The Valley may seem like the opposite of southern Louisiana, and in many ways, of course, it is.
But that doesn't mean you can't find Cajun food around these parts. Po'boy sandwiches (fried seafood atop a lengthy piece of fresh, crusty French bread), etouffee and gumbo (shellfish served over rice in a soup-like sauce), and beignets (deep-fried, pillow-like pastries under powdered sugar) are all readily available in the Phoenix area, if you know where to look. Here are 11 local spots that will transport you to the French Quarter’s sidewalk cafes, bustling restaurants, and walk-up windows.
Angry Crab ShackMultiple Locations
This super-casual, put-on-a-bib kind of place has a handful of locations in metro Phoenix. At Angry Crab Shack, starters include the Cajun Fries With an Attitude, meaning crispy fries served loaded with gumbo. You’ve also got po’boys with option of shrimp, soft-shell crab, catfish, or beer-battered cod on your baguette. Or try the by-the-pound Cajun Seafood Boil with choice of head-on or -off shrimp, king or snow crab, lobster, clams, blue mussels, and crawfish. Range your spice level from “Me No Likey” spice to “Ridiculously Hot.”
Baby Kay's Cajun Kitchen2051 South Dobson Road, #18, Mesa
Since 1989, Baby Kay's Cajun Kitchen has been serving the Valley — more recently, the people of Dobson Ranch in Mesa — some decently authentic Cajun food. Think boudin balls, gumbo by the cup or bowl, and shrimp etouffee. The restaurant also offers regional sides like the red beans and rice, jambalaya, and dirty rice, a fiery combo of rice mixed with seasoned ground beef, spicy pork sausage, and veggies. And if you’re trying to keep it light, they’ve got an array of salads including the fried catfish salad, crab and shrimp salad, and the Lagniappe (Cajun for "a little something extra").
Cuff5819 West Glendale Avenue, Glendale
Set in historic downtown Glendale, Cuff is a new American bar and restaurant with everything from comfort food to a vegan section to craft cocktails. A number of the menu items are Cajun-focused. That includes the Cajun fries, the shrimp club sandwich, and the shrimp and grits. But the best thing here is the fried shrimp po’boy, which comes with the usual lettuce, tomato, pickles, and remoulade. Enjoy one on the peaceful back patio, or in the modern dining room of the 1895 Humphrey-Davidson Building.
Flavors of LouisianaMultiple Locations
The origin story here is just as interesting as the food. Established in 2008, Flavors of Louisiana combines both county and city Cajun flavors: New Orleans-style spicy-hot dishes with tomato-based red sauce, and Acadian flavors like rich, brown roux-base sauces. This is a nod to the parents of the Baton Rouge-born owner. Hank Williams fans may be drawn to the Cajun Trio — jambalaya, crawfish pie, and gumbo — and po’boy options range from shrimp, oyster, and crawfish to alligator, catfish, and muffaletta.
Hot N Juicy CrawfishMultiple Locations
Arizona has three locations of the crawfish-centric Cajun chain Hot N Juicy Crawfish. The well-rounded menu includes by-the-pound seafood, fried baskets, two-handed po’boys, and a “For Play” section offering fried catfish, Cajun calamari, Cajun fries, and etouffee. But if you’re stopping by for the first time, choose from one of two combos — or as they're called here, experiences. The Get Your Feet Wet combo, for example, comes with one pound of crawfish, one pound of shrimp, a dozen andouille sausages, two corn cobs, and two potatoes.
LA Crab Shack1948 West Broadway Road, Mesa
Known for its delta bayou menu, LA Crab Shack offers east Valley residents a real Gulf Coast experience. When in season, live crawfish and oysters are flown in on the daily. To jump right into the options, you first choose your catch (think head-on shrimp, king crab legs, clams, blue crabs, and lobster tails), then your flavors (Rajun Cajun, garlic butter, house blend, and more) and spice level (mild to inferno). Other menu items include fried seafood baskets and appetizers, shrimp fettuccine with Cajun-spiced Alfredo sauce, and plenty of wine, beer, and cocktails.
Mingo's Louisiana Kitchen3424 West Southern Avenue, #180
Backed by a New Orleans-rooted chef, Mingo's Louisiana Kitchen offers some new spins on Cajun classics. There’s catfish and shrimp seafood plates with hushpuppies, Louisiana classics like jambalaya and red beans and rice, Hoppin' John salad, and old-school po’boys. Mingo's also has “new school” po’boys, with options like oyster and bacon and confit pork and slaw. There’s also a brunch menu with an andouille and shrimp omelet, shrimp and grits, and a morning daiquiri. And if you spot the Mingo's Louisiana Kitchen food truck, be sure to order the Louisiana Hot Chicken Sandwich Po-Boy.
Southern Rail300 West Camelback Road
Chef Justin Beckett's southern restaurant, aptly named Southern Rail, weaves together upscale dining with a front porch atmosphere. Entering the space (located since 2014 at The Newton), you get the sense you're on a tour of a Southern mansion somewhere near the Gulf Coast, and the menu — featuring items like the dirty rice balls, shrimp 'n’ creamy grits, red beans and rice, and the Gumbo Ya Ya — keeps you in that mindset.
The Larder + the Delta200 West Portland Street, #101
The lunch and dinner menus at The Larder + the Delta focus quite a bit on Southern cooking, and anyone familiar with New Orleans cuisine will be dazzled by the garlic shrimp, which comes with herbs, crusty bread, charred lemon, okra, and (naturally) a wet nap, or the Mississippi catfish po’boy, which comes with jalapeno apple slaw, crystal hot sauce aioli, thick bread-and-butter pickles, and a side of fries. The Hoppin’ John — a bowl of Sea Island field peas with Carolina gold rice and herb salad — is also capable of briefly transporting you to NOLA.
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VooDoo Daddy’s Steam Kitchen1325 West Elliot Road, #106, Tempe
If you love Cajun, Caribbean, and Creole-style food, VooDoo Daddy’s Steam Kitchen in Tempe has your jambalaya and gumbo fix. There’s also red beans and rice, po’boys, and beignets for dessert (or your hangover). The "steam kitchen" part of the name derives from the steam kettles (set at heat levels between one and 10, depending on preference) the restaurant uses to customize each order. The other half of the name? VooDoo Daddy is the gator seen in the colorful mural above the kitchen.
Welcome Diner929 East Pierce Street
The menu at Welcome Diner is a mess-load of from-scratch Cajun options with local ingredients. Dishes include the seafood etouffee with seasonal seafood, trinity vegetables and Banyuls vinegar over rice, and the jambalaya with Red Bird Farms chicken, andouille, trinity, tomatoes, and Cajun spices served over jasmine rice and paired with Noble sourdough bread for soaking. But the signature dish is the gumbo — Schreiner’s andouille, house-smoked chicken nopales, trinity vegetables, Cajun spices, and dark roux. Order a hurricane for the full experience.
Editor's note: This story was originally published on November 20, 2018. It was updated on February 6, 2020.