For well over three decades, the French Market Grille has been Augusta, Georgia’s taste of New Orleans. Billing itself as Creole and Cajun, it offers Big Easy ambience in the form of twinkly lighting and wrought-iron filigree and South Louisiana food in easy-to-eat iterations. The menu is replete with standards found on menus throughout Cajun Country and the Crescent City: jambalaya, gumbo, crawfish etouffee, po boys, oysters every which way, and booze-sauced bread pudding for dessert.
The kitchen’s special crab chop is unique. It’s similar to a crab cake, but flatter and, in fact, chop-shaped, composed of crabmeat and what the menu describes as a blonde roux, forming a tender patty that gets dusted with breadcrumbs and griddle-cooked until its surface turns crisp. The interior is gently crabby, soft and unctuous — comfort food, really.
Shrimp featured in jambalaya and shrimp Creole are large but out of shape, lacking snap. The same is true of jambalaya’s chicken, which tastes like it was cooked some time ago. Fried oysters are handsome, with crisp, gently-seasoned crust, although they, too, lack the oceanic zest of a truly sexy oyster.
Whereas most signature dishes from Cajun country and New Orleans deliver what Chef Emeril Lagasse used to announce with his famous exclamation, “Bam!” (referring to a fusillade of spice), what’s served at the French Market Grille is temperate fare. Nothing is four-alarm (unless you apply hot sauce available at every table); it’s modestly seasoned to please palates that are more sweet-Dixie than ball-of-fire Creole.