- RED BEANS AND RICE: Rich and soupy.
If you're a vegetarian, Boudreaux's is not the place for you.
Otherwise, there's enough to like about this newish Maumelle restaurant that just about anyone should come away satisfied.
As the name suggests, Boudreaux's is a Cajun place. Lots of catfish and shrimp, po' boys, jambalaya, hot sauce. (And, unfortunately, little bits of commentary on various menu items from “Boudreaux” himself, written in Cajun dialect. A little bit theme-park for us.)
It's technically a bar and grill, located in a strip mall on Maumelle Boulevard about a mile west of I-430 — formerly the home of Pasta Jack's. Half the space is a homey, welcoming, seat-yourself restaurant, with a bar at the back and a few TVs mounted on the walls; the other half is furnished with two pool tables. But it's a family-friendly, non-smoking place.
The menu appears to be longer than it actually is. There are lots of variations on the catfish and shrimp themes, with a couple of burgers thrown in, along with red beans and rice, jambalaya and gumbo — the latter three made from scratch daily and available in limited quantities, according to the menu. Crawfish etouffee is a Thursday-night-only special.
The wine list is short but adequate, with several inexpensive choices (Ecco Domani, Beringer) plus a few selections from a higher price point (Greg Norman, Santa Margherita).
From the list of mostly fried appetizers, we picked the onion rings ($4.65) and the catfish beignets ($6.95) — nuggets of catfish marinated in hot sauce and deep-fried. The onion rings were as good as you'll find most places, and the catfish beignets were a wise choice. They had plenty of zing, but the heat wasn't overwhelming, and the remoulade on the side was a nice accompaniment.
Entrees presented a bit of a problem for our group of three, which included one vegetarian. Her only choice — other than a second fried appetizer — was the house salad ($3.99), dull and iceberg-based and clearly not meant to be a main course. Perhaps it's asking too much for a Cajun place to offer more vegetarian dishes, but given the ever-rising number of people who don't eat meat, it seems like a smart play for any restaurant short of a barbecue joint these days.
For the two meat-eaters, though, the only problem was picking one entree. Our companion succeeded — she ordered the shrimp po' boy ($8.25) — but we failed miserably, and ended up ordering the small-size portions of both red beans and rice and jambalaya. (We had a spouse at home who'd eat the leftovers, we reasoned.)
Our companion liked the flavor of the po' boy well enough, but said the shrimp portion seemed a little skimpy for the size of the bread.
As for us, we're glad we swallowed our embarrassment. Both the jambalaya ($6.95) and the red beans and rice ($4.65) were excellent. The beans were rich and soupy, with plenty of finely diced sausage and a nice level of heat.
We like our jambalaya a little saucier than what Boudreaux's serves, but we can't argue with the taste. There was heat here too, and plenty of chunks of chicken.
And we were pleasantly surprised at the size of the portions as well. We could have easily filled up on one small serving. We had plenty to bring home.
Finally, dessert. You can get a cookie at Boudreaux's — we're assuming that's aimed at younger diners — or a piece of made-in-house bread pudding in a bourbon cream sauce ($4.95). Our table ordered three bread puddings, thank you. We should have ordered two — the still-hungry vegetarian had no problem polishing hers off, but the other two of us quit halfway through ours. Bread pudding is the favorite dessert of one of our group, and she said Boudreaux's version — dense and cinnamony — was among the best she's had. High praise. Ours could have been served a little warmer, but at least it wasn't microwaved to within an inch of its life.
Our service was fine — a nice waitress who kept our water glasses filled, and occasional visits from the owner. We lingered long after we were done eating, and never felt like we were overstaying our welcome. We don't get out to Maumelle all that often, but our experience at Boudreaux's was good enough that we'd make a special trip to eat there again.
9811 Maumelle Blvd.,
North Little Rock
Boudreaux's hits all the Cajun highlights — shrimp, catfish and crawfish star, and the red beans and rice are worth the drive.
11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday; 4 p.m.-10:30 p.m. Saturday.
Inexpensive to moderate prices, credit cards accepted, full bar, pool tables.