If you’ve never had Cajun food before, we envy you. It’s a special mix of Southern-style cooking, Louisiana flavor spiciness, French-inspired cuisine, and heavy fried seafood. It’s wonderful.
Staples include 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 and made a famous after-drinking snack by Cafe du Monde).
The Valley may seem like the opposite of southern Louisiana, and in many ways, it is, but there are still a number of places that can transport you right back to the French Quarter’s sidewalk cafes, bustling restaurants, and walk-up windows. Here are 10 places with Cajun-style dishes ready to introduce, or bring you back, to a unique world of taste.
Angry Crab Shack
This super-casual, put-on-a-bib kind of place offers a handful of locations in metro Phoenix. 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. There’s also choice of 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 Kitchen
2051 South Dobson Road, #18, Mesa
Since 1989, Baby Kay's Cajun Kitchen has been serving the people of Dobson Ranch in Mesa some decently authentic Cajun food. Think boudin balls, gumbo by the cup or bowl, shrimp etouffee, and some killer combos. They also offer regional sides like the red beans and rice, jambalaya, and dirty rice – that 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 (meaning a little something extra).
Creole Cajun Bistro
5070 South Gilbert Road, #400, Chandler
Creole Cajun Bistro marries Cajun, French-style creations with authentic, Southern-style cooking to offer a solid menu of Creole favorites. Think po' boy sandwiches, shrimp, fish, sausage, gumbo, etouffee, and crawfish – plus a full bar. Start with an order of fried alligator, followed by a cup of the Filé Okra Gumbo, and topped with a shrimp po’ boy. Their po’ boys are an 11-inch, garlic butter toasted piece of French bread topped with remoulade sauce, lettuce, tomato, dill pickles, and big pieces of fried shrimp. The atmosphere is no Pat O'Brien's, but calm and clean. And for dessert? Beignets, of course.
5819 West Glendale Avenue, Glendale
Set in historic downtown Glendale, Cuff is a west Valley, new-American bar and restaurant that has everything from comfort food to a vegan section to craft cocktails. However, a number of their menu items are Cajun-focused. Some Creole-based items include the Cajun fries, the shrimp club sandwich, and the shrimp and grits. But the best thing here is the fried shrimp po’boy – your usual lettuce, tomato, pickles, and of course, remoulade. Enjoy on the peaceful back patio, or in the modern dining room in the 1895 Humphrey-Davidson Building.
Flavors of Louisiana
The origin story here is just as interesting as the food. Established in 2008, Flavors of Louisiana combines both county and city Cajun flavors – meaning New Orleans-style spicy hot dishes with red tomato-base sauce, and the spicy Acadian flavors with rich, brown roux-base sauces. This is a nod to both parents of the Baton Rouge-born owner. Hank Williams fans will like the Cajun Trio – jambalaya, crawfish pie, and gumbo – and po’ boy options range from shrimp, oyster, and crawfish to alligator, catfish, and muffuletta.
Hot N Juicy Crawfish
Arizona has two locations of the crawfish-centric Cajun chain Hot N Juicy Crawfish – one in Glendale’s Westgate Entertainment District and one along Mill Avenue in downtown Tempe. The menu is well rounded in the worlds of by-the-pound seafood, fried baskets, and two-handed po’ boys, and a “For Play” section offering fried catfish, Cajun calamari, Cajun fries, and etouffee. But if you’re heading over for the first time, choose from one of two combos – or as they call them, experiences. Try the Get Your Feet Wet combos with one pound of crawfish, one pound of shrimp, a dozen andouille sausages, two corn cobs, and two potatoes.
LA Crab Shack
1948 West Broadway Road, Mesa
Known for their 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 broil 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 Kitchen
3424 West Southern Avenue, #180
Backed by a New Orleans-rooted chef, Mingo's Louisiana Kitchen offers some new spins on Cajun classics. First, 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. They also have “new school” po’ boys with options like oyster and bacon and confit pork and slaw. Aside from the dinner menu, 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.
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The Larder + the Delta
200 West Portland Street, #101
The lunch and dinner menus here focus quite a bit on Southern cooking, and anyone from or who’s frequented New Orleans could be brought right back with a couple of menu items. Come by and grab the garlic shrimp with herbs, crusty bread, charred lemon, okra, and a wet nap of course, or the Mississippi catfish po’ boy with jalapeño apple slaw, crystal hot sauce aioli, thick bread-and-butter pickles, and a side of fries. The Hoppin’ John will also take you to NOLA – a bowl of Sea Island field peas with Carolina gold rice and herb salad.
929 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 a signature dish is the gumbo – Schreiner’s andouille, house-smoked chicken nopales, trinity vegetables, Cajun spices, and dark roux. Be sure to order a hurricane to boot.