Cajun culinary legend Paul Prudhomme passed away last Thursday, just a couple of days short of today's National Gumbo Day. But every day was gumbo day for Prudhomme, who popularized Cajun cooking beyond the borders of Louisiana with cookbooks, packaged seasonings and cooking shows in an era before the Food Network.
Denver's not exactly a hotpot of Cajun cooking, but there are a few places around town where you can get a decent bowl of gumbo — either as a meaningful tribute to Prudhomme or to enjoy Cajun cuisine on another meaningless national food day. Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse doesn't exactly spring to mind when it comes to Southern cuisine in general, but chef Mario Hernandez cooks up a batch of gumbo for the DTC eatery's dinner menu with ingredients straight out of a Prudhomme cookbook. Hernandez starts with the "trinity" — diced green pepper, onion and celery — upon which many Cajun and Creole dishes are built and then uses okra for flavor and thickening and gumbo file (pronounced fee-lay), a seasoning made from powdered sassafras leaves. He also adds smoked chicken and andouille sausage and ladles the stew over jasmine rice for added flavor. Since we know Del Frisco's may not be an everyday choice for a $10 bowl of gumbo, here are five other spots to honor Prudhomme.
Gumbo's Louisiana Style Cafe
1033 East 17th Avenue
With a name like Gumbo's, you know you're getting Louisiana cooking. This quaint Uptown cafe, which moved from its 16th Street Mall location in 2012, serves a steaming bowl of chicken and andouille sausage gumbo that's sure to warm up a cool October night. The only problem? Gumbo's isn't open on Mondays, so you'll have to celebrate the holiday on Tuesday.
Bayou Bob's Restaurant & Bar
1635 Glenarm Place
Bayou Bob's may seem dated to recent Denver transplants whose idea of bon temps downtown steers well clear of the 16th Street Mall and Glenarm Place. But Cajun is not a trendy cuisine, but rather one that respects tradition and honors the slow passage of time. After nearly thirty years in business, Bayou Bob's is still one of the best places in town for Cajun food, including a satisfying shrimp and smoked sausage gumbo true to the Louisiana style.
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Jezebel's Southern Bistro & Bar
3301 Tejon Street
Under the well-seasoned guidance of owners Wanda James and chef Scott Durrah, Jezebel's has become a delightful addition to Lower Highland, offering a Southern-inspired menu that occasionally wanders into Cajun territory. Durrah simmers up a traditional gumbo studded with shrimp, chicken and sausage, but he also has plant-based eaters covered with a vegetarian version swimming with poblano peppers, corn, lima beans and squash. It's a fall-harvest sampler in a bowl that still remains true to its roots.
Lucile's Creole Cafe
275 South Logan (and four other metro locations)
To Coloradans, the distinctions between Creole and Cajun are a little hazy, but all you need to remember for now is that both cultures make gumbo. At Lucile's, a breakfast and lunch spot, you can get a cup or a bowl of chicken and andouille gumbo until 2 p.m. daily — and you can also get a side of decidedly Creole beignets if you have a sweet tooth. And if you're not near central Denver, Lucile's serves the same great food in Boulder, Longmont, Fort Collins and Littleton.
The Asian Cajun
2400 West Alameda Avenue
Vietnamese restaurants outnumber Cajun joints by a long shot in Denver, and some Vietnamese restaurateurs stopped in New Orleans on their way to Colorado, picking up Gulf Coast influences along the way. The Asian Cajun offers purely Vietnamese dishes like pho and spring rolls, purely Cajun specialties like etouffee and gumbo, and even a couple of hybrid options: The Asian Cajun-spiced seafood boils are a house favorite. With nautical decor and pitch-perfect chicken and sausage gumbo, the Asian Cajun will please traditionalists and adventurers alike.