by the wannabees.

Claims that out-of-town restaurants offer an authentic taste of New Orleans should probably be taken with a grain of rice. Transplanting regional cuisine can be a tricky business.

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