Saturday, April 16, 2011

If “Old Lafayette”...

dines at Original Don’s Seafood and Steakhouse, then “New Lafayette” dines at the Blue Dog Café.

The Blue Dog Café may be the best known restaurant in Lafayette—in part for its take on Cajun cuisine and in part for the artwork.

“The iconic Blue Dog image is the creation of world renowned artist, George Rodrigue. Born and raised in New Iberia, LA, Rodrigue started sketching his surroundings as a young boy…After attending art school first at the University of Southwestern Louisiana, and then at the Art Center College of Design at Pasadena, California, George returned to Acadiana and has lived most of his adult life in the City of Lafayette, Louisiana. During his early years as a professional artist he primarily painted images of the Cajun culture.

“Over the past twenty years Blue Dog has evolved along with its creator. Always different, but in ways, always the same. It is difficult to define the allure of Blue Dog, but the fact that it captures the imagination is undeniable. Through his art, the Blue Dog Man has made the acquaintance of three U.S. presidents, and his Blue Dog works are valued by art collectors and art lovers worldwide” (from the restaurant’s web site),

(Owner) “Attorney Steve Santillo got into the restaurant business after helping broker the deal based on the concept of combining great food with great art. The immediate gratification of seeing pleased patrons was all it took to convince him to quit his day job and get into the hospitality industry—that and his love for food” (www.lafayettetravel.com).

I will admit from the start that I neglected to do my customary research before we went there one Sunday morning for brunch. I knew of the Blue Dog art, I knew it was one of the most popular restaurants in Lafayette, I knew that their brunch was considered the best in Lafayette, and I knew that they had live music during brunch service. I wish I had known more. And there was more to know.

When we arrived, I could see a buffet line immediately adjacent to the hostess station and another line in the next dining room to the back. We were seated in the bar area which was no problem since that was where the small jazz trio was situated. The space was dominated by a handsome dark wood bar, and the walls were hung (as were most walls) with Blue Dog prints.

We asked our server whether, instead of buffet, we could order from the menu. “No” while pointing with his head toward the next room, “All we have on Sunday is the brunch buffet.” All right. The buffet it would be. If I had done some research, I would have known that. Oh, and we could have a “free” mimosa. Free my foot. It may not appear as an additional charge on the final bill, but there is no such thing as a free mimosa.

On the table by the hostess station, was a large bowl of mixed greens along with other fixings for salad. This table also contained a platter of smoked salmon with chopped eggs, tomatoes, and red onions along with capers. Split bagels sat in a basket next to toasters. The table also held two electric tureens—one containing corn and crab bisque, the other shrimp “Rockfeller” soup.

The next room held the omelet station, the prime rib carving bar, and a basket of Belgian waffle quarters with assorted toppings.

We each returned to the table with a cup of soup. Chuck chose the crab and corn bisque and had to scrape the bottom of the tureen to get the cup three-quarters full. After having eaten the sublime crab and corn soup at Chef Roy’s Frog City Café, this was a real let down. The corn was starchy and the crab almost nonexistent.

I took the shrimp “Rockfeller” soup, which was quite good with all of the requisite components of oysters Rockefeller (spinach and Pernod) with the substitution of shrimp for oysters. In fact, I later returned for a second cup as a prelude to dessert.

My main plate contained a portion of the shrimp remoulade pasta salad, which was made with tri-color farfalle with infrequent bits of chopped shrimp in a spicy remoulade sauce. It was decent, but I saw no need for a second helping.

But I was excited to see the salmon on the buffet. I haven’t enjoyed a bagel with salmon, cream cheese, and fixings in a long time. While they called this “smoked” salmon, it was more like cured salmon to me. And it had been sliced way too thick. Still, it had good flavor, and I managed to eat more than my share. The bagel, on the other hand, would have been better put to use by being dropped at center ice at a Flyers-Islanders game.

Chuck returned from the buffet line with an omelet made with peppers, scallions, ham, and cheese, a side of bacon, and a bagel with cream cheese. All of it, with the exception of the bagel, was good—but then this is supposed to be the best brunch in Lafayette.

He made a second trip and returned with a slice of boneless prime, a dish of fruit, and a croissant. Half of the beef was either fat or gristle. And the fruit. That’s another story.

Our server wanted to remove plates, silver, and glasses from the table—even if we weren’t quite finished. As Chuck turned his back to the table in order to take a photo, the server whipped his plate from the table—with half of the fruit still in it.

The final trip was to the dessert table. Chuck finished with a very good chocolate mousse; I finished with a slice of moist chocolate cake with a genache icing.

We left, after paying an outrageously high price for brunch, feeling we had been “ripped off.”

When I got home, I did the research I should have done before going. Yes, the web site indicates that Sunday brunch is a buffet and includes a list of items always on the buffet table along with a list of periodically reoccurring selections. All of the items we saw on the buffet were on the list of “always served.” But the list of regular items also included crab cakes Benedict, cheese grits and pork grillades, oyster cornbread dressing, and Dirty Dog rice dressing. Where were these? Where were the rotating selections? Was there, in the maze of dining rooms, another buffet line? Couldn’t our server been more helpful rather than just pointing with his head?

And here is my major complaint. Have you ever been in a restaurant and realized that you aren’t that restaurant’s target market? Look. Chuck didn't wear his bib overalls. I left my “Kiss Me I’m Horny” t-shirt at home. Neither of us was wearing a backwards baseball cap. Neither of us picked our noses at the table. Neither of us erupted in loud belches. The problem. We represent an older demographic. And while the restaurant’s management may not want to discourage older diners, the young and so hip wait staff members subtly indicate that they don’t want to be bothered with you. We’ve only experienced this phenomenon maybe once a year or so. But we have talked with other people our age who have also encountered this attitude at other restaurants. Bad move, you young and hip. Many of us have the financial resources to eat out often. And many of us—including Chuck and I—are pretty good tippers.

It’s is hard to give a rating to Blue Dog Café. I guess they deserve a 2.5 Addies for the food. But if you are older, I advise you go to Original Don’s Seafood where they value their older customers.

As we reviewed our stop at the Blue Dog, we couldn't help but think that we'd seen Rodrigue's blue dog before. ...Maybe, someone like the blue dog.

...Somewhere.

3 comments:

Wendy Wolfe Rodrigue said...

Hard to make everyone happy, isn't it? I am sorry that you didn't have a better experience at the Blue Dog Cafe. Thank you for giving it a try-

mcraywood said...

Looks as if your Blue Dog Cafe review is "sticking in someone's craw!" Personally, I agree with all that you stated - having had similar experiences myself. Food establishments - in this present economy - should welcome "suggestions" to better their business as soon dining out will fall way behind the need to fill our gas tanks and our home pantry!
And oh yes - MR O.R.Deal, the prognosticating, doppler cat, looks very similar to but more appealing than A "Blue Dog."
Love your Blog!!! Mary from Wycombe

Wendy Wolfe Rodrigue said...

To the contrary, Mary. My comment was not meant to be sarcastic. I truly do regret this bad experience, and I forwarded the review to the restaurant accordingly. My apologies if I caused further ill will.