The story: New Orlean flavors hit the city’s Mission neighborhood with the arrival of Bayou from Chefs Jerome Rivoire and Arthur Wall.
Why I went: Even though it’s just a couple of weeks old, I decided to check it out since it’s Mardi Gras (OK, I know I’m a day late when I went; I never said I was a good Catholic). My friend Kim joined me as well (she’s definitely not Catholic).
The vibe: In the spot of a former Korean BBQ, the space is totally refurbished with the bright colors of NOLA. It’s a tiny spot with two-top tables along the wall and bar counter seating on the other side. Since it’s so small, it easily filled up by 7 p.m., which adds to the bustling and festive atmosphere.
The booze: You might expect cocktails like Hurricanes or Sazeracs, but Bayou doesn’t offer any specialty cocktails. They have a decent list of bottled beer and red and white wine.
The menu: The casual menu, which serves as your placemats at the table, include many Nawlins classics such as gumbo, crawfish etouffee, shrimp and grits, po boys and muffuletta. They even serve frog legs, which our waitress says have been popular since they open as people eat them up like chicken wings.
Bayou is also promoted as a rotisserie, so it sells creole spice chicken and even baby back ribs.
I have a thing for frog legs (maybe because of the novelty), so tried the spicy starter ($12), which were lightly pan-fried but heavy on the tabasco. We both tried the gumbo, with Kim going for a cup of the seafood gumbo ($8) and I had the chicken and andouille gumbo ($7). We both love the deep flavors of our gumbo, even though I though it would have been nicer just a tad thicker.
Our entrees weren’t as successful. We tried a quarter dark chicken as a “supper plate” ($12 with two sides) and the chicken was moist but lacked much of the Creole flavor. We did like our side of pickled mirliton, which was crunchy like radish or daikon but is technically a kind of squash. I wanted to try the crawfish etoufee ($17) partly because I liked saying eee-two-fee, but the overall dish was bland and not very memorable.
Of course we had to have beignets for dessert ($6), which were served fresh and piping hot, but an accompanying caramel sauce had this odd consistency like peanut butter.
My favorite dish: Kim and I agree that we could have eaten a whole bowl of the gumbos we both ordered. Seafood or chicken, both versions have the right flavors of Creole cuisine.
The last bite: Bayou captures the feeling of New Orleans and the menu holds true to traditional favorites. Not everything is a hit but the friendly service and mixed menu means the possibility of more things to explore.
The rating: 2 out of 3 camera snaps
The deets: Bayou, 3412 17th St. (at Valencia), San Francisco. PH: 415.913.7766. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and from 5 to 10 p.m. (till 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday). No reservations, major credit cards accepted. Facebook page
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