Laissez les Bons Temps Roulez! If the spirit of New Orleans is in you, if you love etouffee, jambalaya, hot fresh beignets and foot stomping zydeco music, then head over to Café Nola on Union St. for an authentic taste of New Orleans right here in Schenectady.
Café Nola opened up a little over a year ago and Chef/Owner Kevin Brown has been serving up real Cajun cooking to devoted fans. Mr. Brown attended Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI for cooking school and graduated a year behind famed chef Emeril Lagasse.
Mr. Brown says,” The art of Cajun cooking is the unique blend of herbs & spices that serves to enhance the flavor of vegetables, seafood, meat, poultry and wild game as well as a cook who knows how to blend the ingredients together.”
Well, Mr. Brown has certainly mastered the art of Cajun cooking. Every dish is made from scratch of fresh ingredients.
Café Nola is located on Union St. between Barrett St. and Park Pl. In front of the building there is a lovely outdoor patio with four umbrella covered tables, surrounded by purple flowers and green plants, perfect for people watching.
Entering the restaurant, you are greeted by a three foot high, grinning alligator named, Mardi. The first floor seats about 20 people. Gleaming hardwood floors, tall windows which let in loads of light and an open kitchen contribute to the casual, comfortable atmosphere.
Up a flight of iron railed stairs is seating for an additional 30 people and can be booked for private parties.
The walls are a sunny yellow and there are accents of green and purple in the Mardi Gras masks and streamers that festoon the wrought iron railings on the staircase and upstairs.
Zydeco music or New Orleans jazz plays in the background. On Friday and Saturday evenings at 6 PM there is live music. No cover charge.
A large selection of New Orleans brewed beer is available and the proceeds of some go to aid efforts. Abeta Brew goes to “Save Our Shore” which assists with the Gulf oil spill disaster and Restoration Ale assists with Katrina Relief.
Café Nola serves lunch and dinner 7 days a week. A fresh soup is made every day and you can order a cup (2.99) or a bowl (3.99).
Recently, I had the zucchini and summer vegetable soup. Zucchini, onions, peppers w/ Andouille sausage in a rich chicken broth. What a way to get those servings of vegetables your Doctor wants you to eat.
Appetizers include: alligator bites (market price), chicken wings – Cajun or traditional (6.99), crab cake (10.99) lump crabmeat, lightly breaded, served over field greens with a light remoulade sauce – The absolute BEST crab cake I have ever had – and a Café Nola specialty, crawfish nachos (10.99) a pile of crisp tortilla chips, covered with crawfish etouffee, melted cheddar cheese, jalapenos, scallions and topped with sour cream. Can we say, “ Ole La La”.
Sandwich selections are served with Nola slaw & pickle and include the quintessential New Orleans favorite Po’Boys. Your choice of alligator, shrimp or oysters served on a crusty baguette, topped with sautéed onions and etouffee(13.99) Avoid the temptation to gobble it up immediately and let it set for a few minutes to let all the juice from the onions and the etouffee sauce seep into the baguette. Yum. Yum. Yum.
Other choices include the Nola Club(8.99) turkey, BLT and cranberry mayo, Grilled Portabella mushroom sandwich(8.99), Blackened catfish, alligator or chicken filet with sweet peppers and mozzarella on a roll (8.99) or build your own 100% Angus beef burger(6.99) plus 99 cents for each additional topping.
Feel like a salad? Try the Chicken Pecan Salad. Diced chicken breast with toasted pecans, dried cranberries, served over field greens with house dressing(8.99).
Café Nola dinner specialties are served with the soup de jour or a house salad. For and additional 2.99, you can substitute the crawfish gumbo.
You will want to have this gumbo. Café Nola makes gumbo the way it is supposed to be made. Let the roux cook for hours to get dark and develop the flavor. Add in crawfish tail meat, Andouille sausage, okra, vegetables and rice. EXCELLENT. (I had Emerill’s gumbo at his Las Vegas restaurant and Kevin Brown’s is every bit as good.)
Dinner selections include: Crawfish Jambalaya(14.99), Catfish, Crawfish, Alligator or Chicken Etouffee(15.99), Crab Cake dinner(17.99), Red Beans and Rice (14.99) Southern Fried Catfish(14.99) and Southern Honey Stung Fried Chicken(14.99)
I had the fried chicken recently and it consisted of ½ of a chicken cut into 4 pieces, fried in a crispy, slightly sweet batter. The chicken was moist and tender and not at all greasy. It was served with fries and corn bread.
Let’s talk about the fries. They are fresh, hand cut potatoes. They are creamy on the inside and wonderful. They are made the way fries were made before all the big burger chains got an entire generation hooked on frozen, thin, pointy potato product.
These fabulous fries are available as a side dish for 4.00. Add Cajun spice for 99 cents.
For a total treat, get the Truffle Fries(5.99). Café Nola fries with salt with truffle oil in it. Can we say, “Died and Gone to Heaven”? Have a plate of these with your New Orleans beer and party down.
Do NOT forget to save room for dessert. Café Nola’s Chocolate Pecan Pie(4.99), Mississippi Mud Pie(4.99) – this is different from what I have had before. Instead of a gooey, chewy, brownie-like pie, Nola’s pie is a huge wedge of mocha ice cream pie in a chocolate cookie crust drizzled with chocolate sauce. Perfect for hot summer days. Love it.
The best dessert (IMHO) and the one for which New Orleans is world famous, is Beignets. Sweet little balls of deep fried dough ( about the size of donut holes) are sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar. They come hot from the fryer and are served with chocolate ganache, raspberry melba and bourbon caramel dipping sauces. Yes, you get all three on your plate. Try the chocolate and raspberry together. Heaven.
In addition to having this gem of a restaurant, Kevin and his wife, Robin, also run a catering business. Although they specialize in Cajun cuisine, they have a full catering menu of non Cajun selections. I have attended a few events they have catered and the food is always delicious.
Head for Café Nola for a real taste of New Orleans.
Café Nola – 617 Union St. Schenectady 518-357-8628
Sunday – Wednesday 11:00 am – 9:00 pm
Thursday – Saturday 11:00 am – 11:00 pm