Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Chicago Dining World Tour: My Favorite Cajun Joint (and presumably the President’s)

Dixie Kitchen & Bait Shop
825 Church St, Evanston, IL

Much of the intent behind my Chicago Dining World Tour is to prompt myself to discover, and explore, cuisines and restaurants that are foreign to me.

But as I explained in the piece inaugurating this gastro-ethnic excursion, my dining habits have routinely included various international and regional flavors, with a majority of restaurant meals being devoured at something other than a straightforward “American” restaurant.

So even without newfound “Global Dining” intent, some of the places I eat at will be restaurants with which I’ve long been familiar, and have even frequented and favorited. And as appropriate, I’ll include these in my blog series, for even if they aren’t all that novel to me, they still merit spotlighting.

One such place is the Dixie Kitchen & Bait Shop in Evanston, which is my favorite Cajun restaurant in the Chicago area. (Though I actually might prefer the food and ambience at Maple Tree Inn in Blue Island, but it’s a bit pricier and much further from home, so I don’t get there nearly as often.)

The Dixie Kitchen also has a location in Lansing and used to have one in Hyde Park, which in 2001 was highlighted on WTTW’s Check, Please! by Barack Obama, then an unknown Illinois state senator. That show was replayed days shy of his presidential inauguration in 2009, and although I had previously dined at Dixie Kitchen—the one in Evanston—that was what started me going with greater frequency and fondness.

Over what by now much be at least a dozen visits, I have primarily ordered the same thing: Blackened Catfish from their Meat n’ Three portion of the menu, which comes with cole slaw, corn muffin and two side dishes. I almost always choose fried sweet plantains and mashed sweet potatoes.

But the other day when I visited Dixie Kitchen with my friend Dave before catching a movie at the nearby Century Evanston, I changed things up. I got Blackened Tilapia—largely because the catfish is no longer $1 cheaper—along with the cole slaw, corn muffin, fried sweet plantains and mashed sweet potatoes. It was good, although I prefer the consistency of the blackened catfish and think I will return to it on my next visit.

Dave went with his traditional choice, BBQ Peel N' Eat Shrimp off the Starters menu, and was once again quite satisfied. Of course, we both wolfed down plenty of johnnycakes, which are delicious cornmeal pancakes that Dixie Kitchen provides complimentarily to each table.

It was, as usual, a quite filling and fulfilling meal, to the point that I didn’t even consider getting any snacks at the movie.

Trying to be somewhat calorie conscious, I also didn’t order dessert, but have in the past enjoyed the pecan pie, peach cobbler and beignets, as well as a Bourbon Street Hurricane to drink. Other entrees I’ve had and liked include the Trout Pecan and Seafood Pasta, but the Blackened Catfish is my clear favorite.

Ironically, as I was writing this, I got an email from Dixie Kitchen alerting me that the Obama Check, Please! episode will be replayed on WTTW-Channel 11 at 8:00pm this Friday, January 18, in honor of his second inauguration. Incidentally, while an Obama quote from that show used to adorn the back of the t-shirts of Dixie Kitchen’s servers—something to the effect that DK offers good food at good prices—I noticed that the quote is no longer there.

So I can’t say for sure that Dixie Kitchen still has President Obama’s endorsement, but I assure you it continues to have mine. Stop in sometime and I’m fairly certain they’ll do right Bayou.

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