Loading...
 

Digging Depeaux

Decatur's new Louisiana eatery

"How was your day?" the woman at Depeaux (303 E. Howard Ave., Decatur, 404-474-2591) asked me.

??
I glared at Wayne. "I've had better days," I said.

??
"I'm sorry to hear that," the woman said, putting a hand on my shoulder. "Can I do something for you?"

??
"Yeah, smack Wayne two or three times with a catfish," I wanted to say.

??
We'd had an argument in the car on our way to this new Louisiana-style restaurant in Decatur's 115-year-old Georgia Railroad depot. My point is not to air our dirty laundry, but to say that I was genuinely surprised by the woman's sincerity. The niceness only grew thicker with our server, Jennifer, who was witty and full of good advice about the menu.

??
The restaurant is a major undertaking. Some months ago, the Decatur Preservation Alliance spent $250,000 to move the depot 30 feet from its original location. It was last home to the Freight Room, a music club and restaurant forced to close in 1999 because of the deteriorating building. The Freight Room was always fun, and its shabby appearance was part of the charm.

??
You'll hardly recognize the place now. Bill and Kelly Sharkey have spent $700,000 renovating the structure without disturbing its original look. The exterior is particularly pleasant, with walkways, patio and landscaping. The longtime restaurateurs have created a cavernous but warm dining room, as well as a large bar at the other end of the building. (They also reportedly have plans to open another restaurant nearby.)

??
I always issue a caveat when I review Cajun and Creole cooking. I find that, just like Southerners and barbecue, nobody ever agrees on what constitutes good Louisiana-style cuisine. Everyone's an expert, and everyone else is a dumbass.

??
We ordered quite a lot of food, most of it tasty and with unusual zing to my palate. We started with three appetizers – a cup of gumbo, some fried "gator bites," and some red beans and rice. The gumbo combined shrimp with andouille sausage and chicken. I thought its roux was a bit light, and I was surprised, considering the season, not to find any okra in it. ("Gumbo" derives from an African name for okra, "gombo.") I liked it, but purists will argue that seafood should not be combined with chicken and sausage.

??
Let them eat red beans and rice, which was full of oversized chunks of andouille. The gator bites had quite a peppery bite themselves. Wayne ordered them. I've never been able to eat alligator without being haunted by the image of Capt. Hook.

??
To get a good sampling, we ordered a fried-seafood platter and a crawfish platter. Let me dispense with my only major dislike here: the étouffée, part of the crawfish platter but available separately as an app or entree. It had a strangely fishy taste and a watery, bland sauce. This pained me since étouffée is my favorite Cajun dish.

??
Other variations on the crawfish theme were fine, especially the fried one. There was a seafood au gratin that was irresistible despite its Velveeta-like color. A crab-and-crawfish boulette, a hush-puppylike globe of seasoned seafood, tasted like it might have been cooked far ahead of its serving. Hush puppies on the plate were not a letdown.

??
Wayne's platter included fried shrimp, catfish, crawfish, oysters and boulette made with oysters and crawfish. I liked his boulette more. All the seafood was well-done, crispy and juicy. I'm not a huge catfish fan myself – I remember my father telling me to chew up the bones when I was a kid – but Depeaux's is almost delicate.

??
For dessert we split perfect bread pudding with whiskey sauce.

??
The menu also includes po'boys and salads.

??
Here and there

??
I had excellent brunch last Sunday at La Tavola in Virginia-Highland. (See our blog, OmnivoreATL.com, for details.) The best part of the meal was my salad – beets with fennel and slices of nectarine, dotted with goat cheese. It was a masterful play on acidic and sweet flavors.

??
We ate at the bar and the second-best part of the meal was the bartender, Alli, who kept us entertained and gave my friend Gregg a free taste of several wines after he whined because they are no longer selling his favorite white. ...

??
A reader writes to ask for recommendations for a fine-dining spot in Paris, where he'll soon be honeymooning. Help secure their love by writing me with your ideas. ...

??
This is going to be great: Woodfire Grill is marking its fifth anniversary with five days featuring a different regional menu Tuesday, Sept. 18, through the following Saturday. The featured regions in order are: Provence, Spain, northern Italy, southern Italy and northern California. Each menu will cost $55 with an optional wine pairing for $25 more. Call 404-347-9055 for reservations. ...

??
Woot! Woot! Dining editor Besha Rodell took third place for best newspaper restaurant criticism and best newspaper food feature at the Association of Food Journalists conference in Minneapolis two weeks ago. ...

??
I visited Jalisco for lunch for the first time in about 20 years last week. Back in the '80s, before Buford Highway turned into Little Mexico, Jalisco was the best Tex-Mex/Mexican food in town. The restaurant remains wildly popular with the Buckhead and Peachtree Hills folks. There are little gold plaques stuck on the walls and chairs to commemorate birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and so forth.

??
But the food tastes totally anachronistic now. My lunch plate of refried beans, a miniscule chile relleno and a taco, all on a plate slathered with cheese bubbling like lava, was disappointing. The taco was straight out of the kitchen of Old El Paso – a crisp corn taco, seasoned ground beef, a ton of lettuce and more cheese. ...

??
South City Kitchen in Vinings has a new chef. He's Chip Ulbrich, who worked earlier in other capacities for Fifth Group Restaurants, which owns South City. ...

??
A rumor reports that Star Provisions has been frying chicken. I'm there.



More By This Writer

Article

Wednesday August 5, 2020 04:44 pm EDT
It was mid-July and I had not eaten in a restaurant in four months — not even outdoors. The idea was terrifying. I imagined people huddled on crowded patios, inhaling and exhaling the coronavirus like smoke in a hookah lounge. They would all be 23 and drunk, flaunting their dolphinlike lungs and uncreased skin, or they would be escapees from nursing homes blowing kisses through fingers coated... | more...

Article

Tuesday June 30, 2020 11:45 am EDT
Old times there must be forgotten | more...

Article

Thursday June 4, 2020 11:14 am EDT
But the reward is the same | more...

Article

Friday May 1, 2020 12:09 am EDT
Jarrett Stieber ‘radically’ transforms the dining experience | more...

Article

Monday April 6, 2020 11:32 am EDT
It’s hard to write enthusiastically about restaurants when they’ve become precarious stages for a public health drama. As I am writing this, Mayor Bill de Blasio has ordered New York City restaurants and bars to close and, just as I turn this in, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has mandated the same for Atlanta. The coronavirus pandemic is causing mass hysteria unlike any most Americans have seen... | more...
Search for more by Cliff Bostock

[Admin link: Digging Depeaux]