Crawfish Etouffee, Louisiana crawfish in white wine and butter with onion and Cajun spices, served with steamed rice, is plated at Big Jones restaurant in Andersonville on Tuesday, February 19, 2012. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times
Maple tree isn’t the only place serving solid New Orleans’ fare in Chicago. Here are three more spots to check out:
BIG JONES, 5347 N. Clark; (773) 275-5725; www.bigjoneschicago.com
Vibe: Lush draperies, potted palms and cool lamps that look like tufted-meringues, give this Andersonville restaurant an Antebellum plantation parlor ambience.
Flavor: Chef Paul Fehribach feeds your stomach and your soul with thoughtful blog posts on the restaurant’s website and with smart regional Southern cuisine in the dining room. Cajun and creole specialties include Cajun-liver boudin fritters, gumbo yaya and crawfish etouffee, which is not the swampy dark brew you find in New Orleans, but a lighter, wine-, butter- and onion-based sauce more typical of the Breaux Bridge region of Louisiana served in the 1940s.
HEAVEN ON SEVEN, 111 N. Wabash, (312) 263-6443; www.heavenonseven.com/wabash.html
Vibe: The original outpost of what’s become a mini-empire, you wonder how anyone ever found their way up to the seventh floor of this Loop commercial building for a bite. Unlike the spin-offs, which feel more like a New Orleans’ restaurant theme park, there’s more of a gritty diner/lunch counter, a la Manny’s Deli, feel here.
Flavor: Most suggest the gumbo is the thing, but I prefer the sausage po-boy, a crisp buttered Pullman loaf stuffed with a garlicky link of Andouille sausage slathered with spicy creole mustard.
DIXIE KITCHEN, 825 Church St., Evanston, (847) 733-9030; www.dixiekitchenchicago.com
Vibe: Corrugated tin, checkered tablecloths, strings of Christmas lights, and a mess of tin advertising signs, Dixie Kitchen feels like a vintage Louisiana fish shack.
Flavor: The fried green tomatoes are never soggy and always tangy. Though, it’s not particularly Cajun or creole, it’s also tough to pass up the corn-perfumed johnnycakes.
— Michael Nagrant