Happy Fat Tuesday, foodies! It’s the most delicious day of the year in New Orleans — and anywhere that embraces the spirit of Mardi Gras. Naturally, we’ve got NOLA’s best-known dishes on our minds, from crawfish étouffée and jambalaya to beignets and king cakes — and, of course, gumbo. Gumbo is one of those dishes about which everyone and their Cajun or Creole grandmother seems to have a strong (and often differing) opinion. This iconic stew takes its name from kingombo, the African word for okra, a once-paramount ingredient in gumbo. The foundation of a great gumbo is its roux, a blend of fat and flour that is cooked to a smoky, rich brown. Seafood, andouille, duck, and chicken are common ingredients used to round out this deeply satisfying dish. Find out what diners are saying about the gumbo they’ve been sampling at OpenTable restaurants recently. You may be surprised to find that you don’t need to travel to the Big Easy to experience authenticity.
* Atchafalaya, New Orleans, Louisiana: “We were very tired. And hungry. Three parades in one day is probably too much for people travelling with infant twins and another child. We were sans kids for the first time in about a week just for dinner. The staff was very kind to us and rushed us some complimentary gumbo. It was about the best dark roux gumbo I have ever had and really hit the spot.”
* Cajun Pacific, San Francisco, California: “I am of Cajun descent, so I am picky and know what gumbo is. I had a bowl of the chicken and andouille version and was not disappointed. The wine list is short but well chosen and reasonable. Having passed the gumbo test (Most places don’t even know the difference between a gumbo and a creole dish), I will be back for something more substantial.”
* Cedar Creek, Glen Cove, New York: “Finding a good Cajun entree on the north shore is harder that finding an actual Cajun! Wasn’t expecting amazing gumbo, but that’s what I got!”
* The Chew Chew, Riverside, Illinois: “One of the many nice things about the Chew Chew is the special menu and theme party offered during Mardi Gras. The restaurant is bedecked with beads, the staff dons masks, and on certain nights a costumed fortune teller visits patrons’ tables. We sip a Sazerac and wander through a small tasting plate of oysters, a cup of spicy (yet beautifully balanced) gumbo, a delightfully moist blackened redfish, and a trio of warm beignets dusted with powdered sugar and artfully poised in a swirl of raspberry coulis.”
* Devon Seafood Grill, Hershey, Pennsylvania: “My husband always orders the gumbo, which he says is as good as down south.”
* Hammocks Trading Company, Sandy Springs, Georgia: “My order was six delicious, filling grilled oysters stuffed with crab, cheese, and jalapeno. Oh my! Followed this with fried green tomatoes and their fabulous seafood gumbo with the thickest, darkest roux, six nicely sized shrimp plus crabmeat you could see and taste — my favorite dish.”