9600 Fondren, St. 104 @ South Braeswood
UPDATE: 7/23/10 - THIS PLACE HAS GIVEN UP THE GHOST AND IT'S A REAL BUMMER. IT WAS REALLY GOOD, HOME-STYLE CAJUN FOOD AND VERY ACCESSIBLE TO ME BUT THEY HAD A BAD LOCATION, INCONVENIENT PARKING AND ALMOST NON-EXISTENT SIGNAGE. BEST WISHES TO THESE FOLKS. I HOPE THEY LAND ON THEIR FEET SOMEWHERE ELSE (HOPEFULLY CLOSE BY AND HOPEFULLY I'LL DISCOVER THEM). IN THE MEANTIME, I'M EAGERLY LOOKING FORWARD TO THE CAJUN MADE CAFE GOING INTO THE FORMER FRENCHY'S LOCATION ON BELLFORT, ONE BLOCK WEST OF FONDREN.
This place bills itself as Classic Louisiana Soul Food and Cane River Cookin.' The owner is from Nachitoches, hence the Cane River Cookin' sobriquet. I've been going here since a few weeks after it opened last summer and had some very good meals. It's just minutes from my place so very convenient when I'm in a hurry and I've been 7 or 8 times.
The first time I went I had the Cajun Stuffed Meat Loaf and it's still the best thing I've had here, a very meaty, dense loaf with little or no filler material, covered with a spicy tomato gravy and served on a bed of mashed, skin-on red potatoes. I was able to find out the secret ingredient in the stuffing is minced green and black olives. The green beans were possibly canned but very flavorful while the mac 'n cheese was a bit thin and tasted too much of flour. This was the only time I've tried the mac 'n cheese which isn't a favorite dish of mine anyway.
The original menu spelled out which dishes would be available on a rotating basis and there were some very interesting sounding ones but there's recently been a revamping of the menu and some dishes no longer appear. Service is off a steam table for the plates while some items are prepared fresh. They've offered the famous Nachitoches Meat Pies a la Lasayonne's but have never had them to serve when I wanted to try them. Shrimp and sausage po'boys are available as well as Old Fashioned Hamburgers, made on order. The po'boys are a Wednesday special while the Hamburger is offered as a special on Monday. On the recent menu there's only one daily special, Monday thru Friday. Oxtails appear to be available to serve everyday and look good; I've had some of the gravy over rice with other dishes but haven't tried the oxtails, yet. A plate includes a choice of meat (2, sometimes 3 to choose from), a starch (rice or potatoes) and 2 vegetables.
Meatballs and sausage in mushroom gravy I tried once used canned mushrooms for the gravy; the sausage link was a very fine grind and mild and the meatballs, perhaps made the same as the meatloaf, could have used a little more browning before being added to the gravy as they were a little soggy. That was perhaps the most disappointing meal I've had. Their catfish has a heavier breading than I like but was okay otherwise; there are better places for catfish on the Southwest side as far as I'm concerned. Fried foods tend to have a very dark exterior but have not been over-cooked and dried out on the interior.
The fried chicken has been very good with a very thick breading, very moist and flavorful on the inside and very large pieces.
A sausage po'boy I tried once was different in that it used a thin sausage patty rather than a link. The bread was crusty but not up to the best po'boy bread I've had at Calliope. The gumbo here, a special on Friday, has a milk-chocolate colored roux and is very flavorful although somewhat thin. The one time I had it mine had whole tail-on shrimp, a blue crab claw and a skin-on, bone-in chicken wing. It was rather unique and very good. For some reason I failed to get a picture of either the po'boy or the gumbo.
Luke's has been discussed on HAIF's restaurant board and drew thoroughly positive comments. I was worried they might not make it, buried in the back corner of a small shopping center with inconvenient parking and barely noticeable signage, but I'm glad they have. Only one time have I seen dine-in customers...the place is clean and bright and cheery but a little lonesome for dining-in. My favorite soul food place in town is Just Oxtails on Reed Road, especially for the fried chicken and catfish, but that's a long way away and this is the best soul food I've found on the SW side.