Friday, September 24, 2010

Gumbo by Default Isn’t Fit For a Kingfish

Ronnie’s Cajun Café
541 W. Laurel Ave.
Eunice, LA
Visited August 21, 2010

Food: Sandwiches and gumbo

“There's a hundred thousand Frenchmen in New Orleans

In New Orleans there are Frenchmen everywhere

But your house could fall down

Your baby could drown

Wouldn't none of those Frenchmen care”

-- Randy Newman from “Kingfish”

If there are 100,000 Frenchmen in New Orleans, you know there are 100,000 versions of gumbo in Louisiana.

That makes gumbo tough to critique.

Especially out here 150 miles west of New Orleans in the heart of Cajun Country, one of the rural areas that populist Governor “Kingfish” Huey Long won over on his rise to power.

You might like chicken in your gumbo. I might like sausage. Or crab. Or Shrimp.

Spicy or mild.

Then there is the entire okra versus file debate.

File is ground up sassafras that Cajuns traditionally used to thicken their gumbo.

But okra serves the same purpose.

And I when think of gumbo, I think of okra, especially in summer when okra is in season. Heck, the name “gumbo” comes from an African word for okra.

So I wasn’t sure what to make of Ronnie’s version of the Cajun specialty. There was no okra to be found in my gumbo. Actually there wasn’t much of anything in there except for a few tiny shrimp and a lot of spice.

But who the heck am I, some Irish guy from back East, to comment on gumbo being served smack dab in the bowels of Cajun country?

Maybe this is the way it is supposed to be. Thin, spicy broth with a smattering of tiny little cocktail shrimp.

But I can’t say I was impressed.

Part of my problem was that Ronnie’s Cajun Café, which, according to the locals, has only been around for a few months, was just about the only place open in the entire town of Eunice on this Saturday afternoon.

My choice was Ronnie’s or Sonic. In other words, I chose to dine at Ronnie’s not due to rave reviews or extensive research, but by default. My first three choices were all closed. Sometimes that happens. Even to Suit757.

Plus, the cool picture of the alligator on the roof certainly helped sell the place.

But the swampy ambiance doesn’t carry to the inside. No live bands or even background Cajun music. No happy little dancing Gators decorating the walls.

No, Ronnie’s is just a utilitarian local place to grab a sandwich and gumbo and get back to your day.

That casual, lets-not-get-carried-away attitude extends to the menu too.

The best thing I can say about my gumbo is that Ronnie’s definitely doesn’t skimp on the Cajun spices. I kept reaching for my tall glass of Southwest Louisiana tap water to keep the fire down.

But overall, there just wasn’t much about Ronnie’s to get excited about.

Of course if the Kingfish were here, I’m sure he’d tell Ronnie he had the best damn gumbo in the entirety of the great state of Louisiana.

Just like he’s tell every other gumbo chef in the state.

But that’s the difference between me and the Kingfish. I’m not running for anything.

Rating: Would Wear The Shirt If It Were Free.


  1. I totally agree. I'm from Eunice and Ronnie's food You want good gumbo? Ask any local and they will probably invite you over. Ronnie's claims their food is fresh never frozen..but I beg to differ, especially when the Cisco delivery truck is unloading frozen goods in the parking lot. You want good Cajun Food? Try Ruby's during the week!

    1. Thanks for the tip! Unfortunately the pickins were pretty slim on the weekend. But I enjoyed my visit to the Prairie Acadian Cultural Center. Even got to watch a cracklins cooking demonstration from one of your townsfolk. And yes, I enjoyed my free sample of fried pig fat. Mmmm.