It’s called Flavors of Louisiana, but your nose gets there long before your taste buds.
Walk through the door, and the savory scent of gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice and more, raids your olfactory glands. Suddenly, you’re in the French Quarter. The zydeco music on the sound system confirms it.
But no, you’re in Avondale.
Louisiana boasts a unique cuisine, but for the most part, it stays in Louisiana. Cajun gets done here and there, but it is mostly a facsimile of the real thing. Enter Jennifer Landry Goff, who opened Flavors of Louisiana in 2008—in the wake of the financial crash, and less than three years after Hurricane Katrina reduced New Orleans to little more than a memory—as an eight-table eatery in an all-but-abandoned strip mall in a corner of Avondale, just off the I-10. She stuck with it, and over time, attracted a following that has slowly grown Flavors of Louisiana into a 32-table restaurant that packs ‘em in on weekends.
Earlier this year, Goff opened a franchise in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In November, she will debut a Chandler location, and a Mesa restaurant is in the planning stages.
The restaurant’s main dining room features a wall mural of a bayou on one side, and on the other, a display of Mardi Gras masks. It’s all to make the homesick Louisianan feel comfortable, said general manager Kelly Coles. As for advertising, it’s mostly word of mouth, plus a “big sign.”
“We have a big yellow sign on the back of the building facing the I-10 which you can see heading west. A lot of people come in here because of that, saying they’ve been looking for Cajun food,” Coles said.
“We make everything here from scratch,” she continued. “We fly in our alligator tail meat and we fly in live crawfish and boil them ourselves.”
The alligator is for alligator po-boys ($12.99 for the 6-inch, $17.99 for the footlong), and the crawfish is for, well, a lot of things.
My night at Flavors of Louisiana started with a small bowl of seafood gumbo ($4.75), the rich soup/stew that is sometimes thickened with okra. The version at Flavors eschews okra for a delicious dark roux that pulls the crab and shrimp together into a compelling feast of tastes and textures.
As an entree, I tried something the menu calls “Dunkin Catfish” ($15.95), which is three breaded strips of catfish, drowned in a crawfish etouffee, served over white rice. The catfish is flaky and not at all oily. The etouffee at Flavors of Louisiana is long on onion and garlic, which befits Cajun-style cooking as opposed to Creole, the more urban take on Louisiana food that favors tomato. It’s not surprising that Goff hails from Baton Rouge, not New Orleans (read: Cajun, not Creole) and that her recipes are family traditions. The dish comes with a side salad, but I paid an extra buck to upgrade to red beans and rice—more than well worth it.
“Etouffee” comes from a French word that more or less means “stuffed” and I was indeed “etouffee” after my meal. When faced with dessert choices, I did the only thing someone filled to the gills would naturally do: I went for the peach cobbler ($5.50). The word “best” is one I rarely use, but some seasoning in the crust of this cobbler forces me to say: This is the best peach cobbler I have ever eaten.
Other entrees include jambalaya ($11.99), the red bean bowl (red beans and rice topped with Cajun sausage), and, for those who prefer Creole style, a tomato-rich shrimp Creole ($14.95). A couple of by-the-ways: No beer or wine at Avondale, though the coming Chandler location will offer same. And the portions at the restaurant are very generous, so bring a friend or prepare to take some home.