Everett's Craving Cajun a must, even for heat wimps
In fact, this new restaurant on downtown Everett's main drag, Colby Avenue, should be embraced, enjoyed and frequented.
There's lots on the menu that isn't hot. There's a kids' menu as well. But watch out when you start adding numbers to the dishes. The heat scale is one to five but don't be fooled; the heat is delivered in double-digit intensity.
Don't take my word for it. I personally wouldn't go there. But my husband did. And his eyes watered and sweat built up behind his glasses. And this from a guy who pops jalapenos likes pickles. But the intensity didn't stop him. He ate until he was full and enjoyed the leftovers the next day.
We went to Craving Cajun on a recent Saturday night and loved it, from beginning to end: the adorable decor, the casual feel of the dining room, our charming Nigerian waitress, the appetizing but not overwhelming menu, the talented guitarist who played right next to us but we could still have a conversation and, of course, our meal.
The food was so, so good. Our waitress greeted us and told us this was authentic Cajun food and patiently answered our questions -- the oysters are from Oregon; when there's crawfish on the menu it comes from Louisiana; certain items aren't all that spicy but warned us when we add numbers, the food gets spicy quick.
Our waitress then shared the funny story about the macho guy who ordered a meal at a spice level of five and refused water. She recalled that he had done a lot of sweating.
Well, I confessed that I was very wimpy when it comes to spicy food and she assured me I would be fine.
I was more than fine.
We started with appetizers of fried green tomatoes ($5) and grilled Jamaican jerk chicken ($6). I didn't know from fried green tomatoes; I'd certainly heard about them and loved the movie but never ate them before. When I bit into one I understood what the fuss was about; they were thick, juicy and tangy, ever so gently fried in a batter that left a delicate coating. The coolness and wetness of the tomatoes paired perfectly with the seasoned skewers of chicken that were melt-in-your-mouth tender.
Our waitress returned to take our entree order. My husband ordered the Dungeness crab and shrimp gumbo. Our waitress recommended the small order ($11.95) and Peter chose to have the crab taken out of its shell for a small fee. And Peter proceeded cautiously, ordering it with a spice level of one.
The dish came with a side of hushpuppies. More on those in a bit.
I ordered the red beans and rice because the waitress said the dish wasn't really spicy and was cooked with smoked pork hock and smoked sausage ($5).
We didn't wait long for our meals. After a couple of tastes of mine, I declared I could eat this dish every day. Regretfully, after tasting one of Peter's hushpuppies, I wanted to eat those every day as well but Peter needed them more than I and wouldn't let me have any more.
The soft, chewy buttermilk-infused hushpuppies were helping Peter soak up some of the heat from his gumbo.
At some point into our meal, guitarist Richard Rorex began performing. He serenaded the restaurant with mellow jazz and flamenco tunes, including "Blue Skies." His playing added to the charm of our meal and he said he'd be playing at the restaurant through the summer.
Pete and I had to get to a show but we asked about dessert. Peach cobbler was on the menu along with bread pudding. We ordered Momma Cherokee's Bread Pudding with Jack Daniels whiskey sauce to go ($6), which we enjoyed later.
The bread pudding had a thick custard middle and was topped with a crumbly crust. The dessert was sweet and smooth and not too rich -- and not in need of the whiskey sauce but who wants to waste?
This perfect meal proved the chefs at Craving Cajun really do know what they are doing. It's the husband and wife team of Cynthia and Calvin Bowens, retired from the Navy and packing years of cooking experience.
Previous to opening the restaurant, the two did the fair and festival circuit as The Whim of the Chefs in which they were successful in the greater Seattle metro area. Other patrons have followed them for a long time during their mobile vending period, according to the restaurant's website.
And now they've opened a storefront in downtown Everett where I hope they will put down firm roots and stay.
Theresa Goffredo: 425-339-3424; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Craving Cajun Grill
2915 Colby Ave., Everett; 425-374-2983; www.cravingcajunfood.com.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Alcohol: Beer and wine.
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