Cafe Society

Zydeco's gears up for grand opening this Friday

One month ago, Zydeco's opened quietly in the old Trios Enoteca spot in LoDo, bringing Cajun specialties to the neighborhood. Turns out, though, that was just a limited version of the restaurant. "It was more of a soft opening," says Justin Archuletta, who does marketing for the new place. "They were changing over inventory and getting rid of dry goods."

In fact, as he sold out of what was left over in the kitchen, owner Andrew Esparza -- who is also behind Fleur Bistro -- made several changes and tweaks to the staff, concept and interior of the spot.

For instance, he brought on J. Michael Melton, former executive chef of Bistro One who was most recently behind the burners at Linger, to run the back of the house.

"We had some people who had come from Gumbo's, but they decided they didn't want to handle the particular chore of this kitchen," Esparza explains, adding that J. Michael is from South Carolina and has "very good experience with Cajun cuisine."

When Melton signed on, he embarked upon a road trip through Texas, Louisiana and South Carolina, where, he says, he regained his focus and sharpened his recipes for a menu that's "Cajun and Creole, but also Southern." His opening board includes crawfish etouffee done three ways, a frog's legs appetizer, mufaletta nachos and salad and gumbo -- which he says is the gumbo he was making at Bistro One when the stew was featured on our 100 Favorite Dishes list.

In addition to dinner, Zydeco's will do lunch daily and weekend brunch -- and late-night breakfast from 1 a.m. until 4 a.m., when the kitchen will serve up Southern-style breakfast casserole to late-night revelers. "Right now they either have to go to Pete's or the diner if they want something late at night," Esparza points out. "Now they don't have to leave the area."

Esparza is going for a top-notch service and dining experience, but he also plans to feature live musical acts a couple of times a month. And his New Orleans-themed restaurant will feature a bar slinging Hurricanes and waitresses doling out beads -- but "only if the men flash them," the owner jokes.

To celebrate the roll-out of the full concept, Zydeco's is hosting a grand opening this weekend, complete with a wagon that will head down 16th Street with beads and menus at 6 p.m. on Friday night. You'll need reservations to dine that night -- the eatery plans to do two seatings -- but the place will be open to the public on Saturday, when every guest through the door will get a free oyster shooter. The party starts at 10 a.m. that day.

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Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk