Cajun and creole cuisine have been a rare commodity in Louisville during my lifetime.
Joe’s OK Bayou, now closed, was a staple for many years. The higher-priced Roux came and went. J. Gumbo’s is tasty but has a limited menu. Other restaurants, like Café Lou Lou, have cajun or creole spins but aren’t what I look for, which is crawfish boils and fried seafood. Lots of fried seafood.
Yes, I like the thick gumbos and etouffes, as well, but they aren’t top priority to my palate.
So when my friend Greg mentioned a new place called Geechee Bayou, I was intrigued. Just steps from the similarly focused Seafood Lady at Oak and South Second streets, Geechee Bayou, owned and operated by transplanted Southerners, seemed like just what the doctor ordered.
On a recent visit, it did not disappoint.
The space — which formerly was a hardware store and also has housed a few other restaurants — is open and clean, with a few tables, a cool mural and a couple dozen mardi gras masks occupying one wall. There’s a bar but no liquor (yet), and a simple ordering station, with friendly staff who are eager to answer any questions.
The menu is arranged by combo dinners numbered 1 through 16, from fried fish (with several options) and a side, to king crab legs. Sides include things like coleslaw, sausage (presumably andouille), boiled eggs, green beans and so forth. You can add “extras” (fish, shrimp and meat pies) for an added cost.
Greg quickly jumped on the crawfish basket after confirming they were steamed and not fried. And while I had a hard time deciding, I finally ordered froglegs with sides of potatoes and corn (getting the extra side was a reasonable $1.95 upcharge).
Our order-taker mentioned that since everything is cooked to order, it would be up to 20 minutes for our food to be ready. We were in no hurry and took a seat at one of the two-top tables nearby.
True to his word, the wait was around 15 to 20 minutes, but our eyes popped when the food came out. Greg’s “basket” looked to be every bit of 2 pounds of boiled crawfish. And when I ordered a dinner consisting of six froglegs, I assumed that meant three pairs — but it was six pairs. I didn’t need that extra side, especially because both dinners also came with fried cornbread, and mine included a small salad.
Greg had such a pile of crawfish in front of him that he was more than happy to share, and they were well prepared. They were among the spiciest I’ve had — a good thing in my book — and were cooked just right, even if most of them were on the smaller side. But delicious is delicious, and Greg made easy work of the meal, including the tasty romano green beans.
For my part, I stared into the breaded abyss with an empty stomach and a willing appetite. I wasn’t sure I could finish all that lay before me, but I was determined to try. My first bite of a frogleg opened up my senses to a deliciously spiced batter like I’d never tasted before. The medium-sized frogs were moist and delicious, fueling my hunger even more.
I should note that along with our meals, we were served a dry, creole spice blend, house-made tartar sauce, and a house-made hot sauce.
The spices were delicious on my corn on the cob, which was sweet and tender, while the hot sauce made the two tender, whole-boiled potatoes (nothing fancy here) even tastier than they would have been otherwise. The tartar was a flavorful companion to the occasional bite of frogleg batter.
I somehow managed to finish the huge meal, which cost me all of $16 (that includes the extra side). Greg’s crawfish feast was just $15.99.
“This may be my new favorite restaurant,” Greg said. “I cannot remember the last time my belly was this happy.”
I had to concur. Entrees at Geechee (which refers to a type of Southern dialect) start at $10.99 for salmon croquettes or wings, and top out at $36.99 for the king crab legs. But don’t be dissuaded by any of the prices, because the meal I had would have easily been shared.
Geechee Bayou is located at 1161 S. Second St. Hours are 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.