Cajun cooking has to be authentic. The people of Louisiana demand it. So when you go out for Cajun, you need to find “the real deal”. On The Bayou is a little of the Big Easy, and you can find it the next time you are in Smyrna.
When you first drive up to the restaurant, the prevailing thought is, “did this used to be a Waffle House or a Huddle House?”. As soon as you step inside, your suspicions are confirmed.
No amount of disguise can conceal the fact that this was a Huddle House at one time, a fact confirmed by our pal Grant Goggans over at Marie Let’s Eat, when he visited here. The decor is certainly much more festive than a Huddle House. We are here about ten days before Fat Tuesday. We suspect it’s Mardi Gras in here all the time. You can see more of the restaurant in our exclusive Tastemade video, which you can watch here.
We are joined tonight by Date Night regulars and Smyrnans Claudia and Randy. It’s Randy’s birthday week and we are feeling festive. Let’s start the celebration with some beers.
As any authentic Cajun place should, On The Bayou has a good selection of Abita beer. And, as our luck would have it, they have the Mardi Gras Bock tonight as a seasonal beer. We’ll have four, please. It’s very reasonably priced at only $3.45. You would pay at least six dollars for this beer inside the perimeter.
Our server, the adorable Nino, brings us some lagniappe. It’s a little something extra to greet the guests.
Cajun spices are mixed in with olive oil to make an excellent dipping sauce for the “imported” bread. The bread is brought in every two weeks from a bakery in New Orleans. Chef Kevin Rutley tells us that he meets his father, who drives up from New Orleans, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. His dad delivers bread and sausage and Chef Rutley brings it back to Smyrna to serve at On The Bayou. Why do this? Because you have to be authentic at this kind of restaurant.
We skip the appetizers and go right to the main course. We’ll have to try the fried gator bites and sausage balls another time. Claudia gets a big bowl of gumbo.
The Cajun stew is not too spicy and is full of shrimp, sausage and chicken. It’s got okra in it too, which, as those of you who do crossword puzzles know, appears in crosswords all of the time.
Randy and I order the same thing, the shrimp, chicken and sausage jambalaya. You will never guess what’s in it from that description…
The dish is spicy enough to make me sweat, but it actually has just the right amount of kick to it. This is a very filling dish and was so good that we both ate everything on our plates. At $12.95, it’s another reasonably priced dish that would cost a lot more elsewhere.
Eve orders the shrimp and grits.
Quick, count the shrimp. Perhaps this dish should have been called “grits and shrimp” as there are only four shrimp on the entire plate. She really enjoys the spicy grits, and says they are some of the best she has ever had. However, this plate would have been a lot better with more shrimp on it. When we complain to Chef Rutley, he informs us that there should have been seven shrimp on the plate. We never do get those three extra shrimp. You might want to order something else, unless you are a grits lover.
When it’s Mardi Gras season, there is only one dessert to eat, the King Cake. Chef Rutley has brought some of those back from New Orleans as well.
How’s this for a dessert to share four ways? You only get these once a year, which makes it more special. There’s a little plastic baby in one of the pieces of cake. The person who gets the baby has to buy the cake next year. We took some cake home and it looks like I will be buying the King Cake in 2016.
Score Factor (out of 5): We’ll give On The Bayou a 2. No matter how you try to disguise it, your date will think you are taking her to the Huddle House. However, the food is true to it’s Cajun roots, so if your date is from Louisiana, you might bump it up to a 2.5.
The bottom line on On The Bayou: Save the 500-mile drive to New Orleans and get some authentic Cajun in the heart of Smyrna. Chef Rutley is doing some good cooking here. The servers are very friendly and we had a good time on our date. If only they had put more shrimp in that “grits and shrimp” dish…