One would not normally expect first-rate gumbo in a casual coffee house café with lattes and smoothies on the menu. But in Cajun country, normal expectations must be put on hold. In this relentlessly delicious part of the world, some of the most excellent food is found in some of the most unlikely places.
In fact, I was a little disappointed when the bowl of chicken and sausage gumbo I ordered at Chickorys was brought to the table. Not because it came in a Styrofoam cup (I am not a crockery snob), but because it didn’t seem to have a huge amount of chicken and sausage in it. One deep, soul-rousing inhale of its aroma put worry in abeyance; and a single spoonful of the liquid – nearly as thick as syrup and as brown as chocolate – made me sing hallelujah. For while the measure of ingredients is judicious, the flavor is overwhelming. A resonant, smoky, spicy-hot brew such as this achieved only when gumbo is based on a long-stirred roux – made the old fashioned way, low and slow. It may not be as complex and kaleidoscopic as the very best Creole gumbos, but it has an authentic country charm that I find even more beguiling.
I would not necessarily think to order a pulled brisket po boy out here either. Beef sandwiches are a New Orleans city passion, but pork’s the thing around here. However, when the girl behind the counter started telling me how they slow roast the beef right here, I had to try it. Bingo, once again! It is magnificent beef, as tender as the finest pot roast, super-moist and potently beefy. Great long shreds and clumps of it, piled into a loaf of fine Gambino’s Bakery bread with its elegant crumb and paper-thin crust and fully dressed with mayo, lettuce, and tomato, make a memorable local meal.
A few other winners from the short menu: deeply sweet, crusty-edged white chocolate bread pudding, served warm of course; breakfast biscuits sandwiching eggs, cheese and, if desired, boudin instead of regular sausage. The boudin is dense and moist with a sneaky-slow pepper punch that will soon have your mouth aglow. Made-to-order smoothies include one called Berrylicious Bluejay, which is blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries blended with yogurt; and a wicked one named Who Dat, which is peanut butter, banana, chocolate syrup and milk.
A large, airy space with plenty of elbow room between the tables, Chickorys is on the main drag of the charming old St. Landry Parrish town of Grand Coteau. Once a thriving trade center and now a characterful community of old trees, old Victorian buildings, and religious retreats, Grand Coteau hosts a new population of interesting enterprises like this one, which was established in September, 2015.